Today I finally got the Power Macintosh 9500/180MP with Debian testing installed in a semi-decent way: I'm using BenH's 2.4.17-ben0 kernel which finally has the mace driver working again. What does this mean? Well, it means that I'm now not confined to 2.2.x kernels anymore. A 2.4 kernel has many advantages, especially, for the PowerPC platform. Among other things, they are faster for the same hardware, have good SMP support, the IMSTT pci card is recognized (which wasn't in the 2.2 kernels) and a lot of other nice goodies like a journalling filesystem (ext3) etc. Also got lame 3.90.1 compiled for the PowerPC in a decent way.
A collateral effect of having lame compiled for the ppc is that now I have a have a good benchmark that shows me roughly how much slower this thing is in relation to my Duron 600MHz. The sad news: it is 5 or 6 times slower than the Duron. If lame were multithreaded, then it could be up to 2.5 times slower, which would be acceptable for day-to-day use.
As a side note, got some work done to make the Debian packaging scripts a bit nicer (read: closer to being lintian clean). Unfortunately, lintian still complains about the shared library package having an rpath and I don't know how to get rid of that (not even a kludgy solution).
Since MPlayer released another version (0.60pre2), I downloaded the sources and, to my surprise, it compiles on PPC (the 0.60pre1 didn't). And it even plays, errr, tries to play DivX movies! Amazing job these guys are accomplishing.
After struggling a lot with the configuration files, also got X 4.1.0 working on a framebuffer device (the imstt driver doesn't work). So, now I even have a reasonably fast, modest GUI working (or a slower GUI if I load KDE 2). And I can even use Mozilla here, although the swapping doesn't make it a pleasant experience. In this respect, Opera, while non-free, is much better.
All in all, this can now be a poor's man desktop machine. If it only consumed power proportional to its speed, it would be nicer.