Monday, January 2, 2017


I've put together a relatively simple, but I think nice looking, desktop system monitor with Conky.  This script is specifically designed to run on the cyrus-plus board by A-EON, but you can edit the script to apply to your own setup.  For example, you will need to reference your own network adapter as the "network_adapter" under the Network section. 

Using Debian-based distributions:  
"apt-get install conky-all"

Create a text file in your /home named ".conky"

Copy and Paste the following into your .conky file.  You may have to edit certain items to apply to your setup.  Then save, launch terminal and enter "conky". 

#Conky Config

#Program Settings
background yes
update_interval 1
cpu_avg_samples 2
net_avg_samples 2
double_buffer yes
no_buffers yes
text_buffer_size 2048
temperature_unit fahrenheit

#Appearance and Window
default_color lime green
default_outline_color white
default_shade_color white

own_window yes
own_window_type override
own_window_transparent yes
own_window_colour black

border_inner_margin 0
border_outer_margin 5

minimum_size 280 300
maximum_width 280

alignment tr
gap_x 10
gap_y 50

draw_shades no
draw_outline no
draw_borders no
draw_graph_borders yes

#Font Defaults
use_xft yes
xftfont ubuntu mono:size=11
xftalpha 0.5
uppercase no

${font neuropol:bold:size=14}SYSTEM ${font neuropol:size=11}
Hostname ${alignr}${nodename}
Machine ${alignr}${machine}
Kernel ${alignr}${kernel}
Uptime ${alignr}${uptime}
${hr 2}

${font neuropol:bold:size=14}CPU${font}
${cpugraph cpu0 32,120}${alignr}${cpugraph cpu1 32,120}
CPU 1 - ${freq_g 0} GHz${alignr}CPU2 - ${freq_g 1}GHz

${font neuropol:size=11}CPU Usage - Top Processes ${font}
Name ${alignr}CPU%   MEM%
${top name 1} ${alignr}${top cpu 1} ${top mem 1}
${top name 2} ${alignr}${top cpu 2} ${top mem 2}
${top name 3} ${alignr}${top cpu 3} ${top mem 3}

Total Processes:        ${processes}
Total Threads:          ${threads}

${font neuropol:bold:size=14}GPU${font}
Device: ${font neuropol:size=11}${exec cat /sys/class/hwmon/hwmon0/name} ${font}
Temp:   ${hwmon 0 temp 1} °F ${alignr}Mode: ${exec cat /sys/class/hwmon/hwmon0/device/graphics/fb0/modes | cut -c3-12}

${font neuropol:bold:size=14}MEMORY ${font}
RAM   ${mem}/${memmax} ${alignr}${membar 10,120}

${font neuropol:size=11}Memory Usage - Top Processes ${font}
Name ${alignr}CPU%   MEM%
${top_mem name 1} ${alignr}${top_mem cpu 1} ${top_mem mem 1}
${top_mem name 2} ${alignr}${top_mem cpu 2} ${top_mem mem 2}
${top_mem name 3} ${alignr}${top_mem cpu 3} ${top_mem mem 3}

${font neuropol:bold:size=14}FILE SYSTEMS ${font}
/     ${fs_used /}/${fs_size /} ${alignr}${fs_bar 10,120 /}

${diskiograph 32,120}
Disk I/O: ${diskio}

${font neuropol:bold:size=14}NETWORK ${font}
IP Address: ${alignr}${addr network_adapter}

${downspeedgraph enP1p4s5 32,120 -l} ${alignr}${upspeedgraph network_adapter 32,120 -l} ${font ubuntu mono}
Downspeed: ${downspeed enP1p4s5} ${alignr}Upspeed: ${upspeed network_adapter}

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Installation Procedure: Lubuntu 14.04 LTS on PowerPC (G5 11,2) with Radeon Graphics (Easiest)

This is currently the distribution I recommend.  This version is supported by Lubuntu until April, 2017.  I am working on putting together an install procedure for the most recent LTS version,16.04 LTS, but I am encountering issues which I believe originate from systemd.  

Whenever directions are given to type a command, the command is "in quotes"; do not type the quotations.  

What You'll Need:  

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS PowerPC Install Disk.  You can download here:  Mac (PowerPC) and IBM-PPC (POWER5) desktop image 

Power Mac 11,2 with stock Apple/OF video card installed in the 16X PCIe slot and an AMD Radeon HD card installed in the 8X PCIe slot

You need a monitor connected to both video cards for at least the installation; after the installation the second monitor can be disconnected by following these instructions

For a much faster system, I recommend installing the OS on an SSD; I recommend the OWC Mercury Electra - simply connect the SSD to drive bay A and move your HDD to drive bay B


You want to install Ubuntu 14.04 as the only OS on the system.  All other data will be deleted.  Backup any data you want to keep!  


1) With the install disk in the optical drive, start (or restart) the system.  Press 'C' right after you hear the startup chime.  

2) The system will boot to a CD installation menu on the monitor connected to the stock Apple/OF video card.  The installation and configuration will take place on this screen.  Type "install-powerpc64" and press enter.  

3) The system will load to a "live cd" desktop with one "Install Lubuntu" icon.  Double-click on the install icon to launch the installer.  

4) Proceed through the installer.  Click both options for download/install updates during installation and install proprietary software.  When you get to the partitioning options, I recommend choosing the option that installs Lubuntu as the sole OS.  There seems to be a bug associated with the "Something else" option that may send your system into an infinite loop.  Continue through the install until prompted to restart.  

5) When the system restarts, you will likely boot into a desktop via the stock Apple/OF connected monitor.  If so, press "CTRL + ALT + F2" to log in via text console.  

6) Enter the username and password you specified during the installation.  

7) Type "sudo apt-get remove xserver-xorg-video-fbdev" and press enter.  Enter your password again when prompted.  

8) Type "sudo nano /etc/yaboot.conf" and press enter.  This will open the yaboot configuration file.  

9) Scan the document for "append=". It may say "quite-boot" afterwards. After the "append=" add ""video=offb:off radeon.modeset=1 nouveau.modeset=0"" so the line will read:
append="video=offb:off radeon.modeset=1 nouveau.modeset=0 quite-boot"

10) Type "CTRL + X" to exit the document and press "Y" to save.  

11) Type "ybin -v" and press enter.  This will update the boot loader with the additions you made to the configuration file.  

12) Type "reboot" and press enter to reboot the system.  The system should boot to the desktop on the monitor connected to the Radeon card.  

13) At this point, graphics are displayed through your Radeon via software.  We will download and install a patch for graphic hardware acceleration, which will provide much better performance.  Download the patch here.  Thanks to Christian/Xeno for making this patch available!  

14) Move the file into your /home directory and extract.  You should see a folder named "Mesa10.1".  

15) Open a terminal window (click the menu icon, Accessories, then terminal or similar), and type "sudo cp -R Mesa10.1 /usr/local" and press enter.  Enter your password when prompted.  

16) Then, type "export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/local/Mesa10.1/lib" and press enter.  

17) To test the patch, you will need the glxgears program; type "sudo apt-get install mesa-utils" and press enter.  

18) When apt has finished installing mesa-utils, type "glxgears" and press enter.  You should see a red gear, a blue gear and a green gear spinning.  If so, you set up the patch correctly.  If you see a blue gear, a cyan gear, and a purple gear, the patch was not set up correctly; repeat instructions 14-18.  

19) After verifying the patch was set up correctly with glxgears, you will need to edit your ".profile" configuration file to use the patch every time you login.  In the terminal window, type "sudo nano .profile".  

20) This will open the .profile configuration file.  At the end of the file, on a new line, type "export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/local/Mesa10.1/lib", press enter to ensure there is a blank line after your entry, then press "CTRL + X" to exit, and "Y" to save.  

21) Reboot, check glxgears to ensure the gears are still red, blue, and green.  If so, you've successfully installed the patch and have graphic hardware acceleration!  

22) To configure sound, open a terminal window, type "sudo nano /etc/modules" and press enter.  

23) Replace "snd-powermac" with the following:  


24) Reboot - you now have graphic hardware acceleration and sound!  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Power Mac 11,2 & Radeon - Disconnecting the Second Monitor

If you read the directions I provided on installing a Radeon HD graphics card and Debian 7 Wheezy on your 11,2 you probably noticed 2 monitors are required, one connected to the stock Apple/Open Firmware graphics card and another to the Radeon card.  

Why are two monitors required?  
The 11,2 uses Open Firmware.  Open Firmware was originally developed by Sun Microsystems and is also used by IBM.  When you power on your 11,2 the Open Firmware runs a basic hardware diagnostic, loads hardware drivers, and then hands control over to the OS or OS loader.  As part of the hardware diagnosis, Open Firmware will check to ensure there is an Open Firmware compatible graphics card installed, as well as a connected monitor.  If either are not present, Open Firmware will not allow the OS to load.  This is why we leave the Apple/OF card installed in the PCIe 16X slot with a connected monitor.  

After Open Firmware hands control over to the OS, the OS can use whatever devices and graphics cards are installed, it is not limited to using only Open Firmware devices.  This is how we can use PC graphics cards with Linux on our 11,2 systems, and is the reason why the system starts the boot up process on the monitor connected to the Apple/OF card, and switches to the monitor connected to the Radeon card after the OS takes over and loads the radeon driver.  

Can the monitor be disconnected from the stock Apple/OF card?  
Two monitors are required during installation and configuration of the OS and radeon driver.  After this has been successfully completed, it is possible to configure Open Firmware to allow the system to boot up without a monitor attached to the stock Apple/OF graphics card.  If you choose to do this, your screen will simply remain blank until the OS loads the radeon driver.  

Can the stock Apple/OF graphics card be removed?  Wouldn't the Radeon provide better performance in the 16X slot?  
Open Firmware can be configured to allow the system to boot without an Open Firmware graphics card installed.  However, the system will be highly unstable and hardware faults will cause the system to completely lockup.  I believe this is related to the HyperTransport interconnection system used in our 11,2 systems.  So, we need to leave the stock card installed in the PCIe 16X slot.  PCIe 8X provides more than enough bandwidth for a graphics card running in 1080P without hitting a bottleneck.  It isn't until 4k that 16X starts showing (very) modest performance gains compared to 8X.  

Before disconnecting the monitor from the stock Apple/OF card...
Keep in mind that if you ever need to boot from CD or boot into OF, you will need a monitor connected to the stock Apple/OF card.  Also, if there are any errors that occur before the OS loads the radeon driver you would have no way of knowing.  However, if you suspected a problem or needed to boot from CD you could always reconnect a monitor to the Apple/OF card.  

How to configure Open Firmware to boot the system without the Apple/OF card... 
1)    Begin with your 11,2 powered off.  
2)    Power on the system.  Immediately after the startup chime, press and hold CTRL + ALT + O + F (command + option + O + F).  
3)    The system will boot into the Open Firmware console; type:  
 setenv boot-device hd:2,yaboot and press enter.  
4)    Type reboot and press enter.  

If you ever need to reset Open Firmware to factory default settings...
1)    Begin with the system powered off.  
2)    Power on the system.  Immediately after the startup chime, press and hold CTRL + ALT + R + P (command + option + R + P).  

Installation Procedure: Debian 7 (Wheezy) on PowerPC (G5 11,2) with Radeon Graphics

These instructions will guide you through installing a Radeon HD 4000 or 5000 series graphics card and Debian 7 Wheezy on a Power Mac G5 11,2.  Other Radeon cards may work, but I have not tested them.  Installing Debian 7 Wheezy is the easiest installation I currently have documented, and is a relatively recent and supported version of Debian. I will be experimenting with additional, more recent distributions and will post those instructions as I have them available.


These instructions assume you want to install Debian 7 Wheezy as the primary and only OS on your Power Mac 11,2. Your hard drive will be formatted and you will lose any data stored on it. Backup data you want to keep before proceeding.  

What you will need:
  • A Power Mac G5 11,2 system. The 11,2 systems have PowerPC 970MP processors and PCIe. Modern day graphics cards require PCIe, so these instructions will not work with previous Power Mac systems.
  • Internet access via Ethernet
  • Leave the stock Apple/Nvidia/Open Firmware graphics card in the 16X PCIe slot.
  • Insert your Radeon card in the 8X PCIe slot.
  • You must have 2 monitors - one monitor plugged into the stock Apple graphics card and another plugged into the Radeon.  It is possible to configure the system to be able to unplug the monitor plugged into the Apple/Nvidia card after installation and configuration, but that is not covered in this post.  
  • You will need to download and burn the Debian 7 Wheezy installation image onto a disk. It can be downloaded here: powerpc
    Alternatively, you can download the image via BitTorrent here: powerpc

Additional Considerations:

For a much faster system, I highly recommend installing the OS onto an SSD. I use, and highly recommend the OWC Mercury Electra. Install the SSD in drive bay A, and put the HDD in drive bay B. 

Commands that you will enter are depicted in this font.  Type the command exactly as directed.  

  1. Insert the Debian 7 Wheezy installation disk in the optical drive. Boot up (or restart) the system. When you hear the startup chime, press and hold the C key.
  2. Installation will take place on the monitor connected to the stock Apple graphics card. The system should load to an installation boot screen. Type install64 desktop=KDE and press enter.
  3. Proceed through the installation until you are asked about hard drive partitioning. If using an SSD, I suggest using the entirety of that drive for the OS (/ mount point); and placing your home and swap partitions on an HDD.
  4. Continue through the installation until the CD ejects and you are advised to reboot the system. Reboot the system as directed.  
  5. Still using the monitor connected to the stock Apple card, the system may boot into a GUI login screen or desktop, or may boot to a text console. If your system boots to the GUI, press CTRL + ALT + F2 (command + option + F2) to log into the text console.
  6. Login to the text console using the username and password you set up during installation.
  7. Type su and press enter. Then, enter the superuser password you set up during installation.
  8. After logging in as superuser, type nano /etc/modules and press enter.
  9. This will open a configuration file which tells the OS which modules to load during startup.  We will be editing this file to load the correct modules for sound on our 11,2 systems, as well as the radeon module.  You should see a line that says 'snd-powermac'. Delete this line and replace with the following:


  1. Always make sure there is an blank line at the end of any configuration files you edit or create. Press CTRL + X then press Y to save changes.
  2. You will exit to the console; type nano /etc/modprobe.d/fbdev-blacklist.conf and press enter.
  3. This will open a configuration file. We need to tell the system not to load the drivers for the Apple/Nvidia card to prevent conflicts with the Radeon card we want to use.  So, at the end of the document, type blacklist nouveau
  4. Ensure there is a blank line at the end, then press CTRL + X and press Y to save.
  5. You will exit to the console; type nano /etc/modprobe.d/radeon-kms.conf and press enter.
  6. This will open or create a configuration file. This configuration file tells Debian we want to enable a feature called KMS.  Type options radeon modeset=1
  7. Press CTRL + X and press Y to save.
  8. You will exit to the console, type nano /etc/apt/sources.list
  9. This will open a configuration file. This configuration file tells Debian what repositories to use.  Make the appropriate additions and changes so that your configuration file reads as follows:
deb wheezy main contrib non-free
deb-src wheezy main contrib non-free

#wheezy updates
deb wheezy-updates main contrib non-free
deb-src wheezy-updates main contrib non-free

#debian backports
deb wheezy-backports main contrib non-free

#debian proposed
deb wheezy-proposed-updates main contrib non-free

  1. Press CTRL + X, then press Y to save.
  2. You will exit to the console; type apt-get update and press enter.  
  3. Type apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-radeon and press enter.  This will make sure the radeon driver is the most recent for the version of Debian we are using.  
  4. Type apt-get install firmware-linux-nonfree and press enter.  This will download firmware needed to run 3D acceleration with Radeon graphics cards.  
  5. Type /etc/init.d/kdm stop and press enter.  
  6. Type nano /etc/yaboot.conf
  7. This will open the configuration file for yaboot. Add the following line to the end of the configuration file:
append=”video=offb:off radeon.modeset=1”

  1. Type CTRL + X then press Y to save
  2. You will exit to the console; type ybin -v and press enter. This will update the yaboot boot-loader. You may see an error, this will not cause any issues.
  3. Type nano /etc/initramfs—tools/modules and press enter.  
  4. This will open a configuration file that tells Linux what modules to load immediately at startup.  At the end of this file, type radeon
  5. Make sure there is a blank line at the end of the file, then press CTRL + X and press Y to save.
  6. You will exit to the console; type update-initramfs -u and press enter.
  7. Type ybin -v and press enter to ensure the boot-loader is configured.
  8. Type reboot and press enter. The system will restart, and may show a graphical interface via the Radeon card. However, it will not yet have 3D acceleration, so don’t stop here.
  9. If the system boots to the graphical interface, press CTRL + ALT + F2 to go to the text console. This will likely appear on the monitor connected to the stock Apple/Nvidia graphics card.
  10. Login to the text console using the username and password you set up during installation.
  11. Type su and press enter, then enter the superuser password you set up during installation.
  12. In order to have 3D acceleration on the Radeon card, we will create a script that will “hide” the Nvidia card from Linux/Debian. Type nano /etc/init.d/hidenv and press enter.
  13. This will create a new text document. Enter the following:

# Provides: hidenv

# Required-Start:

# Required-Stop:

# Default-Start: 2 3 4 5

# Default-Stop: 0 1 6

# Short-Description: hides nv card


echo 1 > /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:0b.0/0000:0a:00.0/remove

  1. Press CTRL + X and press Y to save.
  2. You will exit to the console; type chmod +x /etc/init.d/hidenv and press enter.  This makes our script into an executable file.  
  3. Type update-rc.d hidenv defaults and press enter.  
  4. Type reboot and press enter.
  5. The system will now boot the graphical interface to the monitor connected to the Radeon card, and the card will provide both 2D and 3D acceleration.  The monitor connected to the Apple/Nvidia card must stay connected for the system to boot up.  There is a way to configure Open Firmware so you do not need a monitor plugged into the Apple/Nvidia card, see this post.  

Modern Day PowerPC Hardware Pt.3 --Graphics Cards

Many video cards that can be used on a PowerPC system running Linux.  My experience is with a Power Mac 11,2.  This system comes with a stock Apple/open firmware graphics card installed in the 16X PCIe slot.  However, most modern graphics cards will work with the 11,2 using Linux.  Here are the options I know of using this system:  

Stock Apple Nvidia GeForce 6600/6600LE:  If using the stock card that came with the system, Linux will use the open source nouveau driver.  These cards are pretty underpowered compared to other options, and I'd suggest using something else.  

Other Nvidia cards:  The open source nouveau driver is the only option for PowerPC systems.  In my experience with the nouveau driver, it does well with most tasks, but has some issues with accelerated 3D.  However, my understanding is that more recent versions of nouveau than what I've used are much better.  

AMD Radeon cards:  The open source radeon driver is the only option for PowerPC systems.  In my experience, the radeon driver handles 2D and 3D acceleration and video decoding/playback very well.  However, there are certain cards and driver versions that don't play well with PowerPC.  I've used a Radeon HD 4550.  My understanding is that Radeon HD 4000 series cards, HD 5000 series cards, HD 6000 series BARTS cards, and possibly newer cards work well with most current PowerPC distributions.  

Special Note:  If running a Power Mac 11,2 system, open firmware will look for an open firmware graphics card (the stock Apple card) during start-up.  Generally, if the card is not present, the system will not continue booting up.  There is a way around this, but for system stability, it is best to leave the stock Apple card in the 16X PCIe slot, and install the new graphics card in the 8X PCIe slot.  

Friday, February 5, 2016

Modern Day PowerPC Hardware Pt.2 --Memory

The easiest upgrade for the 11,2 is upgrading the memory, which will help ensure the system doesn't slow down as you open more applications and files.  Here are my recommendations for choosing the "right" amount of memory:  

  • 4 GB:  Normal use, web browsing, playing multimedia, some media creation, most gaming
  • 8 GB:  Heavier gaming, audio editing and creation, full length standard definition video or HD video clip editing and creation, heavy multitasking, compiling code, data analysis
  • 16 GB:  Heavy data analysis, full length HD video editing, RAMdisk use

Memory Considerations:  
  1. Here is the important thing about the memory in an 11,2:  You have to get precisely the correct type. The 11,2 uses PC2-4200 DDR2 memory.  DDR2 memory is supposed to be backwards compatible, so you will see PC2-6400 memory claiming to be compatible with PC2-4200 memory.  But, the 11,2 memory controller seems to be extremely picky, and when anything other than PC2-4200 memory is installed it will run all memory at PC2-3200 speeds.  I've purchased "PC2-4200 compatible" memory before only to see it reduce the system's memory access speed to PC2-3200.  I purchase all my memory from OWC now, and have never had this problem with memory purchased from them.  
  2. The 11,2 has 8 memory slots.  Memory is installed starting with the inner-most two slots and then working your way out to the outer-most slots.  Memory must be installed in pairs.  This means you cannot install a memory module on one side without a matching module on the other side.  For example, you cannot install 6 GB by using 3, 2 GB modules.  Instead, you would have to use two 2 GB modules and two 1 GB modules.  
  3. It is best to use fewer, higher capacity modules than more, lower capacity modules.  For example, it is better to use four 2 GB modules to equal 8 GB than to use eight 1 GB modules.  This is due to how the memory controller accesses the memory and is different than how x86 systems work.  
  4. Do not use ECC memory unless it is absolutely necessary for your type of work.  ECC memory is Error Correcting Code memory and it detects and corrects when data becomes corrupt in the system memory.  This happens at the bit level and normally is imperceptible to the user.  ECC memory only becomes important if you're doing complex scientific or financial calculations.  However, in addition to a higher cost, using ECC memory will slow memory access by 2-3%.  

Its easy!  
(Video courtesy of OWC)

Modern Day PowerPC Hardware Pt.1

If you want a modern PowerPC Linux system, you unfortunately have less options than if you want an x86 system; but you have a few options.  You could buy something from a-eon.  Their upcoming AmigaOne X5000 has pretty nice specs, but their systems are very costly (a dual-core 1.8 Ghz system is around $2,800).   More affordable systems are available from aCube Systems, but they're also much less impressive ($850 for a single-core 1.1 Ghz system).  Considering these specifications and prices, I'd recommend finding and refurbishing a Power Mac 11,2.  The 11,2 models are the highest-end PowerPC machines Apple ever manufactured, coming in at $3,300.  With a few upgrades the 11,2 models can still serve as competitive systems today.  
  • The 11,2 has a relatively modern architecture, supporting PCI Express and SATA
  • You can install a modern-day PCI Express graphics card (no, it doesn't have to be flashed or open-firmware)
  • These systems can fully utilize the benefits of an SSD
  • These systems can accommodate up to 16 GB of memory
  • The 11,2 processor clock speeds are still competitive with modern-day offerings; dual 2.0 Ghz, dual 2.3 Ghz, or quad 2.5 Ghz - I highly recommend the quad
  • These systems come with USB 2.0 and can accommodate USB 3.0 via a PCI Express expansion card
  • The 11,2, like other PPC systems, is fully supported by several Linux distributions

In this series, I will lay out my recommendations for how to refurbish a Power Mac 11,2 into a respectable modern-day system.  I will include hardware recommendations and setup/configuration information.  Of course, it is important to understand there are limitations to this system.  
  • Memory:  While the 11,2 can accommodate 16 GB of memory, they use DDR2 memory.  Most current systems use DDR3 memory.  You can still find DDR2 memory at retail.  The use of DDR2 memory is this systems greatest bottleneck, but you can help compensate for this by making sure you are using the correct memory type and optimal configuration (matching pairs, non-ECC) and running the OS from an SSD.  
  • PCI Express 1.1:  Most modern systems include PCI Express 3.0.  However, the 11,2 has PCI Express 1.1.  PCI Express 1.1 is almost completely compatible with PCI Express 3.0, it just has a slower data-transfer speed per lane.  This limitation can be a non-issue, and you can overcome any speed issues by making sure you choose cards with more lanes.  I'll go into this more in its own post.  
I should also point out that this entire series can also be applied to the YDL PowerStation, which had basically the same specs as the Power Mac 11,2 quad-core.  However, since the PowerStation is much more difficult to find, I'll call out the 11,2 even though the information applies to both.