Macbook Air 13" w/ Linux?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by gammamonk, Dec 1, 2010.

  1. gammamonk, Dec 1, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2010

    gammamonk macrumors 6502a


    Jun 4, 2004
    Madison, WI
    Work will be buying me a new laptop soon, and I just love the Air's design. However, all the work I do is in Linux.

    Has anyone tried linux, Ubuntu specifically, on an Air? I have Ubuntu running on my work iMac, and both Audio and Wireless don't work. I'm wondering what problems I might encounter on an Air.

    The safe bet of course is getting something like a Dell V130, where I can get an i5, and they come with an Ubuntu option straight from dell. Only 2mm thicker too. Although you're stuck with crappy Intel video on those, and they're not nearly as sexy.

  2. c5bill macrumors newbie

    Feb 17, 2007

    Why not run Linux in VMware Fusion and have the best of both worlds???
  3. cleric macrumors 6502a


    Jun 7, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    Whats wrong with osx anything you can do in linux you can do in OSX unless there is some really specific window manager you use ion or something. Just install macports and it wont be all that different from having an apt system.
  4. rebby macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2008
    This. I made the change from Linux to Mac OS X years ago. I miss nothing of my old Linux environment. When I absolutely must have Linux for some reason (not often) I resort to a VM or just ssh to a Linux server.
  5. gammamonk thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 4, 2004
    Madison, WI
    There are some specific things about Ubuntu that beat the socks off of any other OS. If I want to install a specific library I need for a project, I can type one `apt-get install` line and have it installed in seconds. I've tried Macports in the past, and it would literally take hours to install applications because there are so many dependencies. Plus anything with a gnome dependency was just not going to work. This was about a year ago that I tried.

    Running an Ubuntu VM is a good idea. I was doing this initially at work. My work machine is an iMac 24". It worked alright but I'm just more comfortable in native linux. I found I was using the VM for almost everything and just installed linux as a dual boot. I haven't booted OS X for anything but firmware updates.

    Compiz is also one of the greatest things in the world.
  6. jonisign macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2007
    Instructions for Ubuntu install on 2010 Macbook Air

    Completely agree, there are definitely a lot of fantastic reasons to install Ubuntu along side. I'm currently running the new Macbook air 11 inch with Ubuntu installed and love it. Here's what you need to do:

    - Install rEFIt so you can boot into your linux partition, before doing anything:
    - Make a new partition you want to install linux on with disk utility in os x
    - So far, I have not been able to get the 64-bit version to work, so I recommend using the 32-bit version (monitor just goes blank, without options to fix). The only issue with the 32-bit is that it will only recognize up to 3gb of ram, so if you can find a way to get the 64-bit version to work, let me know!
    - Upon booting your disc or flash drive, make sure to hit F6 before selecting the try or install options, and enable "nomodeset." If you don't do this, your monitor will go blank during the install has the linux CD will have no way to access your video card.
    - Format your new partition to ext2 or 3 format and install! Make sure you selected to install 3rd party drivers, or your wireless won't work upon first boot. This is important because you'll need to install the nvidia drivers over wireless upon first boot.
    - Upon first boot, you're going to need to enable "nomodeset" again, or you'll have the same issue with your monitor going blank. Hit e in grub, replace "quiet and splash" with "nomodeset" and hit ctrl+x to start up.
    - Immediately, install the nvidia drivers by going to System > Administration > Additional Drivers. Once installed, reboot into linux!
    - Now, in order to get multitouch, volume keys, sound, brightness keys, fans, etc. to all be working properly in Ubuntu, I recommend you check this page:

    Once you follow the instructions there, you're macbook air will be a fantastic portable linux machine! So far, I have everything working 100%, get great battery life, and am enjoying all of the OS X niceties like multitouch, etc. Definitely happy, but it takes a bit of work to get it all setup correctly. I also recommend the mac-fuse + ext2-fuse tool: to have your linux partition accessible in OS X.

    Good luck!
  7. gammamonk thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 4, 2004
    Madison, WI
    jonisign, thanks so much!

    Great info. Knowing that the hardware works fine it's a no brainer anymore.

    It's probably not worth the trouble since you've already set it up, but the 32bit server version is able to address up to 64GB of ram. If the system supports PAE anyway. I wonder if switching to the server kernel alone would do it?

    Oh man. Can't wait. I'm gonna go bug my supervisor about the paperwork...
  8. Evangelion macrumors 68040

    Jan 10, 2005
    Is it really surprising that some people might actually prefer a different OS than OS X? Don't get me wrong, I moved to OS X from Linux (and Windows), and I prefer OS X over alternatives. But I see nothing strange with someone else liking Linux over OS X.

    Instad of questioning his reasons and motives, why not simply answer his question.
  9. jonisign macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2007
    Great-- you'll definitely enjoy it! At this point, since I have everything working I'll probably stick with the 32-bit version, but if it turns out I really need that last gb, I'll try the 32-bit server version. Thanks for the advice!
  10. SammySlim macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2010
    The MBA runs Ubuntu like a champ - I have it in a VirtualBox VM with only 512k of RAM - runs great! Love it.

    Pluses of a VM: no mucking about with drivers and partitions, etc. You can move stuff between your Mac and Ubuntu sides no problem. no need to reboot.

    Downside of a VM: No Compiz, some of the memory will remain allocated to OSX.

    If you are willing to spend the time to get a fully working installation, you should be fine.
  11. jonisign macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2007
    Yep, I'm sure either way would work great-- it's all a matter of preference/need.

    I should note that I haven't tried the driver for the iSight camera yet in Ubuntu (non-virtually), although I have installed it.
  12. wirelessmacuser macrumors 68000


    Dec 20, 2009
    I'm running Ubuntu 10 on my MBA 13" and it's ideal.

    Due to resource contraints of the MBA and the heavy duty work I do, I chose to not run it as a VM.
  13. gammamonk thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 4, 2004
    Madison, WI

    I'd be pretty surprised if it didn't work. The iSight works fine in Ubuntu on my iMac. Fancy name for a pretty generic webcam. :)
  14. maccomplishment, Dec 8, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2010

    maccomplishment macrumors newbie

    Dec 8, 2010
    MacBook Air 11.6 64GB SSD 2GB RAM running Ubuntu 9.10

    I have tried Ubuntu 9.10 on my MacBook Air 11.6 64GB SSD model on an external USB flash drive. I have long ran various BSD/Linux distros this way on other computers and performance over all is good.
    On the MBA performance was, I found, less than satisfactory. Very little worked from the get-go. I am convinced that the reason for this is due mainly to hardware support. The answer may well lay in the latest stable release, that is Ubuntu 10.10.

    Here's a list of what did not work;

    a. Airport, the firmware of which is frm Broadom (Broadcom BCM43xx 1.0 (
    b.The GeForce Nvidia 320 GPU, the resolution of which defaults to 800x600. Tried to obtain various drivers. Crashed X.
    c. Trackpad works imperfectly. Right-clicking proved to be a problem
    d. No sound
    e. FaceTime camera detected as an iSight camera but not usable.

    I have also tried PC-BSD 7.2 which also proved to be quite unusable in that the keyboard behaved very strangely and prevented me from even logging in. Again the solution may lay in the next major release of this OS.

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