Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Community Conundrum: PowerPC

In my recent work, I've been dealing a lot with PowerPC. As an old Mac user, I've had a soft spot for PowerPC for ages. Like most people, until recently, I've considered PowerPC an aging and dying architecture. Even with IBM selling PowerLinux systems, the lack of cheap hardware for developers has left a hole not easily filled, no matter how man old PowerMacs you buy in eBay.

However, there are a lot of PowerPC platforms that do fill this gap left by PowerMac. Some are even 32-bit platforms that can compete in today's markets.

So why have you never heard of them? Why can't you download Fedora or Ubuntu to install on your PowerPC of today? Several reason:

  • Distributions don't really support it.
  • The "community" behind it is driven at the kernel and low-level, not at the distribution level (see last bullet item).

This circle of support appears to be the hold up. Convincing even community supported architectures like Ubuntu and Fedora to support these different kernel flavors is met with archaic skepticism, and is usually concluded with "there is no community" to which I usually respond "because there is no support."

Something has to give here. Linux and Open Source isn't where we want the chicken-and-egg scenario to happen. You can't walk up to a Linux distro with a community and say "Here we are, let's do this" in much the same way as you can't go to a community and say "Come over here with us. We don't support you yet, but we'd like you to prove that you're worth it."

So where to begin...