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.