Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

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Legindary
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Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by Legindary » Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:17 pm

I'm looking to dual boot a linux distro but i cant figure out which ones run well on my macbook pro.
Does anybody have experiences with similar hardware, because the dual core in my system is slacking.

Extra info:

Intel Core 2 duo 2,4Ghz
8GB 1067 mhz DDR3
Samsung evo 850 120gb ssd
Nvidia Geforece 320m 256mb

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absque fenestris
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Re: Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by absque fenestris » Thu Feb 08, 2018 11:57 pm

Hello

You can try first Cinnamon or Mate in the Virtualbox - both should run on your Mac without major problems.

As a comparison: Mate is slow but stable on my much weaker Acer Netbook (single core Atom N270, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB SSD the same you has). With video, however, the limits are reached quickly.
A big limitation is your SSD with 120 GB - that is extremely scarce for two independent systems with all their applications ... do not forget - OSX needs 10 GB of free space as an absolute minimum

It's a good idea to make a full backup to an external disk (for example with Carbon Copy Cloner ...) before doing this.
Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia (Mate) 32-bit - Acer D250 Netbook (Intel Atom N270, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB SSD)

fabien85
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Re: Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by fabien85 » Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:08 am

I had exactly this MBP and was dual-booting macOS (first 10.6 Snow Leopard, then moved to 10.11 El Capitan) with Linux Mint Cinnamon (17 to 17.3, then a fresh install of 18).
It was working well.
The main issues I had were not Linux nor macOS, it was hardware : the hard drive failed after five years, battery capacity became small (I changed it, but new one was not very good, dont trust this chinese resellers on ebay, you'd better put more money to get something from a good battery manufacturer), ventilator failed after 6 years (makes scary sounds, but fortunately it's easy to change). And more annoying from time to time the keyboard would stop responding, which only a reboot would fix ; I think this happened due to accumulation of static electricity (I kept power supply plugged in). Other than that, it's still a good machine, and it's a mac you can still repair, there are plenty of guides on ifixit, contrary to newer models where Apple goes full force into planned obsolescence.

Small issues I found :
- wifi was sometimes unstable on LM17. This seemed to be better in LM18 (but I didnt test as long)
the driver is bcmwl-kernel-source, which is autodetected and suggested in Menu > Administration > Driver Manager (to install the driver, you will either need to be connected to internet by another mean, e.g. ethernet, or plug the live USB and use it as a repository source)
- graphic card : the default open-source "nouveau" driver works well out of the box. But if you want to use the proprietary nvidia drivers, you are going to have problems ; most notable problem is that you boot to a black screen by default... (it's an issue of hardware being incorrectly initialized by the firmware ; there is a workaround that said)
I suggest you either stick to nouveau, or ask here beforehand how to get nividia to work.

For dual-booting macOS and linux, I like to use refind as my boot manager instead of grub. Refind provides you a nice graphical interface, auto-detection of bootable systems .. and many useful options for macOS (booting in safe mode, recovery mode, run apple hardware test if it's installed, enable/disable System Integrity Protection...).
To do so, the simplest is to :
- in macOS, use disk utility to make room on the hard drive for linux. If you have macOS >= 10.11, disable System Integrity Protection (SIP)
- boot the linux live USB by pressing alt/option during boot and choosing the "EFI Boot" entry
- one booted to the live system; launch an install without bootloader with ubiquity -b from a terminal
- you should have an option ins the installer "install alongside Mac OSX", that will make a default and perfectly valid install
- at the end, the installer will warn you that you dont have a bootloader, it's normal. Shutdown and reboot, you should get to macOS.
- from macOS, get refind and install it

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Re: Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by prestonR » Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:58 am

I've got a 5,4, almost the same proc but an older nvidia with shared memory, no OSX. The only issue with those unibodys is heat dissipation; form over function - there simply isn't enough space.

Apart from that it's been a trouble free ride for almost a decade but throw any heavy graphics work at it and gpu temp rises above 80C. I had none of the issues fabien mentioned, the legacy nvidia driver works fine but the default settings are too demanding; had to turn features off and set a lower quality level. The easily fixed black screen after install happens to me only on Cinnamon, literally every other desktop works out of the box, even KDE plasma (the heat issues due to excessive eye candy defaults are similar to Cinnamon, though.)

I started off with Cinnamon too but went via Mate to LXDE. As a rule of thumb these changes will each bring idle cpu down by about 3-5% and keep gpu temps about 5-10C lower. Never needed refind, even though there are never fewer than 3 or 4 OS installed. In order to not mess with the dicky boot partition too much, I only install grub to the efi partition for my 'daily driver', on secondary OS I put grub to the root partition of the installation; makes boot a little slower but allows for quick removal.
Last edited by prestonR on Fri Feb 09, 2018 7:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by Legindary » Fri Feb 09, 2018 7:28 am

absque fenestris wrote:
Thu Feb 08, 2018 11:57 pm
Hello

You can try first Cinnamon or Mate in the Virtualbox - both should run on your Mac without major problems.

As a comparison: Mate is slow but stable on my much weaker Acer Netbook (single core Atom N270, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB SSD the same you has). With video, however, the limits are reached quickly.
A big limitation is your SSD with 120 GB - that is extremely scarce for two independent systems with all their applications ... do not forget - OSX needs 10 GB of free space as an absolute minimum

It's a good idea to make a full backup to an external disk (for example with Carbon Copy Cloner ...) before doing this.
Thanks for your comment.

I bought this macbook just to see how it works and how OSX feels. Personally i like the looks of OSX more than Windows but i have been a windows user all my life and its much more simpler for me.
The only thing on this macbook is the OS nothing more so i have 90ish GB free on the harddrive, space shouldnt be the problem.

Virtualbox should be a good option to try out first but does that give a fair indication of how it'll work when ran without OSX in the background?

Legindary
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Re: Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by Legindary » Fri Feb 09, 2018 7:32 am

fabien85 wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:08 am
I had exactly this MBP and was dual-booting macOS (first 10.6 Snow Leopard, then moved to 10.11 El Capitan) with Linux Mint Cinnamon (17 to 17.3, then a fresh install of 18).
It was working well.
The main issues I had were not Linux nor macOS, it was hardware : the hard drive failed after five years, battery capacity became small (I changed it, but new one was not very good, dont trust this chinese resellers on ebay, you'd better put more money to get something from a good battery manufacturer), ventilator failed after 6 years (makes scary sounds, but fortunately it's easy to change). And more annoying from time to time the keyboard would stop responding, which only a reboot would fix ; I think this happened due to accumulation of static electricity (I kept power supply plugged in). Other than that, it's still a good machine, and it's a mac you can still repair, there are plenty of guides on ifixit, contrary to newer models where Apple goes full force into planned obsolescence.

Small issues I found :
- wifi was sometimes unstable on LM17. This seemed to be better in LM18 (but I didnt test as long)
the driver is bcmwl-kernel-source, which is autodetected and suggested in Menu > Administration > Driver Manager (to install the driver, you will either need to be connected to internet by another mean, e.g. ethernet, or plug the live USB and use it as a repository source)
- graphic card : the default open-source "nouveau" driver works well out of the box. But if you want to use the proprietary nvidia drivers, you are going to have problems ; most notable problem is that you boot to a black screen by default... (it's an issue of hardware being incorrectly initialized by the firmware ; there is a workaround that said)
I suggest you either stick to nouveau, or ask here beforehand how to get nividia to work.

For dual-booting macOS and linux, I like to use refind as my boot manager instead of grub. Refind provides you a nice graphical interface, auto-detection of bootable systems .. and many useful options for macOS (booting in safe mode, recovery mode, run apple hardware test if it's installed, enable/disable System Integrity Protection...).
To do so, the simplest is to :
- in macOS, use disk utility to make room on the hard drive for linux. If you have macOS >= 10.11, disable System Integrity Protection (SIP)
- boot the linux live USB by pressing alt/option during boot and choosing the "EFI Boot" entry
- one booted to the live system; launch an install without bootloader with ubiquity -b from a terminal
- you should have an option ins the installer "install alongside Mac OSX", that will make a default and perfectly valid install
- at the end, the installer will warn you that you dont have a bootloader, it's normal. Shutdown and reboot, you should get to macOS.
- from macOS, get refind and install it
I actually got the the step of finding a linux distro and installing it. I have Refind on it and disabled SIP.
Just wanted to know which linux distro would be the best on my hardware, i have worked with Mint previously but it is a couple years back.

I'm just gonna try Mint and see how it is, can always delete it and install another one.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

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absque fenestris
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Re: Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by absque fenestris » Fri Feb 09, 2018 8:43 am

Hello Legindary

I would overwrite OSX completely - this saves many problems. Apart from that, the more or less 20 GB are pretty pointless for OSX.
As a Windows user, you should be able to deal with Linux Mate quickly - the OSX experience (which version is it actually..?) is not exactly intoxicating on such an old machine ... :mrgreen:
Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia (Mate) 32-bit - Acer D250 Netbook (Intel Atom N270, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB SSD)

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Re: Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by fabien85 » Fri Feb 09, 2018 10:51 am

Hi,
Virtualbox should be a good option to try out first but does that give a fair indication of how it'll work when ran without OSX in the background?
it will work for Mate and Xfce, not sure about Cinnamon and KDE, they may be a bit heavy for it. It will show you how they look, but for sure the performance will be sluggish.
You will get a better idea for the performance by running from a live USB. Since a live USB is reusable, you have no loss.

If you single-boot linux, you dont need refind and are better off with going for a default install "Erase the hard drive and install Linux Mint".
I find refind useful for multi-booting because of : the GUI, the options for macOS (in my previous list I forgot the access to the macOS recovery partition), and the fact that it is maintainance-free (whereas for grub you need to sudo update-grub in the main OS, and you need to reinstall it if you delete this main OS). That said it's mainly a question of taste and habits.

The nvidia problem is a thing of the MBP7,1 (and I think another model whose number I forgot, maybe 6,1 or 6,2). It happens also to people trying to install windows in UEFI mode on this machine (in fact it's someone trying to install windows who identified the problem and found a fix for it). You can see more info here :
https://askubuntu.com/questions/264247/ ... 573#613573
But it works well already with the out of the box nouveau driver (plus I found that the keys to change the screen brightness do not work with the nvidia driver).

Indeed there is this issue of the laptop getting a bit hot. It gets hotter in Linux than macOS. Also I now remember that the first 2-3 times I booted Linux, the fans would get really high during boot, but would then settle after the system was loaded. After some reboots, this would disappear.
I didnt find the temperature was really an issue, but it's true I never tried to run modern games or anything really heavy.
I remember I installed a utility to control the fans, probably macfanctld, and that took care of the temperature, never thought about it afterwards.

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absque fenestris
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Re: Any experiences with Linux distros on Macbook pro 7.1?

Post by absque fenestris » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:25 am

Last week I installed the latest version of Virtualbox running Mint 18.3 Mate on a vintage iMac from 2010. It works really well - in the simultaneous operation of Opera and Waterfox on Mint and macOS was no big difference - except for the font representation.

As long as you do not video editing or 3-D modeling, the virtual machines are fast and reliable. I have only bad experiences on a much stronger Mac with Mint Cinnamon in the Virtualbox: bad graphics and crashes. Mint Mate or XFCE is excellent.

Machine: iMac 2010 with macOS Sierra, Intel i3, Radeon Graphics, 8 GB RAM
Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia (Mate) 32-bit - Acer D250 Netbook (Intel Atom N270, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB SSD)

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