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Vikram Aggarwal

Running Linux on the ibook 700

This document explains how the mildly adventurous can run Linux on the ibook 700Mhz. You will find on this page some downloadable information, which will make this task much simpler. The ibook 700Mhz was released in late 2001, early 2002, was snow in color, but is different from the original snow ibook (Dual USB).


I could evangelize about Linux, but I rather not. If you are comfortable with OS X, and can productively use your machine, I'm happy for you. Personally, I am much more productive in Linux, specifically Debian. An ibook really comes to life with Linux, and makes for an excellent computing platform.


Firstly, you need an ibook 700Mhz. Why I stress on the 700Mhz is that these are the new set of ibooks. The most immediate difference is that they have the ATI Radeon video card, more cache (512kb), and a bigger hard-disk by default. Also, the modem is a software modem. I bought my machine in August 2002, and if you bought a new ibook at around that time, chances are you have the same machine. The actual CPU speed is irrelevant. It could be a 600Mhz machine, but if it has a Radeon video card, then you need this document. This machine is snow in color, and looks just like the previous snow ibooks. Visit Apple history for an informational tour of various Apple hardware, including, but not limited to the ibooks.

This ibook should be working in OS X.

Additionally, you need the following:

The following, though not essential, are definitely helpful:

The procedure

I try to list the procedure as best I can. You need to follow the steps in order.

Step 1: Partitioning

Back up your iBook data onto a reliable target. Ok, now verify that you can read from it. If all is clear, proceed. I'm telling you, you will lose your data. You might have installed Debian before, but it's common to make mistakes. Hold on to the backups till the end of step 4.

There are three options: You want Linux alone, Linux with OS X, or Linux with OS X and OS 9. Depending on your choice, you do the following:

  1. Linux alone: Verify that you have the Debian CD, and can read from it.
  2. Linux with OS X: Insert the Apple OS X install CD, and boot from it. Using the Drive manager, create two partitions. The first is for OS X, and the second for Linux. Install OS X on the first partition.
  3. Linux with OS X and OS 9: Insert the Apple OS X install CD, and boot from it. Using the Drive manager, create three partitions. The first is for OS X, the second for OS 9, and the third for Linux. Install OS X on the first partition. Reboot, and use the OS 9 CD to install OS 9 on the second partition.

Step 2: Starting the Linux install

Insert the CD into the drive, and boot from it. At the command prompt, you need to type "linux video=ofonly". The ofonly option disables the probing of the frame-buffer device, which messed up my display. Follow the Debian install. There is nothing special that you should install just yet.

Step 3: Setting up boot choices

PowerPC machines don't have LILO. Instead, there is yaboot. My yaboot.conf file is here for you to look through. The syntax resembles lilo.conf, and is hand edited. Remember to run 'ybin -v' after making changes, to ensure that the changed file is used to setup the boot record. Basically, you need to add a section for your Linux machine, and a line each for booting into OS X, OS 9, the CD, the firmware. The man page for ybin is helpful.

By now, you should have the machine booted into Linux, and you should be able to switch between Linux and the other OS's installed on your machine. Time to finish the job.

Step 4: Configuring the funky hardware

Step 5: Feedback

I realize that it is impossible to give a complete account of how to setup things for the ibook. I appreciate comments, constructive criticism regarding this page. If you have a question that went unanswered by this page, it might point to a deficiency in the information provided. I am willing to put config files that might help you on this page. Mail me at the address at the bottom of this page.

Additional resources

I have put some extra files, and miscelaneous output here. They might help you in debugging your own errors, or noting the extra stuff I do.

This page was last modified on Wed Oct 12 16:33:06 PDT 2005