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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For PowerPC
Chapter 2 - System Requirements

This section contains information about what hardware you need to get started with Debian. You will also find links to further information about hardware supported by GNU and Linux.

2.1 Supported Hardware

Debian does not impose hardware requirements beyond the requirements of the Linux kernel and the GNU tool-sets. Therefore, any architecture or platform to which the Linux kernel, libc, gcc, etc. have been ported, and for which a Debian port exists, can run Debian. Please refer to the Ports pages at http://www.debian.org/ports/powerpc/ for more details on powerpc architecture systems which have been tested with Debian.

Rather than attempting to describe all the different hardware configurations which are supported for PowerPC, this section contains general information and pointers to where additional information can be found.

2.1.1 Supported Architectures

Debian 3.0 supports eleven major architectures and several variations of each architecture known as 'flavors'.

     Architecture         | Debian Designation / Flavor 
     Intel x86-based      | i386
                          |   - vanilla
                          |   - idepci
                          |   - compact
                          |   - bf2.4 (experimental)
     Motorola 680x0:      | m68k
       - Atari            |   - atari
       - Amiga            |   - amiga
       - 68k Macintosh    |   - mac
       - VME              |   - bvme6000
                          |   - mvme147
                          |   - mvme16x
     DEC Alpha            | alpha
                          |   - generic
                          |   - jensen
                          |   - nautilus
     Sun SPARC            | sparc
                          |   - sun4cdm
                          |   - sun4u
     ARM and StrongARM    | arm
                          |   - netwinder
                          |   - riscpc
                          |   - shark
                          |   - lart
     IBM/Motorola PowerPC | powerpc
       - CHRP             |   - chrp
       - PowerMac         |   - powermac, new-powermac
       - PReP             |   - prep
       - APUS             |   - apus
     HP PA-RISC           | hppa
       - PA-RISC 1.1      |   - 32
       - PA-RISC 2.0      |   - 64
     Intel ia64-based     | ia64
     MIPS (big endian)    | mips
       - SGI Indy/I2      |  - r4k-ip22
     MIPS (little endian) | mipsel
       - DEC Decstation   |  - r4k-kn04
                          |  - r3k-kn02
     IBM S/390            | s390
                          |  - tape
                          |  - vmrdr

This document covers installation for the powerpc architecture. If you are looking for information on any of the other Debian-supported architectures take a look at the Debian-Ports pages.

2.1.2 CPU, Main Boards, and Video Support

There are four major supported powerpc flavors: PMac (Power-Macintosh) PReP, Apus, and CHRP machines. Ports to other powerpc architectures, such as the Be-Box and MBX architecture, are underway but not yet supported by Debian. We may have a 64bit port (Power3) in the future.

Apple (and briefly a few other manufacturers - Power Computing, for example) makes a series of Macintosh computers based on the PowerPC processor. For purposes of architecture support, they are categorized as NuBus, OldWorld PCI, and NewWorld.

Macintosh computers using the 680x0 series of processors are not in the PowerPC family but are instead m68k machines. Those models start with `Mac II' or have a 3-digit model number such as Centris 650 or Quadra 950. Apple's pre-iMac PowerPC model numbers have four digits.

NuBus systems are not currently supported by debian/powerpc. The monolithic Linux/PPC kernel architecture does not have support for these machines; instead, one must use the MkLinux Mach microkernel, which Debian does not yet support. These include the following:

A linux kernel for these machines and limited support is available at http://nubus-pmac.sourceforge.net/

OldWorld systems are most Power Macintoshes with a floppy drive and a PCI bus. Most 603, 603e, 604, and 604e based Power Macintoshes are OldWorld machines. The beige colored G3 systems are also OldWorld.

The so called NewWorld PowerMacs are any PowerMacs in translucent colored plastic cases. That includes all iMacs, iBooks, G4 systems, blue colored G3 systems, and most PowerBooks manufactured in and after 1999. The NewWorld PowerMacs are also known for using the `ROM in RAM' system for MacOS, and were manufactured from mid-1998 onwards.

Recently introduced Macintosh systems have hardware which is more well supported by the 2.4 Linux kernel. For some, the 2.2 kernel just doesn't work. The new-powermac flavor, which uses the 2.4 kernel, has been added to keep up with the hardware. The new-powermac flavor may also be installed on other OldWorld and NewWorld machines. Machines for which new-powermac is highly recommended are flagged with an asterisk below.

Specifications for Apple hardware are available at AppleSpec, and, for older hardware, AppleSpec Legacy.

     Model Name/Number                                 Architecture
     ----------------------------------------------    ---------------
     iMac Bondi Blue, 5 Flavors, Slot Loading        powermac-NewWorld
     iMac Summer 2000, Early 2001                    powermac-NewWorld 
     * iBook, iBook SE, iBook Dual USB               powermac-NewWorld 
     * iBook2                                        powermac-NewWorld 
     Power Macintosh Blue and White (B&W) G3         powermac-NewWorld
     * Power Macintosh G4 PCI, AGP, Cube             powermac-NewWorld 
     * Power Macintosh G4 Gigabit Ethernet           powermac-NewWorld 
     * Power Macintosh G4 Digital Audio, Quicksilver powermac-NewWorld 
     PowerBook G3 FireWire Pismo (2000)              powermac-NewWorld 
     PowerBook G3 Lombard (1999)                     powermac-NewWorld 
     * PowerBook G4 Titanium                         powermac-NewWorld 
     Performa 4400, 54xx, 5500                       powermac-OldWorld  
     Performa 6360, 6400, 6500                       powermac-OldWorld 
     Power Macintosh 4400, 5400                      powermac-OldWorld 
     Power Macintosh 7200, 7300, 7500, 7600          powermac-OldWorld 
     Power Macintosh 8200, 8500, 8600                powermac-OldWorld 
     Power Macintosh 9500, 9600                      powermac-OldWorld 
     Power Macintosh (Beige) G3 Minitower            powermac-OldWorld 
     Power Macintosh (Beige) Desktop, All-in-One     powermac-OldWorld 
     PowerBook 2400, 3400, 3500                      powermac-OldWorld 
     PowerBook G3 Wallstreet (1998)                  powermac-OldWorld 
     Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh                 powermac-OldWorld 
     Workgroup Server 7250, 7350, 8550, 9650, G3     powermac-OldWorld 
     Power Computing
     PowerBase, PowerTower / Pro, PowerWave          powermac-OldWorld 
     PowerCenter / Pro, PowerCurve                   powermac-OldWorld 
     C500, C600, J700, S900                          powermac-OldWorld 
     APS Tech M*Power 604e/2000                      powermac-OldWorld 
     Starmax 3000, 4000, 5000, 5500                  powermac-OldWorld 
     Firepower, PowerStack Series E, PowerStack II   prep                
     MPC 7xx, 8xx                                    prep     
     MTX, MTX+                                       prep
     MVME2300(SC)/24xx/26xx/27xx/36xx/46xx           prep
     MCP(N)750                                       prep
     IBM RS/6000
     40P, 43P                                        prep
     Power 830/850/860 (6070, 6050)                  prep         
     6030, 7025, 7043                                prep             
     p640                                            prep 
     B50, 43P-150, 44P                               chrp
     Amiga Power-UP Systems (APUS)
     A1200, A3000, A4000                             apus Graphics Card

Debian's support for graphical interfaces is determined by the underlying support found in XFree86's X11 system. The newer AGP video slots are actually a modification on the PCI specification, and most AGP video cards work under XFree86. Details on supported graphics buses, cards, monitors, and pointing devices can be found at http://www.xfree86.org/. Debian 3.0 ships with X11 revision 4.1.0.

2.1.3 Multiple Processors

Multi-processor support — also called ``symmetric multi-processing'' or SMP — is supported for this architecture. However, the standard Debian 3.0 kernel image does not support SMP. This should not prevent installation, since the standard, non-SMP kernel should boot on SMP systems; the kernel will simply use the first CPU.

In order to take advantage of multiple processors, you'll have to replace the standard Debian kernel. You can find a discussion of how to do this in Compiling a New Kernel, Section 9.5. At this time (kernel version 2.2.20) the way you enable SMP is to select ``symmetric multi-processing'' in the ``General'' section of the kernel config.

2.2 Installation Media

In many cases, you'll have to do your first boot from floppy disks, using the rescue floppy. Generally, all you will need is a high-density (1440 kilobytes) 3.5 inch floppy drive. For CHRP floppy support is currently broken.

CD-ROM based installation is supported for some architectures. On machines which support bootable CD-ROMs, you should be able to do a completely floppy-less installation. Even if your system doesn't support booting from a CD-ROM, you can use the CD-ROM in conjunction with the other techniques to install your system, once you've booted up by other means; see Booting from a CD-ROM, Section 5.2.

Installation system booting from a hard disk is another option for many architectures.

You can also boot your system over the network. Diskless installation, using network booting from a local area network and NFS-mounting of all local filesystems, is another option — you'll probably need at least 16MB of RAM for a diskless installation. After the operating system kernel is installed, you can install the rest of your system via any sort of network connection (including PPP after installation of the base system), via FTP, HTTP, or NFS.

2.2.1 Supported Storage Systems

The Debian boot disks contain a kernel which is built to maximize the number of systems it runs on. Unfortunately, this makes for a larger kernel, which includes many drivers that won't be used for your machine (see Compiling a New Kernel, Section 9.5 to learn how to build your own kernel). Support for the widest possible range of devices is desirable in general, to ensure that Debian can be installed on the widest array of hardware.

Any storage system supported by the Linux kernel is also supported by the boot system. Note that the current Linux kernel does not support floppies on CHRP systems at all.

2.3 Memory and Disk Space Requirements

You must have at least 16MB of memory and 110MB of hard disk space. For a minimal console-based system (all standard packages), 250MB is required. If you want to install a reasonable amount of software, including the X Window System, and some development programs and libraries, you'll need at least 400MB. For a more or less complete installation, you'll need around 800MB. To install everything available in Debian, you'll probably need around 2 GB. Actually, installing everything doesn't even make sense, since some packages conflict with others.

2.4 Network Connectivity Hardware

Any network interface card (NIC) supported by the Linux kernel should also be supported by the boot disks. You may need to load your network driver as a module.

2.5 Peripherals and Other Hardware

Linux supports a large variety of hardware devices such as mice, printers, scanners, PCMCIA and USB devices. However, most of these devices are not required while installing the system. This section contains information about peripherals specifically not supported by the installation system, even though they may be supported by Linux.

2.6 Purchasing Hardware Specifically for GNU/Linux

There are several vendors, who ship systems with Debian or other distributions of GNU/Linux pre-installed. You might pay more for the privilege, but it does buy a level of peace of mind, since you can be sure that the hardware is well-supported by GNU/Linux.

Whether or not you are purchasing a system with Linux bundled, or even a used system, it is still important to check that your hardware is supported by the Linux kernel. Check if your hardware is listed in the references found above. Let your salesperson (if any) know that you're shopping for a Linux system. Support Linux-friendly hardware vendors.

2.6.1 Avoid Proprietary or Closed Hardware

Some hardware manufacturers simply won't tell us how to write drivers for their hardware. Others won't allow us access to the documentation without a non-disclosure agreement that would prevent us from releasing the Linux source code.

Since we haven't been granted access to the documentation on these devices, they simply won't work under Linux. You can help by asking the manufacturers of such hardware to release the documentation. If enough people ask, they will realize that the free software community is an important market.

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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For PowerPC

version 3.0.24, 18 December, 2002

Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo