Hold On! Gimme A Sec

Developers finally get Linux running on an Apple M1-powered Mac

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Asahi Linux is a community-driven project aimed at getting Linux to run on Apple’s impressive M1 silicon. The group has made significant progress in its mission, according to its September progress report, by having Ahasi Linux run natively as a basic Linux desktop on an Apple M1 Mac.

This is significant because Apple employs proprietary technology that will not cooperate with you if you try to run an operating system other than macOS on one of its computers. For a long time, some daring developers have been attempting to crack Apple’s closed M1 ecosystem, and Asahi Linux may have just cracked the code.

After ditching Intel’s x86 silicon chip, Apple’s custom Arm-based SoC (system on chips) began showing up on Macs in 2020. Because the M1 is Apple’s most powerful chip, it’s understandable why some people would want to run Linux and, say, install Proton, which would turn their Mac into a powerful gaming PC.

This massive feat was accomplished by merging (or reviewing) a number of drivers for Linux 5.16, including drivers for the PCIe, USB-C PD, ASC mailbox, and other devices. Don’t worry if you’re wondering if any of this is legal. It’s legal to distribute as long as no code from macOS is used to build Linux support.

“M1 Macs can now be used as desktop Linux machines thanks to these drivers! While there is currently no GPU acceleration, the M1’s CPUs are so powerful that a software-rendered desktop is actually faster on them than on, say, Rockchip ARM64 machines with hardware acceleration,” wrote Hector “marcan.” “Martin, who is in charge of Ashai Linux development.

Now that Linux is up and running, an official installer should be available for download soon for anyone brave enough to give it a try. However, tinker at your own risk because some features are still missing.

“Remember, there are still many missing bits (USB3, TB, camera, GPU, audio, etc.) as well as patchsets a bit too problematic to bundle as-is at this time (WiFi, which needs significant rewrites), so don’t expect this to be anywhere near the polished experience that is the goal of our project. That said, we hope this will allow those willing to be on the absolute bleeding edge to get a taste for what running Linux on these machines is like—and, for some, this might be enough for production usage.”

Asahi Linux’s next step is to tackle the GPU kernel interface, as its current build lacks GPU acceleration. You can follow the team’s progress here, as well as the GitHub page for all of the project’s tools and documentation.

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