Ubuntu 18.04.4 on older Apple hardware

Ken Cunningham ken.cunningham.webuse at gmail.com
Sun Apr 5 18:39:54 UTC 2020

Initially I burned the 64bit Ubuntu 18 version, but it wouldn't boot on my 32bit EFI Mac.

There was no 32bit version of Ubuntu 18.04.4 that I saw, so I booted the Ubuntu 16.x 32bit version without trouble. But I didn't want to install that, as that seems doomed and out of date.

And then I stumbled across a small C program that tweaks the ISO image in such a way that it allows the 64bit Ubuntu to boot on a 32bit EFI Mac. <https://github.com/demonicsweaters/make_single_eltorito.c> I risked one more DVD and to my modest surprise, it worked very well. I can't tell you exactly what it does, but someone on this list likely does know exactly what it does.

Quite possibly it might work with the USB boot method as well, but I didn't try that as yet.

To get the camera working on this older MacBook, there is software in Ubuntu that takes a driver from your existing MacOS installation and tweaks it slightly. "isight-firmware-tools".

For newer MacBooks, there is another project to make the HD camera work. I did't try that.

I did boot the 64bit DVD on another newer MacBookPro I have, and it booted up. I'm not sure at this second just which graphics card it is using.

It's certainly not MacOS -- the trackpad is jittery, the mouse moves a bit clumsily, setting up hardware is easy if it "just works" but not so easy if it doesn't -- you have to edit conf files, etc. The microphone works in some applications but not other applications (what is that about)? SO yeah -- it's Linux, with all it's benefits and all the warts I remember.

But it may be useful for some things, like the applications I need to use now that we're all at home with everyone in the house doing videoconferencing with different groups, and we all of a sudden have a need for many current computers with this capability.

I'm glad I have it as an option -- I partitioned my SSD and with a bit more software that I plan to tweak today, I'm supposed to be able to dual boot without trouble.


On 2020-04-05, at 8:48 AM, Uli Wienands wrote:

> Ken,
> I have been toying with that idea for a 2009 17-inch MBP (I think it may be MacBook3,1). I really like the 'book; it is my main machine for playing around, web surfing etc. (using mostly Riccardo & your build of 104fx on Snow Leo). Apart from that, it is the machine I use mostly MacPorts-installed software on, which exists on Linux as well.
> Do you have somewhere a list of the "shenanigans" to get things running? I know the graphics is a potential issue, I'd rather use the dedicated card.
> Thanks,
> Uli
> On 4/5/20 3:21 AM, Ken Cunningham wrote:
>> Although many here, including me, are focused on bringing current software to older Apple hardware within the constraints of the software capabilities last available on that OS version, there is another alternative; to install a current version of linux, such as Ubuntu, on those systems. I spent some time doing that on an older MacBook 2,1 today, and I was pleasantly surprised at the success, in the end.
>> A fairly current Ubuntu 18.04.4 will install, in a 64 bit version even on Macs with 32 bit EFI (with minor shenanigans) so long as the processor is 64 bit. Most of the the familiar MacPorts ports are there, without the issues with old libc versions or lack of thread_local or lack of other modern features. Most of the hardware has drivers with a bit of looking, like the integrated camera. Seeing a Macbook 2,1 run the current versions of Spotify, Google Chrome, and Zoom was kind of surprising, to be honest.
>> I float this for information only, in case people get too frustrated with their hardware not running some current software offerring they really desire...
>> K

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