[K12OSN] LTSP and Macintosh

Terrell Prude', Jr. microman at cmosnetworks.com
Wed May 5 01:41:09 UTC 2004

Hello Matt,

I've done this with Power Mac 5200's and 5260's.  These are NuBus boxes, 
and I've found that running the Mach kernel (from MkLinux) on them works 
well.  Note that you will need to have 32MB minimum DRAM in the Mac for 
the Mach kernel to boot.  Some dude named Skip Gaede put together a 
kernel and initrd ramdisk, all in one file, for us to use.  You will 
need to install the Mach kernel on your hard disk, in a specific folder 
(this is documented on http://www.ltsp.org/contrib).  It uses about 
4.5MB of disk, so it's pretty small.  Also note that you'll need to 
download the ppc version of the /opt/ltsp/i386 directory tree as well; 
I've named mine /opt/ltsp/ppc.

Once they're booted, I've noticed a few issues, none of which have 
stopped me from using them as LTSP clients.  First, the 52x0 series has 
a max resolution of 640x480x256 colors.  Back then, remember, this was a 
Big Deal.  Also, these often came with a NIC that had a SONIC-T chipset 
on it; these do not work with GNU/Linux and need to be replaced with a 
Macsense or something else (it cost me $10 a pop w/ shipping).  The 
fastest NICs available for these older boxes are, to my knowledge, 
10Mbps, which means that it'll feel a bit sluggish due to the screen 
updates.  However, remember that the apps themselves are running at the 
speed of the server.  Even with the 10Mbps cards, though, they feel and 
respond a lot faster than they do as standalone boxes running Mac OS; it 
feels over twice as fast on mine.

The 640x480x256 resolution can be taken care of by telling KDE (yes, I 
run KDE with these things) to use the "small" or "tiny" icons in the 
Panel.  To my own surprise, it was quite useable!  OO.o and Mozilla, of 
course, felt a little cramped on such a low resolution (my normal box 
has a 21" Trinitron, so I'm spoiled), but, again, it was useable.

Note that if you had, say, a PCI-based PMac as your thin client--say, a 
5500--with a 100Mbps NIC in there, it'd feel very fast.

I've not run 68K Linux before, nor was I aware that it existed, but if 
you have trouble getting that to work, there is a NetBSD port for them.  
In this case, all you need is to have the X11 server query the LTSP 
server.  It might just be easier, though, to stick with PowerPC-based 
boxes as thin clients.


Matt Ross wrote:

> Greetings.
> I've been looking for a way to put to use our growing collection of 
> old macs in the tech lab. Since we've been playing with LTSP, the idea 
> of macs used as thin clients came about.
> I spent some time researching the subject. Obviously, this is not a 
> new idea. I have read a lot of archived traffic about the idea, and 
> can see that it might be harder than it seems.
> So, what are the compications of using Macs as X11 terminals?
> I see 3 diffrent ways of making this possilble:
> * 1. The Mac boots Linux for it's archatecure (either 68k or PPC) off 
> the harddrive and runs linux's X to connect to the LTSP.
> * 2. The Mac boots MacOS (Version 7.5.3 is free, I think) and loads a 
> X server nativly, thus connects to the LTSP.
> * 3. The Mac boots MacOS, loads a VNC program and connects to the LTSP.
> I just learned of VNCing into the LTSP today. Cool beans.
> At what levels would memory be a problem? Would swap space make up for 
> any deficianies? How is sound transported (I'm clueless here)? Could 
> sound be pushed over options 2 or 3?
> Are there current prodjects which are working on these solutions?
> -Matt
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