PowerPC Challenge: Getting Comfortable

Posted Jun 18, 2017 by Liggysmalls

I figure if you're going to have to live with a PowerPC system for a week why not do it with some style! After playing around with my Power Macintosh G5 over the course of several weeks there are few things I thought should be sorted out. Being a little bit of a snob I wanted a better looking environment and I had a hunch that might take some more graphics power to achieve. Let's get into it.

The first step was testing out a few Window Managers / Desktop Environments. I knew the general direction I wanted to head in and that was something as similar to OS X as I could get; perhaps even something, gasp, modern looking. While some of the lighter options like Openbox and LXDE ran well on the G5 the best blend of form and function I could find for this project was Mate. Over the years as a Linux user I have enjoyed the massive array of options out there for themes, icons and general tweaks so this was the fun part for me. After about 20 minutes or so I had the general look and feel I was aiming for.

As suspected, there was an ever so slight amount of graphics lag. Moving windows around and switching desktops was a little bit choppy and the system while looking fantastic left me wanting more. I will have my cake and eat it too.

You have served us well NVIDIA GeForce 6600, it's time to rest.

You have served us well NVIDIA GeForce 6600, it's time to rest. Armed with about $45.00 in Paypal from a recent trade I hit eBay and the forums looking for an upgrade. With a home already line up for the GeForce 6600 currently residing in the G5 I was willing to spend a few dollars on an upgrade. After some quick research it was obvious that the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 would be a solid upgrade. After striking out on eBay I began the hunt for another option when I came across a GeForce 7800GT for $40.00 shipped to my door. After it arrived safe and sound I went through the process of installing the card and reconfiguring some graphics settings in Linux. This was clearly $40.00 well spent, dragging windows and switching desktops is smooth and lag free. At this stage in the game I don't think I could be any more pleased with this environment. The system looks great and generally feels quick when performing my everyday tasks, so far so good. You can see it in action along with some much higher resolution photos over at imgur.

Ubuntu running Mate, looking good.

With my basic needs covered, looking good and working well I started to consider additional applications I use on a daily basis to make life easier. While I could get by with just a browser, email client and a terminal; certain tasks would be needlessly painful. About six months ago I moved away from using Dropbox in favor of storing files locally on my system and using Syncthing to keep it all backed up and readily available. Lucky for me the fine folks at Syncthing have Linux binary available for PowerPC, a 64-bit binary at that. With my files syncing in the background I took a moment to browse through some of my personal and work documents to see what else I might be missing. After taking quick inventory of my file storage the usual suspects emerged, things I knew wouldn't be an issue; music, office documents and basic photo editing. All of these tasks are easily handled by Libre Office, Gimp and Rhythmbox which all have readily available PowerPC packages.

After this quick upgrade and last bit of configuration the G5 really has impressed me. It certainly isn't the beast of a machine it once was over a decade ago but my level of confidence that I will be able to complete the PowerPC Challenge starting on July 1, 2017 has reached a new high. Over the next few weeks I intend to continue to use the G5 in my off time to spot any problems and things I might have missed.

Stay tuned nerds, more coming soon.