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.


  1. Just built Firefox 50.0 on PPC and PPC64 for AOSC OS, on the 32-bit build everything worked beautifully.

    On the 64-bit side however, nothing loaded (not even a crash), the browser shows a blank page with no loading activity. I am currently suspecting it is some AltiVec related issue, building another build without any optimization on now... Hopefully it confirms my suspicion.

    1. Just built Pale Moon 27.0.0, and guys, get that browser instead! It's so damn stable on my PPC64, finally a usable browser.

  2. The decision is very disappointing. Even if PPC is the 4th most used architecture, there is nobody to be responsible of the PPC release ("Lack of porters is a blocker").
    It is sad to see that the decision is made considering the situation and not the goals.
    I wonder who uses Debian on MIPS ...

  3. I have come back to your blog time and time again for help installing Debian on PPC computers. I find these things everywhere and people keep using them so long as they work. My local library still uses them simply because they don't have a reason to upgrade.

    Debian is my go to because it is simply the best option in terms of hardware support, speed, and ease of use. I can do a netinstall if I really want to learn about customizing an install, but 99% of the time I can just download Debian with XFCE for PPC and whatever PPC computer I install it on is good to go.

    I do not have the technical knowledge to do this on my own. But in this of trouble I am reminded of the Arch community and their AUR and Wiki projects. The AUR is basically a repository that anyone can contribute to. And we all know what the wiki is.

    Would it be possible to create a Debian User Repository for PPC users to upload compiled code that then every other PPC user can install? If someone gets the latest version of Libre Office, or XFCE, or Firefox or whatever, working on PPC, that person could upload it to the repository so everyone could use it. We could also host our own Wiki. Is it possible for us to keep Debian updated ourselves with our own repo? Is this possible?

    1. Of course it's possible. Linux is whatever you make it.

      The real question here is who has the time and resources to do it?

  4. Have you tried Netsurf on Open BSD? I recently was able to build the newest version (3.9) on my iBook running Lubuntu 16.04lts. It's missing some features still, but at least it's current and it's super light and fast! I'm getting a mac mini G4 soon and will try Open BSD on it.