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Quadra 950: Alternative Operating Systems

Although Macintosh hardware is first-and-foremost meant to only run it's own brand of Operating System, you can coerce it to run different software with a little bit of work. Most of the methods still require a real MacOS partition with extensions/bootloaders to then hijack the boot process and switch execution to a 3rd-party OS. Even Apple's own A/UX (their variant of Unix) uses this method.

Installing A/UX on the Quadra 950

This machine isn't the Workgroup Server, but we can make it think it is. If your Quadra doesn't have CD-ROM Drive yet, then check out the difficulty I had installing one. Also, we'll need to build a floppy boot disk, you can see how to make them here.

Once you're ready, download A/UX 3.0.1 from here and burn the image to CD. (There's a plethora of Mac OS versions here, if you're bored.) I used PowerISO to burn the image. This image also contains the bootdisk, write that to a floppy too!

Slap the CD in your drive, boot your Quadra. Notice that it doesn't care one iota about your disc? It never will...

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Make sure you have the bootdisk available. Slap it in and boot... It just worked... that's always nice. It got to a monochrome desktop and asked for the A/UX installation disc? Fail. I then googled to this site and found out that "if you don't have an Apple CD drive then you're hosed." Thanks... a lot... Apple.

I then tried to use my Apple PowerCD, but that wasn't found either. Seems like someone else tried and failed as well...

Gah! Is it time to hack the boot image to work with other SCSI serial/device IDs? Or do they all need individual drivers? It seems that A/UX 3.1 supports additional CD drives, specifically the NEC drive that I have. Unfortunately the boot disk is from 3.0.1... might have to try and copy the driver over...

I resorted to purchasing a CD-ROM drive that is listed as working on the A/UX FAQ. The original mention that this drive works is here. There's another reference here. It'll arrive soon and I'll try again!

CD-ROM Drives and PowerPC Upgrades

My Pioneer DVD-303S-A arrived and I installed it. Nothing tricky there, the ID jumpers were set accordingly and I booted in to MacOS 8.6. Unfortunately, the OS wanted nothing to do with the drive, the default extensions wouldn't see the CDs.

Disregarding this, I slapped the A/UX boot floppy in the drive and rebooted the system... it failed, telling me that my hardware was unsupported! Of course, I still had the PowerPC card enabled and it seems that this is not supported by A/UX? It actually seems that A/UX was only for 68k and you would need to install IBM AIX on any PowerPC hardware. The Apple Network Servers (although short-lived) ran PowerPC with IBM AIX. 'A/UX 4.0' was to run on PowerPC, but the project was dropped. Floodgap ANSwers: The WGS 9150 and the Story of Wormhole is a good primer on this generation of servers and operating systems.

Anyway, with the PowerPC card disabled, the installation found the CD-ROM!


This was ridiculously straight-forward. The floppy saw the CD and then booted straight into the installer. From here you simply partitioned a disk and hit next, next, finish.

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Floodgap has a great tutorial on partitioning and installation. You'll note that all partitions mentioned are 2gb. It seems that, since the 'boot' partition is based on System 7.0.1, 2gb is the maximum partition size! Be very careful when dealing with other disks in your system with larger drives/partitions!


A/UX doesn't load from the bios, it actually boots once the smaller 7.0.1 parition has loaded to the desktop. It's interesting to watch, especially with my Supermac Video card. It actually re-initialises the videocard whilst doing so. So you get to the standard Finder and then another 'loading' dialog pops up. After this the screen goes blank, hardware is initialised and the A/UX loading screen appears.

It'll then have booted to the A/UX desktop which looks quite similar. You now have access to the root partition known as /. I opened the CommandShell (aka Terminal) and played around. It accepted my 'cc' command... I had a compiler! I then took screenshots, opt-shift-3 worked fine, but on attempt to copy to my main MacintoshHD partition (4gb in size) it threw an error saying it needed 30mb more space. Hah... fail... System 7.0.1 cannot handle the partition sizes.

Will muck around with this more and report back.

Further References:


Seems that this is the effort after A/UX to get it running on the PowerPC.


NetBSD/macppc will not work. It is for OpenFirmware based Power Macintoshes.

There's probably information here... or here, here, here, here or ... maybe somewhere else. I will try this in the future.


Nope... it needs a PowerPC 604 or higher. Even with the PPC PDS card, the max CPU is still a PowerPC 601. Unfortunate really, BeOS is still one of my favourite operating systems and I'd love to see it running on a 68k. Go and check out the Haiku OS anyway, it's still under active development.

MacOS 8.5+

Not quite as alternative as those above, but this OS is not meant to run on 68k Macintoshes. Not even those with PPC upgrades. 8.5 can be installed and then upgraded to 8.6. More on this soon.