Powerbook Dual Boot: Mac OS X Tiger and Ubuntu Edgy

This was something else I've been meaning to do for quite a while, but didn't, because I wasn't sure it would be simple and I was also worried that I might screw everything up.

In the end it turned out to be very easy and I'm extremely pleased with the results.

I have a 1.5GHz G4 Powerbook. Until Saturday, I'd just been running the latest Mac OS X Tiger release on it. It's got an 80GB internal disk. I'd used about 20GB's of that.

I decided that I wanted to make it a dual boot system. From talking with someone else who'd already done this, I was under the impression that I was going to have to backup all my Mac files, divide up the disk with the Mac OS X Disk Utility, then restore the files and then load Ubuntu into another partition.

From googling around, I found out that you don't have to do that. You can just resize your existing partition. You can also do it for free. In other words, you don't have to shell out dollars for special software to resize partitions.

Here's how I did it. A couple of points first.

  1. It's not for the faint of heart. If you aren't technically savvy don't do this. If you don't understand each of the steps, don't do this. You are on your own. I take no responsibility for any mistakes you make.

  2. Backup your data before you start. I'll shout that again. BACKUP YOUR DATA BEFORE YOU START. I've got an 80GB Firewire drive I use. See a previous post for more details.

The crux of how to do the dual-boot was found in a HOWTO: Resize your HFS+ partition for free posting to one of the Ubuntu forums. Thankyou closet geek!

The Ubuntu technology has improved since that post. It's even easier to do it now. Here are the steps. Note this is for a Powerbook (i.e. PPC).

  • I'll say it again. Backup your existing Mac OS X files before you start. Just in case.

  • Create yourself a Ubuntu Edgy LIVE CDROM from the iso image on their website. Make sure you get the PPC (Mac) iso image.

  • Login to Mac OS X, and disable journaling. See the Ubuntu forum post for how to do that.

  • Now reboot your Powerbook ensuring you have the Edgy Live CDROM in the CDROM drive. Just after your computer starts to boot up (e.g. before you even see the grey screen with the Apple on it) make sure you hold down the "c" key. This will make your Mac boot from the Edgy CDROM.

  • When Ubuntu Edgy comes up, startup a Terminal window via the Applications->Accessories menu, and type in the following command:

          % sudo parted
          

  • Again, follow the instructions in the Ubuntu forum post to resize your existing HFS+ Mac OS X partition. Take a note of the comment from Down8ve to make the resize command slightly easier. For me it was:

          (parted) resize 3 134MB 40GB
          

    The resizing took about a minute.

  • Double click on the "Install" disk icon on the Ubuntu desktop to start the Ubuntu Edgy installation-to-disk process. Work your way through the wizard, filling in each of the screens. When you come to the Partitioning screen, tell the installer to use the largest contiguous free space available.

That's it. Installing Ubuntu takes about 30 minutes. When you reboot your system, you are then presented with a simple boot menu, with choices for booting Mac OS X, Ubuntu or from CDROM.

I did go one step further. I followed the instructions in the Orca Wiki to load up the latest Orca from GNOME CVS and got it running. Now I can do my Orca development work on my favorite laptop.

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