Linux on a macbook?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Face1, May 20, 2006.

  1. Face1 macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2006
    Hello friends, got a quick qurstion for you. I'm a PC user, but not of the windows sort--I prefer Linux. I've been looking for a laptop to buy, and then put linux on. I was settled on a sony vaio, but I'm not totally sold on it. Then the macbooks came out (I'd be into the pros, but for various reasons that I wont get into here, I'm not). What have you guys heard about putting Linux on a macbook? Bootcamp can currently only work with windows to my knowledge, so the only way I can think of it working is to have grub run off the windows bootloader, but then I have to have all three. I'm okay with not having mac os X, because I really just need the laptop hardware. So I didn't use mac os, could I just use the bootloader of my choice, or do I still need to use some kind of bootcamp thing? My ideal configuration is just Linux and Windows (so I could use it when I need it).

  2. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    The thing to know about BootCamp is that it *IS* a bootloader. That's it. A bootloader and a disk of drivers. That's all that BootCamp is. AFAIK, there's nothing technically stopping you from deleting the OS X partition.

    BootCamp and Linux:

    So that is possible, including triple booting. The thing that you're going to have to do some legwork on is whether the MacBook hardware is supported by your Linux distro. It probably is... but it's been out for so little time to date that info may not be readily available... This might help:
  3. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    In theory this should work fine. Running Windows (and Linux) on an Intel Mac that has OS X installed requires two separate partition tables on the hard disk - a GPT partition table that OS X expects and a MBR partition table for Windows. The limit on the number of partitions on the disk comes from the GPT partition table and the way OS X uses the partition table.

    To have only Linux and Windows installed you should be fine if you only create a MBR partition table. The firmware update that allows BootCamp to work introduced support for booting off MBR partitioned disks.

    Depending on what you need/use Linux for you may want to look at OS X as a replacement for Linux.
  4. Face1 thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2006
    mrichmon, thank you...I did not have any idea about the dual partition table thing. Do you have any information about how to do what you say? Would I just set it up as I normally do, putting GRUB on the mbr? Would the macbooc bios support this?

    ..Regarding using Mac OS as a replacement for linux, thanks, but I have looked into this, and I've decided against it for various reasons.

    mkrishnan, That is good to know, but I cant look at those links right now, but I'll check them out later, thanks.
  5. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    You potentially could just put GRUB on the MBR. The triple boot with boot camp instructions indicate that a regular Linux install disk will boot fine on an intel mac.

    As far as I know you should simply be able to install Linux the way you normally do. If this results in a Linux system that you cannot boot directly then you will need to look into the details of post-BootCamp install instructions to see what partition tables the updated Mac Firmware supports during boot.

    Alternatively, you might want to look at using elilo which supports booting EFI based machines such as the Intel Macs.

    It looks like the gentoo folks have got a good handle on getting gentoo running on the Intel Macs.

    Note, it seems that there are currently no accelerated drives for X11 for the X1000 series graphics cards in the Intel iMacs and MacBook Pros. I expect that the same is true for the integrated graphics chips in the Mac Minis and MacBooks. X11 should still work using VESA display modes but it will not be all that fast.
  6. plinden macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2004
    I've run Linux in a few Parallels VMs (Debian, Fedora Core 3 and 4, SuSE 10.1) on a 1.83GHz iMac - it's runs at about the speed of a 1.6GHz Pentium-M or 2.5GHz P-4. This is 3-4 times faster than VMWare running Linux on my 2.26GHz Dell laptop (not VMWare's problem, the P-M in the laptop doesn't support virtualization and is single core).

    That way, I can use Mac OS X and Linux without needing to reboot. There's nothing I need in Linux that requires a dedicated GPU so the "emulatated" integrated graphics in the VM is good enough for me and the speed of the system is better than any other Linux machine I've used in the past.

    However, and this is a big issue for me, Parallels doesn't seem to stable enough even in its release candidate. It gave me a kernel panic last night while suspending one of my Linux VMs. So if you decide to use virtualization, and it's really important for you, you may want to wait for VMWare's release, although there's no date for when that will happen.
  7. Face1 thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2006
    Yes...I know--this is the main reason why I've eliminated the macbook pro from my list of potential computers, which is very unfortunate.

    So anyway, I guess I really don't have any problems, especially because I might not even use mac OS, because I can simply use elilo. I'm not as familiar with lilo (which I assume elilo is based on)...can I put it on the mbr, and use it just like grub? If so, why would bootcamp ever be neccessary for anyone in the first place, why not just use elilo?
  8. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    Many people confuse BootCamp with the functionality provided by the system firmware update released at the same time.

    The firmware update provides BIOS emulation on the Intel macs and allows the intel Macs to boot from a MBR partitioned disk.

    BootCamp is some software that runs under OS X that 1) burns a CD containing Windows drivers for the Intel Mac hardware devices for the user, 2) resizes a HFS+ partition, 3) explains the Windows install process and prompts the user to insert the Windows install disk to start the process.

    BootCamp also allows the user to delete the Windows partition from the machine and resize their HFS+ partition to fill the drive again after removing Windows.

    The drivers on the CD burnt by BootCamp also include a Windows control panel that lets the user set the default boot partition from within Windows. (I suspect that BootCamp also installs an updated StartupDisk preference pane in OS X that allows the user to set the default boot partition.)

    In the case of wanting to run Linux on the machine there is no need for BootCamp which is why I haven't mentioned BootCamp in this thread. When I mentioned "post-BootCamp install instructions" I meant that you should look at instructions for installing Linux on an Intel Mac that were written after BootCamp was released. BootCamp and the firmware update were released at the same time. Instructions written before the firmware update was released involve various hacks to get EFI to boot Linux. After the firmware was released these hacks are no longer necessary.
  9. thugpoet22 macrumors regular

    Apr 26, 2005
    New York
    Sorry in im invading your thread but i thought my question was relevant. I installed bootcamp and got it working perfectly. I can boot into fedora and all is well accept the wireless and because of this i would prefer to have my disk space back. I gave 10 gigs to be formatted to the ext3 format but is there a way to take that space back and give it to my mac os x partition. I really hope i dont have to reformat my whole drive. If anybody has any suggestions please post.
  10. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    When you run bootcamp in OS X after having installed windows bootcamp gives you the option of removing the windows partition from the drive and restoring the space. If you run bootcamp it might also give you this option even though you have Linux installed.

    If bootcamp does not give you that option you could try formating the Linux partition as NTFS or FAT so that it looks like a Windows partition. Then run bootcamp and see if you have the option of removing the partition.
  11. thugpoet22 macrumors regular

    Apr 26, 2005
    New York
    I've tired everything and i cant get rid of this linux partition. I thought i would fool around with linux but it doesn't take too well with intel apple hardware, so i would like to get rid of this 10 gigs of space that i formatted into ext2. Someone suggested that i format it to a ntfs or fat format, but i was wondering, how would i go about doing that. Is there a free app that i could use to format that linux partition?

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