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Ubuntu 10.0.4 on an Apple iMac DV – installation tips

I just installed Ubuntu 10.0.4 [Lucid Lynx] on a vintage 2000 Apple iMac DV [Blueberry color]. There is a ton of old information about how to do this on the web, but most of it relates to Ubuntu 6 or earlier.

The primary issue is that Ubuntu out of the box doesn’t talk to the internal monitor correctly. The monitor is limited in terms of refresh rates and screen resolution – granted, it was fairly advanced for it’s time, but time moves on.

First, some links:

Here is the procedure to install Ubuntu onto an iMac DV:

1. Download/create an Ubuntu PPC live cd. See links above.

2. Turn the machine on, pop the CD into the slot, and hold the C key until you see type on the screen.  The C key makes the machine to boot off the CD.

3. Once you get some type on the screen and the machine is waiting for a response, type this:
live video=ofonly
Hit enter

4. It will take several minutes for the machine to boot, and the screen will flash a few times. At some point you will see a warning dialog box telling you that ubuntu is running in “Low Graphics mode”. Click the OK button.

5. Then you will see a selection box – select “Exit to Console login” and click the OK button.

I would think the odds are good that someone on the planet trying this would actually get lucky and Ubuntu would finish booting. In that case, once everything is up – it will take a while! – switch to console mode

To switch to Console mode -> Press Ctrl + Alt + F1

You’ll need to kill gdm and X at this point. Some sites have said the command to do this is
killall gdm

Other sites said that wouldn’t work.

6. In either case, at the command line, type this:
lspci | grep Rage

Write down what you see there.

The lspci command gives a ton of system hardware information. The | part “pipes” the information into another program, grep, which prints to the screen any lines with the word “Rage”, which is the video card used in this model.

7. Then type:
sudo nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf

You are going to create a configuration file [named xorg.conf that will be stashed in the  etc/X11 directory] that will tell the GUI how to talk to the internal monitor.

8. Type this:

Section “Device”
VendorName “****” <- the vendor from the lspci command
BoardName “*****” <- the card from the lspci command
BusID “*****” <- the RIGHTMOST three numbers at the beginning of the info from the lspci command

Section “Monitor”
Identifier “Generic Monitor”
Option “DPMS”
HorizSync 60-60
VertRefresh 43-117


For example, for my iMac the lspci command returned
00000:00:10.0 Ati Technologies Inc Rage 128 PR/PRO AGP 4x TMDS

So those lines from the Device section read like this:

VendorName “Ati Technologies Inc”
BoardName “Rage 128 PR/PRO AGP 4x TMDS”
BusID “00.10.0”


9. Hit CTRL-O to write the file

10. CTRL-X to exit from nano

11: Then give this command:
sudo startx

You should see the desktop popup onto the internal monitor – but it WILL take some time.

12. Now you are ready to install Ubuntu onto the internal hard drive.  There is a command to “Install Ubuntu” – it will either be on the desktop, or inside either the System or Administration menus. Find it, select it, and follow the prompts.

The internal drive on my machine is only 10gig, so I opted to wipe the hard drive and put Ubuntu on the entire drive – goodbye OS X 10.2 and MacOS 9.2.2!  After all of the updates have been installed I still have about 40% of the drive still available.

Using Mac OS 10.2 the machine was barely usable for even basic web work (email etc). I’ve found the speed under Ubuntu to make the machine useful again for a variety of tasks, especially anything office-related.


Tom Rule
the MaconMacGuy

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