I visited my Mom recently and I returned home with her old computer.
It was giving her problems (aperiodic crashing), so she got a new one. This platform was abandoned by its manufacturer long ago, so there was no hope of updating it anyway. This machine has a PowerPC chip in it, which is completely different from all the other machines I use, so I decided to see if I could put Linux on it.
Its specs are pretty modest (it's over ten years old), so I wanted something lightweight. I also wanted something up-to-date, so I was pleased when I discovered that Lubuntu 12.10 supports PowerPC. This is a version of Ubuntu based on LXDE, a much lighter weight desktop. Perfect!
Unfortunately, I was unable to get it to install. This machine has nVidia graphics and the nouveau driver used by Lubuntu 12.10 didn't seem to like this particular graphics card. By default, I just got a blank white screen. I tried a number of things, but none of them worked. I even tried
boot: Linux nouveau.modeset=0
which I really thought should do it (isn't modeset zero basically off?), but that gave me crazy colors!
That's the LXDE login screen. The rainbow should be a pretty blue background, the lighter colored rectangle should be the display manager login dialogue, and the little black square should be the mouse pointer. It's even worse if you actually manage to log in!
I was able to boot into single user mode
boot: Linux nouveau.modeset=0 single
and get a console that I could try out a few things with. But nothing worked. The nouveau driver just did not like this card and no other drivers in 12.10 would handle it.
Next, I tried Ubuntu 12.04. It had the same problem with the nouveau driver, but I was able to compile the old nv driver from natty (I tried compiling the nv driver for 12.10, but I couldn't get it to work). After some amount of fussing, it seems to be working fine. I tried both LXDE and Xfce, but in the end I just went with plain Openbox and no desktop. I quite like it and might just keep it around for programming with. It's a pretty nice keyboard. I've barely got it configured and it already does most of what I need. That first photo shows an Emacs window with a Perl script in it and an xterm window. That covers about 90% of my computing needs right there!
And, yes, that's a little penguin thumb drive that I got for Christmas!
I thought it was appropriate to use it to install Linux on this formerly non-Linux computer!
So, I've got the current LTS of Ubuntu installed, but it seems this might be the last version that runs on this machine. Unless someone figures out what's up with this nouveau driver!