Here's the first Linux distro made for Apple M1 systems

mongeese

Posts: 590   +119
Staff member
Why it matters: The Asahi Linux Project has published the first public alpha of Asahi Linux, a distro made for the Apple M1 SoC and its derivatives. It's been eagerly anticipated by Linux users wanting to take advantage of Apple's newest silicon.

Support for the M1 was added to the Linux kernel in June 2021, seven months after Apple announced it. By then, the Asahi Linux Project had already formed and was documenting the M1's processes with the community's help. Asahi is now friendly and stable enough for average Linux users to install. Its developers say the alpha is only "intended for developers and power users," but "welcome everyone to give it a try—just expect things to be a bit rough."

Asahi supports the Apple M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max, but not the recently-announced M1 Ultra (not yet, at least). It's also limited to macOS, so no M1-powered iPads.

Asahi has a shortlist of working features for now, but it includes the basics. Almost all the hardware is functional, including built-in displays, keyboards, trackpads, external displays, power buttons, and batteries. Only about half the ports work, but USB type-A and USB over thunderbolt mostly work, and so does ethernet, which is enough. Wi-Fi is also supported.

And what doesn't work? Pretty much "everything else," says the Project's website, like GPU acceleration, video codec acceleration, the M1's neural engine, webcams, touch bars, and various CPU features, including sleep mode, all listed as non-functional or under development.

Some software also can't run on Linux on M1. Chromium is an example, but it should be fixable. Certain emulators and compatibility layers are not going to work on Asahi until changes are made to the kernel, so not for a while.

Asahi also doesn't "support" the notch seen on some MacBooks. Instead, it crops the screen beneath the cutout and gives the desktop environment a rectangular 16:10 display. In the future, the developers say they will enable opt-in display modes that include the notch, but it's not a priority for them.

Although the Project isn't following a schedule, it's progressing quickly. It won't be long before a more user-friendly version is available. But if you'd like to give this alpha a try, you can find the reasonably simple instructions for its installation in the Project's latest blog post.

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Dimitriid

Posts: 2,206   +4,245
This is promising already but with Apple not having serviceable nvme drives (AFAIK) the number one feature should be been able to boot from an external thunderbolt device (or USB 3 it wouldn't be as fast but hey it's fairly early on right now) so nothing is actually destructive.

Even then I think M1 is fast enough with low enough overhead that I think just running Linux in a virtual machine should become the preferred method: the super powers in performance and power savings Apple always talks about should come in handy when it comes to having just a VM for Linux in Parallels specially if you don't want to bother with dual boots and such but hey I think that advances in running Linux natively on hardware should translate well into more robust VM features like eventually having just paravirtualization so a Linux app is on it's own container with no visible underlying OS but can actually grab as much CPU resources as needed in terms of GPU or even the neural cores and such.
 

brucek

Posts: 1,126   +1,670
Pardon my ignorance on this topic, but what are some typical uses for things that can be done on Linux but not on the UNIX core that MacOS is built on top of (I thought it was a BSD derivative, I could be wrong?)
 

bviktor

Posts: 847   +1,264
Pardon my ignorance on this topic, but what are some typical uses for things that can be done on Linux but not on the UNIX core that MacOS is built on top of (I thought it was a BSD derivative, I could be wrong?)
Proper, uniform configuration across all company devices is one example that comes to mind. Managing macOS in an enterprise environment is very limited and painful.

It'd be friggin' awesome to have an Ubuntu release with macOS support eventually.
 

mongeese

Posts: 590   +119
Staff member
This is promising already but with Apple not having serviceable nvme drives (AFAIK) the number one feature should be been able to boot from an external thunderbolt device (or USB 3 it wouldn't be as fast but hey it's fairly early on right now) so nothing is actually destructive.
I'm not an expert, but I don't think it's possible to boot an M1 Mac from an external device / storage. Something to do with the secure boot process.
 

elementalSG

Posts: 270   +478
Given that Asahi Linux doesn’t support much yet (not even GPU acceleration), I think I’ll pour myself an Asahi beer and put my feet up while I wait for this distro to mature to a more usable state
 

Mr Majestyk

Posts: 1,215   +1,110
It would be awesome if Apple weren't so self-absorbed and they developed Linux to run on their M1 or helped out with the kernel development. I would be much more tempted to buy a laptop with Linux than macOS.
 

NeoMorpheus

Posts: 1,136   +2,268
I wish them the best, but I fail to see how this will be ever able to run properly without proper drivers and since all the hardware is apple’s I doubt they will ever release open source drivers.
 
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Aaron Fox

Posts: 153   +90
How would Linux support Apple's black box 'T2' stuff, now located inside the M series chips? I wonder what's going to happen with Pluton also. More proprietary black box stuff Linux users will be forced to consume?

I suppose systemd spiraling out of control is small potatoes in the larger scheme.

There is also the overheard of APFS, a filesystem that features things like nanosecond time stamping and no actual file deletion. It's crushingly slow on a mechanical hard disk and substantially slower than HFS+ on an SSD. Despite its slowness, people would like to believe that it's wonderful because it's newer. Newer obviously means a total upgrade rather than a few possibly worthwhile features and a basket of bad. Apple's obsession with constantly increasing the breadth and depth of the spyware in macOS seems fairly at odds with the goals of Linux.
 

MakeMSGreatAgain

Posts: 20   +18
Pretty cool to see someone doing this, though I almost wish they just went with FreeBSD/Unix instead of Linux. Linux kernel just has so much stuff, its a hot mess... I always feel like that just makes Unix a more 'secure' system than Linux based systems.

Either way it will be nice to have options on the new Macs. Apple makes some really great hardware, but MacOS is just too limiting when it comes to customization of stuff, that and Finder sucks a big one. One of these days I should spend some time and try to get Nemo file manager working in MacOS.

Oh and the note about the notch being excluded from the display portion is actually GREAT! I wish Apple would make that a user selectable option because I HATE the notch, absolutely hate it. Apple must have just said "lets make this awful notch, and force across all our devices so that all our clueless conformist fanboy loyalists will all flock to have this "feature"." Yet again Apple making something awful and somehow managing to sell it to people... ugh.