I still use my G4 Mac Mini today, on a daily basis. I mostly use it as an sshd, web, and git hosting server. I do software development on it as well.
Like the article, the DVD drive went out or doesn’t boot home-burned CD-R discs on my machine. I used to run OpenBSD/macppc but the system compiler (gcc 4.2.1?) did not support C++11. NetBSD had a newer compiler but did not support booting from a USB flash drive and NFS booting seems pretty complicated. I finally gave up and just installed Debian Jessie (which does offer USB bootable media for their powerpc port) and got a C++11 compiler. Debian Jessie is the last stable version to support powerpc and has approximately 1 year of life. Since end of life only goes until June 2020 I have been looking for alternatives.
A couple of weeks ago I made the jump to Debian Sid using the notes here: http://powerpcliberation.blogspot.com/2018/07/debian-ppc-status-update.html
The OpenBSD system compiler is now clang where it’s supported, and where it isn’t, GCc will never advance beyond 4.2.1 due to licensing. It’s standard procedure to install GCC via ports, which is made available as egcc.
On platforms without Clang, installing new ports on OpenBSD with GCC is like a three-stage rocket. The base system builds a compiler based on the last non-GPLv3 gcc compiler, which builds egcc (which is 4.9.x, but might have recently moved to 8.x), which is then used to compile modern software.
In short, OpenBSD (and BSD in general) is working to remove GCC completely where possible, as they consider it unusable, and will never include any GCC compiler code newer than 4.2.1 due to the license change.
I have a diskless fw800 g4 powerbook which I boot from a usb flashdrive, NetBSD is happy to boot from it. Only thing is that it doesn’t automatically enumerate the root disk being on usb so you get asked what the root disk is (sd0 if you haven’t got any other usb disks connected).
I wonder if the ISO9660 trick I found my way to in 2006 (described here) would have worked just as well. Miss my old NetBSD G4 mini.
While I’m a huge computing history enthusiast, I don’t quite agree that “putting old hardware to good use” is a good idea. It’s inevitable approaching the wrong end of the bathtub curve, it often has awful power consumption/performance ratio by modern standards, and replacing it is more difficult than just getting an identical device.
It’s a fascinating achievment, but he really would be better off with a raspberrypi.