OpenBSD on Apple iBook G4

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I regained my old Apple iBook G4 from around 2005, which I liked very much back in the days. As I didn't find any usable Linux distribution, I ended up installing OpenBSD 6.8. It is quiet simple to install, but be sure to have a look at the marvelous installation notes.

What works:

  • Sound (speaker + earphones)
  • Network, DVD, USB
  • Wireless LAN
  • X11
  • Power off

What's not working:

  • Display brightness regulation
  • Standby, suspend and hibernate


I chose a DVD as the installation medium and used an image which contains all file sets: install68.iso. It's a good idea to plug in the network cable during the installation, because WLAN won't be available due to missing firmware. At boottime, just hold the alt + apple + o + f keys to enter the open firmware. At the boot prompt, type in the following:

boot cd:,ofwboot /6.8/macppc/bsd.rd

Now a standard OpenBSD installation starts, there is not much to say about it. For disk partitioning I went with Whole diskCustom layout:

#                size           offset  fstype [fsize bsize   cpg]
  a:          1024.2M             4096  4.2BSD   2048 16384 12958 # /
  b:          1024.2M          2101664    swap                    # none
  c:         28615.8M                0  unused                    
  d:         10240.5M          4199328  4.2BSD   2048 16384 12958 # /usr
  e:          1024.2M         25171776  4.2BSD   2048 16384 12958 # /var
  f:          1024.2M         27269408  4.2BSD   2048 16384 12958 # /tmp
  g:         14276.4M         29367072  4.2BSD   2048 16384 12958 # /home
  i:             1.0M                1   MSDOS                    

NOTE: Don't delete the MSDOS partition i, or your system is unable to boot!


If you haven't used wired network during the installation, you now have to install the needed firmware for graphics and wireless lan by yourself:

# fw_update

Now let's check if it was successful:

# fw_update -i
Installed: bwi-firmware-1.4p5 radeondrm-firmware-20181218

The installation is now complete, let's head over to the configuration.


Console keyboard and display settings are done via /etc/wsconsctl.conf:

keyboard.encoding=de.nodead"keycode 10 = less greater bar"

I added the pipe symbol to the < key, accessible with alt + <.

Advanced Power Management

To get the maximum "performance" out of your machine, use apm:

# rcctl enable apmd
# rcctl start apmd
# apm -H


Sound works out of the box, it just needs to be unmuted:

# sndioctl output.mute=0
# sndioctl output.level=.5


I have a german Apple keyboard layout, which looks like that:

iBook G4 with german keyboard layout

Getting a useful keyboard mapping is a little bit of an adventure. First create a file called 20-keyboard.conf in /usr/X11R6/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/:

Section "InputClass"
  Identifier "XKB Defaults"
  MatchIsKeyboard "yes"
  Option "Protocol" "standard"
  Option "XkbRules" "base"
  Option "XkbModel" "macintosh"
  Option "XkbLayout" "de"
  Option "XkbVariant" "nodeadkeys"
  Option "XkbOptions" "terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp"

I ended up adding the following lines to my ~/.xsession file:

# fixes for a german ibook g4 keyboard layout
xmodmap -e "keycode 20 = ssharp question backslash"
xmodmap -e "keycode 22 = BackSpace BackSpace Delete"
xmodmap -e "keycode 24 = q Q at"
xmodmap -e "keycode 26 = e E EuroSign"
xmodmap -e "keycode 35 = plus asterisk asciitilde"
xmodmap -e "keycode 46 = l L at"
xmodmap -e "keycode 66 = NoSymbol NoSymbol NoSymbol"
xmodmap -e "keycode 94 = less greater bar"
xmodmap -e "keycode 108 = Mode_switch NoSymbol Mode_switch NoSymbol Mode_switch"

# mode_switch + escape = right mouse button"
xmodmap -e "keycode 9 = Escape NoSymbol Pointer_Button3"
xkbset m
xkbset exp =m

# window manager
xsetroot -solid darkgrey
exec fvwm

The keyboard mapping is now close to a standard german ISO layout. If you need keycodes, xev is your friend. I mapped the bottom right enter key to Mode_switch. As there is no right mouse button on the keyboard, I'm emulating one with Mode_switch + ESC.

Don't forget to install xkbset: pkg_add xkbset

Now all that's left is to enable and start xenodm:

# rcctl enable xenodm
# rcctl start xenodm

And we are done!


OpenBSD on an iBook

CD / DVD usage

To mount a CD / DVD:

# mount /dev/cd0c /mnt

Unmount and eject:

# umount /mnt
# eject /dev/cd0c

The eject key (F12) does work too ;)

Minor hints

  • Switching the console is a little bit tricky the first time you try it, because you first have to press CRTL+ALT and hold them, then press and hold FN and then Fx. X11 is on position 5.
  • Sometimes WLAN stops working, give it a kickstart: sh /etc/netstart bwi0
  • If the machine is loosing its wlan link too often, just leave a ping running in the background: ping -i 10 <host>