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Mac OS Series





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Installing Gentoo on Apple hardware has some real advantages, but it is also off the beaten path and is considered "experimental." Laptop hardware tends to be more exoteric than desktop hardware, especially when "miniaturization" occurs. In general, power saving and sleep functionality can be difficult to enable in Linux due to unsupported chipsets and other issues. Apple hardware is generally well supported by Gentoo Linux, including specialized mobile functionality like suspending, sleeping, and power management.

This guide is here to help fill in some cracks in the official install guide, etc. It also describes some nifty tricks like a reliable method for installing Gentoo without reinstalling OS X. Think of this guide as an overlay to the official PPC handbook.

To help with navigation, this guide provides tips which roughly correspond with the order of the sections in the official handbook. If you've never installed Gentoo on PPC before, start out the with the official guide and follow along.

Acknowledgements & Authors

Some (soon to be much) of the information on this page comes from Kevin Geiss's excellent Gentoo Linux on PPC iBook page.

This Original HOWTO written by Nick Hatch (

"Resizing" partitions (Handbook Section 4)

The web is full of rumors that you can resize the OS X disk partitions by running either parted or mac-fdisk. I don't believe any of them. Yes, it may work for some people, but I've never been able to get it to work. Messing around with the partition table searching for the magical solution isn't my idea of a good time. However, blowing away OS X and reinstalling isn't fun either.

If you can get your hands on an iPod or other some other fast and external mass-storage device, why not copy the entire OS X partition to the backup drive? Then, repartition the original drive (leaving room for Gentoo of course), and then restore the backup. Thats the idea at least. It worked great for me once I figured out what was going on. I have a 20GB iBook, and there was only about 6GB of the drive being used. My 10GB iPod worked great.

Rinse and repeat for your Mac OS 8/9 partition, if you have one.

iBook + iPod = Gentoo

The first step is to get Carbon Copy Cloner written by Mike Bombich. CCC will clone a disk at the filesystem level to another disk (or partition) and can even make the target bootable. (See [1] for a description of what's going on behind the scenes with CCC.)

Backing up the drive

Using CCC and your large external storage device, you can now backup the drive which has OS X.

Ensure that your target disk is freshly formatted. If not, use the Apple Disk Utility to format the target disk so it's ready to be used.

Open Carbon Copy Cloner and select your source and target disks. Click Preferences and make sure that the following options are selected:

You'll need to click the lock icon and enter your password before the Clone functionality is enabled.

Testing the backup

This is the really cool part. Because the system backup is bootable, you can test it before you rely on it. Go to System Preferences, then Startup Disk. Select the correct backup device and click Restart...

Your machine should restart and load OS X from the backup drive. Play around with it for a while and ensure that you're confident that everything is working OK. I would recommend that any important documents be copied to another location because you just never know.


Take a deep breath. If you're ready to proceed, use Apple's Disk Utility to repartition your internal hard drive. I divided the hard disk into two partitions of equal size.

Restoring OS X

To restore OS X to the drive, simply follow the exact same procedure used to make the backup. Afterwards, reboot and detach the external drive. If everything went well, you should be in OS X using the internal hard drive again.

The only difference is that you now have an extra blank partition just waiting to be used for Gentoo. Don't worry if you wanted more than one partition -- you can use mac-fdisk later to easily delete this filler partition and divide the remaining space however you'd like.

Partitioning hints & tips

Kernel Configuration (Handbook section 7)

Starting Kernel Configs

For a G4 all that you should have to do is to enable the altivec support and the correct video drivers. It will boot as is on almost any iBook/Powerbook but will not be optimized for anything other than a G3.

Also ensure that the OpenFirmware display driver is enabled as well as early boot messages.

Known unstable configurations

Udev with gentoo-sources-2.6.9 can break sleeping. Enabling a preemptive kernel will under most circumstances randomly cause segfaults in gcc builds - i.e. emerging anything.

Udev vs devfs

Udev known working well with any kernel 2.6.10 or greater on G3 and G4 boxes.

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Last modified: Mon, 11 Aug 2008 03:57:00 +0000 Hits: 33,443