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I'm thinking of getting a MacBook Air. The answers to this post will help me make my decision. My questions and my understanding of current solutions are:

  1. How difficult is it to install a Linux-based OS (like Fedora or Ubuntu)?
    • I've heard a little about rEFIt, but am not sure what to make of it. Is it completely necessary? Do I still need it if I don't plan to dual boot with Mac OS X?
    • Also a dual-boot isn't necessary, I'd just like to run Fedora/Ubuntu by itself, but I'm curious to know if a dual boot is simple.
  2. Does everything 'just work'?
    • In my current laptop I need to add a wireless driver (Broadcom card). I've heard Macs use Broadcom wireless cards. Will this be an issue?
    • How about graphics/touchpad (& multitouch)/sound?

I'm aware there are tutorials out there on how to install some older version of some os on your Mac, but my questions are a bit more general: Will it be easy to use (install and configure drivers for) recent Linux distributions with a new MacBook Air?

Note: I don't mind extra configuration, but would like to know where it'll be necessary, because if it's too much of a hassle I'll look at other hardware.

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If you want to run Linux on a Mac (i.e. Mac OS X doesn't suit your UNIX needs), consider VirtualBox. It will be less of a hassle –  Renan Apr 22 '12 at 18:05
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sorry but it'll have to be native. I like the hardware, but if others have had too much trouble with it I don't mind choosing something else. This post is to figure out how much of a hassle it is with recent releases of recent distros on new macbook-air hardware so I can make that decision –  enduser Apr 22 '12 at 18:07
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@enduser As an example, please check out the community-generated MacBook Air compatibility and installation notes page for Ubuntu. Generally most things 'just work' and if you're comfortable doing some fixing at the command line, I think you'll have no problem. –  fideli Apr 22 '12 at 22:10

3 Answers 3

I'm writing this comment from Fedora 17 on a MacBook Pro. Previously, I installed Ubuntu and dual booted it with OS X and, atm, the dual-booting comprises Mac OSX and Fedora, through rEFIT. I honestly don't know if you can single boot Linux on a Mac, you should probably try your luck with EFI but, i assure you it's quite easy to dual-boot it. The most important thing that doesn't work out of the box is the WI-FI adapter but it's easily solved by installing the proper BCM (Broadcom) driver.

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This was taken from new123456 all credit goes to him The booting issue is well known - the SATA chipset that the 8.2 uses is (was?) not well supported by Linux. The fix for this comes down to:

Find a USB flash drive and a blank disk.
Download the AMD64 Mac ISO, and burn it onto the CD.
Write the ISO onto the thumbdrive using dd.
Place the USB drive and the CD in, and reboot onto the CD.

The 8.2 uses a Broadcom 4331 card, you have to go with the open source driver, as Broadcom's binary driver doesn't support the 4331. The patch was accepted in kernel version 3.2, which Ubuntu 12.04 has.

The firmware, however, is not redistributable with the default install - as such, find an ethernet cable and install the firmware-b43-installer package.

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Have you considered using Gentoo Prefix on your Macbook Air?

From http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/gentoo-alt/prefix/

To bring out the virtues of Gentoo Linux on different operating systems, the Gentoo Prefix project develops and maintains a way of installing Gentoo systems in a non-standard location, designated by a "prefix".

Usually, Gentoo Linux's package manager (portage) installs in the root of the filesystem hierarchy known as /. On systems other than Gentoo Linux, this usually results in problems, due to conflicts of software packages , unless the OS is adapted like Gentoo/FreeBSD. Instead, Gentoo Prefix installs within an offset, known as a prefix, allowing users to install Gentoo in another location in the filesystem hierarchy, hence avoiding conflicts. Next to this offset, Gentoo Prefix runs unprivileged, meaning no root user or rights are required to use it.

By using an offset (the "prefix" location), it is possible for many "alternative" user groups to benefit from a large part of the packages in the Gentoo Linux Portage tree. Currently users of the following systems successfully run Gentoo Prefix: Mac OS X on PPC and x86, Linux on x86, x86_64 and ia64, Solaris 10 on Sparc, Sparc/64, x86 and x86_64, FreeBSD on x86, AIX on PPC, Interix on x86, Windows on x86 (with the help of Interix), HP-UX on PARISC and ia64.

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