Xubuntu-on-eMac issues

Mac Logo VintageSome time ago I fiddled with OpenFirmware on my old eMac A1002, saved from the bin and running on Xubuntu 12.04. I tried to find wake-on-lan settings for the network card. I did not. Then, afterwards, the NIC (eth0) appeared to be out of order. I feared I had seriously messed things up in OpenFirmware, but after all it was not that bad.

I was particularly annoyed with myself since I had just discovered that this vintage eMac actually can swallow 2GB of RAM, despite the official Apple documentation setting the maximum to 1GB. So I searched the internet for good old 184-pin DDR1 memory and found it really cheap at www.Enter247.nl (compared to the official Apple dealer). Just insert the DIMM’s and they will work. But what is the power of a PowerPC G4 without a working network?

Network card setup

Opening a terminal I tried

ifconfig -a

which returned a valid MAC address for the card. So, it was spotted, and obviously not broken. But no IP address was assigned, and thus no network connection was up or running.

I further checked:


but no ‘Ethernet controller’ was listed.


sudo lshw -C Network

detailed that ‘eth0’ was disabled and said ‘Illegal Vendor ID’ at the ‘product’ and ‘vendor’ lines.

BTW, Hardware Lister also comes with a GUI version, which is a very useful tool to trace your hardware specs. Run as root (‘gksu’ or ‘kdesu’). To install from Ubuntu repositories open a terminal and do:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lshw-gtk

The problem turned out to be the ‘eth0’ device not being mentioned in /etc/network/interfaces. So, again in a terminal, I did:

sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces

and added ‘eth0’ to the line which begins with ‘auto lo’. After a reboot (sorry, my lazy way of restarting the network) all worked fine.

Now, with the 2GB of RAM (up from 512MB) and screen resolution kept to 1024×768 (higher values really slow it down), Xubuntu is running reasonably fine. Well, the machine is over a decade old, was already basic when it first came out, and today it is only needed for simple jobs like internet, diary, contacts and the like. So I should not ask for more. In fact, I quite like the box, all of its 50lbs.

Linux on a Mac

To find an Ubuntu version for PPC look here and here. Best choose the ‘alternate’ flavour and install from a CD/DVD. There is also an Ubuntu forum section dedicated to Mac users.

If you only have the old machine and do not want to pay for an expensive Apple keyboard/mouse set, just plug in a simple PC desktop set. I found myself an Apple look-alike-white set from Trust. (In the past I have been unlucky more than once with Trust products, but this one still works.) Of course, you will have to map the keys to the specific Apple functions. One of Microsoft’s more useful pages will help you out. Specific Apple startup keys or boot options can be found on this page.

Might you want or need to replace other parts, e.g. the hard disk or the optical disk drive, you MUST carefully follow instructions. The CRT tube contains high voltage and can be lethal if not treated correctly! In fact, the eMac does not have any expansion slots other than the one for an AirPort wireless card, accessible via the CD/DVD door, and the two 184-pin memory slots, accessible via the user access door at the bottom. Anyway, unscrewing an eMac just isn’t a simple job…

Finally, to open the CD/DVD drive for inserting an installation disk, the good old paperclip trick will do. That part is easy.