Experimenting with building installer images

As we all know, powerpc and ppc64 are no longer officially supported by Debian. Adrian Glaubitz does a great job to mirror the packages for the supported architectures to Debian-ports. There is a price to pay though: not everything works as it used to be when powerpc had official releases. There are two things that bother me at the moment. The first is the fact that when using the Debian installer images, there is no working bootloader installed. The modern Debian uses Grub and this does not yet work for us powerpc users. A solution to this is to execute a shell from the menu of debian-installer to get yaboot installed in the bootstrap partition (see installation instructions MintPPC). I do not particularly like this. Secondly, as Debian-ports is updated daily, very often packages cannot be built automatically as the introduction of some package may lead to unsuccessful building of other packages. This leads to a situation wherein the installer is sometimes able to install MintPPC and at other times it is not. People who want to install MintPPC have to then be lucky that the Debian-ports repo is ‘on their side’ so to speak.

To counter those problems I am now experimenting with creating my own installer images. Last night I was finally able to create debian-installer for ppc64 with a 64-bits version of yaboot-installer in it. If this works, as I hope it should, it will install a Debian system with yaboot as bootloader, like it used to be in the past. Apparently Lubuntu 16.04 still uses yaboot and why not? It works great. Later on I will also build a 32-bits version of Debian-installer with yaboot-installer. What I am now most interested in is to see whether I can incorporate said Debian-installer into a DVD installation image. The latter image should contain all the required packages for installing the Debian core of MintPPC. I just have to wait for the right moment when all packages on Debian-ports allow one to install MintPPC. I will then make a snapshot of Debian-ports and create my own DVD image. Last weekend I was able to mirror powerpc and ppc64 Debian-ports to my iMac G5. So I have now access to all packages for powerpc and ppd64 and can create something out of it at any moment.

In the future this should lead to a downloadable iso, which can be copied onto a DVD (or set of CD’s) which allows for installation of MintPPC without the need of downloading the packages from Debian-ports over the internet while installing. It should then be much easier and more successful as the packages have been tested before and will always give a stable system from where one can upgrade to the latest (semi rolling releases).

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Developer of MintPPC

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5 Comments

  1. As a Linux novice with an underused iMac G5 ALS ,I think the last part is what I should wait patiently for – ‘In the future this should lead to a downloadable iso…’
    Looking forward to it – thanks for all the efforts detailed here and on Macrumors

  2. I have some good news to report. Finally, after trying numerous times, I am now able to build an installer image as a snapshot of the Debian-ports repository. For this I had to set up a mirror of Debian-ports and tweak the debian-cd tools. Yesterday a fresh debian-10.0-powerpc-NETINST-1.iso was produced which will be able to install Debian sid. The following step is to make debian-cd produce a LXDE-desktop installer image, which I will then repackage with MintPPC addons, which will then have to lead to an almost painless installation of MintPPC.

  3. I made some more progress. I found out that I had to rebuild the debian-installer as the kernel did not match with the modules as found on the debian-ports mirror. I did all that and now I have debian-installer for powerpc and ppc64 with the latest kernel. I am now spinning a desktop iso as we speak. It all looks ok to me. I will try to install Debian with this image later on. To be continued…

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