Have an old Mac? Like many, I asked Apple to follow Microsoft (for once) and offer a legacy OS for PowerPC systems, so they could continue to serve some use. Microsoft actually offers this to corporate customers, in the form of Windows Fundamentals.
If you haven’t heard of Windows Fundamentals, it’s basically a scaled down version of Windows XP aimed to run on really old hardware. You get Internet Explorer, Remote Desktop Connection, and that’s about it. It’s mostly meant to run .NET Framework apps and other legacy-migration applications, as well as let old machines serve as thin clients and Intranet-grade web browsers.
Still, Windows Fundamentals saves old machines. You can take an old Pentium II and make it into a functional Evernote client, for example. My favorite use case is watching these old machines become developing-world computers, and giving kids in dirt poor lands, their very first machine. Especially due to their age, they’re far less likely to be stolen, but can give a child a chance at a much better education.
Back to the Mac. As you may know, Apple has an informal policy of only maintaining the last-discontinued branch of (Mac) OS X. Once OS X Lion shipped, 10.5 Leopard’s lack of support meant even those quad-core Power Mac G5 units were left in the dust. No Xcode support, no security support. As such, most major apps have dropped PowerPC and Leopard.
To Apple’s credit, they do still provide “emergency” support for older OS X versions, from time to time. But the support is patchwork, and not guaranteed. Apple did, for example, issue a removal tool that disabled Java and removed Flashback malware from Leopard systems.
Fedora continues to support PowerPC. Ubuntu has left it in a maintained-but-unsupported state. While it would be easy to just point people to Fedora, Ubuntu is dominant in the Linux world. As such, getting it to run on PowerPC Macs properly is important.
Prior to version 12.04, Ubuntu on PowerPC wasn’t worth the effort, even just in time. You had to deal with massive issues… even overheating in some cases… yikes!
But, 12.04 is a different story, from what I can tell, everything pretty much Just Works™. There are only a few NVIDIA-based PowerPC systems that need to swap out their drivers, and it’s documented to a step-by-step how to in the guides.
Installation is pretty simple. Since Mac OS X 10.4.6, you could dynamically repartition, and create a nice empty space on your hard drive for another PowerPC OS. From there, it’s as simple as telling Ubuntu to use the empty space. Finally, reboot between the Mac OS X and Linux by holding Option at startup.
I’ve just installed Linux on my 1 GHz PowerBook G4. If successful, I’ll probably take it more extreme with my 400 MHz Power Mac G4 (still working hard after all these years). The nice thing about my G4, is that it has my entire computer history… in one nutshell. From 68k apps running in Mac OS 9.2.3, to Mac OS X PowerPC, to Linux, where it still can run basic apps just as well as the rest!
Android was ported to PowerPC awhile back, but the port stalled out at Android 1.6. Not that I would encourage Android as a PowerPC OS, but it’s a question I’m sure will come to the minds of many. Android 2.3 isn’t really designed for laptop/netbook use, and Android 4 just wouldn’t run well without extensive graphics driver engineering.