Here is a bad limeric about the iBook:

The iBook is made out of plastic,
It makes little children go spastic,
But when it turns on,
It makes a cute bong,
That I think is really fantastic.

-- Leah Cunningham

And now, for our feature presentation:

Leah's Adventure's Installing Linux on a Graphite iBook

NOTE: Avoid reading this if random tech stuff is boring to you. I am mostly writing all of this down for my own reference.

The iBook is Deceptivally Cuddly

I decided to do all of my testing on the new iBook, since they finally had it in in the labs. Testing would be done with our new 7.0 PPC edition of SuSE. This iBook is neither tangerine, nor blueberry. It is a much more sophisticated shade of graphite:

Other shades include indigo (lower-end model) and key lime (both lower-end and "Special Edition." The Graphite model is also a "Special Edition". Specifications include:

  • 366- or 466MHz PowerPC G3 processor with 256K on-chip level 2 cache
  • ATI RAGE Mobility 128 graphics controller with 8MB SDRAM for 2D and 3D graphics acceleration
  • 64MB of SDRAM, expandable up to 320MB
  • 10-gigabyte Ultra ATA hard disk drive
  • MacOS 9.0.4 (evil)
  • DVD Rom Drive


I went through the usual partitioning with drive setup/copying of the suseboot folder to the linux boot partition process. Then, on a crazy whim, I decided to try to boot the installation from the first CD. Of course, I was completely out of my mind to think that this could possibally work, and it didn't. It begins to boot the 2.2.16 kernel, and freezes at this point:

  CONSOLE: Colour dummy device 80x25

This is, of course bad. Thinking it could have something to do with the need for the video=ofonly parameter, I tried booting off of the CD, hitting tab a bunch of times blindly (you can't see the initial yaboot screen) and typing in install video=ofonly. No success in that attempt either.

I was fairly certain that a new kernel was in order, so the first point of business was obtaining the aforementioned kernel. I grabbed the vmlinux.benh.gz file from the 1st SuSE 7.0 PPC CD in the suse/images directory. I dragged this to the desktop, and double clicked on it enthusiastically. MacGzip worked it's magic and soon I had a vmlinux-benh sitting on the desktop. I renamed it vmlinux, and replaced the vmlinux in the linuxboot/suseboot folder with the one on the desktop.

Just to torture myself (I was fairly certain that this machine's firmware was not any more stupid than the other new machines out on the market), I tried to mark the os-chooser bootable by running the script for this in the linuxboot/suseboot/tools folder. I changed the startup disk to linuxboot. I made sure that I added video=ofonly to the append line in the linuxboot/suseboot/yaboot.conf file, as I suspected this was necessary. (It was, eventually, by the way.) This did not work either, as I suspected. I was, however, able to boot MacOS by holding down the space bar, so the script did not completely fail.

Next I decided to do what I usually have to do to get linux on these new machines: run the script to mark Yaboot bootable in the linuxboot/suseboot/tools directory. I changed the startup disk to linuxboot again, and rebooted with glee. To my delight, the kernel booted and the installation ramdisk started, and I could even see the screen!

The graphical installer started up in a few lovely puke-shades of the colors that it was supposed to have. The framebuffer is really nasty looking on this machine. I have heard rumors that it may work better with 2.4, but did not get that far in this testing session. It was clear enough to do the installation, however, and that is what I did. I also discovered that on this machine it is a very bad idea to switch out of YaST2 to the console, and then try to switch back. It could have just been me, but the machine locked up when I did this at one point.

After the installation, it was necessary to install the correct kernel, so that the machine would be bootable in the future, with the right modules. I installed the /cdrom/suse/images/k_benh.rpm. This is on the first CD as well. This RPM installs a funky /boot/vmlinux-benh-.. file. I replaced the existing /boot/vmlinux with it. Then I grabbed the latest lilo.rpm from our FTP server, as the one on the distribution has problems if you are not dual booting the machine (which we can't on this machine). It is at After installing this, I edited the lilo.conf file to boot linux only.

Other Stuff That Didn't Work

Sound didn't work correctly, although YaST (Yet Another Setup Tool) detected and tried to configure the sound card. It seems there is some sort of speaker issue that needs to be sorted out.

There is, at the moment, no way to make XF86 4.0.1 work on this machine, but I am trying to play around with this still. I may have an update after next week.

Additional information obtained after more research:

I love it when after much frustration you finally get something to work. After much testing in the Apple Labs and working with this sweet gentleman on the phone, I have the installation on the iBook down pat. I thought I would, therefore, add some additional information that has changed since the notes I posted previously:

  • It is actually possible to dual boot the iBook with the lilo program. Instead of holding down the space bar, hold down the Option/alt key. This will give the choice between MacOS and Linux. The "other" section in /etc/lilo.conf must be set with the correct MacOS partition, and /sbin/lilo needs to be run again.
  • Video works with this kernel append: video=aty128fb:vmode:10 This can be typed in or (better) added to the /etc/lilo.conf file. (Remember to run lilo again.)

The Apple iBook, rev2, was introduced by Steve Jobs on May 1st, 2001. Its specifications include:

  • $1299-$1799 price
  • Silvery white plastic TiBook look-alike case
  • 4.9 lbs (sub-notebook class)
  • 11.2 in wide x 9.1 inches deep by 1.35 inches thick
  • 500 MHz G3 processor w/ 256K on-chip cache
  • 32-bit 1024x768 pixel resolution
  • 64 or 128MB RAM, expandable to 512MB
  • 10GB UltraATA hard drive
  • 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, 56K V.90 modem
  • CD-ROM, CD-RW or combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive
  • ATI Rage Mobility 128 8MB graphics card
  • 400MBps FireWire, 2 USB ports, RGB/composite video out port, AV port, AirPort-ready (802.11b)

/me drools.

There have been various iBook colors over the years, since it's introduction in July 1999. Originally it debuted in two colors, Tangerine and Blueberry. It had a clamshell design, no latches to break (it closes like a cell phone with a spring hinge), and a handle. The best school laptop I've had the pleasure to use. It had a 300Mhz G3, 2 USB ports, stereo out, modem, ethernet, and AirPort wireless ethernet. All for US$1599.

The first batch sold out instantly. The Taiwan earthquake of 1999 caused some manufacturing delays, making them commercially unavailable until October. It got rave reviews, until John C. Dvorak, of TechTV's Silicon Spin fame, called it 'girly' and "Barbie's laptop." "No self-respecting businessman would bring one of these to a boardroom meeting." (of course, there's a powerbook for that) A very public flame war between him and a columnist from Salon ensued for a month.

About nine months later at Macworld Tokyo, a new graphite special edition was announced. It was 50MHz faster, a more professional graphite color, had extra RAM but otherwise the same specs, except for being US$200 more.

About a year after the iBook's introduction, the entire iBook line was revised. There was a traditional iBook, available in a deeper blue "Blueberry" and a new color Key Lime for $1499. At a higher end was the iBook Special edition in Graphite and Key Lime, with DVD, 100MHz speed increase, and larger HD for $1799. Both included firewire and 64MB RAM. The Key Lime color became a subject of debate, as the photographs were so... bright. It looked radioactive, garishly yellow and green.

I went with Graphite, as I wasn't sure how the other would look in real life, plus I didn't want to stand out that much, like Reese Witherspoon did. In Legally Blonde, she had a very stylish setup with a Tangerine iBook starkly contrasting the rest of the black PC laptops in the class.

On May 1, 2001, Apple Computer introduced a new iBook to compliment the new Titanium Powerbook G4, aka "TiBook." The new iBook is pure white, rectangular with curved edges. It's the size of a sheet of paper (but thicker ;)), weighs two pounds less than my iBook, has a 12 inch 1024x768 LCD screen, and RGB and composite out. The base price is $1199 as of 10/2001, and the higher end models come with a CD-RW/DVD combo drive. It also has built in antennas for AirPort wireless ethernet. It's been called a chiclet, an "iceBook," and has been considered the best student laptop of all time by just about everybody.

In fact, Henrico County, Virginia school district has bought 23,000 iBooks for use by each and every student in the district.

At Macworld San Francisco 2002, Apple announced a 14.1 inch special edition iBook, with a bit larger screen. Also, Maine is paying Apple $25million US to supply all their seventh and eighth graders in the state with iBooks, a figure of 36,000. This is the largest education sale in History, even better than Henrico county's plan (but with better tech support, Maine learned from Virginia's mistakes).

iMac to Go

Apple introduced the iBook to fill in the fourth space in their reinvented "product matrix", an effort by returning CEO Steve Jobs to simplify Apple's product line into four distinctive spaces. 'Pro desktop' and 'Pro portable' were already filled by the Power Macintosh and PowerBooks, while a 'consumer desktop' was introduced with the iMac. All that remained was the 'consumer portable', which was finally introduced by Jobs as the iMac-styled iBook. Armed with a G3 and with the ability to add wireless networking thanks to AirPort, it was a hit, spawning a line of Macs which would continue until the Intel switchover of 2006.

The iBook has gone through two processor lines, two major case designs, and a number of small revisions along the way, its clock speed increasing by over a gigahertz and memory capacity expanding along with bigger hard disks, screens, and more. The concept of the consumer portable was a coup for Apple, who were able to sell many a laptop to people who would otherwise not have bought a costlier PowerBook. Its spirit lives on in the Intel-powered MacBook series.

iBooks typically boast excellent battery life, while offering performance equivalent to the prior generation of PowerBooks. While therefore not suitable for those who needed every drop of performance from their portables, the iBook line was typically not too far behind. The one major flaw in the iBooks was their case designs, in that opening them was routinely difficult. This made replacing and upgrading the hard and optical drives far harder than it needed to be.

Clamshell iBooks

  • iBook July 1999-September 2000
    Introduced at MacWorld New York, the iBook represented a complete change from Apple's traditional black PowerBooks, just as the iMac represented a change from the Power Macs of before. Clad in a unique clamshell case with no physical latch, and looking similar to the iMac, it was quite the striking design, featuring some unique touches such as a built-in handle. The first iBooks sported a 300Mhz or 366Mhz G3 processor, and featured tray-loading CD-ROM drives; neither was upgradeable, however by popping open the keyboard one could install more RAM or add an AirPort card, connecting it to the antenna which runs through the iBook's display. The display itself features an 800x600 resolution; while useable enough for Mac OS 9, this is quite cramped if you choose to run Mac OS X on it. With enough RAM, it'll run either OS respectably. Original iBooks come in either 'Blueberry' or 'Tangerine' colours.

  • iBook (FireWire) September 2000-May 2001
    The first revision of the iBook bumped the basic clock speed up to 366Mhz, and increased the hard disk to 10GB. A new colour was added (Key Lime), while one was dropped (Tangerine). The big difference, however, was the inclusion of a FireWire port - introduced on the Blue and White Power Macintosh G3, this high-speed interface was considerably faster than the USB port also offered, and allows for connecting to fast external drives and devices, as well as networking and FireWire Target Disk mode.

    There was also introduced a 'Special Edition' iBook, available in Key Lime or Graphite, boasting a nippy 466Mhz G3 and a tray-loading DVD-ROM drive, with a DVD decoder built-in to allow users to watch DVD movies on their iBook. The combination of a fast G3, AirPort, FireWire and DVD makes this the king of the early iBooks, and still a viable machine today if you can ignore the still-too-low 800x600 resolution.

Dual USB G3s

  • iBook (Dual USB) May 2001-October 2001
    In typical Apple fashion, this revision of the iBook is referred to by the addition of another USB port - not the fact that the entire case has been redesigned! Now boasting a sleek, white exterior with transparency (dubbed the 'iceBook' by fans), the new iBook G3 retains all the features of the clamshells while improving on the clock speed (now 500Mhz), expandability (that second USB port), the optical drive (with CD-RW and combo drives now available), and at last the display, boasting a 12" monitor with 1024x768 resolution. Built-in RAM was either 64 or 128MB.

  • iBook (Late 2001) October 2001-May 2002
    A speed bump of the iBook, offering up to a 600Mhz G3 (on a new 100Mhz bus), bigger hard disks, and 128Mb RAM on all models.

  • iBook (14") October 2001-May 2002
    Alongside the above Late 2001 iBook came the third case design: a 14" iBook, styled in the same way as the white 12" iBooks but offering a bigger display (at the same resolution), a 600Mhz G3, 256MB RAM, a 20GB hard drive and a 'Combo drive'. Its larger battery boasted up to 6 hours' life on a single charge.

  • iBook (16MB VRAM) and iBook (14" 16MB VRAM) May 2002-November 2002
    Another speed boost followed in May, increasing all iBooks' clock speed to 600 and 700Mhz. All iBooks now ran on a 100Mhz CPU bus, too. More importantly, the minimum hard drive capacity was now 20GB in the 12" model and 30GB in the 14", while all models now had 16MB of video RAM to play with on a new ATi Mobility Radeon - double the previous amount and a welcome increase. The CD-RW drive was dropped, options now reduced to either a tray-loading CD-ROM drive or a tray-loading combo drive.

  • iBook (32MB VRAM) and iBook (14" 32MB VRAM) November 2002-April 2003
    With the clock speed increased to 800Mhz, the iBooks now lost their translucent outer shell and keyboard, instead becoming a uniform opaque white but otherwise identical in design to their previous models. However, the VRAM had again been doubled to a full 32MB, and the GPU had been upgraded to a Mobility Radeon 7500.

  • iBook (800/900Mhz) and iBook (14" 800/900Mhz) April 2003-October 2003
    The final revision of the iBook G3 offered the fastest G3 processors Apple would ever ship - a speedy 900Mhz now being available and standard on the 14" model. Again the VRAM was a full 32MB, making this the fastest G3-powered Mac available from Apple. Apple knew however that the G3 was a little outdated at this point, and so had a couple of tricks up their sleeve...

iBooks G4

  • iBook G4 October 2003-April 2004
    The first model of the iBook to be outfitted with a G4 replaced the last Macintosh Apple sold with a G3. The system bus again rose to 133Mhz to help, with 800, 933 and 1Ghz PowerPC G4 CPUs available. Memory was now provided by 128MB of DDR, and wireless networking was (as with all iBooks) available, this time using Apple's AirPort Extreme card. The dual USB ports and FireWire of the G3s were carried over, too, although the USB ports are now the speedier USB 2.0. Bluetooth was also an optional extra. The iBook G4 shipped in 12" and 14" sizes for all models. Graphics were provided by a 32MB ATi Radeon 9200. The iBook G4 also sees the end of tray-loading optical drives in Apple portables: from now on, slot-loading drives were used, in keeping with the sleek case design (but, however, eschewing the emergency eject hole by the same stroke).

    One point of note is that the 800Mhz model is the only iBook G4 officially incapable of running Mac OS X 10.5 ("Leopard"), which requires an 867Mhz or greater PowerPC G4. However, installing from a supported Mac via Target Disk Mode should result in a working system.

    No iBook G4 supports Mac OS 9.

  • iBook G4 (Early 2004) April 2004-October 2004
    At long last, the on-board memory of the iBook was increased, now doubled to 256MB of DDR. The CPU speed was increased, too, dropping the sub-gigahertz models and adding one at a much faster 1.2Ghz. The combo and SuperDrive speeds were also increased, but otherwise this was a routine speed bump.

  • iBook G4 (Late 2004) October 2004-July 2005
    Another slight speed bump of the line saw 1.2Ghz and 1.33Ghz models offered, with the low-end iBook seeing a price drop. The mid-range model gained an extra 20GB of hard drive space, while the top-end received a SuperDrive as standard.

  • iBook G4 (Mid 2005) June 2005-May 2006
    The final revision of the iBook saw plenty of new features added. First and foremost, RAM was again bumped to 512MB DDR (very welcome for Mac OS X), while the CPU clock was upped to 1.33 and 1.42Ghz. Airport Extreme and Bluetooth were fitted as standard, soldered to the motherboard instead of the usual add-in expansion card. This model iBook also saw a hard drive upgrade to 40GB on the low-end model, and all models inherited the PowerBook's scrolling trackpad, a very welcome addition. Another feature brought to the iBook line from the PowerBook was the Sudden Motion Sensor, which would park the hard drive heads if a jolt or other swift movement were detected. The graphics card saw its first and last change, upped to a 32MB ATi Radeon 9550.

Researched and compiled using my own iBook G4 (Mid 2005), Apple's website, Low End Mac, and

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