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Adventures in Linux – MacBook Pro

Several years ago I wrote a post called “Why I’m Buying a Mac.” I never ended up acting on that impulse, mainly because I was getting by just fine with my collection of aging Windows PCs on which I was dual booting with Linux, and mostly never even accessing Windows.

My wife had a Mid 2009 MacBook Pro that she had bought new many years ago. During her last semester of college, she frequently borrowed my Lenovo laptop to use MS Office 2013, which had programs she needed for both school and work that worked better for her purposes than Office for Mac 2008 was. I was glad to lend her the computer when she needed it since I could get by on my older computers for my needs during these short periods.

Eventually, her MacBook became essentially unusable. The 160 gb hard drive was full to the point only a couple hundred megabytes of space were unused and Google Chrome was unresponsive. Because of this, Shannon needed the Lenovo more and more to be able to get things done.

**Shannon (The Editor)’s Note: I did not like Window’s better than my MacBook! I worked as an admin and had to use windows so I got used to the Microsoft Office that windows supports. For those of you who don’t know, Microsoft Office SUCKS on Mac because the software is so out of date; it hasn’t been updated since 2011. I got spoiled on MS 2013/Office365

Hardware/Software Upgrade

We struck a deal, I’d trade her my Lenovo, probably the best computer I’d ever owned hardware wise, for the 5 year old (at the time) MacBook. In addition to the expansive 160 gb hard drive, the MacBook featured 2gb of RAM and a 2.26 ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. I went down to Microcenter in Overland Park and bought a 1tb hard drive, two 4 gb sticks of RAM and an external hard drive enclosure.

There are little pegs sticking out of the original MacBook hard drive I haven’t been able to remove, and I don’t know what to search for to find more to buy some, so the 1tb hard drive is just kind of sitting in the bay unsecured. Not ideal. I’ve still got to find a solution for this. I attached the old hard drive to external enclosure, but couldn’t actually enclose it because of the pegs that won’t come off. The computer was able to boot into recovery from the old hard drive now in the external enclosure, and using the tools within I was able to install OS X on the new hard drive.

It booted up, and I upgraded from OS X 10.9 to 10.10, which took a little way to download on the free version of Google Internet we employ. Great, so now I’ve got a clean MacBook Pro with a huge hard drive, what to do with it?

What to Do?

Well, triple booting with Linux and Windows was clearly the answer. I did a bit of research and installed rEFInd boot manager to make life with multiple OSes easier. Then I repartitioned the hard drive into three partitions of equal size. I could’ve probably just had one big logical partition to share among all 3 OS installations, but didn’t end up doing it that way.

The next step was to install Linux. I wanted to use Fedora, which is my distro of choice for now. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the GNOME or Xfce version to boot on the MacBook at all. I tried Googling for a solution, but none presented itself. I’m sure there’s a way to make it work, but I didn’t find one or post on any forums or anything. I decided to see how Linux Mint would handle the MacBook, and it booted up and installed like a champ, even giving me a tool to install proprietary drivers for the wireless and graphics cards. I haven’t used Mint in a while because in my mind it’s too “easy” and I just really like Fedora, but I had used it quite extensively back in college. I ended up going with the default Mint 17.1 over LMDE since the Debian Edition didn’t include the tool to add the proprietary drivers. It was probably something I could’ve installed from the software manager, but I didn’t really look into it since Mint 17.1 will be supported until 2019. It’s pretty unlikely I’ll still be using this computer by 2019, and I’m sure I’ll do some distro hopping between now and then anyway, so the benefit of a rolling release like LMDE isn’t a huge loss for me in going with regular old Mint.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint

Mac OSX Screenshot

So far I’ve been too lazy to install Windows 7 on the third partition. I think I read somewhere that I’ll need a driver’s disk that would’ve come with the laptop when my wife originally bought it, so if I run across that, it should make things easier.

Impressions

If I had to describe my experience with the MacBook Pro so far, I’d say “meh.” The hardware is nice enough. Figuring out the key sequence to take a screenshot on the Mac took some Googling, as well as to set the same key sequence under Linux.

Ultimately OS choice is up to the individual user. I don’t find myself enjoying the Mac experience. The way programs stay running even if you close the window instead of that exiting the whole program is kind of weird. All over Apple’s website they talk about how OS X is the most advanced operating system in the world. Well, the interface is probably the most tired. Sure, in 10.10 everything went to “flat” icons rather than 3D, but the basic look of the whole OS has been about the same since 2001.

I also found that I have no interest in using all the default Mac software such as iTunes, iCalendar, and iWhatever else. I found myself installing the same software on OS X that I have come to use on Linux, and also on Windows when rarely I use Windows. If others want to close themselves up within Apple’s “walled garden” they’re free to do so, but it’s not for me. Maybe if I had an iPhone, an iPod, an iPad, and/or an Apple TV, or had stayed within the Apple universe I grew up in back in the 90s longer, I’d be more inclined to get back into it now.

Next Steps

The only thing I’ve noticed that doesn’t work on the MacBook under Linux Mint is the webcam. I’ve done research on how to get it working, but haven’t had any success. I would like to get Fedora to work on here because it’s really my preferred distro. At some point I also want to get Windows installed as well. Finally, the computer really needs a new battery as well. The old original battery lasts maybe an hour and a half.

**Shannon (The Editor)’s note: after conversing with Russell in regards to the webcam issue, it has became apparent that the webcam has been broke for a long time so the issue cannot be blamed solely on LM.

Thoughts?

Have you used Linux on a MacBook? Were you able to make triple booting work? Do you have any advice?

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