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Debian GNU/Linux PowerPC PReP Page


IBM and Motorola both make or have made PReP architecture machines. At this point, the PReP support has only been tested on Motorola legacy PowerStack(tm) (Blackhawk, Comet, Utah motherboard) systems and the current embedded solution in the PowerPlus(tm) family. These include the MTX, MTX+, MVME2300(sc)/2400/2600/2700/3600/4600, and MCP(n)750. IBM produces a variety of desktop workstation that are PowerPC PReP compliant. These include the RS/6000 40P, 43P, 830, 850, 860, 6015, and 6030.

Known Problems

MTX+ (7 PCI slot MTX system) cannot boot the 2.2 kernel, it hangs on the IDE driver initialization. This is a known problem and will be fixed in an upcoming kernel patch.

All Motorola PowerPlus systems have broken IDE support in the kernel. This problem has been identified and fixed. Changes will soon be available as a Debian kernel patch package and will be rolled into the kernel source.


Depending on the age and/or maker of your PReP system you will have either PPCBUG (Motorola), Open Firmware (IBM or Motorola), or IBM's PReP firmware. The boot commands are slightly different but all of these systems implement the PReP standard so the same kernel can be booted on all platforms. A complete explanation of firmware commands is out of the scope of this document but some information will be provided where necessary.

Setup for Installation

Floppy Based Install

Write the boot1440.bin, root1440.bin, resc1440.bin, drv14-*.bin, and images to floppy disks. dd can be used on a Linux/Unix system or rawrite can be used on a DOS/Windows system.

Network Based Install

Place resc1440.bin and drivers.tgz files into an exported NFS filesystem on your NFS server. It is best to place the files as follows: /[mountpoint]/debian/[installfiles] .

Place the boot.bin file in the tftp directory on your TFTP server.

Console Options

On Motorola PPCBUG systems you may boot and install using either VGA console or serial console. PPCBUG and Linux will fall back to serial console mode if no VGA or keyboard is detected.

In order to properly view the installation on a serial console, some terminal emulation capabilities are necessary. In order to see the installation in color, it is necessary to have a terminal emulator with support for ANSI color. The standard color xterm included with most Linux distribution is sufficient, as are most terminal programs on Windows (for example, PuTTY). In order to view the line drawing characters that make the GUI boxes, it is essential that a font containing the IBM extended line art character be used. Under Linux, the "linux8x8" font can be used and under Windows one can select the MSLineDraw font.


Use the "ENV" command and turn on the "Network PReP boot enable" option.
Use the "NIOT" command to configure the client, server, and optional gateway IP addr that will be used to tftp the kernel. If it is a brand new board, be sure to SET <date/time> to start the hwclock or networking and other things will not function.
Boot the image with
PPCBUG>NBO 0 0 ,,, bootprep.bin
Use the following command to tftp boot a PReP image:
>boot ‹server_ipaddr›,‹file›,‹client_ipaddr›

Debian Installation

  1. Configure the keyboard

    If on serial console, the configure keyboard step is skipped.

  2. Partition the Harddrive

    Create a primary partition of 2MB and change its type to PPC PReP boot (type 41). OF PReP machines may have trouble booting if the PPC PReP boot partition is anywhere other than primary partition 1. Although all the Motorola PPCBUG systems can have PPC PReP boot located on any primary partition, it is general practice to make the PPC PReP boot partition on sda1 or hda1.

    After the PPC PReP boot partition is created, follow the normal Linux conventions for partitioning. At least a root and swap partition should be created and they may be on either primary or logical partitions.

  3. Install Rescue and Driver disks

    Installing from floppy is straightforward, insert the rescue and driver disks as you are prompted for them.

    For a network based install, choose the NFS option and you will be prompted to configure networking. When it prompts for the NFS server to utilize, enter the NFS server and directory that you set up earlier. Choose the defaults for the rest of the questions.

  4. Configure Driver modules

    For now, important modules are built in the kernel so just choose "Exit".

  5. Install Base System

    If a floppy install is selected, simply insert the base disks as requested. If NFS install is selected, enter the NFS server and directory in which the base system is located and choose the defaults to install the Debian base system.

  6. Make Bootable from Harddrive

    Makes the system bootable from the PPC PReP boot partition that was created earlier. If that partition is missing, an error will be displayed.

  7. Make Boot Floppy

    Writes a bootable image to a disk in the floppy drive.

Debian Base System Boot

If you configured a type 41 PReP boot partition and had the installation program make the system bootable from the hard drive then you can simply issue a firmware boot command to have it boot from hard disk (PPCBUG and OF both have autoboot options you may also turn on).

Note: to force the kernel to root from the correct partition, it may be necessary to write to the PReP Global Environment variable, "bootargs". In the case of a Motorola PReP installation which will default to root from sda1 and where the root filesystem is actually on sda2, one must set bootargs=/dev/sda2 .


Set the bootargs parameter
Perform a boot (assumes SCSI disk on controller 0, SCSI ID 0):
Perform a boot (assumes SCSI disk on controller 0, SCSI ID x)
Perform a boot (for installed IDE/SCSI disk aliased to disk0)
>boot disk0
Perform a boot (for installed IDE/SCSI disk aliased to hdisk0)
>boot hdisk0

Now the kernel boots from the hard disk.

Please email with any suggestions/complaints/problems with the installation on PReP and this documentation to Matt Porter