I net-installed Ubuntu Linux ("Hoary" beta release) on my four-year-old Powerbook G3 on Friday. For the most part, I'm loving it. There's a few quirks here and there -- Linux on powerpc has always been sort of second-class -- but using Gnome and Openbox is everything I thought it would be. Plus, Ubuntu revealed some pleasant surprises.
- My biggest worry with the switch was the use of suspend and resume. I had never really seen it work well except on a friend's ThinkPad. Even then, he had a press a button and wait, etc. Surprisingly, suspend/resume works just like Mac OS X. Opening and closing the lid do exactly what you'd expect, including the pulsing sleep light and having the screensaver prompt me for a password when I open it back up. Good job, guys!
- Managing Perl is mostly sweet. Since Debian's Perl is, by default, setup to using INSTALLDIRS=site, I can install prebuild packages using apt alongside modules I install with the CPAN shell, which will drop them into /usr/local. Well, mostly -- I still can't figure out how to get modules to install executables into /usr/local/bin. It keeps trying /usr/bin, even when I tried specifying INSTALLBIN or INSTALLSITEBIN manually. (Thanks for the tip, Ari.)
- Sound is a bit loud. Apparently there's no setting between off and wake-the-neighbors.
- Sensors don't work, but that's okay -- this thing has been running exceptionally cooler than expected. I'd estimate about 96 F / 35 C, based on previous experience with Mac OS X when I did have sensors.
- 3D worked almost out of the box, I simply had to set the depth to 16 bits instead of 24. This gives me an excuse to play with the SDL and OpenGL perl modules.
- Turns out Powerbooks have Synaptics-brand trackpads that don't follow the Synaptics protocol. Looks like there's no equivalent of SideTrack :(
This biggest surprise so far is speed. Everything is amazingly snappy for a 500 MHz G3. Daily operations such as working with Perl, tab-completing Subversion commands with Zsh, ssh'ing to hosts, and browsing the web are all amazingly fast. I'm even treating myself to Firefox's smoothscroll setting! I've lost all desire for a new laptop.
The biggest disappointment is networking. The network-admin program tries really hard, but I simply don't have much luck with it. It hangs a lot, which isn't good when you change access points frequently. For now I'm sticking with iwconfig and dhclient.
Not that I use it that much, but I'm unsure if there's a solution regarding QuickTime and Flash with PowerPC Linux. There's an open-source SWF library, but it appears to need some work. We'll see.
Oh yeah -- there's no more spinning beachball.