Linux for Die-hard Mac Users - Mac Distributions Compared

Below is a brief comparison between 4 major Mac Linux distributions. I did not made comprehensive tests of all of them, so please use it with caution. If you already chosen your own, you can skip this section and go next, Linux GUI.

Distro/Feature Debian Linux 2.2r2 LinuxPPC 2000Q4 SuSE Linux 7.0 Yellow Dog Linux 1.2.1
Basis Debian Red Hat SuSE+RPM Red Hat
Supported Platforms Mac PowerPC, Mac 68k, Alpha, ARM, x86, IBM RS, SPARC Mac PowerPC Mac PowerPC, x86, IA64, IBM RS, SPARC Mac PowerPC
Kernel Linux, The Hurd, BSD Linux Linux Linux
Mac Bootable CD Yes Yes Yes Yes
Graphical Partitioning Utility No Yes Yes Yes
Graphical Installer Yes Yes Yes Yes
Installation Profiles Yes, Largest Choice No Yes ???
Number of Software Packages over 3900 ??? over 1500 ???
Boot Partition Type Invisible Apple Bootstrap, or HFS HFS HFS HFS
Yaboot Configuration Manual Manual Manual Manual
Dual Booting Configuration Manual Manual Manual Manual
Requires Manual Changes of Open Firmware Variables Yes No No No
MOL (Mac on Linux Emulator) Yes Yes Yes Yes

Debian/GNU Linux is possibly the most powerful, it has feature rich and advanced installer, capable package management system and enormous number of software packages. The huge advantage of Debian is that it covers most computer platforms available today - Mac PowerPC, Mac 68k, IBM PowerPC workstations, x86 PCs, Alpha and SPARC. Support through mailing lists is completely free and excellent, most questions answered the same day. However, Debian is pretty hard to install, especially on some Macs, it requires manual editing of Open Firmware variables. Debian 2.2 Potato was the first PowerPC version, so I hope in the future installation procedure will become somewhat easier. All Debian CD ISO images are download-able from Debian WEB site.

LinuxPPC is probably the most well known and popular Linux distributions on Mac. Actually, it was the first Red Had based distribution appeared on the Mac and the first which included graphical partitioning utility, Perldisk. However, LinuxPPC looks like a product made by a hobbyists, it lacks good printed manual, it suffers from not so up to date or optimized components. Possibly 4 or 5 person company just could not handle so high-load work. Some time ago LinuxPPC Inc. went nonprofit organization, and currently is welcome for volunteers' help.

SuSE Linux comes from the experienced commercial Linux distribution company called SuSE GmbH which is based in Germany. SuSE Linux is the second biggest distribution after Debian with over 1500 software packages, which occupies 5 CDs. It is no questions the most professional and up-to-date RPM-based Linux on the Mac (to be exact, SuSE appeared before Red Hat and shares many components with Red Hat and Slackware, with a lot of own SuSE work). SuSE is the only company which provides everything in the single package - good software, good and comprehensive printed documentation, pre-sales support, 60 - 90 days of installation support, international commercial support, and counterpart version for x86 PCs (what is very important for cross-platform networks). It features excellent installation and configuration utility called YaST and powerful installation management tool ALICE. The only complain is complete lack of any visible Mac-related marketing. SuSE refused to reveal exact number of Mac copies sold, but insisted that it is well above expectations.

SuSE Linux is not available for download as CD ISO images, only as huge ftp directory. Please do not complain about this, 600-person company have to make some money for survival and further development of its products. Additionally, SuSE currently sponsoring (or directly involved to) development of Linux kernel, gcc, glibc, KDE, ReiserFS and XFree 86 projects, so $30 - $70 you pay for SuSE will certainly benefit entire Linux community. If you does not like SuSE commercial attitude and want something completely free, take Debian.

PowerPC only Yellow Dog Linux (or YDL) being assembled and distributed by the company called Terra Soft Solutions. The first YDL version I have tried have been Champion Server 1.2.1 and it was not impressive. It consisted of outdated components and had too complicated installation procedure. YDL 2.0 promised to be much better but it was not available by the time I am wrote this.

The Last Word

I do not want to say anything bad about LinuxPPC and Yellow Dog Linux, but the crown goes to Debian and SuSE. The choice between them is really hard, if not hearth wrecking. I finally have chosen SuSE, despite the fact that I liked Debian package management system much more than RPM. SuSE appeared just easier to use, and I had no so much time to explore Debian.

Continued - Linux GUI...

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