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.


  1. I tried to install a minimal ppc64 debian to my system.

    The installation was sucessful, I created a new world rom partition too.

    Now yaboot stuck at: "Unknown or corrupt file system"

    How can we install current debian?

  2. Do I need another linux for debian modding?

    My Open Firmware dont have a text editor I guess...

  3. Whenever I input "sudo apt update", it's coming back with "Could not resolve ''".

    I've got the same sources.list file as you do. Please help.

  4. Very timely and helpful post. The Debian PPC wiki page does not contain any links or any info on how to migrate to ports. Perhaps it is obvious where to look to seasoned Debian users, but I'm an Arch user and had no idea how to get my Debian PPC unstable box up to date after the mirrors have been shut down. Thanks, upgrade running now.

  5. I'm a few weeks late, but thanks for posting this exciting news!

    Since this was posted, a few of us have been testing Debian PowerPC sid and posting our results on the MacRumors forum-

  6. Great info here. Thanks so much!

  7. I apologize for the last few comments being posted so late. The blogger admin notification system for comment moderation decided to suddenly stop sending me email notifications. It's fixed now.

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