The Macintosh Corner – Dog Day Afternoon

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For several years now, I have read about Yellow Dog Linux (YDL) and its ease of use and installation on Power Macintosh computers. I recently bought an older version of YDL 2.3 and attempted to install and run it on my Power Macintosh G4 733 Quicksilver this afternoon.



The older version of YDL I bought came with no printed documentation. I was entirely on my own to figure out how to get the installation disc started. This was somewhat easy after poking my way around the CD from within the familiar confines of OSX.

I inserted the YDL CD into the G4’s drive and proceeded to restart the Mac by holding the “C” key down. Instead of OSX showing up, the CD booted the Mac into a very simple text only interface which allowed me to choose which YDL installer I wanted to run. The procedure was as simple as typing the desired installer into the command line.

Once that was done, the CD proceeded to a graphical installer. After going through a few initial screens YDL prompted me to choose where I wanted to install the system and what type of installation I wanted.

I had hoped that YDL would see my external firewire drive because that is where I always wanted to install a third operating system. No option for my firewire showed up. The only discs that the YDL installer could see were my 2 internal ATA drives and to my surprise, my external SCSI Zip 250 drive.

The Zip drive was completely out of the question. Each of my ATA drives has OSX in one and OS9 in another. Both of those drives have 2 partitions each with the respective OS’s occupying the first partition of each drive.

I decided YDL would go into the slave drive’s 2nd partition. This is the same drive I use almost daily to boot and run OSX.

The next step in the installation process was to decide whether I wanted the YDL “basic”, “home/office”, “developer”, “internet server” or “everything” options. I am a total Linux newbie and decided to just go for what I think I would be using YDL for. I chose “home/office.”

After that option was selected the installer proceeded along its happy way by installing all of the various packages and software into my hard drive’s partition. Familiar names such as Mozilla, Pine, Gimp, abiWord, Gnone, KDE and others zipped by as I watched the graphical bars fill themselves from left to right, indicating that the installation was going as smoothly as it could get. Upon finishing the installation stopped.

I was then prompted to select my local time, super user password, regular user login name and password and what default OS that I would like to use. The installer also asked me about monitor resolutions and whether or not I wanted some kind of boot installer loaded.

It also asked me where my OSX and OS9 partitions were located.

This was the funny part. When YDL’s installer asked me if I was using OS 9 and X I clicked yes. It then asked me where the OS’s were, as YDL presented me with a blank box that looked like the volumes for OSX and 9 should have been included. The trouble is that none were present in the box.

I figured perhaps that this was normal for YDL and proceeded to just click the option for DONE to each of the OS questions. I fully expected YDL to know where my OSX and OS9 discs were. The installer certainly let me continue.

A short time after, YDL told me that the installation was successful.

”Reboot and Trying to Run”

I know for a fact that I got the installation of YDL done. I know all of the packages and graphical front ends were installed.

The trouble is on the first boot into YDL, the computer just simply could not find YDL! It booted into OSX.

No problem I thought. I would just go to OSX’s Start Up Disk panel and choose YDL from there. I fully expected to see YDL listed as my 3rd start-up option along with the ever familiar OS9.

Nada. No YDL.

Another thing I noticed is that the YDL volume of its hard disc partition did not show up on any of my Mac’s desktops. I suspect that this has to do with the fact that the partition was now a Linux partition and as far as I know both my OSX and OS9 systems do not recognize that partition … hence its failure to show.

”Erase and Reinstall”

After trying to get this thing to mount through OS9 or through holding the OPTION key down at start-up, I decided to try and reinstall YDL again.

I went through the same installation procedure and had YDL reinstalled onto the same partition. One of the nice things that the YDL installer does is lets you erase a partitioned drive without resorting to blanking out the whole thing. Therefore on this second attempt I only had YDL erase YDL while keeping my OSX partition intact.

Again the installer was successful but still had the same problem in locating where my OSX and OS9 partitions were. The thing that I did differently here was to install the bootloader onto a small partition of my hard drive.

”Running YDL Again”

This time after the computer rebooted, YDL did kick in, but only into the command line. I could login to my user account and I could choose from the command line which OS I wanted to boot into (OSX, OS9 or YDL).

However I suspect that since YDL could not see OS9 or OSX during the installation process, it could not take me back to any of those OS’s through its command line option.

What made things even worst was that I could not get the thing to boot into one of the graphical interfaces, either KDE or Gnome.

While I am familiar with some of the common commands and programs in the Unix shell as well as on Darwin from within OSX, as I said earlier I am new to Linux. I also did not have time nor the desire at this point to want to continue using YDL … not with this set up at least.

I decided that YDL had to go.

”Easier Said Than Done”

I booted the computer back into OSX and proceeded to delete the partition from which YDL resided on.

Trouble was that YDL was on the same hard drive as OSX!

The first thing I did was to go to Apple’s Disk Utility program from within OSX. I remember having used it to partition my firewire drive.

I opened Disk Utility and selected my OSX/YDL drive. The OSX volume showed up but not the YDL. Drats I thought. How can I erase the YDL partition without messing up OSX?

Simply put, I couldn’t. Not from within OSX since it was my start-up volume.

I thought about nuking the drive from OS9. If I went that way, I would not only erase YDL, but also erase OSX. I certainly did not want to erase OSX and reinstall everything again!

”Send in the Clones”

Luckily not too long ago I had read about Carbon Copy Cloner and remembered that I installed it on my OSX partition. I decided to give the utility program a go.

I launched Carbon Copy Cloner and selected my OSX partition as the source drive. I also selected everything on that volume that I wanted to clone.

My firewire drive is a recently acquired LaCie 120GB that I split into 4 partitions. Since my OSX partition is only 18GB out of which only 5GB are actually being used, I decided to clone it to a blank partition on the LaCie drive. I selected the drive as the destination, logged in with my super user password and let carbon copy cloner do its job.

It took less than 10 minutes for Carbon Copy Cloner to copy everything from my OSX partition to my new partition on the firewire drive.

Now let me tell you here, that I had always known you could boot a G4 Power Mac from an external firewire device as long as it was plugged into the Mac itself and not a hub. I had never done this before, so this would be the test.

After Carbon Copy was finished cloning OSX to my firewire, I did a rudimentary check to make sure all of my OSX files and apps were on the firewire.

I knew what I had to do now.

I had to erase my entire original OSX drive in order get rid of the Yellow Dog.

I proceeded to restart the Mac and selected the external drive with my newly cloned copy of OSX on it. The Power Mac rebooted as normal and everything down to my desktop picture and the handful of files I had strewn on the desktop showed up from its new firewire home. The external boot into OSX was a success. The clone of my drive worked!

”Go Away YDL, Go Away!”

Upon that action, I proceeded back to my utilities folder and launched the Disk Utility. I selected the 40GB internal drive where I had my original copy of OSX and YDL installed. The first thing I did was simply ERASE the entire drive so that the whole thing was back to a blank Mac OS Extended format slab.

This got rid of YDL and also my original OSX 10.2.6.

After that I partitioned the drive back into 2 Mac sectors as I originally had before the YDL installation.

The last thing I did was launch Carbon Copy Cloner again and recopied all of my OSX partition back from my firewire drive onto its familiar home on my ATA internal drive. OSX is now running normally from its original home. YDL, you’re gone for now.

”Lessons Learned”

This little but time consuming exercise has taught me several things.

*1. If you are going to play around with an alternate OS, do it on an alternate Mac or at least an alternate hard drive.

*2. This exercise has reinforced my belief that it is best to have 2 different operating systems on 2 different hard drives. Even if we are talking about Mac OS9 and OSX here, having each on their own drives can solve a lot of potential problems (earlier this year my OS9 drive crashed and burned, but the Mac could still function with OSX until I installed a new drive and put OS9 back on that). The same holds true for Linux.

The Yellow Dog Linux installer could also see my external SCSI Zip Drive. I am quite confident that if I installed a large (let’s say 18GB) SCSI hard drive to my Power Mac G4, whether it be internal (the Mac has an empty bay for another drive) or external, that I could install YDL or another Linux distro there. I hope.

*3. The third lesson is that I probably should have bought the latest distro of YDL. They are currently at version 3. However since I had a shipping issue with Terra Soft, the vendors for Yellow Dog Linux, I went the cheap route and bought the older distribution from another source.

I know for sure that YDL 2.3 is compatible with my Power Mac G4 as it did recognize most all of my devices during installation and during the text only boot process. It did have an option to choose my 15 inch flat panel 2001 Mac ADC display. So I know it was compatible.

Perhaps it was a bug or something that I did completely wrong that made YDL not see my OSX and OS9 partitions. I’ll never know since the dog is now completely out of the house.

I have not given up. I will face the Dog another day and when I do, you will read about it again.

”’Mel is a Macintosh user and consultant and runs a Mac Web site at:”’