Linux on a MacBook Pro

In the ultimate and glorious wisdom of his holiness, Steve Jobs, Apple has decided to make using Macs with anything other than OSX and Windows a complete pain in the ass. Following are my general experiences with Linux on my MacBook Pro. Please note – I have an early 2008 MBP with OSX 10.5 (leopard) installed on it. If you’re planning on installing a linux distribution you will need to upgrade to Leopard if you haven’t already.

Observations

  • Partitioning – Getting the hard drive partitioned for Linux is a breeze. Just use the Boot Camp Assistant as you would for a windows operating system. After the partitioning has been completed make sure you choose to “start the installation later”. You need to have Leopard (10.5) or later in order to access the Boot Camp Assistant. Please be aware that returning to a single OSX partition (if you decide that linux isn’t for you or want to move your distro to a different machine) is a little more complicated than it is with windows installed as your second OS. With windows you simply launch the Boot Camp Assistant and choose “restore drive to single OSX partition” However, with linux the partition has been formatted to a file system that OSX does not understand. Therefore it will not simply allow you to resize. You will have to use 3rd party tools to resize the partions. I use Parted Magic. You can get Parted Magic HERE. To restore to a single OSX partition:
    • Create a Parted Magic boot CD. Use Disk Utility to burn the ISO to disc
    • Boot from the Parted Magic boot disc
    • Run The partition manager and delete all linux partitions (WARNING THIS WILL PERMANENTLY DELETE ALL DATA FROM YOUR LINUX PARTITION. It is always a good idea to back up all data before partitioning any hard drive. This includes data that is on the OSX partition)
    • Reboot into OSX and run Disk Utility
    • Select your hard drive In my case I click on 298.1 GB WDC WD3200… Select the Partition tab and then drag the Macintosh HD Partition down until it occupies the entire hard drive. Finally click ‘Apply’.

      Drag the lower right corner of the visual representation of Macintosh HD all the way down to restore the hard drive to one partition

      Drag the lower right corner of the visual representation of Macintosh HD all the way down to restore the hard drive to one partition

  • rEFIt – This tool is a boot menu and maintenance toolkit for EFI-based machines like the Intel Macs. You can use it to boot multiple operating systems easily, including triple-boot setups with Boot Camp. It also provides an easy way to enter and explore the EFI pre-boot environment. You need to install this (inside OSX) before proceeding with the installation of your chosen distro. If you have problems booting from your linux partition after installation make sure to synchronize your GUID and MBR partition tables using the Partition Tool that appears as part of the rEFIt menu at boot.
  • Driver Problems – I’ve had NO problems with 64Studio on my PC as far as drivers are concerned but on the MBP I’ve run into a few glitches. This is primarily the result of using the 3.0 Beta 3 version of 64Studio (earlier versions don’t install on the MBP at all) Because it is in beta there is a package missing from the repositories called linux-kbuild…. or something to that effect. This package is necessary to install binary drivers for the video card and some other drivers (Wifi and the trackpad being the most notable and annoying examples) Until 3.0 gets the kbuild package driver performance will be slightly glitchy in these areas. This is where using a smalled distribution can be frustrating. It takes a bit longer to get things done than with a major distribution like Ubuntu. Ubuntu installed flawlessly on my MBP.
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~ by contractcooker on March 25, 2009.

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