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TurboLinux 1.1 on a PowerCenter 180

I've been meaning to try this for a long time, after getting BeOS to work on the PowerCenter. Actually, I now realise I haven't even posted about that... I promise to do that later. Anyway, I'd recently been scouring the vintage column on eBay and trundled across a beautiful jewel-cased 2-CD version of TurboLinux 1.1 for PowerPC (original site). There was absolutely no one bidding on it, so I took that and a camera for a Raspberry Pi, of which I'll tinker with later.


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For those who want a copy of the ISOs, I've dumped them via the instructions here. Of course, if you're inside TurboLinux (Inception?) then you can't use isoinfo as it doesn't exist. Instead, I loaded into Mac OS 9 and loaded up Adaptec Toast to get the data. Actually, I loaded up Toast to make a toast-formatted ISO. But instead, toast just 'stopped' when I asked it to save a disc image. Either way, dd worked with the parameters that Toast provided and I even managed to use a burnt copy to run the final install... how else to test?

CD Images and somesuch...

A note on the images above, they were built with dd on ppc linux (TurboLinux 1.1 at that!) and they failed to burn with PowerISO. Somehow ImgBurn succeeded.

To get this up-and-running, I needed to put my PowerCenter 180 back together. I'd recently scavenged a few parts to get the AV Power Mac 6400 running (oh crap, that's another post that never happened) and so slapped RAM back in this machine and a second spare 50-pin SCSI drive.

Note that there's already some great tutorials online. This LinuxPPC Installation Guide by Jérôme Cornet helped me tremendously.

Preparing the SCSI drive

I could've/should've changed the order of this post... but for those playing at home who just want to get this installed and working, you'll want to set up your drive correctly first! When I was first tinkering, I happened to do it in the reverse order: slap the drive in and start the Linux install... I don't recommend this as the partitioning tool doesn't really like 'weird' disks. I had issues when trying to re-write the partition tables on PC formatted drives, to the point where some would prevent the machine from even booting.

To get started, you'll need a totally separate SCSI HDD from your Macintosh install (if you have one) to get TurboLinux going in a PowerCenter. On my specific machine, the OpenFirmware boot screen stays black, so I actually don't know if there are options there, or if the quik bootloader (installed at the end of the process) actually work. If they do, then you may be able to get away with one HDD, if the bootloader let's you back into Mac OS. Or maybe Boot-X will work, I'll test that at the end of the article.

Anyway, I grabbed a spare Seagate 2.1gb drive and installed it as SCSI ID 0. I then downloaded FWB Hard Disk Toolkit 4.5.2 and formatted it. Finally, the drive was partitioned with one 2gb root partition and one swap partition. I found that there are errors if the root partition is over 2gb, so please make it no larger. Note that you cannot use the LinuxPPC partition type. I tried this first and TurboLinux will just tell you that your drive isn't prepared. Instead, you have to choose custom and then type in Apple_UNIX_SVR2 as the partition type, for your swap partition also! The installer then distinguishes the partition by name, so make sure, as above, you call them root and swap!

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Note that I didn't low-level format the drive the first time and managed to muck up the whole drive when attempting my first install. This was because I'd created a 4gb root partition and the system reported that it was out of space!? I then used pdisk in the installer and somehow whacked the drive to the point where it started reporting that it was only 1gb in size. Because of all this, I can only recommend that you simply start fresh with a low-level-formatted clean disk.

Grab your Linux CD

TurboLinux requires a 1.44mb floppy to boot the installer. Make sure you have a clean Macintosh-formatted floppy available. Note that during the install, it managed to fail when copying installer.coff file over to the floppy. I Ok'd out of the error and just copied the file manually. In hindsight, you should eject the floppy now! I then re-ran the installer, skipping the copy-to-floppy, and it turns out the final step afterwards is 'double-clicking' on the Install Linux icon that it's put on the desktop...

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So, that Install Linux icon just loads up a preset into the Boot Variables control panel. This was installed by the TurboLinux installer and is just a GUI to manipulate OpenFirmware's settings. The preset it loads is to boot installer.coff file from the floppy drive. Double-click the link on the desktop and then choose Write & Reboot. It'll ask if you're ready to reboot. Eject the floppy now (if you haven't followed the above advice) and hit Yes. As soon as you press the button, slap that floppy disk back in. I took my time to do this the first time and got nothing but a black screen! Turns out my machine was sitting at the OpenFirmware prompt, but I couldn't see it and had no idea what was going on. At this point, as that I hadn't ejected the floppy, it got ejected as part of the reboot process (without me noticing), and OpenFirmware just baulked at a command to boot from a floppy disk when there was nothing in the drive.

What to do? Either reboot again with the disk in the drive, or just slap the disk back in, blindly type boot and hit enter.

Nostalgique RedHat 2.0 (I mean TurboLinux) Installation Process!

If you've made it this far, then you're doing well! My gosh... I remember sitting on the floor of a friend's house (Hi Nathan!) back in maybe 1997 installing RedHat 5.x and running through these screens. Back then the IP configuration confused the crap outta me... doesn't this come with a DHCP client? Anyway, this time around it was entirely painless... just follow the usual prompts...


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Next up, partitioning! Make sure to highlight the correct SCSI device in the top list... use the tab key to get up there and select with up/down arrows.


If you skipped the partitioning step above, then you'll need to hit Edit and follow the next block. If you have already partitioned your disk, then hit Done and skip it with gleeeeeee...!

Partitioning with pdisk

Yeah, not fdisk, pdisk! Note that fdisk is also on the distro, but pdisk is a wrapper for PowerPC-style partitioning which knows how to create Apple Partition Maps.

If you've really keen to do it this way, then I'll assume that the installer has listed your drive and you've tabbed over and chosen Edit. From here, you're thrown to a console prompt at the bottom of the screen and you'll need to navigate pdisk carefully. Please make sure to chose the correct partition first, before hitting Edit!


Disregard that it tells you you've chosen one device in the /dev folder and that its actually loaded the same device from the /tmp folder. This is just the way it seems to work and you'll need to find the device in /tmp later if you want to switch to another console and hack behind-the-scenes.

Anyway, pdisk accepts most of the fdisk commands, such as p to list the partition table. If you want to mangle it yourself, then use d # to delete individual partitions or i to completely re-write the partition map and start fresh.

Once you've got space to create your root and swap partitions, you'll want to use the command c to create them. If you're feeling professional, then split everything up into usr/home/root into partitions (this stops one of them from stealing all of the disk space from another and causing system failure). But, if you're lazy like me, then you only need to create a 64mb swap partition and then another partition for root, filling up the rest of the drive.

The basic structure to create a partition is as follows:

c 2p 64m swap

The command above will create a 64mb partition with the name swap at position 2. You can then type p and hit enter to see the new listing. Specifically you can see how much space is left on the disk. I had 1.9g available, so I then created root:

c 3p 1900m root

As opposed to fdisk, you don't need to specify the partition types here. You just need to name them accordingly: swap for swap, root for root. After creating the root partition, I went ahead and checked out the table via the command: p.I was happy with it and wrote the changes to disk via w. Finally, q took me back to the installer and tabbing in a loop back to OK allowed me to proceed to the formatting stage.

Formatting and Package Selection

From here, if you haven't low-level formatted your drive, then I'd recommend bad-block checking on both formatting runs.

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You'll then be asked the packages you want to install. Choose what you feel is relevant. You can always mount the CD-ROM at a later stage and individually install RPMS at a later date.


If you've chosen a miriad of groups, then there might be dependencies that need to be installed... please consider and then accept... otherwise your packages will fail to install.

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The install will then make the filesystem on the root partition and install the selected packages. If you selected Everything, then expect the following errors during installaion! The packages seem to be corrupt on both the original CD and my copy!

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Aww... no Mahjongg!? Note that the packages aren't really important... the machine still worked fine afterwards.


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Finally it'll ask a few questions about mice, networking, printers and boot parameters. You really should take a photo of the final window to record the boot-device and boot-file settings required for OpenFirmware!

Once all is done, the machine will reboot, ejecting the floppy. I'd installed TurboLinux around 6 times by the time I'd gotten to this part of writing this article and every-so-often one wouldn't boot at this point... the machine would restart, chime and hang at a black screen. I had to use the magic 4-finger-salute: Option+Command+P+R to get back to Mac OS and then re-enter the boot params from the final step of the installation process back into the Boot Variables control panel and Write & Reboot. It would then boot without fail!

TurboLinux is starting for the first time...

Shit, it booted! But I got a lot of crappy errors in the boot log.. which zoomed past and landed me at the boot prompt.


I logged in as root (as the installer didn't let me create any other users) and checked dmesg...


Not good.. seems that anything network-related just crashed?


Let's check X-Windows: startx got me to a very mustard-flavoured OpenStep desktop, but the Netscape icon from the launcher did nothing... I then tried netscape from xterm and got a segfault! Why is all network-related code throwing exceptions? Oh wait, I have two PCI cards installed in this system doing nothing. One is a 'bootable' Sonnet IDE card and another is a Kingston KNE100TX LAN card. Maybe TurboLinux can't work out if it should be using the onboard LAN or PCI LAN? Let's remove both cards...


A clean boot! I can even ping!


Netscape then even wanted to load... but got sad when it couldn't phone home. Poor thing... a few decades too late!

Screen Resolution

TurboLinux will use the resolution that you had Mac OS configured to. That value is store as a mode-number in PRAM and, unless you've reset it recently, should therefore display how you expect. If you want to override this, then choose a value from the list below...

#    1   512 x  386  60Hz (interlaced, NTSC)
#    2   512 x  386  60Hz
#    3   640 x  480  50Hz (interlaced, PAL)
#    4   640 x  480  60Hz (interlaced, NTSC)
#    5   640 x  480  60Hz
#    6   640 x  480  67Hz
#    7   640 x  870  75Hz (portrait)
#    8   768 x  576  50Hz (interlaced, PAL)
#    9   800 x  600  56Hz
#   10   800 x  600  60Hz
#   11   800 x  600  72Hz
#   12   800 x  600  75Hz
#   13   832 x  624  75Hz
#   14  1024 x  768  60Hz
#   15  1024 x  768  72Hz
#   16  1024 x  768  75Hz
#   17  1024 x  768  75Hz
#   18  1152 x  870  75Hz
#   19  1280 x  960  75Hz
#   20  1280 x 1024  75Hz

And replace the value '20' in the command below...

startx -- -mode 20

You'll then get the resolution you desire... as long as you have a monitor that supports what get's output. And maybe as long as you have the VRAM? This unit is decked out, so mode 20 worked fine. You can also pass -DEPTH with the value 8, 16 or 24.

Mounting HFS Extended Partitions

No-can-do out of the box! hfsutils can't mound HFS Extended partitions. Instead you'll just get the HFS shim with the Where_have_all_my_files_gone? file explaining that your data is still on the drive, but your current software is perfectly rubbish. I haven't found a solution to this yet... it seems that hfsprogs is open-source from Apple, but this OS may be way too old to compile it.

Getting back into Mac OS

There's a Linux tool called nvsetenv that will allow you to set the OpenFirmware boot-device setting inside Linux so that you can get back to MacOS on the next reboot:

nvsetenv boot-device "/AAPL,ROM"

Using BootX?

BootX (download it here) got installed whilst I was mucking around with Linux 1999 (mentioned below, and I'll write up a HOWTO on that also) during failed installs of TurboLinux. Just like BeOS, it throws a system extension in Mac OS with a symbol as the first character of its name to make it get loaded first. It then pops up a cute boot dialog to let you choose Mac OS or Linux with a configurable default. This is much nicer than the OpenFirmware prompt as it actually displays!

Unfortunately, there's an issue when you want to try and use it for TurboLinux. We'd need a vmlinux bootstrap kernel available for it to boot that matches the 2.1.x kernel in TurboLinux 1.1, otherwise there'll be a version mismatch. I tried all vmlinux files I could find on the CD; I even copied the exact file from the root partition... but BootX would just display a black screen each time I tried to boot it! Just for fun, I then used the 'Standard LinuxPPC' kernel with /dev/sda4 as the root and the bloody thing booted! But there was no sound and I had no idea what other damage might occur with a mismatched body vs. head.

So this is a really old version of Linux....

I went a'googlin and tried to find something newer, but there doesn't seem to be one! That site also doesn't have these ISOs, so I'll contribute those in due course. PowerISO on Win10 just threw a CRC error reading them? I might try Toast on the actual Mac. And then? Let's try LinuxPPC 1999 or LinuxPPC 2000.

But does it run OpenTTD?

There's no un-emulated version of A-Train to get running on here, so let's aim for OpenTTD. I've actually made this topic a new post as I nearly tripled the draft of this one with my moaning as to how hard it is to find a correct collection of libraries to build anything!

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