Rolling Ubuntu On An Old Macintosh Laptop

“What we’re doing here will send a giant ripple through the universe.”

Steve Jobs

I have an old mac laptop that was not doing anyone much use sitting around the house.  i had formatted the rig and due to it only being an i7 Pentium series mac you could only roll up to the Lion OS.  Also, i wanted a “pure” Linux rig and do not like other form factors (although i do dig the System 76 rigs).

So i got to thinking why dont i roll Ubuntu on it and let one cat turn into another cat?  See what i did there? Put a little shine on Ye Ole Rig? Here Kitty Kitty!

Anyways here are the steps that i found worked the most painless.

Caveat Emptor:  these steps completely wipe the partition and Linux does run natively wiping out any and all OSes. You WILL lose your OS X Recovery Partition, so returning to OS X or macOS can be a more long-winded process, but we have instructions here on how to cope with this: How to restore a Mac without a recovery partition.  You are going All-In!

On that note i also don’t recommend trying to “dual-boot” OS X and Linux, because they use different filesystems and it will be a pain.  Anyways this is about bringing new life to an old rig if you have a new rig with Big Sur roll Virtual Box and run whatever Linux distro you desire.

What you need:

  • A macintosh computer is the point of the whole exercise.  i do recommend having NO EXTERNAL DRIVES connected as you will see below.
  • A USB stick with at least 8 gig of storage.  This to will be formatted and all data lost.
  • Download your Linux distribution to the Mac. We recommend Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS if this is your first Linux install. Save the file to your ~/Downloads folder.
  • Download and install an app called Etcher from Etcher.io. This will be used to copy the Linux install .ISO file to your USB drive.

Steps to Linux Freedom:

  • Insert your USB Thumb Drive. A reminder that the USB Flash drive will be erased during this installation process. Make sure you’ve got nothing you want on it.

  • Open Etcher Click Select “Image”. Choose ubuntu-16.04.1-desktop-amd64.iso (the image you downloaded in Step 1).  NOTE: i had some problems with 20.x latest release with wireless so i rolled back to 16.0x just to get it running. 
  • Click “Change” under Select Drive. 

  • Pick the drive that matches your USB Thumb Drive in size. It should be  /dev/disk1 if you only have a single hard drive in your Mac. Or /dev/disk2, /dev/disk3 and so on (if you have more drives attached). NOTE: Do not pick /dev/disk0. That’s your hard drive! Pick /dev/disk0 and you’ll wipe your macOS hard drive HEED THY WARNING YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! This is why i said its easier if you have no external media.

  • Click “Flash!” Wait for the iso file to be copied to the USB Flash Drive. Go browse your favorite socnet as this will take some time or hop on your favorite learning network and catch up on those certificates/badges.

  • Once it is finished remove the USB Flash Drive from your Mac. This is imperative.
  • Now SHUTDOWN the mac and plug the Flashed USB drive into the mac.

  • Power up and hold the OPTION key while you boot.
  • Choose the EFI Boot option from the startup screen and press Return.
  • IMMEDIATELY press the “e” key.  i found you need to do this quickly otherwise the rig tries to boot.

  • Pressing the “e” key will enter you into “edit mode” you will see a black and white screen with options to try Ubuntu and Install Ubuntu. Don’t choose either yet, press “e” to edit the boot entry.
  • This step is critical and the font maybe really small so take your time.  Edit the line that begins with Linux and place the word "nomodeset" after "quiet splash". The whole line should read: "linux /casper/vmlinuz.efifile=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper quiet splash nomodeset --

  • Now Press F10 on the mac.
  • Now its getting cool! Your mac and Ubuntu boots into trial mode!

(Note: at this point also go browse your favorite socnet as this will take some time or hop on your favorite learning network and catch up on those certificates/badges.)

  • Double-click the icon marked “Install Ubuntu”. (get ready! Here Kitty Kitty!)
  • Select your language of choice.
  • Select “Install this third-party software” option and click Continue. Once again important.
  • Select “Erase disk and install Ubuntu” and click Continue.
  • You will be prompted for geographic area and keyboard layout.
  • You will be prompted to enter the name and password you want to use (make it count!).
  • Click “Continue” and Linux will begin installing!
  • When the installation has finished, you can log in using the name and password you chose during installation!
  • At this point you are ready to go!  i recommend registering for an ubuntu “Live Update” account once it prompts you.
  • One side note:  on 20.x update there was an issue with the Broadcom wireless adapter crashing which then reboots you without wireless.  i am currently working through that and will get back you on the fix!

Executing the command less /proc/cpuinfo will detail the individual cores. It looks like as i said the i7 Pentium series!

Happy Penguin and Kitten Time!  Now you can customize your rig!

Screen shot of keybase running on my ubuntu mac rig!

And that is a wrap! As a matter of fact i ate my own dog food and wrote this blog on the “new” rig!

Until Then,

#iwishyouwater

@tctjr

Muzak to blog by: Dreamways Of The Mystic by Bobby Beausoliel