Debian PPC Status Update

Earlier this month, the migration of the Debian PPC port from Debian's main archive to the Debian ports archive was completed. The DSAs' shut down of the powerpc buildds on the main archive was a result of the PPC port no longer being a release architecture. With this change, also comes the need to update one's sources.list file. Also keep in mind that if you want to continue running Debian on your PPC hardware and have the latest updates and security fixes, you'll need to be running unstable (a.k.a Sid) on your systems. As frightening as that sounds, running unstable has actually been pretty stable for me since I made the move around 7 months ago.

However, before making the switch, you'll want to install the Debian Ports archive keyring package first, otherwise you'll receive errors about missing public keys for the Debian Ports mirrors (such as when attempting to run apt update. In a small and condensed nutshell, this package provides the public keys needed to verify the signatures on the packages available from the Debian ports mirrors that are digitally signed with the corresponding private keys. See here for a bit more information on Debian's keyrings. To install, run the following:
apt install debian-ports-archive-keyring

Here is what I currently have in my /etc/apt/sources.list file. Feel free to use this as a solid starting point and adapt from there to best fit your needs. Also bear in mind that changes to this file requires sudo privileges.

# Binary Default
deb unstable main 
deb unreleased main 

# Package Source deb-src unstable main

# Non-free firmware deb [arch=all] unstable main contrib non-free

The first two lines provide access to the PPC or PPC64 Debian package binaries (with what few PPC64 binaries exist) for both unstable and unreleased. The package source section allows me to still download a package's source so I could tweak, build and/or install from scratch. Lastly, the non-free firmware entry allows me to still search and download packages from Debian's main archives that are compatible with all architectures (for example: linux-firmware-nonfree). This is especially useful for downloading Nvidia and AMD/Radeon firmware for your graphics card.

For more possible sources.list configurations for your PPC machines, see this mailing list post from John Paul Glaubitz who is basically spearheading a large part of this effort by himself. You have more options to choose from than what I've chosen to include in my own sources.list.

Again, thankfully him and others are willing to keep the port alive for the Debian distribution via the Debian Ports project. Although the chances of PPC ever being re-introduced as a first class release architecture are slim to none, I'm encouraged by the fact that we can still run the latest and greatest with a majority of the packages that are available for Debian.

Of course, there are an infinite numbers of ways you can help contribute to the Debian Ports project including:

  • Simply installing and running Debian on your PPC and PPC64 machines
  • Submitting bug reports
  • Being active on the Debian PPC as well as other Debian ports mailing lists
  • Submitting patches for any PPC and PPC64 bugs
  • Hosting another mirror for the Debian Ports project

One of the major projects for the PPC and PPC64 ports is migrating the architectures away from the no longer maintained Yaboot (last updated in 2011!) bootloader over to Grub. Any help you can provide in this regard would be much appreciated. If you need the latest installer ISO for PPC or PPC64, you can find those here.

Are you still using Debian on your PPC or PPC64 machines? It's not too late to continue doing so or get started. While you're at it, load up Debian on machines running other architectures such as m68k, hppa, etc. Let's keep this port and others alive for the foreseeable future. I'm sure we're to learn a thing or two along the way.

Back with a surprise

Hello everyone. I hope you have all been well. My apologies for falling off of the face of the earth. It is wild how time flies by. Enough about that though, it is time for the surprise.

There will be more details and plans shortly. It has already been quirky but hey, it is a G5 after all.

It is good to be back.

Why I finally ride the SSD train

For the longest time...  I was always against using SSD's, as reliability had been an issue for the first several years they were on the market.  Now however, I have discovered the Samsung 850 EVO series of 2.5" SSD's, and damn are they amazing.  I have one in my Sawtooth, and one in my late 2009 Mac mini.  The performance and reliability is amazing all-round.

As my Sawtooth relies on a PCI-M slot powered SATA 1 controller, I am limited to around 80MB/sec read and write, but the latency is incredibly good.  On my Intel mini, with SATA 2, I get sustained speeds of 270MB/sec read and 210MB/sec write.  It's also the most reliable boot drive I have ever used.  More on all this later.

I know this place has seemed dead in the last year or so, but I can assure you it's not.  There is still plenty of hits every day here, and I am starting to use my PowerPC systems more lately.  Also, I recently picked up a 1.5GHz 12" PowerBook G4 for next to nothing.  What a great machine.

I still have five PowerPC computers, so new content will come, and hopefully me posting will inspire the other authors.  *wink wink*  *nudge nudge*

Current state of Linux on PowerPC

I am sure most you have heard that Debian has dropped PowerPC as a release architecture.  If anyone is interested in the reading the meeting notes where it was discussed it can be found here. Basically it came down to lack of support. According to the Debian team there were no porters for PowerPC to maintain it as a release architecture. There is also the issue of outstanding bugs. An example is webkit2 is broken under PowerPC and it does not look like it is going to be fixed. The last version of firefox that works under PowerPC is 47. Yaboot has issues as well. In testing and sid you need to create a separate boot partition with ext2 in order for the kernel to load.

PowerPC will still be available in sid. There are some architectures that were once release that are only available there. However this does make the future of bleak. Already this decision is making an impact. The Ubuntu community is already considering dropping PowerPC for Lubuntu and Ubuntu-MATE. If you want to watch the hangout meeting where this is discussed you can see it here.

So where does that leave us who want to keep our PowerPC machines running a modern secure operating system? For G3, G4, and G5 machines there is the option of Gentoo. The learning curve is steep. However I have not heard discussions of dropping PowerPC. If you have a G5 machine then you also have the options of Fedora, and openSUSE. There is still an attempt to save PowerPC in Debain. The powerpc-notebook project is trying to get people together to help in testing and fixing bugs you can them on this email. You can also get involved in the debain-powerpc mailing list and #debian-ppc IRC channel.

Finally there are the BSDs. I prefer OpenBSD. It is pretty straightforward to get installed and it has the most binary packages for PowerPC. The one biggest drawback I have found is browser support. However sound and video playback work really well.

Please share your thoughts.


Just a quick note to let you all know we're still alive.  Content will come as time allows.

Though we are a team of writers, each of us is also our own satellite - since we each have our own orbits in life.  The point is that we write when time allows, which means that when we do post something, you know we mean it.

For the love of Mutt!

I have been trying to see how much I can get done just using the terminal. I have my Debian partition on my PowerBook G4 running Awesome. It is a very lightweight tiling window manager. It does take some practice getting use to but once you have it set up, navigating around is not hard. One tool that I have just come to love is the mutt email client.

I have found very few lightwieght email clients that are really good. Slypheed comes the closest at least in my experience. Thunderbird can be really resource intensive, especially if you are processing a lot of email. This is where the power of mutt comes in. It is simply fast. I can read, reply, delete, and save messages much faster than a gui mail client. This means less of a load on my PowerBook. It also has gpg support so you can sign and encrypt your messages if needed. It really customizable, all your setting are on a config file. What I would like to do is give a walk through on how I have mutt configured and suggest some additional plugins that will enhance the experience.


If you do not have mutt installed in your system it is fairly simple.

apt-get install mutt mutt-patched

Set up and Configure

The package mutt will install the base application. The package mutt-patched install an add-on that allows you to have a sidebar for your folders. Once these install you will want to create a directory named .mutt. Here is where you will store your config files and directories. You can do most of this in one command.
mkdir -pv .mutt/{cache,certificates}

If you look in the /usr/share/doc/mutt/examples directory you will see some sample configuration files. The only one you really need to copy to .mutt/ is the gpg.rc file.

Now it is time to make our muttrc configuration file. I will be working under the assumption that gmail will be where the email is hosted.

The first thing you will want to do set up your credentials for imap and smtp. The imap credentials is what pulls down your emails and folders, whereas the smtp account allows mail to be sent through your provider's email system. Below is an example.

set realname = 'your name'
set from = 'your email'
set use_from = 'yes'
set envelope_from ='yes'
set imap_user = 'your gmail account'
set imap_pass = 'password'
set editor = vim
set smtp_url = 'smtp://your email account'
set smtp_pass = 'your password'
set ssl_starttls = yes
set ssl_force_tls = yes

I would strongly recommend that if you are using gmail to enable 2-step authentication and application specific passwords. The next thing you might want to do is define your remote folders specifically you inbox, drafts, and trash.

# Folders
set folder = 'imaps://'
set spoolfile = '+INBOX'
set postponed ='+[Gmail]/Drafts'
set trash = '+[Gmail]/Trash'

When you want to save a draft in mutt, it will ask if you want to postpone it. Mutt will then save to where you defined in the code above. Also it would be a good idea to define local cache as well. Below is an example.

# Local cache
set header_cache =~/.mutt/cache/headers
set message_cachedir =~/.mutt/cache/bodies
set certificate_file =~/.mutt/certificates

The next part is opitional and only needed if you want the sidebar and installed the mutt-patched package. If you did not you can still access your gmail folders by hitting 'c' then '?'. Below is what you will need to have the sidebar.

# Mailboxes to show in the sidebar.
mailboxes ="INBOX" ='[Gmail]/Drafts' ='[Gmail]/Sent Mail' ='label'
# Sidebar Patch --------------------------------------
set sidebar_delim = '│'
set sidebar_visible = yes
#set sidebar_width = 24
set sidebar_shortpath = yes
bind index CP sidebar-prev
bind index CN sidebar-next
bind index CO sidebar-open
macro index b 'toggle sidebar_visible'
macro pager b 'toggle sidebar_visible'
bind index B bounce-message

The first section defines the folders that will go into the sidebar, which gmail calls labels. Sublabels can also be added by using ='label/sublabel'. The second portion defines the look of the sidebar and the last portion defines the navigation shortcuts. Finally to enable gpg support do the following.

# GNUPG Config
source /home/user/.mutt/gpg.rc
set pgp_autosign = yes
# set pgp_replysignencrypt = yes
# set pgp_veryfy_sig = yes
set pgp_sign_as = gpg pub key

This will give a basic mutt interface with sidebar and gpg enabled. Now I want to share two addons that will really help enhance your experience in mutt.


Goobook is a simple utility that allows you to manage you gmail contacts from inside mutt. When it is time to compose a message just hit tab in the 'to:' field or just the begining of the name you want and hit tab. Goobook will present you a list of email addresses to choose from. The install of the package is pretty simple.

apt-get install goobook

Then create a .goobookrc file and add the following.

email: gmail account
password: password

Then run the command goobook authenticate to have gmail verify the tool has rights to manage you contacts. After you have authorized goobook then add the following to the muttrc file.

# Address book using goobook
set query_command="goobook query %s"
macro index,pager a "goobook add" "add sender to google contacts"
bind editor complete-query


This tool gives you the ability to open urls in messages with an external browser (ie luakit or w3m). The install is the same as the others.

apt-get install urlview

The config file is .urlview. Below is my setup.

# Sample urlview(1) configuration file

# regular expression to use to match URLs
REGEXP (((http|https|ftp|gopher)|mailto):(//)?[^ <>"\t]*|(www|ftp)[0-9]?\.[-a-z0-9.]+)[^ .,;\t\n\r<">\):]?[^, <>"\t]*[^ .,;\t\n\r<">\):]

# command to invoke for selected URL
# COMMAND /etc/urlview/
COMMAND luakit %s

# set to yes to enable menu wrapping

The key portion is here COMMAND luakit %s. Luakit can be replaced with any browser desired. Finally just add the following section to the muttrc file.

# View URLs inside Mutt
macro index \cb "|urlview\n"
macro pager \cb "|urlview\n"

When a message is opened hit CTRL+b and you will be given a list of urls to open. Just select one and the browser will open.

I hope this tutorial is helpful. I have my entire muttrc file hosted on github if anyone wants to see what I have set up. If you are for looking a fast flexable email client that will not slow down your PowerPC machine then I would seriously consider giving mutt a try.