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beige g3 etch install - working

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Dr. N.R. Helps
Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit
College of Life Sciences
University of Dundee

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>>> Nicholas Helps 11/15/07 3:24 PM >>> 

Hello all,

I have been working with Debian for quite a few years now and using powermac G3 machines with extra network cards in them as routers and firewalls, etc. These machines were set up back in the days of Woody and have been kept uptodate with security updates, but otherwise pretty much left untouched. Due to the issues around the firmware in these machines and because it was useful, I always set them up to boot initially into mac OS9 then use BootX to hand over the Debian. This worked a treat.

However, I thought it would be good come up to date by installing Etch instead. I used a free machine that was not actually in use and ran the install using the current network install ISO. Things have changed since the days of woody and it now seems that floppy images (boot image and root image) are no longer used. Hence, I copied the initrd.gz file over to the mac HD and set that as the ram disk for the install. I also copied across the linux kernel and put that into the kernels folder in the system folder. Using that allows me to boot into the installer and using the installer I deleted the previous linux partition (hda7) and swap (hda8) and made new ones. Then installed the base system, etc,etc all the way through to where it runs tasksel. I just leave that at the basic system for now. Following on some more, finally we get to the point of trying to install Quik (which I don't need) and it gives an error anyway, since I have selected ext3 file system that is not supported in quik. I therefore say to carry on without a boot loader. Everything goes fine all the way to rebooting into the new system. However, when I do that, OS9 will not boot up. I just get the flashing disk symbol with a question mark on it. Popping the OS9 CD and booting off that and then running disk setup shows me that the HD has somehow been altered so it is not recognised properly as a mac HD. During the partitioning step, I did not alter anything other than hda7 and 8.

I have found that I can reinstall the apple hard disk driver onto the disk and this then gets OS9 up and working. However, I cannot then boot into Debian, since the boot process gets a little way in and then I get a kernel panic at the point where it tries to mount the file system (error about no file system at /dev/hda7).

I have done this several times now and the same thing happens every time. The install goes fine but then I end up with a completely unusable machine.

I am wondering if I am going about the install process wrongly (ie using the initrd.gz file). I can't find anything really useful in the install manual or using Google. I will probably end up looking really stupid when someone points out an obvious mistake I have made, but I can live with that.

If anyone has got etch installed on the beige g3 (its a 266 mhz machine, but I can't tell you the firmware version, etc. Would need to find out how to get at this) and can share their expertise, it would be most appreciated.

Thanks in advance,


So, here is the way I got it to work....

First off, I have to thank Rick for a very helpful discussion about this. Without his help, I would not have been able to get this baby working!

I have OS9.2 on a circa 500 meg HFS+ partition, leaving the rest for debian. I use BootX as a boot loader. I used the netinstall CD for Etch.

First boot into OS9 with the Etch CD in the CD drive. Copy the vmlinux kernel from the CD install directory and put it into the kernels folder in the system folder. Copy the initrd.gz image to the BootX folder. Select the BootX application and tell it to use the vmlinux kernel and set the RAM disk to initrd.gz image. In the additional kernel arguments box, type "DEBCONF_PRIORITY=low" (no quotes). Boot into linux.

The installer will start. Go through this answering questions. When you get to the partitioning section, Partman will run. You should choose "manual" as your partitioning method. Select the free space and make a linux partition with Ext3 format and choose to mount "/" on it. On my machine this then becomes /dev/hda7/. Also make a swap partition (/dev/hda8). The sizes of these will depend on your HD size. You can also obviously choose to split up your file system so that not everything is under the root (/). I also named my /dev/hda7/ as "debian". Probably makes no difference, but I did notice that the HFS+ partition (/dev/hda6) was called "untitled" as was /dev/hda7/ and did not think this a good idea.

Once you are happy with how the partitions look, write out the partition table. This will destroy the apple driver partition, but don't worry, you can recover from this providing you have your OS9 CD. More of this later...

Continue with the installation and install the base system and whatever else you want.

Despite being in the "expert" install mode, after install of the base system, the installer went straight into trying to install quik as the boot loader without giving me the option to avoid this. However, since quik only works with ext2 file systems, it bombed out with an error and allowed me to continue. I go all the way through to the point where it says the install is finished and wants me to remove the install CD and then select reboot. We stop at this point and swap to a new console (alt right arrow).

In here we can access the newly installed file system *and* the mac HFS+ partition. At the prompt, type "cd /" to make sure you are in the root of the file system. On my system, there was a folder at the root called "mnt" that contained nothing. I therefore typed in:

mount -t hfsplus /dev/hda7 /mnt

This mounted the mac HFS+ partition under "mnt". You could use another directory, since mount just takes over the directory and then will give it back when you "umount", but I prefer to use an empty directory just in case.

Now you can cd to mnt and you should see your mac HD.

cd to /target/boot/ and cp whatever is symlinked to vmlinux and initrd (do a "ls -l" on the directory to see the details) over the mac HD.

Now "umount /mnt", change back into the installer console (alt left arrow) and remove the netinstall CD from the drive. Pop in your OS9 CD, because you will need it.

Reboot by selecting that option in the installer.

Your machine will boot into the OS9 installer (even without you holding down the "C" key). If you get a flashing disk symbol with a question mark in it, you have not got your OS9 CD in the drive. Remember that the partitioning  has trashed the mac hard disk driver partition so your mac does not know what to do.

Once the OS9 installer disk has booted and you are at the window where you can choose to install OS9, go to the utilities folder and select drive setup. Once this has found the drives on your machine, select the one at the top (on mine it said "not mounted") and then select from the drop down menu at the top of the screen to "update apple hard disk driver". Once you do this, you get a message saying you need to reboot. Do this.

Now we can get back into OS9 on the hard drive.

Once in OS9, move the vmlinux kernel you copied above into the kernel images folder in your system folder. Put the initrd image anywhere you want.

Select the BootX application.

Select the linux kernel you just moved. Select "use specified ram disk" and choose the initrd image you copied above. Now in the additional kernel arguments box, enter "root=/dev/hda7" (without the quotes). Obviously your root file system might not be hda7, so change that appropriately. Save these settings to the defaults. You may want/have to enter other kernel arguments (eg for video), but I did not have to.

Now boot into linux.

BootX should hand over to linux and your new install will boot up. At least it did for me ;-)

If you upgrade to a new kernel / initrd image, you will need to mount the HFS+ drive and copy these over to it so that you can specify these in the BootX app.

Hope this has been of some use to someone.

Best of luck,


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