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Arch Linux on MacBook Pro Retina 2014 (loicpefferkorn.net)
235 points by loicp 976 days ago | hide | past | web | 145 comments | favorite

After running Linux on MacBooks for the past 5 years I would strongly recommend against it. The basics usually work fine but you are constantly dealing with issues. Each MacBook revision introduces some new issue. For example the webcam recently switched from being usb attached to being attached to the PCI bus and Linux doesn't have drivers yet. Other things like GPU switching, multi monitor, display brightness, all have quirks.

Just recently I gave up getting MacBooks to work with Linux and went back to ThinkPads and I couldn't be more happy. Granted you can still buy ThinkPads that have similar issues as the MacBooks. The difference is that you can find a ThinkPad (or some other brand) that works practically flawlessly. With the current line of MacBooks, not a single one doesn't have huge issues (like the webcam).

FWIW, I've been using linux on desktop/laptops for 16 years, and for last 1 1/2 years, I've been running Linux (Fedora, awesomewm) on VMware Fusion, on OSX, on a Macbook Air 2013 (June), and it's the smoothest Linux laptop experience I've ever had.

When you think about it, all I'm doing is abstracting the hardware to a hypervisor, and the OS that hypervisor is hosted on is responsible for all hardware management. I continue to get 10-14 hour battery runtime, never ever had a failed suspend/resume, and every single hardware component is fully supported.

Barely any other laptop can compare to it for battery life and the hardware itself is the best laptop experience I've had (although I do miss my 'pointing stick' from Toshiba or IBM/Lenovo gear). I'm surprised more people haven't suggested this.

I've been doing this for years, too. The huge advantage is that you can update your MacBook to the latest version frequently, without having to deal with all the pain points the GP describes.

The same benefits accrue even more so for Windows; not because of hardware incompatibility (there are Windows drivers for all Macbook hardware) but because of system decrepitude. I have never had a physical machine that booted Windows for 7 years (or even 2 years) that didn't become hopelessly fucked up, whether due to installing some weird open source thing, malware, or Windows Update.

But I have had the same 3 Windows VMs (XP, 7, and 8.1) running since the day I installed Windows on them, albeit with significant help from my frequent use of VMWare Fusion's snapshot feature.

The only big drawback is graphics performance -- if you want to play games I don't think you would be happy with the solution, but it works great for virtually any other usage.

Last time I tried VMWare Fusion (<1yr ago) I was pretty disappointed with the trackpad support (I could find absolutely no way to get horizontal scrolling, for example, and vertical scrolling was extremely jarring). Maybe it doesn't bother you, but it drove me nuts.

I do the same and also have a wonderful experience with Fedora running as a guest in VMware Fusion on a Macbook Pro Retina.

Are you productive using only the laptop or do you use a external monitor with it?

I can be productive but I would always prefer a larger/external screen. I use a DVI/VGA thunderbolt adaptor for second monitor, and VMWare Tools/Xorg sees the additional displays as 'Virtual1, Virtual2 [..]' so xrandr 'just works'.

For the MBA specifically, the resolution is less desirable (non-retina) but the retina model just doesn't exist yet. 8GB RAM max is a bit of a limitation too but I can work around that.

AwesomeWM (tiling window manager) helps me be productive in any monitor configuration though :)

Thanks for sharing; I think I may have to consider this for my next upgrade!

In addition to Thinkpads, I would recommend Acer C720 which costs around $200 and everything works out of the box because a dedicated developer created distros just for C720.


If you are not a gamer this is a perfect machine for Linux users.

I really like this distro-per-hardware approach because people don't have to duplicate efforts in hunting for and following complex and lengthy tutorials and applying fixes.

I'd also like to recommend the UX* line of ultrabooks from Asus. They range from decently-priced to fairly expensive and they are absolutely fantastic. They all work flawlessly on Linux (though I did not test the touchscreen from UX303LN on Linux yet).

They are also really nice laptops. Similar feel to the Macbook Air. (I do not work for Asus)

The UX302LA is great, especially after swapping the spinning disk for an SSD and maxing out the RAM.

I had lots of issues with the graphics when I first bought it (April 2014), though, and had to run with a kernel patch to the 'quirks' code in the display-panel detection. Fortunately a dedicated developer put all this together with a kernel build script ([1]) so it wasn't too bad (... for an experienced Linux guy) to get Arch running.

In general though I think several-year-old ThinkPads are more painless because stuff like that has made it back to mainline already.

[1] https://bitbucket.org/motley/kernel_asus_ux302/src

The thing about the MacBook Air (contrary to what you'd expect), is price. I bought mine in Sept 2013. At the moment, it was the cheapest ultrabook with an SSD, Haswell, and 8GiB RAM. And since then, Apple has dropped the price quite a bit, so it must still be quite competitive price-wise.

The second point, is that all hardware (except the webcam) is known to work fine. Asus has a ton of models, and researching which work and which don't take time. Apple has a single model per year, making it trivial to see if it works (or not).

Can you suggest a particular model that people can buy today?

Do they work flawlessly out of the box without fiddling with configuration files?

The Asus UX31a served me for two years until its issd died. Asus' customer service has been excellent in repairing and replacing parts that broke and they did not even touch the Arch Linux installation (which worked out of the box).

The Arch wiki has excellent resources on a lot of laptop models. For example, here is the page on that model: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/ASUS_Zenbook_Prime_UX31...

(Don't think of it as required reading, but it can help you set up windows-specific keyboard functionality to work on linux, for example)

I would highly recommend it. You can find it easily for around $800 on ebay.

Thanks, that particular Asus laptop seems to have a pretty high defect rate so for some people it may be a bit scary to drop $800 on it.


I'm hoping more people/companies release Linux distros (as oppose to how-to-fix-broken-stuff guides) that's tailored for different laptop models (with all the keyboard shortcuts and other hardware quirks properly configured).

I did have some issues with defects on the laptop, but as I said, Asus has been extremely good on replacing parts that broke.

Re keyboard shortcuts and such, those are usually extras handled by bloatware on Windows as well. I'm not sure I'd prefer companies releasing their own distros for this kind of stuff... we all saw what happened with android customizations.

I'm not trying to be harsh on Asus or anything, but in the Amazon review I linked above, there are many people who were very dissatisfied with how Asus dealt with the defects.

So while it's great that you got lucky in this regard, I wouldn't recommend people this particular model because of the high defect rate alone (even if they choose to use Windows).

> I'm not sure I'd prefer companies releasing their own distros for this kind of stuff

It's not just keyboard shortcuts though. For example, take a look at all the modifications made for C720 from plain Ubuntu:


I just don't think it's a good idea that lots of smart people get frustrated and waste time going through hardware-specific documentation and applying fixes like these.

Writing good documentation (like the Arch one you mentioned) is a better-than-nothing solution, but in my opinion releasing distros with all the right configurations for that specific hardware is the right solution.

I concur. I just wish they did a version with 16GB of RAM.

I can also recommend the C720, I'm typing this comment from one. I am also running Arch, which is a perfect match for this machine with its minimal nature. This machine is small, lightweight, and the battery seems to outlast me most days. My only real complaint is with the limited amount of RAM (I have the 2GB model), since it isn't upgradable. I recently tried to launch Android Studio without a swapfile active, and let's just say that was an exercise in patience that eventually resulted in a hard reboot :). I did find the shiny display bezel a bit distracting, so I popped it off and sprayed it a similar color to the laptop body.

So my plan was to run alpine linux or maybe nix on one of these guys, I've done arch in the past and don't mind that but upgrades in arch can be ugh if you don't pay attention to the site and update frequently. And well, i'm getting annoyed in my old age with incessant tinkering.

Is Alpine really more stable than Arch+grsec+paxd packages? Considering it has a smaller userbase and uses it's own package manager?

I find if you don't update Arch obsessively and wait a week or two, then it is very stable.

I previously used a Macbook + Arch and had nothing but problems. But using a Thinkpad + Arch and being careful with updates and I've had zero of the issues I experienced non-stop last year.

The most important thing is hardware choice. Using good and common hardware means you eliminate about 90% of problems with Linux. Using stable software solves the other 9-10% of issues.

So my plan for alpine linux was to see how well a busy box + musl libc based distro would be for day to day use. That and its on disk size was mostly the motivation. The grsecurity stuff was less a focus to be honest. Stability wise as long as it doesn't oops too often i'm happy.

A counter to the wait a week or two idea: I remember the update that changed the md device numbers from 0->128 etc.. I hit that accidentally before it was on the site, then the next week didn't look at the site and it got changed back. Piddly stuff like this that you only find when you reboot starts to grate on me is all.

I'm not anti arch by any means, more just not wanting to constantly update with a rolling distro. I found a blog post about nix on the c720 and so I guess I will go buy one some upcoming week. My needs are pretty minimal though, browser+emacs+commandlineish stuff. The rest I can do on my macbook pro which is feeling to me to be more a desktop of late.

I paid a bit more for 4GB. With 2GB investigate using zRAM (compressed swap in RAM). My pre-built Ubuntu image came with it configured. Many say it can help running many instances of the same applications (browser tabs).

Yeah, I would have gone with the 4GB model, but I got this one through a Groupon deal for $130...

I remembered reading about zram being enabled in ChromeOS, not sure why I didn't think to investigate it. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll definitely check it out!

Just to share a different point of view.

I have the c720 with arch installed. There are some problems, mainly the GPU lock https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=83677#c102 The bug is fixed in the 3.19rc kernel.

My main problem was the very bad build quality of the laptop it self. I'm used to mechanical keyboards, I never got used to the c720 one.. The screen is also really bad. Given the price tag it's hard to complain though.

I finally put chromeOS back and gave the laptop to my SO. I got a used x220 in perfect condition for a bit more of the c720 asking price. I replaced the screen with a new IPS bought from ebay. Best linux laptop I ever had.

You won't experience the GPU lock/hang problem if you use any of the distros from Hugh Greenberg in distroshare.com (the same guy who shows up in the bug report thread you linked).

I wouldn't say the keyboard/screen of C720 are my favorite but they are decent enough for me, especially for the price.

+1 got the c720 with i3 CPU, for traveling. Upgraded SSD to 128GB, had to use distroshare pre-made ubuntu image. So far so good. Even started to use it instead of my Thinkpad T60, around the house.

Wow, thanks. I think I'm going to pick one of those up.

i despise buying something as closed as an apple, but suggesting a 720p screen today is bad.

I also started running Linux on macbooks in 2009, three of them so far. I get them from the companies I've been working for.

In general, I agree with you. It can be challenging, but as long as you don't have the bleeding edge macbook, the latest Ubuntu tends to work pretty well.

The 2014 macbook pro I'm using now has everything working on Ubuntu 2014 LTS except suspend and the thunder bolt ports for video.

Those are kind of a big deal, but I don't need them and I really like to run Linux on the exceptional mac hardware, so I take the hit.

When I do need to project a presentation, I just boot it into OSX. Again, that might not work for most, but I'm fine with it. I just really like to run Linux on the bare metal mac hardware.

Sounds like a lot of compromises in daily usage just to be able to run Linux. I'd much rather put up with OSX, which i find is a rather compelling development platform but also has it's shortcomings of course.

All of these issues can change - by people running Linux on their Macbooks, encountering the issues you describe - and then, scratching the itch and fixing the problem.

But of course, unless someone actually tries, the itch never arises.

So your discouragement could be interpreted as an attempt to reduce the effectiveness of Linux on the Macbook platform. Why would you actually encourage that?

Maybe he doesn't want to spend his time or his energy needlessly tinkering with a system for which the manufacturer doesn't give a damn about supporting linux, despite having used the code to build their own, proprietary operating system.

All these issues could also be solved if Apple opened up their hardware. We would also collectively have many more hours to develop other FLOSS software. Why are you putting the onus of blame on OP?

I have a hard time understanding the logical reasoning behind your post, but would love to.

Are you implying that Apple went against the terms of a license under which code they used was placed? Or are you implying that even when you fully respect a license, you additionally have a moral obligation to follow certain rules unwritten in the license (which include opening up hardware, according to your post)?

Neither. I was responding to the parent comment, which was implying that OP was somehow shirking his duties as a Linux user by not using hardware with broken driver support.

I was suggesting that OP has better things to do than fix drivers that Apple couldn't give a damn about supporting.

My response to the OP was not predicated on his/her personal non-desire to contribute to the expansion of Linux capabilities, but more his call for people "to just give up because its not worth it", which is a specious position for any hacker to be in, imho ..

Not everyone is a hacker. Not everyone who runs Linux is a hacker. Not everyone who wants to run Linux on a retina MBP is a hacker.

Not everyone who's a hacker has "improving the usability of Linux on Apple hardware" among their driving priorities. Your suggestion that someone who doesn't isn't is what's specious. "No true Scotsman," and all...

I'm presently using the very machine TFA is talking about, and would love to be running Linux, but I have far more compelling things to do with my time than to fuck with drivers. I switched from Linux on a ThinkPad (x61t, for reference, supposedly very well supported) to OSX on a Mac precisely because I found myself spending more time twiddling configs and drivers to get such basic things as sound and wifi working than actually, you know, working.

I don't think there's anything wrong with having priorities other than the ones you're espousing, and I don't think it's reasonable or fair to expect otherwise.

At a persona level, sure. (BTW, I am running Linux on that same machine.)

But that's not what this is about - he was actively discouraging people from even trying.

>Why are you putting the onus of blame on OP?

Because he's actively discouraging people, rather pessimistically, from trying to improve the situation.

How did Linux get to where it is today? Was it by people saying "oh, it doesn't work, so why bother, its just all such a huge hassle" .. or was it more like "you know what would be cool? If Linux ran on this great hardware .. that'd be cool .. I'll spend some time on it".

Honestly, is this "Hacker News" or is it "Lamer News"? The folks downvoting and justifying subservience to the OSX hegemony over forward progress for the Linux collective must not realize just how nice it will be, one day soon, to be running the greatest OS ever made on the finest quality laptop hardware made, so far. Hmm .. that's rather an unusual hubris.

Disclaimer: been running Linux since day one. Had it running on my 4 Apple machines for 5+ years too. I don't see the problems a lot of folks do .. but then again, thats because I scratched the itch of wanting to escape from the OSX hegemony.

Alternatively, if people devoted their time to writing drivers/fixing issues on platforms where the creators were happy to take their contributions (i.e. any pc manufacturer that has no vested interest in a competing OS), then the improvements might be longer lived.

This is a good point, and I thank you for contributing it.

Generally, I'd disagree that Apple makes great hardware. I've owned an iBook and 2 MacBooks, and I think Apple generally produces shoddy quality products.

The exception being their trackpads, which are really quite exceptional.

I still think Apple deserves criticism for locking down both their hardware and their software.

Edit: To be fair, I've never owned a retina MacBook.

The MBP Retina is one of the finest machines out there, and I've looked. If there is a manufacturer who can compete with the quality of the MBP Pro, while also giving superlative Linux support, I'd love to know. So far, no dice - close, but no cigar. The Google Chromebook Pixel is pretty darn close, but doesn't seem to be getting the upgrades and forward-thinking features that the MBP Pro has.

That said, I eagerly await the day that Apple are bumped down a rung or two. I'll be quite happy to abandon the MBP Pro for something better - when it exists. Trouble is, it doesn't yet.

Apple used Linux code for Mac OS?

This is where the semantics of GNU/Linux become important, instead of just 'linux'. I doubt there's much linux (kernel) code in OSX...

You are right about this. Thanks for pointing out this nuance.

Here's a list of opensource bits Apple uses: https://www.apple.com/opensource/

Some BSD stuff, some stuff associated more with Linux, some random stuff. They of course have also supported a few of the projects.

The number of people who might like to run Linux on their Macbook is a pretty small number, all things considered, but it's absolutely gigantic compared to the number of people who could possibly fix the types of problems described in the parent.

I see you're being down voted? I have been looking for an open alternative to Apple's operating system for about two years now. I am no computer wizard. I consider myself an average computer user. Yes--I know a little bit about the command line, can put up static websites, but I am an average user; not advanced. I like Apple, but I want a computer that I can plug an external device in, and with a little coding; I can get it to work. I have always had a hard time with tweaking Apple's operating system. I know they are suspose to be locked down, but I find I just don't use my Apple products, besides the Ipad, for most of my projects. I end up using a 10 year old Toshiba. I'm not upset with Apple--just tired of updating operating systems--then some programs and externals stop working. I don't like agreeing to 56? pages of legal stuff-- I don't read on Itunes.(Actually, I can't download from Itunes because I refuse to agree to that to the terms & conditions because it is 56 pages) Why do I own two Apple computers--I acccepted them in barter for services. So call me stupid, but I have been passively waiting for an simple to use operating system not tied to Apple, but uses that beautiful hardware. And no, I don't dislike Apple; I'm just not the fan I was a few years ago. Yes--It's a grest company. These are just my, probally off base, thoughts. (Who would thought I would actually be concerned about the backlash from a post? I used to never back down from a physical fight; now I don't want to be beat up online--yea, I'm getting old.)

The closest competitor to the MBP Retina, imho, is the Google Chromebook Pixel:


.. which is great and everything, but doesn't have quite the oomph that the MBP Retina has .. yet. I'd love to see the Pixel get a hardware spec refresh and actually compete with the MBP Pro - if there were a configuration of the Pixel available with the same/better RAM/CPU/Disk configuration as the MBP Pro, I'd jump on it in a heartbeat. I don't need Apple - I do need a machine that can take the knocks and kicks issued by my lifestyle. The physical design is the principle attraction; but the specs must be competitive, and imho, they're just not. Yet. Lets see if a Pixel2 is on the horizon that gives the MBP Retina some heartache ..

> Lets see if a Pixel2 is on the horizon that gives the MBP Retina some heartache

Based on that Google had to bribe customers with giving 1TB of Drive space for 2 years for that purchase, I'd say the Pixel is pretty much dead.

The new 2015 edition of the Dell XPS 13 and XPS 15 laptops are coming out in February with Ubuntu 14.04...


You can select Ubuntu for the OS here, but the estimated ship date is Jan 29, 2015...


I personally have had a good experience buying a LC2430E from LinuxCertified.com, which sells laptops with Linux pre-installed (for no additional fee) and, as an option, dual-booting with Windows (for an additional fee which can't be much more than the cost of a Windows license, from what I saw).


I mean, as long as we're doing product reviews.

There are a couple problems with running Linux on MacBook Pro's but I wouldn't recommend against it. I think if you like Linux go for it :)

My mid 2010 MacBook Pro is setup to dual boot OSX and Crunchbang Linux. In the past I had Ubuntu setup as the Linux OS, but I switched to the Openbox window manager when Ubuntu opted for Unity as the desktop environment. Openbox comes preconfigured on Crunchbang. Really nicely done. http://crunchbang.org/

I use Linux about 99% of the time on this laptop and have done since 2010. The only real problem is battery life. It isn't as good as OSX. I get about 2 hours.

As well as being great hardware it is nice to boot into OSX to run programs that aren't available on Linux.

I'm really happy with this computer. I've had it for about 4 1/2 years and I think I'd be happy to use it for another 2 or 3 years.

Why not do what a lot of devs do now, which is run OS X on the MacBook and run Linux in a VM?

Not OP, but that setup drastically reduces battery life and performance, since you're running two OSes at the same time.

Not drastically, unless you're doing heavy I/O. Most non-budget desktop/laptop CPUs have had hardware acceleration for virtualization for close to a decade now.

What do you think the pros/cons are if you're running Linux in VMWare Fusion or VirtualBox?

Number one pro, besides not having to deal with hardware issues, is the total ease of backing up and snapshotting your Linux VM. About to install a Arch/Ubuntu/Debian system update and you're not sure if it will break things? No problem. Take a snapshot of your VM. Do whatever you want. Problems? Just roll it back to an earlier snapshot.

You can also back your VM up onto an external drive or move it to another machine easily. If my laptop dies or gets stolen you can be back up and running pretty quickly by running your VM on another computer.

The main con would probably be a potential shortage of RAM if you have 4GB or less. Really depends on your workload and software of choice, obviously.

The I/O thing is not a huge deal for most development work. Disk I/O is still fast if you're on an SSD.

It's fine for most development works, but not ideal if you regularly need to run i/o or cpu-heavy stuff due to virtualization overhead (e.g. gaming, simulation, etc).

Huh, didn't know that. Thanks for the correction, that's pretty interesting.

Which ThinkPad models work flawlessly for you?

Not a high-end machine, but my wife recently got an x140e for peanuts (< $300 for the laptop during the XMas season sales, plus ~$150 to upgrade to an SSD + 8 GB RAM). She was upgrading from a Chromebook and decided that Linux fit her immediate use case better than Windows. My only guidance in this was, "plug in an ethernet cable during installation."

Every single piece of hardware--touchpad, sound, webcam, suspend, wifi, etc.--worked out of the box.

This machine is solidly built, and reasonably attractive. I'd say the thing that dropped the price was its weight. Functionally, it's easily a replacement for my MacBook Air or better. Physically, it's like three MacBook Airs stacked on top of each other.

Sorry, forgot to mention linux distro. She is running stock Ubuntu 14.04 with Unity. Unity might get some hate from some segments, but seeing a novice user take to it with zero guidance was illuminating to me.

I recently bought a T420 for $300. After upgrading my ram to 8G and the stock hard drive to a samsung SSD, the laptop is easily a better overall laptop than my wife's MacBook Pro.

I'm running Ubuntu, although I may switch to Arch soon, but I haven't had any problems with drivers in Ubuntu and would imagine the same would go for Arch. So far, the only relative downsides compared to the MBP have been:

1) Battery life, although mostly fixed with TLP[a]

2) Keyboard quality...sometimes feels like some keys have more resistance than others

3) Screen contrast. My wife's MBP isn't a retina, but it still has much better resolution and contrast.

[a] http://linrunner.de/en/tlp/docs/tlp-linux-advanced-power-man...

I have a t420s, and replacing the DVD with a bay battery was a very worthwhile trade.

Do you have any links to these batteries? I'm very interested.

IIRC they only work with the T420s, not the T420. I might be wrong though, but Lenovo definitely removed the connectors that are required for that in some models of the T series at some point in time...

Try the keywords "ultrabay slim battery".

With the X220, you can get a beefy i7 full of ram quite cheap on ebay. Not as happy as with the X60, but the upgrade was worth it.

I'm currently running arch on an x240, and it works perfectly. I have also had really good experiences with x1 carbon (v2), x220 and x201.

I've ran several different distros on macbooks too, mostly flavours of debian/ubuntu, but also arch and gentoo. In my experience it's all about the amount of work you're willing to put in, but you can defenitely more often than not, get a good setup running on macs(least the machines I tried it on).

The silver lining of getting arch to run on a machine that's not really "plug and play" is that you get to learn a lot of it's internals during install. I would recommend it to anyone with an intrest in linux desktop systems :)

x240 here as well, except for (documented on the arch wiki) boot grub parameters for the acpi (brightness, suspend etc) it all works out of the box. Battery life with the extended 2 batteries is about 9 hours.

T530 here. Works flawless. Everything, from the function keys, to the webcam, to the fingerprint reader.

I've install Linux (typically Ubuntu) on an x60, x220, t400s, and now t530 and everything (except the fingerprint reader, which I don't care about) worked out of the box. Lenovo even mentions Linux in their material, which means a lot and is worthy of support.

Not all models are seamless in ThinkPad land. My X240 has Realtek wireless and it refused to work with any kernel earlier than 3.16 (Ubuntu < 14.10). Recognized on recent ones, but can't resume from Suspend.

Any X or T series with intel video tends to work pretty well. I've personally had great results with Ubuntu on a T410, T420, T520, T530, X1, X60 in the last few years.

I will add the X201 to that list. I have been using one, exclusively with linux, for the past 4 years.

I would remove the x201 from the list. It works fine with linux, but the TN screen is absolutely awful. The viewing angle is so narrow that even sited dead in front of it, I can't watch a video without some of the blacks looking wrong.

This comment was typed on my own 4-year-old x201 :)

If you're talking about the 1400x900 screen, I agree, the viewing sweet spot is nearly nonexistent. I actually swapped out the top shell of my X200s and so I could put in an AFFS panel.

(Running Mint 17.1, which broke the display popup for brightness, but curiously not for audio.)

I replaced the TN screen of my x201 with a Boe Hydis AFFS panel with IPS like viewing angles and contrast so I would _not_ remove it from the list. It's a great laptop and you can get them really cheap used (I've never bought a ThinkPad new so far).

I would remove it again, because if you don't already have an x201, you may as well buy an x220 instead of an x201 + replacement screen + labour (and the low risk you'll damage something in the swapover). You'll get slightly better specs in the deal. Looking on ebay now, x220s are only AU$100-200 more than x201s.

Anyway, if you're going to mod laptops to say that they're good, then many laptops will re-enter the fray :)

Have had the T40, T60, X60 and X220. Suspend many times per day. No issues ever, except with fans and hard disks dying on me. Built like tanks.

> Which ThinkPad models work flawlessly for you?

top of the line T models and some X models.

anything else is worse than the cheapest toshiba or acer.

if you doubt, buy yourself an E series for example. Lousy flimsy plastic quality, and all the corner cutting for costs that you find in an apple (like soldered RAM, devices changing bus based on what they found cheap on the market at that month, etc)

T61 on Xubuntu 14.10 working great! Like others though, there is always a 'but':

-correctly installed and configured Thinkfan to control fan speed. The default is a bit annoying.

Basically all of them. Linux loves thinkpads. I've personally run it on an old 770ED, T41P, T60, X301, and X1 Carbon flawlessly over decades.

I had, and all worked flawlessly: a X201s, a W520, and a Helix. I think that for a few weeks I even worked full-time on the X201s with Hackintosh.

I've not experienced any issues running Ubuntu (and Debian, as you'd expect) on both the T430 and the X230

A friend gave me an older Macbook Air (3,1) recently. I installed Linux Mint LTS on it, completely replacing MacOS (no dual-boot). Everything just works, you name it: wifi, webcam, sound, suspend. The only hard part was understanding that the nvidia driver is not compatible with EFI mode, and needs the legacy BIOS mode.

I've been running Ubuntu (12.04+14.04)+NixOS on my Macbook Air with zero issues for the past ~2 years.

(Oh, suspend doesn't work, but my laptop is plugged in 99% of the time, and I haven't undertaken any effort to make it work.)

That said, I do plan on buying a not-Macbook next time around.

Hi. FYI "suspend doesn't work" is a major issue on a laptop.

Maybe I am just getting old but in 2015 it shouldn't be this much work to get an OS installed on a computer. Getting pretty much any Linux or Windows installed on my ThinkPad is a piece of cake. As pretty as a Bacbook Pro is I just don't have the time for this kind of thing anymore.

#GetOffMyLawn ;)

I have Fedora 21 on my MacBook Air and it was just insert the Live USB, click install, reboot and done ;)

Arch has always been more complicated, regardless of the computer.

I installed Arch on my mid-2012 mbp and it was quite painless. the only thing that did not work out of the box was wireless, but after installing proprietary drivers, it worked.

even multihead worked without issues, which made me quite impressed.

did graphics switching work?

I have Fedora 20 on my 2009 MacBook Pro and it was a pig to install.

I moved over to Mac/oSX years ago from Linux and FreeBSD because I was done dealing with tinkering with things I didn't care about tinkering with -- getting things to work -- wireless, multiple monitor support, etc. I've been more productive since.

I still use both for vms for projects, but minimized my system administration headaches.

I have kind of mixed opinions on that part. I also run OSX largely for those reasons, but it's been quite frustrating in some ways that Linux isn't. The good is that many things do often "just work": wifi, multiple monitors, sleep, etc. And the power management is good. The bad is that if something doesn't work, it's much harder to debug, and the support is much worse. Everything feels very opaque and inscrutable in comparison to the Linux world.

Example: I had a recurring issue on a MacBook Pro after upgrading from 10.6.x to 10.9.x where some process called 'systemstats' would balloon to taking 4gb of RAM or so, usually for about an hour. This was triggered by all sorts of things, from the daily Spotlight indexing, to clicking on the power display on the top/right menu bar (essentially anything that invoked systemstats would cause it to go haywire). Looking around the internet, some other people had the issue, and had all sorts of possible ways to fix it, with no solid confirmation from Apple of anything, and fixes that didn't work. So it was trial and error, things like manually deleting some BerkeleyDB files to see if that'd solve the problem, someone even suggesting resetting PRAM, whatever that means. Eventually I settled on writing a script that just did a 'killall systemstats' every 5 minutes. Huge hack, but fixed the symptoms.

That way of debugging problems really sucks compared to what I was used to from previously running Debian. There, you either file a bug or find an existing bug, which serves as a central clearinghouse where people really try to determine the root cause of the problem and fix it. Apple doesn't really do anything like that, so you end up reading a bunch of disorganized threads on random mac forums, hoping someone has a diagnosis/fix.

Agreed. I'm too old to worry about drivers and compiling kernels. it's exciting when you are a young hacker/tinkerer. Now I just need to get work done. OS X basically 99% perfect for me. Most unix stuff compile no problem, and the OS is free.


*If you purchase a computer that supports OSX, which just so happens to only be overpriced Apple computers.

I agree. I used Linux exclusively from 2006 up until this year. In that period I ran Slackware, Fedora, Debian, Mint, Ubuntu, SuSE, Mandrake/Mandriva, Gentoo for at least 3-4 months each, but mostly stick to Slackware. I got tired of problems when compiling some basic software. For example getting Workrave and Inkscape to work on Slackware always took me 1-2 days to figure out which exact version of which package to install. So I finally switched to Ubuntu (14.04) once again, got almost bitten by automatic update which seemed like it got stuck, but actually did not and was upgrading kernel and Grub. Luckily I ran "ps ax" trying to reboot and noticed the grub install command. I imagine average user would not be so lucky.

Some other stuff also randomly would not work, like wifi or printer and reboot would fix that, but I got so tired of it. Doing other stuff like screencasts, simple video editing, etc. is cumbersome or almost impossible on Linux.

About a month ago I got MBP, planned to install Linux on it, but got stuff I need working easily in OSX and discovered that I'm way more productive than before (hello Brackets and iMovie). I just decided to postpone Linux install for now (maybe permanently). I still got some confusion with MacPorts vs Homebrew for example, but I'm already up and running faster than I was ever on Linux.

After 8 years of tinkering with Linux I decided there's better use of my time.

I still use Linux for servers and never plan to change that.

I am using Mac OS for my Macbook because I tried several times to configure different version of Linux on Macbook, but I failed. Especially the support for retina display was poor. Right now, I am using Linux only on my desktop at home and work. The only thing that I think I really miss in Mac OS, is a good tiling window manager, such as, i3wm and Xmonad.

Same here. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to come by older machines where installation is a breeze. Most support HD displays and some might even handle 4K.

But I'm really grateful for posts like these that document the issues with cutting edge hardware, so they might be resolved by the time I'm pulling the machines of the scrap pile for recycling. Some of my old workhorses had terrible problems with drivers when they were current, but now they Just Work.

It's like when you are buying a new suit.

You have the mass produced suits that sort of fits you. They are not designed for your needs, they are designed to (almost) fit as many people as possible.

Then again if you want something customized for your needs -- that really looks great on you -- you will have to hire a tailor. This will take some time. No matter what year it is.

The author asks for language corrections on his documentation.

>English is not my native language, corrections and fixes will be greatly appreciated.

There's nothing really bad that I could see. No potentially ambiguous instructions at least.

Two typos ("Thunderbold" and "actuel"), a missing "to" ("on a second USB") and a spurious "s" ("informations"). What's the best way to provide the feedback?

Edit: Looks like submitter is author, so this may be a solved problem.

Fixed, thank you for taking the time to report the typos !

Also, you have the work "partitionning". I believe that should be "partitioning".

Also, you have the word "work". I believe that should be "word".


Nice catch, thank you!

Totally unrelated to the subject matter, sorry:

what is the service that generates the author's picture on the top left? I've been seeing them a lot lately and I don't really understand why people use them in place of a real photo.

Looks like it's www.faceyourmanga.com.

I confirm.

I have the same machine as the author of this post and I have been wondering about installing Linux on it for quite some time. I was wondering: wouldn't it be simpler to use virtualization (no problems with the hardware, ease in sharing data between Linux/OS-X no need to partition the disk and so on)? What am I missing?

Why not, but which virtualization software to use? I can see the advantages, but what about the drawbacks? Does someone using a virtualized Arch Linux system under Mac OS X is willing to share?

As an academic exercise, bravo. As a practical matter, articles like this boggle my mind.

I really struggle to find a single reason how Linux makes sense on a laptop in 2015 as a primary OS when OS X is an option.

If you feel that strongly about running a Linux desktop, just do it in a VM.

Because OSX workflow is bad? I use a MBA2013, as I'm wanting to work with iOS, and my desktop 99% of the time is Ubuntu with XFCE with works great (I don't use the webcam, and the ethernet doesn't hotplug, but I've used ethernet once in the time I've owned this device).

Not everyone likes Mac, Linux or Windows - why can't they just use what they want to use?

> Because OSX workflow is bad?

Not sure what that means.

> Not everyone likes Mac, Linux or Windows - why can't they just use what they want to use?

They can! Choice is great! But I genuinely--honestly--do not understand that choice in 2015.

If you have any feedback regarding running Arch Linux in a VM under Mac OS X, I would be glad to hear about it, I'm just curious about the drawbacks.

* OSX is NOT Linux * OSX is not free * OSX is not Open Source

> * OSX is NOT Linux

Is this sportsball? Glad we're picking teams.

> * OSX is not free

Not really concerned with a Richard Stallman view of the world, nor am I about the semantics of free vs. free.

> * OSX is not Open Source

Parts of it are. And I fully support the rights of companies to distribute which parts of their own projects that they deem necessary.

> * OSX > * OSX > * OSX

Actually, it's OS X.

"Free" as in FSF? No, but free as in "costless" - yes it is.

Instead backing up the raw disk with dd, you can create a USB installer in OS X. The trick is to download Yosemite from the App Store and prevent it from running. There are plenty of articles describing the process. If you also have data to preserve, connect an external disk and do a Time Machine backup. If anything goes wrong, you can reinstall OS X from scratch and restore your data (and even restrict the size of your OS X partition so you don't have to resize it again).

I don't think I would trust for very long any system spitting out those ATA errors.

The interrupts are also probably the cause of the abnormally high kworker CPU usage.

Core Storage volumes can be resized with 'diskutil cs resizevolume' even if they're encrypted. It's not documented in the diskutil man page, and thus probably not supported. I've done this maybe a dozen times and on one of those attempts it totally imploded the file system and couldn't be salvaged - so it works most of the time but a backup is still wise.

Nice job. I'm running on Archlinux on a Mac Book Air 2014.

The only thing that doesn't work is my webcam. Does yours work?

The iSight cameras are now PCIe rather than USB, and no drivers exist for them yet as far as I'm aware. There is some more information on the kernel.org bug tracker[1], and there's also an ongoing attempt to reverse engineer one on GitHub[2].



Thanks for sharing, I will add a section about the webcam.

how is battery life and how does it compare to macos?

The battery life is perfect for me. It's hard to compare to macos because I don't use it ^^

How is the stability of wifi?

Everything works very well. The stability is perfect.

I'd like to install FreeBSD on my MacBook Air. Unfortunately, Broadcom Wi-Fi. Still no driver.

I never understood BSD on laptops. It's like oil and water.

The realm of many things BSD is great at does not include power management or hardware support so you will be guaranteed to be unhappy with it.

I have made several Broadcom-equipped laptops more Linux friendly by installing an Intel wifi card. They go for about 20 or 30 bucks on eBay. I don't know if the MBA has replaceable components like that though.

Why use powertop instead of tlp? I've been using tlp on my macbook for a few months and everything works smoothly. Good battery life and suspend works perfectly using all tlp related programs (tlp, tlp-sleep, tlp-rdw). :)

Because I wasn't aware of tlp :) Thank you for sharing. By the way I'm very happy by the feedback generated by this thread, thank you guys!

Also, forgot to mention, the SATA issues is fixed on Linux 3.18. Or you might want to disable NCQ while you dont upgrade with libata.force=1:noncq


Thanks, I will add the pointer.

Getting an OS on a laptop shouldn't be this much trouble.

A big part of the complexity is inherent to dual-boot. Dual-booting Macs is a touch more complex than the usual because the firmware is "Apple EFI" not UEFI and not legacy BIOS, and no firmware setup. Next Arch has only recently developed a GUI installer. Several distros have mature GUI installers. So the trouble is partly about the choices made. Even OS X + Windows dual boot quickly gets really complicated if you want to do anything that Apple doesn't directly support in Boot Camp Assistant.

Great post!

re "You can leave me a tip for hosting fees, thank you :)":

There are 10000 free alternatives to host your blog. Look into Jekyll+Github pages for example.

To be more precise, I rent a dedicated server for personal hosting. But to be fair, I have modified this sentence, it's not logical to ask money for something you can find for free. And I'm already convinced by static site generator, because I'm using Hugo.

lvcreate --extentes 100%FREE -n root vgcrypt

unrecognized option '--extentes'

I think you meant '--extents'

Fixed, thanks for the report.

Dell Latitude E4300 with OpenBSD.

Nice list, I liked part about powertop.

BTW I would like to see similar list howto install OSX on Thinkpad.

great lesson. there has to be a buyer for every seller and a seller for every buyer.

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