Ubuntu-Book: Macbook owner installs Ubuntu on a Macbook?


I thought so – there are all kinds of crazy people. If you’re not in the mix, let me explain this a bit. The advantages of Mac OS X, Ubuntu Linux and Windows can be summarized as follows (I am not arguing these advantages, so Mac and Linux fans please don’t tear me into pieces 😉 ):

  • Mac: Great hardware-software understanding, everything just ‘works’ without poking or tweaking (unlike Windows), elegant and usable applications, rock-solid stability and virus-free
  • Ubuntu: Free and open-source,  secure, beautiful (Ubuntu is much better than Vista), perfect for the geek in you, large number of usable apps (though not always the best in design)
  • Windows: Cheap (compared to Mac), easy to use for most (because most are brought up on Windows), very large number of useful software (free and paid)

However, this commenter writes:

After using many operating systems over the years, it has become apparent to me that operating systems themselves mostly do not matter…
…I have actually been using Ubuntu’s Gutsy Gibbon on my Macbook recently, and have been amazed at the level of hardware support.

‘Amazed at the level of hardware support’? Two things strike me as odd:

  • You do not have to install Ubuntu on a Mac to figure that out
  • Installing Linux on a Macbook is stupid (there are cheap Windows-based laptops that you can use for Ubuntu)

What do you say? If you had a Macbook (or have), would you do the same? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, because I’m getting a Macbook myself next month.


  1. I got a used macbook for damn cheap from a friend. OSx crashed (I found out later that the hard drive was starting to go bad). I didn’t have the installation disks so I gave Ubuntu a chance. Plus I didn’t even like OSx to begin with because I grew up on Windows and OSx isn’t intuitive to me at all. The reason someone would say “amazed at the level of hardware support” is because if you use a cheap PC to install Ubuntu you are almost guaranteed to run into problems with the video drivers. Not with MacBook; they work right away with visual effects. With older versions of Ubuntu the brightness and sound control F keys only worked if you installed software called “pommed”. On the newest releases they work without pommed. Bluetooth works. Wireless and wired connections work. Battery monitoring works. The webcam will take some work. I’m still stuck with that one but I don’t really have a use for a webcam. In summary: I’ve had more luck with hardware functionality with Ubuntu on a Macbook than with any other hardware.

  2. If you were to simply over write OS X with Ubuntu on your Macbook, that would just be a purely idiotic idea. Not only could you find a much cheaper laptop to install Ubuntu, but Ubuntu on a Mac just isnt quite there yet. While this person may be “astonished” by the level of hardware support, im quite astonished by the lack of hardware support. nearly nothing works out of the box. it takes some serious tweaking and knowledge of linux to get it all working.

    Wifi doesnt work immediately, and even with the fix data speeds are slow until you disable wifi power management (4 mb/s download with power management, 10 mb/s download without). reboot commands are broken until you edit a .conf file, not sure if this has to do with bootcamp. the keyboard backlight doesnt work at all. as far as i can tell the internal fans dont work at all, and from what i read the temp sensors need tweaking to work, and i havent been successful in this endeavor, which worries me because ubuntu is running very hot. sound was also disabled until i installed pommed, edited a .conf file, and unmuted the front speaker in alsamixer.

    but why not partition your hard drive and dual boot? that way you get all of the perfection of OS X and still get to mess around with Linux whenever you feel like it. that is surely not a waste,

  3. i bought macbook and i am running both osx and ubuntu 8.04 on it.
    when you install ubuntu. somethings dosnt work. b/c the mac cd have the bootcamp drivers for windows (is only that windows will not provide you so mac is giving it for free). but for ubuntu some of the drivers comes with it but some of them like wireless or sound drivers and the major thing, right click you have to install them manually. just search online and you are able to do it.
    my macbook is working fine. i love it. its worth it with osx and ubuntu both. thanks to open source users.

  4. @Gijs: 30k isn’t dollars – Nirmal referred to the Indian currency, Rupee. $1=40 rupees

  5. I bought my macbook for two reasons
    1) It would run Linux
    2) With an educational discount I get it for just under the price of a standard laptop, but i do get a few bells and whistles (and of course the opportunity to use Mac OS on a machine less than 10 years old…)

    Two weeks went by as I thoroughly enjoyed Mac OS (For that brief period I thought it was the absolute best OS out there – a true short-term mac fanboy.) Once reality set in again and I got annoyed that I couldn’t change certain things and that non-mac os specific software needed X11 which makes things run slow and ugly I decided to stick ubuntu on it. I whiped mac OS off (though I could’ve dual booted) and put ubuntu on and never looked back. Only thing to bear in mind is the new santa-rosa macbooks do have more issues and need ugly hacks (if you consider ndis-wrapper ugly) to make things work.

  6. Last weekend, I put Ubuntu on my Macbook, which came very cheap for me (someone gave it to me). But I removed it after two hours, after:

    1. Not getting wifi to work with WPA2
    2. Suspend-to-RAM didn’t seem to kick in.
    3. Bootup took 3 times as much time as OS X did
    4. Rosegarden/Ardour just didn’t come close to GarageBand

    On my desktop, I stick with Ubuntu.

    @Nirmal: 30k for a laptop. That shure ain’t no dollars!

  7. Nowhere in his comment does he mention that he was “unsatisfied with OS X”.

    There is no rule which says Ubuntu cannot/should not be installed on a Mac. As Ashutosh says above, Ubuntu isn’t made for cheap windows-based laptops only.
    There could be numerous reasons why he has installed Ubuntu on his Macbook. It does not imply that he’s unsatisfied with OS X. Calling it stupid is even more stupidity.

  8. @Sumesh
    I disagree with you as well. Ubuntu isn’t made for only cheap Windows-based laptops. It’s as much royal as OSX or Vista and so there is no harm or stupidity in trying it out on a Macbook.
    Just my thought…

  9. @Nirmal: If you’re a non-geek or non-programmer, you’d probably be at home with Mac OS X. Its just my thought, and I’m not saying that anyone else will think like this. Maybe I should add a disclaimer stating it 😉

  10. I know that you can use Mac OS X if you can afford it 😉 The point is, that if a person prefers Ubuntu, why not install it, even on a Macbook? :)

  11. @Sumesh.
    “Installing Linux on a Macbook is stupid”
    I do not agree to this point. Say for eg, I have a Mac book and I’m a fan of Linux, then you mean to say, I should spend 30k to buy a cheap Windows laptop and install it there? Each one has their own interest in Linux.

  12. @Sloth: My point was that you can use Mac OS X if you can afford one, instead of installing Ubuntu on it. I doubt Dell’s build quality on some models like Inspiron, though XPS is superb. As for Mac OS X, Lifehacker has a hacking tutorial, but it wouldn’t run very well on slower laptops.

  13. Well, why would you buy a cheap non-Macbook with worse hardware and production if you can afford a Macbook which is usually very long lasting and has great software, some people also love its design. Sure, you could as well get a Lenovo with the same hardware which as well would probably be as good produced as the Macbook, if not better, for less money and install your Linux distro there.
    Afaik, Lenovo, Dell and Mac are simply the best notebook producers considering hardware-support under Linux.. and the fact that MacOSX itself is a UNIX-based system just makes this more logical. You can probably run almost any other UNIX OS on a Macbook and have almost as good hardware support as with MacOSX.

    And except of buying a Win-Laptop for installing Linux onto it, you could also buy a cheap Windows Notebook and install MacOSX on it, with a few hacks.. since Mac uses Intel now, it usually works on non-Mac-computers as well :)

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