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Mad With Macintosh


Who Needs A 733 Mhz G4 For OS X?? How About a 16 mhz 68030 Running Linux?


How To Run Debian Linux On An SE/30


Buy Your Unix For 68k Macs and Support the Red Cross! 




ADDITION - Attempting to learn Debian Linux on a Mac SE/30 ? Here's an online book for you.

HOW-TO install Debian Potato (2.2) 



Debian or any version of Linux for that matter is NOT EASY to install for the typical Mac user. This is not to slight the Mac user, it is meant to warn the Mac user. I have been using Macs for about twelve years. I worked at Apple. I load Linux onto PeeCee's at work. It took me about 2 months to get it loaded on my SE/30. Because the installer is so crude, you might be bald from pulling your hair out by the time you get it to work. Now if you are familiar with PeeCee's and Linux/Unix, it should be much easier. Also, the colors don't work well on color Macs, there is no floppy support (who cares?) and sometimes the keyboard has to be unplugged and plugged back in to get it going. As I said, the port is brand new while the Intel ports are ten years old. That said, let's get started, shall we?


As you may know, Apple's OS X is a new operating system based on the Unix operating system. It's rock solid, with many enhancements that Unix folk have enjoyed for years - symmetrical multitasking, protected memory, multiprocessing, etc... You may have also heard of Linux, the free version of Unix. Well, Linux has been running on PeeCee's for years. It was just recently ported to the Mac OS thanks to some crafty programmers who were able to reverse engineer the Mac chipset.

There are many versions of Linux that run on Macs, both 68k and PowerMacs. I chose Debian Linux m68k 2.1 because it can be ordered on CD which makes it much easier to install, and it has already been tested on the SE/30, which is the Mac I wanted to install it onto.

OS X?? We don't need no steenking OSX!!

Mac OS X has the ability to also run classic OS 7-9 apps. With Debian running on your Mac, you can easily boot into Mac OS should you need to, although you can open Mac text files in Debian and mount Mac OS partitions under Linux just fine. There's your classic Mac OS compatibility! Most software that runs under this version of Debian will also run under OS X, although some might need to be re-compiled which is easy. In fact, I've downloaded loads of old Unix shareware apps and run them under Debian just fine without recompiling.


What You Need

An 020, 030 or 040 Mac with an FPU and PMMU. See the Debian site for more details on which models work.

You can download the Debian 2.1 Linux files here,


but beware, I have yet to figure out how to load it into a Mac from a hard drive. Yes, this sounds easy enough, but believe me, Linux on a Mac is not easy to install unless you try one of the PowerMac flavors which uses the Red Hat installer. Debian uses something called dselect, which, in my humble opinion, is HORRIBLE.

Anyway, buy the CD's from Chris Lawrence


and you'll be much happier. A portion of the proceeds go to charity too.


Mac hard drive formatting software:


I use Apple HDSC Setup (Patch) which will format non-Apple drives. You MUST use this or a third party formatter such as LIDO or Anubis or FWB if you want to format a non-Apple drive.


How To Install


I won't go into actual procedures here as it would take about 10 pages. The Debian installation files have about 20 read me's anyway. READ THEM ALL! Then READ THEM AGAIN! Then READ THEM AGAIN! Then READ THEM ONE MORE TIME. Sorry for yelling, but you must take your time and be patient if you want to succeed in this project.



You'll need AT LEAST a 100 meg drive if you want to actually DO something with it after you install it. If you just want to learn some simple commands, you can get by with an 80 meg drive for a bare bones install. If you want to test your Mac and see if it works, this is the way to go, otherwise you're in for an all nighter. Please see the Debian 68k link above for current models that are supported. You must boot the Mac normally before you can boot into Linux, so you need either a drive that has been partitioned into three parts: A Linux native part, a Linux swap part and a Mac OS part. You can do this with Apple HD SC Setup Patch. It will see non Apple drives as well as Apple drives. You can also use Drive Setup Patch, but it only works on some Macs, not all.


From the installation instructions:


 When partitioning your disk, please keep in mind that Linux has to be
 launched by the 'Penguin' bootstrap program, which is a MacOS
 application. Consequence: you will need a working MacOS system to boot
 Linux, so don't destroy your MacOS startup partition in this step. If
 you need to repartition your only MacOS partition to free space for
 Linux, make sure you have all necessary media to boot and reinstall
 MacOS after partitioning, or get a spare disk instead. There is no way
 to boot Linux directly from a loader in the boot sector of your disk
 on a Macintosh. Destroying your MacOS partition means you will have to
 reinstall MacOS before you can start over again!

I used a 1 gig external drive attached to my SE/30 for several months, but it seemed to become corrupt quite easily and often, so I went with a 500 meg internal and it has been working flawlessly for about 18 months. I have 128 megs of ram in my SE/30, although 32 will work just fine. You can use a Mac OS boot drive as small as 20 megs for a minimal Mac OS 7.x just to boot the Mac. However, you'll need about 15 megs for the Linux installer files which will sit on the Mac partition for you to double-click while running the Mac OS to get the installation started.



You can get by with just 5 megs, which is the smallest amount of ram any 020 or 030 Mac will use (SE/30). The more the better as usual. Linux uses swap space or virtual memory, but you want to try to keep VM to a minimum because it thrashes your hard drive constantly and makes Linux run a lot slower.


CD ROM Drive

As I said earlier, you CAN install it from any SCSI drive after you download Debian, but I haven't been able to accomplish this after about 20 tires and at least 30 hours. I use my trusty Apple CD 300i 2x and it takes FOREVER. What is FOREVER? Well, a full package install of 400 megs took about 16 hours. A bare min install of 40 megs took about 3 hours. Yes, believe it or not. You mileage may vary depending on which Mac and which CD room drive you use and how much ram you have.


But Does It Run X Windows?




Even On the SE/30????


Sure! You'll need at least 50 megs just for X Windows, 90 for the different varieties of X Windows. It runs rediculously slow on my SE/30, but it sure is cool to show it to my PeeCee co-workers! The downside of X Windows on this particular version of Linux is that you rarely use it except to launch programs, which you can do from the command line interface anyway. Yes, you get some cool screen savers and games (Doom, Abuse to name a few) but those won't run on the SE/30 anyway. Well, they WILL run, but they will be SOOOOO SLOOOOOW that you could make a cup of coffee in between each screen redraw. I finally stopped loading X Windows on my SE/30 because I can surf the net, terminal into my Mac Plus and do text editing, and programming without X Windows.


X Windows Hidden Gotcha


In this particular version of Debian (2.1 or Slink), there are a couple of goofs on the installer. If you are trying to get X Windows going, you will find that it won't work unless you move some files around and change some settings. Because this version is m68k which means it runs on the Motorola 68xxx chip, there are many different platforms it will run on besides Macs such as Amiga, HMV, Atari and maybe a few others.


First, after reading the readme files, when you are setting up Debian after you install it, you'll need to go to


and change the mouse setting to


you'll need to know how to use vi, the Unix text editor (see the links below). This can be cumbersome to a point-and-click Mac guy. Next, you'll need to save the XF86Config.eg file in /etc/X11. This is where it's supposed to be. Now when you type


it will go into X Windows. It will go into X Windows automatically when you boot up from now on.

 For more info, read the xf86 readme for Debian 2.1 (Slink).

Another tip

As you read the instructions, you'll see that you need to boot into the Mac OS first, then launch a program called Penguin (get it?) to bootstrap into Debian. Before you do, make sure your settings are correct by consulting the installation instructions. Then change the video setting from




This will make your life MUCH easier, especially if you are using the SE/30!!


Networking into Debian With A Terminal Emulation Program


I hooked up my Mac Plus with a null modem cable and networked into my SE/30 running Debian. This allows me to run apps that reside on the SE/30 via the Mac Plus. Now you can transfer files back and forth between the Debian Mac and whatever computer is connected to it (theoretically, even an old Commodore 64 or Atari 128 will do this if you have the correct software and modem cables.)


I routinely use Hotline or the Linux ftp sites to download Linux apps on my DSL iMac, transfer them to my G3 (because the iMac cannot read 800k discs), then put them on an 800k floppy which goes into the Plus, THEN (whew!) transfer them to the SE/30 over the null modem cable (so far, no version of Linux for 68k Macs supportes the floppy drive). Yes, I COULD use my G3 to network into the SE/30 running Debian, but just the thought of a 1985 Mac networked into a 1987 Mac running Linux is cool, isn't it? I also enjoy keeping the Mac Plus, which was my first computer nearly ten years ago, involved in the many projects I have going (HyperCard animations, the HyperCard database I use at work, the drawing below, etc...)



What You Need


Any computer dating back to the stone age will work, as long as you have a terminal emulation program for it. Macs use Zterm, Kermit, and many many others.

Linux setup (NEW!)

First you need to uncomment two lines in the /etc/inittab file. If you are a complete Linux newbie, it's actually quite simple. Follow these instructions precisely.

On the Linux Mac, type

cd /

then type

cd /etc

you are now going to make a copy of the inittab file in case we screw up the original one:


cp inittab inittab_backup

This copies the inittab file and names it inittab_backup. If you screw up the original inttab, you can make a copy of the backup thusly:

cp inittab_backup inittab

This renames it back to inittab.

now type

vi inittab

You are now looking at the actual file that performs the inittab functions. To go into edit mode, type a single 'i' (no quotes). If you are unsure of what mode you are in, hit the escape key and try to type. If it beeps at you or the screen blinks, you are not in edit mode and you need to type 'i' (no quotes) again. Now uncomment the line that says

#T1:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyS0 9600 vt100

To do this, place the cursor on the pound sign at the beginning of the line with the arrow keys and type the letter 'x' (no quotes). This should remove the pound sign. Now that line can be executed upon reboot. Now it should look like this:

T1:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyS0 9600 vt100

Note: If you have more than one line in inittab, you can uncomment them both. Be sure and set the speed to 38400 as most Macs can communicate easily at this speed thru a modem cable. ZTerm should be set at this speed as well or the Mac will not communicate with the Linux Mac.

BE CAREFUL! If you screw up this batch file, Linux may not work properly and you won't know what the original settings were.

Now reboot the Linux Mac and launch Zterm on the other Mac. As soon as ZTerm sees the Linux Mac, it should automatically give you the regular login prompt. Just type in your username and password. You are now controlling the Linux Mac with your other Mac remotely. This is basically the same thing as logging into your internet provider, except you are doing it without dialing a modem and both computers are in your own house. Remember that the web and all that http stuff comes directly from Unix. Interesting sidenote: the proposal for the world wide web (the graphic portion of it, not the 'old fashioned' command line internet of yesteryear) was written on a Mac SE and the web browsing software (Mosaic) was programmed on a NeXT computer. Anyway, as you learn more about Unix, you'll see how the web mirrors Unix and how the internet analogy gets its foundation from Unix. Very cool.

By the way, most of this HTML document was written while running Debian on my SE/30 with vi, the text editing program and uploaded to my web site with Debian as well. This is a GREAT way to learn Linux or OS X. Apple has added access to the command line interface (which is great to know if you want to make some good money as a Unix/Linux geek) after complaints from Unix geeks that thought OS X was too 'Maccified'. Cool!

To transfer a file from the Debian computer to your terminal, just type sz <filename> from the terminal computer (the one connected to the Debian Mac.) You can type this in on either the terminal or the Debian Mac, it doesn't matter. The file will be transferred to the predetermined location according to the program you are using on the terminal. This is quite useful because you can download Debian and other Linux applications from the web, then transfer them to your Debian Mac via a terminal connection, then install them. No need for a floppy or CD ROM.

 To copy a file from your terminal to the Linux Mac using ZTerm, choose 'SendZmodem' from the File menu and the file will be transferred to the root directory of the Linux box.


How-To #2


Getting Debian Online

It took me MONTHS to get my Debian machine online, even with help from Linux pros, but after reading 'Learning Debian GNU Linux" (O'Reilly) it took about 15 minutes. Here are the steps you need to take:

Configuring the modem

As root, type

ln -sf /dev/ttyS0 /dev/modem

(that's a ZERO, not an O)

This creates a symbolic link to the modem device (modem port). THIS IS THE STEP THAT I WAS LEAVING OUT FOR OVER A YEAR! This is what FINALLY got my SE/30 online.

Configuring the IP address of your internet provider

There is a batch file called /etc/resolv.conf. This lists your internet provider's IP addresses (usually 2, 1 for backup). You'll need to launch the vi text editor and type in the IP addresses thusly:



Replace the numbers with the IP number your internet provider gave you.

Configuring your account info

The last step is to set up your account. To do this launch pppconfig by typing


This will walk you through the account setup process. Some tips:

1) If you have a password and username, you most likely need to use PAP authentication.

2) ttyS0 and COM1 are the modem port on your Mac. Connect your modem to this port to keep it simple.

3) Be sure and use the correct modem init string! This can make your PPP setup take forever unless you use the right one. Consult your modem manual or try http://www.modemhelp.org. If you are clueless as to what it is, try ATZ or AT&F.

4) When typing in the phone number the modem dials to reach your ISP, don't put any dashes in it:


is preferable to


5) When setting the modem speed, always set it one setting higher that your modem speed. If this doesn't work, bring it down a notch.

Now you should reboot Debian for the changes to take effect.


shutdown -r -n now


You can also use control/shift/power to reboot Debian with no ill effects. Your Mac may hang, if it does, just turn it off then on again or use the 'three finger reboot salute' (command/control/power) or use the reset switch on the back or the front depending on which Mac you have.

Dialing in


pon <the name of your provider that you put in pppconfig>

This dials the modem.

A neat trick:

to launch a virtual terminal (on Linux and Unix, you can log in multiple times) hit the command and F2 keys simultaneously. Now you can log in again and use this screen to watch the modem do it's thing. Just type

tail -f /var/log/messages

when you login on the second screen. To go back to the first screen, hit command F1.

Testing, Testing 1,2,3

To see if you are really online, type


If the result says anything about ppp, you are online.


ping www.apple.com

to see if your connection is really there.

To log off or hangup, type


Now What Do I Do??

Now that you are online, what can you do? What apps do I run?



to surf the web in command line (no graphic interface) or launch Netscape if you are running X Windows. For email, just use the


command. Be sure and consult a Unix or Linux book for details on these apps. You can also use ftp, finger, gopher, WAIS, Pine, and many many more apps. There is no need to run X Windows to get your Debian Mac online. In fact, I don't use X at all on my SE/30, it's just too sloooow.

I'm a Man

Be sure and use the helpful manual if you have questions. Just type

man <subject or application>

for more info on the subject you are interested in. Here are some examples:


man cal - info about the built in calendar

man mail - info on the mail program

man pppconfig - info on pppconfig



Unix commands

Unix World

Online Linux Man pages

The Linux Documentaion Project - very cool and useful!

vi text editor

vi cheat sheet

another vi cheat sheet

Download the HyperCard stack of this web page

Apple HDSC Setup (Patch) - SCSI drive formatter

LIDO - SCSI drive formatter

MkLinux 68k partition editor.

Download ZTerm

Linux Novice Guide

Zterm How To

Debian HOW-TO's

Debian site

Download Debian

The Macintosh project pages

Visit us on IRC, channel #linux68k, server irc.lame.org (or connected servers).

 How To Install Debian 2.2 (Potato) On Your 68k Mac


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