Why an Apple iBook?

During the summer of 2002, I decided to buy a laptop. I spent quite a lot of time telecommuting, and I also wanted to be able to work outside during the summer.

I chose an Apple iBook. They are a few good - and probably some bad - reasons why you may consider this as an interesting option among the Ix86 machines: small, light, good autonomy, good overall hardware quality compared to Intel laptop of the same price. From my point of view, I may had:

I discovered that for UNIX stuff on Apple, wether on Mac OSX or the Linux side, there's a small but motivated community. Nevertheless, expect to spent some time on this. On OS X things can be quite different from what you're used too, and for Linux, well, this can still be an adventure. I'll try to put here some rough notes about my discoveries, and directions that I did not esealy found on the net.


Apple keyboard special characters for programmers

When I came home with my brand new shiny iBook, my first idea was to launch a terminal and play a bit. I then discovered that the Apple keyboards can be quite different from what a PC user is used to. I had a moment of panic and frustration looking for |, ~, { and [, randomly trying some special keys combinations.

Obviously these characters are there, otherwise there's simply no C/C++/Objective C programming. Surprisingly enough google didn't help: everything I found was about keys shortcut to operate Mac OS X and its applications, nothing for programmers. It took me quite a lot of finger work to get it.

Important: This is what I have on my french AZERTY iBook keyboard. This may be different on desktop or QWERTY. But you'll get the idea: ~ looks like a rounded N, the pipe | looks like a lower case L, opening and closing character somehow can be related to parenthesis...

So, if this can be of any help to anyone, here it is:

backslash \ shift + option + /
pipe, or | shift + option + L
tidle ~ option + N
backquote ` £ key, that's to say a regular ` as for the french è on my keyboard.
simple quote ' 4 key, that's to say a regular ' on any keyboard I guess.
opening brace { option + (
closing brace } option + )
opening square bracket [ shift + option + (
closing square bracket ] shift + option + )

Apple also got the habit to give it's own special names to some keys: For emacs, that's another story (does OS X comes with a decent version now?). For now enjoy your shell, and I hope your vi is not too rusty.


Linux install

Well sorry, not much here, I'm going to be very vague. My lame excuse: most of the critical work (partitionning, setting for dual-boot...) was made a year ago, my memories and notes are a bit old. I confess I tried three Linux distributions without much success at the time. I'm far from being a great sysadmin or overall Linux guru, but over the year I had maybe ten or twenty succesful Linux install on Intel PC, be it Slackware, Red Hat, Mandrake or Debian. So be warned that this can be painfull. The problem at the time was the support for the ATI Mobility Radeon video card, quite new on this Apple model. There's also the problem fo the french keyboard - more on this lower. And this is a laptop after all.

Here are a few hints, you may look for documentation about this subjects if you project such an install:

Overall point of vue: both the install and the configuration is tricky. If you now Debian on PC, you have a good idea of the time and effort it can take. Don't get me wrong, I like Debian, I use it on one of my machines! I guess as always with Linux, the older but not too old your machine, the easier the process: better support for hardware, better documentation. Anyhow you can still have OSX in the meantime, and you may learn a few things about Linux in general. I did.

So what? Well this spring Mandrake for PPC 9.1 came out, and it was it.


Mandrake PPC ressources

Mandrake installation is extremely easy on a PC (try it if you're completly new to GNU/Linux, that's probably the easier and most rewarding you can find). Once again, to tell the truth it wasn't so easy on this iBook but nothing impossible with a little effort and previous Linux experience. In the end I had X, I (almost) had a French azerty keyboard, I had ethernet: the essential to go on with the configuration in a very usable environment.

Some ressources:

About Mandrake club: if you use and rely on Mandrake, have a fast internet connection, and don't care for printed documentation then you should seriously consider joining. Simply said: you'll have more value for less money than you should get by buying a PowerPack Edition. And this is more profitable for Mandrake too. So everyone's winning. Notice how I didn't even mentionned that they deserved it for their great distro, that this was fair after downloading it for free, that you should put your money were your mouth is etc.


Clavier français azerty

English readers: nothing for you here. This is about French azerty keyboard.

Lecteurs francophones bonjour. Tout de suite une précision: oui, il existe des clavier azerty non français. Par exemple le clavier suisse romand. La disposition de certaine touche peut être différente. Donc oui c'est bien ici azerty et français.

Vous voulez Linux, sur un Mac, avec un clavier Français? Vous êtes donc triplement minoritaires, il va falloir se battre. Il semble que le problème existe que ce soit avec Debian, Yellow Dog, LinuxPPC, ou ici Mandrake. C'est fatiguant, je sais. Sur la Mandrake, le mieux que j'aie pu obtenir est un clavier Français de PC (sic), soit OK pour les touches A-Z mais guère plus. Heureusement Etienne "Macflyincaster" Herlent est là. Il a documenté le problème et ici il a préparé un RPM. Yapluka. Lire, downloader, suivre les instructions.

Et ça ne marche pas. Ouiche, c'est vrai. Il reste deux petites modif' à faire.

D'une part dans le fichier /etc/X11/XF86Config-4, puisque c'est celui qu'on à avec la Mandrake, vous devriez avoir quelque chose comme:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard1"
Driver "Keyboard"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "fr"
Option "XkbOptions" ""
...que vous devez changer en:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard1"
Driver "Keyboard"
Option "XkbModel" "macintosh"
Option "XkbLayout" "fr_new"
Option "XkbOptions" ""
Ceci fait vous devriez noter un gros mieux: vous retrouver les touches spéciales (~, |, [, {...) avec les combinaisons décrites plus haut, ainsi que quelques autres. Il reste deux problèmes: vous n'arrivez plus à obtenir les consoles virtuelles, et emacs à un comportement ératique.

Donc deuxième modif = même punition qu'ici, sous "NDWM pour la distribution Yellow Dog Linux 3.0". Je me permet d'être redondant, le chemin du fichier est un peu différent de la YD: tout à la fin du fichier /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/xkbd/symbols/macintosh/fr_new, les lignes :
modifier_map Mod1 {Meta_L, Meta_R };
modifier_map Mod2 {Alt_L,Alt_R };
modifier_map Mod3 {Mode_switch };
...sont à passer en commentaire, soit:
//modifier_map Mod1 {Meta_L, Meta_R };
//modifier_map Mod2 {Alt_L,Alt_R };
//modifier_map Mod3 {Mode_switch };

Ça y est: vous avez un clavier OK, les consoles virtuelles, et un emacs fonctionnels. Remarques: