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Net install with preseed
Vagrant reworked the ppc net boot/install directories. I added a preseed.cfg file to initrd.img, replaced the existing copy, and tried a net install with promising results. Some settings still asked for user response:

  • oem login name
  • password re-enter
  • partition scheme Guided
  • confirm disk to partition
  • country with mirror
  • mirror url

The hostname is assigned by the dhcp server. Comments in the example preseed file note that the dhcp assigned name will take precedence. If there is no way to change this behavior, the hostname can be changed from the System->Preferences menu after installation. This might be incorporated into a post-install script.


Net install with preseed
I modified preseed.cfg to take care of the login name, password re-enter, and the partitioning scheme. The other items that ask for user response are resisting solution. I found a related foruim post that has some suggestions that sound promising, but the target platforms were x86, so they might not work for powerpc:

There are some other example preseed.cfg files out there along with some other info, having varying degrees of applicability:

eMac woes
eMacs have a history of having bad capacitors. There is plenty info about it out there in netland. Some of the main symptoms are freeze-ups and failure to start up at all. A lesser symptom is choppy video performance during playback of video files. Even if an eMac appears to work, the presence of failed capacitors will eventually lead to poor machine behavior, if not complete failure. There is nothing that can be done about this short of replacing the logic board or replacing the individual capacitors. Neither of those solutions is feasible here at FG. One post I read indicated that some of the capacitors involved may only be stressed during video playback. If I can find that reference again I'll add it in here.

I'm mentioning it here because there are several eMacs in storage or in process. The one that was being prepped last Saturday was exhibiting the choppy video playback symptom. Another on that arrived on Saturday seemed to work but showed caps with bulging tops. Both of these should be recycled after harvesting the drives and memory. In future, any eMacs with blown caps should be harvested and recycled. These affected machines should be used only internally at FG, if at all.


Re-Entry Time, Good-bye for now
I gotta go back to the real world. Got a job programming. There are, of course, hundreds of loose ends here. I'll mention those I can recall, and update as other things occur to me. A lot of this material is probably mentioned elsewhere in this Journal.

  • Ubuntu support for PowerPC is all but non-existent. The Gutsy release has some major bugs that are apparently not being paid attention to by anyone with the wherewithal to implement fixes. Feisty works, but has no long term support. Edgy and Dapper were insufficient to cover all of the Mac models that FG has been rebuilding. If MacBuild survives, FG needs to seriously consider some other distribution for PowerPC platforms, Debian maybe.
  • There are build procedure documents in svn in the deadtrees project. The two existing ones are something like iMacProc and iMacSWProc. Sources are .odt. Printables are .pdf. OpenOffice will generate PostScript through the 'Print' function, but I didn't discover that until later. The first one is a physical build procedure for the 'colorful' iMacs, those spacey bubble things. The other one is the network software install procedure. There isn't one for Towers; I haven't gotten around to creating it yet. The tower process differs only slightly: towers are a lot easier to open and work on, but get a lot dirtier on the inside. The Fan and the CD/ZIP cage have to be removed for proper cleaning.
  • Procedures for the Cube, G4 iMac LCD (the 'Dome'), Mac mini (yeah, we actually got one of those one time) are undefined. Those models are hard to work on; memory and HDs are tested in place if at all possible.
  • Procedures for laptops are completely undefined. If they work, great. If not, they go into cryogenic storage in the hope that expertise and cures will be available in the future. iBooks and PowerBooks have a variety of construction/take-apart configurations. Expansion memory and Airport cards are easily accessible, the rest is usually a PITA. There are take-apart guides for the eMacs on the OSX iMac.
  • MacBuild has not been rebuilding G3 (Blue&White) towers. There is virtually no market for them. All of the ones on the shelves in the warehouse should be recycled. There is one in use in the MacBuild area that should stay there until somebody can replace it, retaining the data.
  • Some Macs come with DVD-RW drives in the original configuration. Note that, in my experience, the '-' (minus or dash character) is key. These drives only work with DVD-RW media, NOT WITH DVD+RW MEDIA (emphasis mine). FG does not seem to have any DVD-RW media, so DVD READ/ERASE/WRITE functionality cannot be tested on these drives. Fortunately they also have CD READ and CD-RW capability, which can be and is tested. DVD WRITE can be tested with DVD-R media, but that would be wasteful. DVD READ can be tested; I use the movie DVD, and look at it in a Browser.
  • The iMac on the stand in the far corner of the MacBuild area has OSX installed. It has a DVD Writer and CD Writer attached. There is documentation on various Mac models there in folders on the desktop, including take-apart manuals for a lot of models. There are CD and DVD images in a folder there, too, PPC bootable installers and standalone Linux rescue CD images and whatnot.
  • MacBuild sets the system clock explicitly before doing the install. I have been using a Finnix CD, which is a customized version of a Knoppix rescue CD. The Finnix CD image for burning is in a folder on the OSX Mac Desktop. There are several versions I think, and the author occasionally releases new versions. There are existing finnix CDs in the various CD collections in the MacBuild area. I suspect that some of them are getting too scratchy to work anymore.
  • There is not a lot of storage area in Mac Triage. Things that come to the Mac Triage (incoming) should be dealt with daily: triage, recycle, save in warehouse.
  • Don't keep any of the older laptops/notebooks (140,160,190,1400,5400, etc), the black or gray squarish bulky things. Recycle them: remove the battery, Hard Drive and LCD display. Hit the Hard Drive with Mr. Smackey the Hammer and take it to Small Parts Disassembly in the warehouse. Put the display in the Gaylord in the corner by the Black Hole. Put everything else in the Laptop Everything Else Gaylord at the end of the Monitor Testing Station. The battery should be recycled in the conventional way, using the Battery Recycle boxes that FG is supposed to have for that purpose but never does because the outfit that recycles the batteries gives FG four at a time and the are filled up right away so there are never any around. Somebody oughta do something about that.
  • About the time that the white iBook came out, Apple started using a different kind of modem, reported to be a softmodem with a Conexant chip that requires a proprietary driver.You know how Ubuntu feels about proprietary drivers. Ubuntu will not discover the modem on such machines. The ones I know about are iBooks and PowerBooks, later digital-audio G4 towers, Quicksilver and Mirror Drive Doors towers, G4 iMac Flat Panel, and maybe eMacs, too. There is nothing FG can do about this. The user can purchase, download and install a driver, but FG can't help. It is also reported that an external hardware modem can be made to work, but I haven't tried that, nor have I tried to install the proprietary driver.
  • Feisty installation can be accomplished with a PPC Alternate Install CD, or over the network. I had to modify the network installation stuff a lot, that being apparently an early casualty in the evaporation of Ubuntu PPC support. The result of my modifications are in a folder on the Desktop of the G3 (Blue&White) tower station. The folder is named ubuntu_ppc_netinstall, or something like that. I may have modified the copies that are over on glacier and failed to update the local copies.
  • And speaking of glacier, vagrant set up dhcp service and tftp service on glacier to support netboot/installation for Macs. For some lame reason the boot files have to be at the top of the tftpboot directory glacier://var/lib/tftpboot, so he made links there to the real files which are down a rabbit hole (uh make that directory sub-tree).
  • Netinstallation uses a preseed file. The only way I could make it works was to add the file preseed.cfg to the top directory of the initrd.img used for the netboot portion of the net installation. That file is currently a CRAMFS filesystem, but that's a whole 'nother story. Vagrant suggested that preseed.cfg could be web-served to avoid having to rebuild initrd.img whenever the preseed stuff had to be changed, so there is a directory glacier://var/www/preseeds/ppc/feisty (I'm pulling this from memory, caveat emptor) where the preseed file could be placed if anybody can ever make that work. I couldn't, and I spent a considerable amount of time trying. Some things about yaboot and its configuration file are severely hobbled, and seeing fixes from the community does not seem likely at this point.
  • For pricing I have been using It provides a search on completed ebay items over the last 7 or 30 days, with links to the found items. I think it's a little handier than the ebay search thingy.