Installing Linux on a MacBook Air

fffffffuuuuuuuuIt’s not a clean victory, but I got Linux onto my MacBook Air.

When I first got my Air, I launched the Ubuntu install disk and followed the instructions on the Ubuntu wiki. Unfortunately, these instructions are apparently for the MacBook Air 1,1, and I had a MacBook Air 2,1. The Linux kernel froze in the middle of initializing.

After a couple, ahem, weeks of playing around with kernel parameters, I got it to a point where I realized it was Ubuntu, not Linux, that was screwing up, so I decided to try some other distro. I got a Debian network install CD (the full install is 31 CDs!) and tried it. It booted into the installer fine, and started merrily installing the system. I suddenly realized I had a doctor’s appointment, and had a terrible premonition that, by the time I got back, something would have gone wrong.

My premonition was correct. When I returned, the CD had stopped working. I checked it for errors, and it was fine. However, every time I started the computer now, the CD driver would make an ominous clicking noise and pop open. If I held it closed, it would make a downright alarming snapping noise. And reFit couldn’t even recognize it.

So, I installed VMWare Fusion on the Mac partition, and installed Linux on that. I’m trying to look on the bright side: I get OS X power management, wireless, and sound with a Linux environment.

VM of Death and Doom from Hell

On Friday at work, I wrote a short post extolling the virtues of VMWare. It was freakin awesome. I had to debug a problem a user was having on a 3-year-old version of an obscure Linux distro, so Eliot (my boss) suggested using VMWare. It was so cool. I found a site that actually still had the distro available, downloaded it, installed it on a virtual machine, and got the exact same error the user was getting! Awesome.

Then I went home, figuring I’d work on it more when I got there.

When I got home… my wireless internet didn’t work. The kernel module for it wouldn’t even load, and when I ran ifconfig, it printed two new interfaces: vmnet1 and vmnet2. It turns out VMWare does something to some types of kernel modules. Damn you, VMWare!

For some reason, I’ve always had computers with Atheros wireless cards, which are very touchy about things like working. So, I started trying to get it going again. This pretty much describes how it went: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/success.png. Around 11pm, I gave up, and decided to leave it until Sunday, when I could look at it with fresh eyes.

Today, I booted into Linux to give it another shot. Or, rather, I attempted to boot into Linux. But, I had somehow messed up the modules in a way that made my system unbootable.

So, now I’m reinstalling Ubuntu.

Here’s hoping I make it to shore before the sharks get me. I’m going to be running VMWare from the OS X side of things from now on.