Last week I picked up a free iMac G3 slot-load off of someone's curb. Surprisingly enough it was in good shape. It is a blueberry 350MHz with 64MB of RAM and a 6GB hard drive. Since I am not terribly familiar with older Apple hardware and software, I decided to see what I could get out of this.
It turns out that this particular model will support up to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther with a RAM upgrade. I decided if I am going to do anything useful I am going to need at least 512MB of RAM. So I purchased a 512MB stick of RAM for $26 including shipping from ramdirect.com.
After more research I found that no useful software still works with any Mac OS earlier than 10.4. Not only is 10.4 too expensive, it requires better hardware and is nigh impossible to get on CD (this iMac only has a cdrom drive).
My next inclination was to install Linux. I tried Ubuntu 9.04, Gentoo, openSUSE, and Debian. Both Ubuntu and Debian testing brought up X without any tweaking, but the color depth was incorrect. I haven't yet figured how to fix this. Debian stable didn't bring up X but I was able to get a copy of a working xorg.conf file and copy it over. After that everything worked great. I tried the same xorg.conf file with Ubuntu and Debian testing but with no luck.
In our current apartment we have wifi but no wired connection so I have been using our MBP's Internet sharing for now. This iMac supports an 802.11b Apple Airport card with an adapter so I picked up an adapter off of ebay for about $7 and the airport card for $10. I also bought a replacement lithium battery since the hardware clock was not keeping time. I've received all of the parts except for the airport card which I should be getting early next week.
Depending on whether or not I can get X working properly as well as the airport card, I may end up sticking with Debian or Ubuntu. I might also give it the mac4lin theme just for fun.