Open Firmware

Both desktops have Open Firmware version 4 installed, which I haven't seen any docs that support booting BSD from there. They all focus on version 3.

However, here's some commands you can use to look around:

List files on CD
dir cd:,\
Boot from CD
setenv boot-device cd
Boot from USB

Find the device name:

dev / ls
dev /pci/path/to/usb ls


setenv boot-device /path/to/usb/install
Get OpenFirmware details
dev /openprom
List device aliases
Get boot details
printenv boot-device

Set boot device:

setenv boot-device foo
Display environment variables
Disable auto-boot
setenv auto-boot? false

Look for boot in this directory so you can know it can boot

Reset nvram

Use this to completely reset the nvram back to defaults, and then reboot:



This is the commands I patched together, but I can't get it working. It will throw a memory error.

boot cd:,\BOOT\LOADER cd:0
  • Use dd to copy an ISO straight to a USB stick and boot off that
  • Instead of using boot/loader as a symlink, give the full path to the file (link)
  • Some G5s boot with half-CPU. FreeBSD ppc64 port is to get it up and running, not optimized. (link)
  • Try boot cd:,\ppc\bootinfo.txt with 9.0 (link)
  • Alternate install sources (link, context)
  • FreeBSD 9.1 powerpc64 will boot into FreeBSD's Open Firmware bootloader, but it dies right after that, saying it can't locate 'kernel'

FreeBSD-9.0-CURRENT-powerpc64-20110707.nwhitehorn CD

Attempt #1: boot cd:,\ppc\loader cd:0 - boots kernel, yay! - has errors reading CD - eventually gets to mounting CD and continues from there (I wonder if OpenBSD was having CD issues and that's why it choked)

FreeBSD-9.0-CURRENT-powerpc64-20110707.nwhitehorn USB


  • “G5 models are supported as a 32-bit port in bridge mode only.” (context)
  • Unsupported: “On-board SATA controller on G5 systems (these machines must be netbooted)” (context)
  • I can view the CD just fine from Open Firmware on the “donated” G5, but I can't find the actual kernel anywhere (NetBSD 6.0.1). The docs say to use netbsd.macppc after owlboot. The owlboot file is there, but not the kernel with that name. The installation docs cover general install stuff, not specific ones for this release.


Same as FreeBSD, haven't had success booting.

boot cd:,\ofwboot /5.2/macppc/bsd.rd
  • Maybe try a 5.3 snapshot?
  • “Support for the 64-bit G5 (running in 32-bit mode) was added in OpenBSD 3.9.”
  • Booting OpenBSD 5.2 on the “donated” G5 works, up until a point. It hangs on loading or accessing the drives. :(
  • OpenBSD does *not* support PowerPC 11,2 (donated) tech
  • You can boot from CD holding down 'c' while booting.

Gentoo Linux

Boot from the PPC 2008.0 CD. It works great. Use the G5 kernel and these boot options:

G5 doscsi docache sleep=10

The kernel has a special default make option:

make g5_defconfig

Getting a working kernel was difficult on here. Use gentoo-sources-3.7.10. I've posted the kernel config here.

There were a couple of problems to start with: the server would hang on a reboot with SMP setup. The filesystem was sometimes slow / unresponsive. This kernel config, with some extra debugging checks turned on, seems to have fixed them. It runs fine and stable now.


I can get Monit (5.5 or 5.5.1) to run just fine, but it won't let me run status or summary for some reason.


Some hardware specs:

  • sata_svw