Author Topic: Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines  (Read 261 times)

mparnaudeau

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Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines
« on: April 08, 2022, 09:08:07 am »
Linux is still used on old machines (PowerMac, X1000/X5000) even if the situation is not comfortable: they are not so powerful (even more with 32-bit models),
there are some distributions but not fully supported ...

It became very problematic when Debian announced PPC wouldn't continue to be supported. Updates for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS stopped last year.
I had much hope with VoidLinux but they announced the end of their big-endian distribution.

I heard about Adelie but I thought it was not very active ... I may be wrong.
Chimera Linux will provide 64-bit BE support but at 3rd tier level.
There are other attempts like MintPPC, Fienix ...

I wonder if we should not have to focus on one or two distributions and make them strong ... if it's not too late.

So, I would like to know your opinion:

1. Do you think it is still time to want a polished distribution on these machines?
2. What would be the most promising distribution (and not for hardcore Linux hackers)?
3. Should we focus on 64-bit models only?

MauryG5

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Re: Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2022, 02:31:05 pm »
My personal opinion is that these old machines are now obsolete and it no longer makes sense to keep them alive given the growing limits.  On the contrary, the time has come to invest in Raptor machines that represent Power's future in the home environment.  They are and have made a great effort to bring Power back to our homes, I was no longer hoping to revise my favorite architecture, to return to the homes of all of us!  So with all due respect to the old machines, that's it, it's time to evolve and change, support Raptor and carry on the whole oper Power project!

Borley

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Re: Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2022, 07:20:19 pm »
I had a 32 bit Powerbook for a while but when Debian dropped ppc support in Jessie, it just wasn't worth it to try to continue using it. Even as a hobbyist piece. I would at least look to move to something newer, if not entirely to a Raptor board, as Maury says.
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MPC7500

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Re: Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2022, 12:21:40 pm »
Unfortunately, there are only a few distributions left.

Void Linux will still support PPC64 big-endian in the future. Support for PPC32 will be dropped. But it's just a matter of maintainers.

Adelie Linux is also very good. Unfortunately, it has become a bit quiet around Adelie since Awilfox left.

Fienix is also supposed to be very good.

Debian still supports PowerPC, but only as sid. Funnily enough, 90% of the posts on the PowerPC Debian mailing list are about big-endian :-)

Gentoo also still supports big-endian.

Then there's Bedrock Linux, CruxPPC, Arch Linux and MintPPC. And there are also Ubuntu remix variants maintained by Wicknix.

And OpenSUSE Tumbleweed can also be installed on G5s, X1000, X5000 with a trick.

All distributions have in common that the bugs concerning big-endian are no longer fixed. Moreover, the computers are more than 15 years old.

But maybe there will be cheaper PowerPC systems in the future.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2022, 12:24:06 pm by MPC7500 »

ClassicHasClass

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Re: Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2022, 08:38:27 pm »
Seriously, one of the BSDs would be a better choice (I'd personally use NetBSD but OpenBSD would also work). I run NetBSD on a G4 Mac mini and even a Macintosh IIci.

mparnaudeau

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Re: Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2022, 04:27:27 pm »
Thank you all for your answers.

We see that there are many distributions (even more than I thought). My idea was to identify if we should focus on 1 or 2 distributions in order to provide them with a good support and with a good user experience (installer, graphical desktop ...). With all these distributions, efforts are spread and from my experience, using Linux on these machines is not straightforward:
- Ubuntu Remix was nice but old and on package updates, I was unable to restart
- Debian installed on my PowerMac but failed on my MacMini and prior to than there was a long period with the switch to grub but it was not working
- I installed VoidLinux on MacMini but it was a bit hardcore to add the configuration to choose a graphical environment and then some of them had problems (I need to install the latest version with integrated desktop)
- I looked at Fienix and MintPPC but didn't really understand how to perform installation

@Borley I am convinced that big endian PowerPC (either 32 or 63 bit systems) is not the future and in parallel, I am studying how to acquire a Raptor workstation (I would like to be rather sure I will be able to have a minimum of time to use it) ... that would be a perfect powerful machine for my freelance activity (software development) and I also would like to test software, contribute to some projects, etc.

To come back to the topic, Linux on old PPC machines is for me at a hobby level or for testing.
For others, this is the opportunity to have a mainstream OS on an machines that already runs AmigaOS4 (X1000, X5000) or MorphOS (PowerMac, X5000).
People appreciate a distribution that is quite easy to install, have a good documentation (including about limitations), can be updated ... They don't want to go here and there to find tricks for installation, and then others for graphical desktops, and then again others for the graphic hardware acceleration ...
I will not consider distributions that are too much for experts (Gentoo, Arch ...) or that are not very active. One day I will have to learn more about BSD systems and test one but really I can't do that now.

@MPC7500 Unfortunately Void Linux will drop even 64-bit flavour in big-endian. Checking this point on Talospace, I noticed that ClassicHasClass wrote "The new BE Void PPC maintainer would be responsible for doing the builds as well as fixing issues, but it should be possible to coordinate hosting the packages on an official mirror. I imagine it's negotiable to do only glibc or only 64-bit or some such depending on the hardware or interest you have."

MPC7500

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Re: Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2022, 01:03:38 pm »
... My idea was to identify if we should focus on 1 or 2 distributions in order to provide them with a good support and with a good user experience (installer, graphical desktop ...). ...

Good idea. But how would you reach that goal?

MPC7500

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mparnaudeau

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Re: Which strategy for old big-endian Linux machines
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2022, 07:25:13 am »
... My idea was to identify if we should focus on 1 or 2 distributions in order to provide them with a good support and with a good user experience (installer, graphical desktop ...). ...

Good idea. But how would you reach that goal?

That would imply to encourage users and even actors to switch to these distributions (and drop others). I know it may appear unrealistic because everyone is attached to its distribution (even if many people would just like to find a polished distribution with an installer, a desktop, etc.). But we are at a point where there are not enough users per distribution (to provide feedback, enhancements ...) and so distributions remove support for these machines ... or slowly die.

To me, Debian is kind of mandatory, as a reference distribution.
And I would say VoidLinux was a great challenger ... before it annnouced the certain end for big-endian PPC.

With your link on OpenSUSE, that illustrates the typical case of a distribution that is possible to install but you have to find information here and there, then find how to install desktop, etc.