Someone ported Linux to the new Arm-based Mac Mini

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,213   +883
Staff member
In a nutshell: Running Linux on Intel-based Macs is relatively easy. Now that Apple is transitioning to its own silicon, it is no longer so straightforward. Although the M1 SoCs are Arm-based processors, and there are Arm versions of Linux available, components on the new Apple chips don't play well with current Linux distos.

Apple has not made dual-booting easy on its newest Arm-based computers. While there are Linux distros designed to run on Arm hardware, Apple silicon is a different breed. However, Security researchers at Corellium have a working Linux port for Apple's M1 Macs.

The operating system Corellium developed is an Arm-based Ubuntu distro that boots from a USB drive, but it is not as simple as plug-and-play. The main hurdle to getting Linux running on the M1 is hardware drivers.

"When writing Linux drivers, it became very apparent how non-standard Apple SoCs really are," Corellium wrote in a very detailed blog post describing the project. "Our virtual environment is extremely flexible in terms of models it can accommodate, but on the Linux side, the 64-bit ARM world has largely settled on a well-defined set of building blocks and firmware interfaces - nearly none of which were used on the M1."

Corellium CTO Chris Wade tweeted that the Linux on M1 proof-of-concept has been tested on the M1 Mac Mini and is "completely usable." Although, he notes that networking requires the use of a USB-C dongle. Users will also need to know their way around Linux and customs kernels to get ports set up. Wade mentioned that they have a tutorial, which was just added to the blog post a bit ago.

If you are interested in trying Linux out on your new M1 Mac, you will need the Ubuntu POC rootfs and, at minimum, a 16GB USB drive. Corellium posted the files and instructions to its website. Keep in mind this project is a work in progress and has only been tested on the Mac Mini, so mileage and bugs may vary.

Permalink to story.

 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 593   +469
Supporting Linux would actually benefit Apple in the long term, but then look how long it took to convince NVidia to support Freesync monitors

I can see it happening, but not today
 
Last edited:

Dimitriid

Posts: 1,334   +2,607
Supporting Linux would actually benefit Apple in the long term, but then look how long it took to convince NVidia to support Freesync monitors

I can see it happening, but not today

I agree that it would definitively help Apple and quite a bit: while they'd like for developers to just use Big Sur as their main dev platform most devs would agree that once you're proficient with it, Linux is quite simply better as a developing platform.

The part I don't agree with however, is that it will eventually happen: Apple went through a lot of cash in R&D to develop their own hardware at all important levels just so they can do what they intend to do with ARM based Apple hardware: lock you into their OS and software and ONLY their OS and software.

It's all about the walled garden which in this case is basically a complete fort resting on an island in the middle of the ocean: they went through a lot to make extra sure they control hardware beyond users (And henceforth, competitor's ) ability to break free and use something else.
 

TheBigT42

Posts: 595   +589
Surprised it took this long. Ubuntu / Debian is already on ARM. Should be too much to get it to run on Apple ARM