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I recently picked up an old ppc machine to build, test and play with ppc Fedora. I ran into an interesting bug in rpm along the way. Read on for adventure…

One of the “first tier” arches that Fedora builds for and ships is power pc. There's a lot of folks out there with older macs or IBM machines that want to run Linux and Fedora supports them.

Since I have been doing lots of reviews of Fedora packages, I thought it might be nice to have a machine where I can do test builds and play around in general with ppc issues, so I looked around on the net and grabbed a really cheap old g4/466MHz machine from Geeks.com. It showed up pretty fast despite choosing the cheapest shipping possible.

The hardware itself is very well put together. There is a catch on one side that you pull up on and the side folds out. Very very easy to get at the insides. The handles on the case make it easy to carry, although the unit I got has a broken front handle. It was easy to scrounge up some old pc133 memory to stick in it.

I had downloaded the ppc CD images before the machine showed up, so I thought it would just be a matter of sticking in the CD and doing the install. However, it turns out you have to hold down the 'c' key when powering up for it to boot from the CD. By default it just boots off the drive. I wish they would add that little note to the release notes. I had to ask around on IRC to find that out.

Once the cdrom booted the installer was pretty much exactly the same fc6 installer I have used a bunch of times before. vnc installs were nice and easy, although I couldn't find a way to use just one cd, it insisted on using 3 cd's, which was annoying.

Once the machine was installed, the first thing I typically do on a new machine is apply all updates. So, I started the updates, it downloaded them and started applying, then in the middle of updates it segfaults and nothing would work anymore. The dynamic linker was gone. After a few more re-installs I tracked the problem down to this: If you boot up with a dead cmos/pram battery, the machine thinks it's 1903. When rpm runs it's glibc update, it makes a temp file based on the time stamp of seconds since 1970. In the case of 1903, that's a very large negative number. :)

For more info on this bug see: Bug 223931: rpm has problems with the system date is very wrong.

At least there is a simple solution. Just run ntpdate before the updates.

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