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OSX to Linux?

BDBlue's picture

So my MacBook isn't exactly new anymore. The hardware still works fine and it mostly does what I need it to do. But I can no longer upgrade the OS because the last several versions (including the ones that permit me to download apps) won't work on my hardware. And other software - like Firefox - can't be updated because it needs the later OSX to run. Now I'm not really sure I need the latest of any of these things, but it still sort of bugs me. As a result, I'm thinking about partitioning part of the hard drive and trying Linux. Any suggestions about good sources of information for potential new Linux users or any advice (pro or con)? I'm not a technophobe, but I really don't want to spend much (if any) time entering command lines or in whatever the Linux version of "Terminal" is? Does this make Linux a non-starter?

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Submitted by lambert on

... but I've heard good things about Mint.

Seems to have surpassed Ubuntu in ease of use. What I know nothing about is partitioning a Mac; all I know about is partitioning Windows (and that hasn't always worked for me with Ubuntu).

I'm stickying this because I want to know the answer.

TheMomCat's picture
Submitted by TheMomCat on

I'll let him know. We were just talking and he's calling me back a little later tonight.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

I started using Linux in the Redhat 7 days ('97?), and it's been my main OS since 2004-2005. As far as I'm concerned, it's the way to go. (Well, I would say that, wouldn't I?)

I'd second the mention of Linux Mint. That's a repackaged Ubuntu, minus the cruft that's accreted onto the latter. But because it is functionally Ubuntu, if that distribution (fondly called "distros" in linux-speak) goes completely off the rails then LinuxMint could have trouble too.

Personally, I run Linux Mint Debian. (Debian is one of the Grand Old Distros, with lots of progeny. Ubuntu is descended from Debian.) It's also very easy to use, but Linux Mint (ie the Ubuntu spinoff) is even easier.

About partitioning Macs: some of the best documentation was on the Ubuntu forums. This is fairly straightforward: Dual Boot MacOSX and Ubuntu. It looks overwhelming at first, but just go through it step by step. It's not difficult, just tedious the first time.

When you need help with stuff, the forums for whatever distro you go with are really good. Linux folks are helpful and you'll generally get an answer way faster than with commercial software and muzakky help line. I'll be glad to help if I can, too. I'll watch this thread, and see how things go.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Is your Mac a PowerPC Mac? From the description, that's what it sounds like. If it is, then your choices for Linux are a lot narrower. I remember seeing a few possibilities last time I looked, but not many from the mainstream distros.

If your CPU isn't an Intel or AMD, then you should definitely try Linux out by dual-booting, because it's quite possible that an application you really want runs fine on PC Linux, but doesn't on the PowerPC version.

Also, how to set up dual boot may be a little different, too.

There are also various BSD Unix flavors that run on PowerPC Macs, but the same caveats apply.

Submitted by mgmonza on

I've also been a Linux user since 2002, Unix before that, and very much prefer both to Windows. Anywhere I have to use Windows, it's always dual booted with Linux, either pre-Unity versions of Ubuntu, or Debian. I'd hesitate to offer any advice about implementing a dual boot on MACs, though, because I've never gotten the hang of them, and they scare me.

That said, I wanted to ask if you've tried the "try it without risk" option Linux distributions offer? Most have an option of downloading and creating a complete mini version of the operating system on a CD or thumb drive that lets you use it as though it were installed but does not write to or affect your hard drive or current operating system at all (unless you explicitly tell it to).

It's a great way to find out which flavor of which version you feel most comfortable with before you put the hard work of partitioning and installing into it. Also, some of the versions have an easy-to-use graphic partitioning utility on the live CD that makes that part of the job much easier when you need it.

propertius's picture
Submitted by propertius on

I've been using Linux since late-mid-1990s (kernel version 0.92 or so), do most of my serious work on Fedora (the bleeding edge free Redhat-based distro), and was on Unix since the early 80s (and various proprietary OSes you don't want to know about before that). Before you start repartitioning, I'd definitely recommend creating a live boot thumb drive.

Given your description of your Mac woes, I assume you're either on a PowerPC-based Mac or a 32-bit Intel Mac. Which is it?

If it's PowerPC-based, it's going to take a little work to find a prepackaged distro. I'm not sure which ones are still available for your hardware.

If it's a 32-bit Intel, then almost any major distro will have a package for you. You'll need to make sure it supports EFI (Macs don't boot the same way PCs do).

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Most major distributions also now assume your 32-bit Intel CPU has the PAE extension. That includes the last two Ubuntu/Mint revs, and Fedora for at least the last couple of years. I don't know if 32-bit Intel Macs have that extension or not - so it's another thing to look for.

If your CPU doesn't have that extension and you try to load an OS that requires it, it will most likely crash immediately, so at least you won't waste time going through an install to find out...

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Most major distributions also now assume your 32-bit Intel CPU has the PAE extension. That includes the last two Ubuntu/Mint revs, and Fedora for at least the last couple of years. I don't know if 32-bit Intel Macs have that extension or not - so it's another thing to look for.

If your CPU doesn't have that extension and you try to load an OS that requires it, it will most likely crash immediately, so at least you won't waste time going through an install to find out...

Submitted by glen on

Like others commenting here, I have been using Linux since about 96 at home. Right now I'm running Debian squeeze and should be upgrading to wheezy soon. I've tried quite a few distributions, although I no longer feel compelled to download and compile the latest kernel just to stay bleeding edge. It was more of a requirement years back because each new release made you hardware work much better. Now, I think Linux is easier to install and supports more hardware (old and new) than just about any other operating system.

And as others have mentioned, you need to know more about the hardware (mostly the CPU) in your laptop before making recommendations on a distribution. Let us know if you have a PowerPC, X86, or X86 Core 2 Duo. This web site might be a good place to start:

http://mac.linux.be/

I would strongly suggest you figure out how to boot Linux from a flash drive or a CD/DVD so that you can try it out before you make any decisions about going dual boot and mucking around with your hard drive.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I have a MacBook 2,1. So it's an Intel Core Duo processor. Poking around it seems like there are at least some versions of Mint that I could run as well as Ubuntu. The CD method seems appealing, although it looks like I may also be able to run it through OSX using Parallels. I've never used Parallels, but looking around it might work.

I have a cheat for partitioning the hard drive. My husband. Although I believe he just used Bootcamp to do it for Windows and there's some issue with using Bootcamp for two operating systems.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Parallels actually has a download option for Ubuntu. So that's what I'm doing now and I'll try running it that way. I'll report back!

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

That's an excellent option. And it has the advantage that if you need something from the other OS, whether Mac or Linux, you don't have to reboot, get it, and then reboot all over again.

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

Seriously?

Most of us Mac folks ARE Mac folks because we like our problems to be solved easily. Three clicks to update system software, etc.

If you eneter the world of Linux, you are now where the ubergeeks travel. If you are not one of these people, stay away from Linux. In the Linux world, easy-to-use is the equivalent of the worst day you ever had on your Mac.

If you have a Core Duo, you should be able to run OSX 10.6.8. I use this OSX by choice on my 27" iMac because it is the highest OSX that will still run PPC software in emulation. It runs everything I can think of including Final Cut Pro 7 and FCPX, Adobe CS 6, and Word 2011.

So I ask you, what exactly do you want to run that needs a higher OSX than this? And will it be available for Linux?

Submitted by lambert on

... a change of OS.

In addition, on the version of OS X I use, I've noticed that tablet-like user interface innovations, and a marked decrease in reliability, have begun to degrade the user experience. Not gonna be taking my hands off the keyboard to swipe. And the Finder was rock solid for a long, long time with OS X. Now it crashes regularly, and two years into my ownership of an Air, I get regular kernel panics, and every time I reboot I worry it's going to be the last time....

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I guess my answer is a bunch of different things. Apple has stopped upgrading my OS, which means more and more apps won't work on it as I go forward. I could go to 10.6 that's true and I've considered it (it used to be expensive for such an out-of-date upgrade, but they've recently dropped it to about $20). Right now even 10.5 is more or less okay so it's not an immediate issue, but if my hardware holds up eventually it's going to get harder to get new things to run on my OS (of course it could be that Linux apps won't either).

But my hardware may not last a lot longer, who knows?, so my computer is eventually going to need to be replaced. What to replace it with? New Macs can be expensive and, I'm with Lambert, in that I swear every new version of iTunes, etc., that I download seems to be worse than the last (which may mean I should just stick with my current OS and be grateful I can't get anything beyond 10.6). Windows 8 sucks even by Windows standards, at least according to my friends. So that brought me to Linux - can I find a version that does what I need it to do, which isn't a lot, without driving me crazy with having to be too techie. If it isn't user friendly enough for me, then I am likely to be back with Mac. But if I can find a version I like and can use easily enough, then I kind of like the idea of getting away even a little bit from corporate America in my computing life. And, hey, I'll always have my iPad.

One final note as to what I do on my computer - not much really. At least not much that's difficult or unique, which is why I think Linux may actually work. So long as it lets me sync my iPod, organize my photos (iPhoto is another app that I think has gotten progressively worse), surf the net and write without too much computer-ese, it will do me fine. Of course, I don't know that it will do that, which is why I think it's perfect to try it first in Parallels.

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

Sounds like you're just bored.

Macs have long lives. Most of them will last long beyond your love of an old machine. But since it is doing the job you need it to do, why don't you just give it some love.

1) If you haven't done this for awhile, safe boot your computer. (Start up holding down the shift key.) This has the side benefit of rebuilding your directory. You will be amazed at how much better your Mac runs. Be sure to reboot in regular mode after you computer has done it's work.

2) Upgrade to 10.6. Yes 10.5 runs pretty well but it will be a LONG time before you run out of apps for 10.6.

3) Consider installing a solid state Hard Drive. We have done this to our laptop and it just screams—18 seconds to boot up, 21 to load Photoshop, etc. Also the battery lasts longer and the fan doesn't run as much. It's pretty easy to do—easier than upgrading the memory. Three screws and ten minutes. Great instructions on YouTube.

4) Thoroughly clean your computer—nothing like opening it up and just going "ah" because it looks so nice. A little WD-40 on the hinge and you are set to go.

Your Mac probably has 10 good years left in it if you take care of it. It has enough power to do video and audio editing, page layout, and photo retouching. You are much better off taking care of what you have than trying to show off your geek cred by installing Linux. If nothing else, if you take care of your computer, it will probably fetch $400 on craigslist when you finally decide to trade up.

katiebird's picture
Submitted by katiebird on

Thank you so much for this list! I had never heard of the safe-boot-up for macs. Are there things that should be checked when it is in safe mode?

How do you thoroughly clean a laptop without wrecking it?

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Macs have long lives.

Macs often outlive the software. I have an old MacBook G4 that I don't dare put Linux on, because if it doesn't work for some reason I could never go back to OS X. In my case, it's not a big deal. I have other computers, and that one is mostly useful because it's a Mac. But it's an old Mac that still runs. I just can't get any Apple software for it anymore.

OTOH, I have fifteen year-old PCs that still run Linux, that are doing useful work.

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

Old software?

I have ZERO problem using old software. For example, I learned Photoshop on version 3.0.5. I have upgraded over the years because new CPUs and system software need upgraded application software. I am up to version 12.

But here's the deal. I have not learned how to do anything new since version 7. If I have to do Photoshop work on old versions, I am just fine. So if you have an old computer running old software, you MIGHT be missing out on a few features but rarely any important ones.

You could EASILY write a great book on an old G4. You can edit sound and video files. You can lay out a flashy magazine The idea that you are missing out because you don't have the latest software is just pernicious nonsense.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Nonsense is declaring that what works for you will work for other people. If what runs on your computer does what you need, and you don't have privacy or reliability concerns, then you probably won't need to upgrade. I have computers in my care that haven't been upgraded in years, and may never be.

OTOH, if you need to upgrade on a G4, and you're not prepared to make the leap to Linux or BSD, you're boned. The reason I have that G4, for instance, is that the previous owners couldn't use it anymore. They replaced it with a new MacBook, so it wasn't the environment they didn't like, it was not being able to upgrade to do the things they needed to do, like read the new MS Office document formats.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Food for thought. My husband has a solid state hard drive in his new Mac and it is amazingly fast. It would make me very happy if I got another 10 years out of my laptop.

And, yes, I am bored, but I don't think that's why I'm interested in Linux since I don't really consider dealing with OSes not boring. ;-)

Submitted by brucedixon on

I have next to no Mac experience, a hardcore Linux user now for about six years. My preferred distribution is Bodhi, which like Mint is an Ubuntu derivative. Ubuntu itself is a derivative of the rock solid Debian distribution.

Bodhi has the particular advantage of using the Enlightenment interface, which consumes far fewer system resources than Mint''s or Ubuntu's versions of Unity, Gnome and KDE. On one of my machines with only 2G of RAM I have a dual boot with Linux Mint 14 side by side with Bodhi. Bodhi runs noticeably faster.

The only real disadvantage of the Bodhi Linux desktop is that it's so beautiful you could spend more time tinkering with it than you ought to. You can even make it look a lot like a Mac with the vanishing dockbar or whatever they call it at the bottom.

I do desktop publishing with Scribus, video editing with Cinelerra, open, read, edit and create MS Office documents with Libre Office, and everything you do with Photoshop I can do with GIMP except Pantone matching. All these are open source programs.

Finally if you're one of those folks who is serious about building a new society out of the pain and ruin of the old, why not start with your own computer? Linux belongs to its users not to greedheads who are trying to privatize water and education and compel Africa to accept GMOs or diverting the money honest artists should be getting.

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Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Ha! You call that a desktop? Here's a desktop..

Mint 13 (the current long term service (LTS) version) with the MATE desktop (formerly GNOME). I like the desktop uncluttered. All the little status thingies are up in the top bar where I can see them, and the rest of the desktop is there for applications.

The great thing about FOSS is that if you don't like one software implementation, there's a good chance someone else has done it the way you like.

Afterword: Here's Bodhi Linux, BTW.

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

Anyone who seriously suggests that you can do with GIMP what you can do with Photoshop hasn't done much photo editing. This sort of foolishness combined with conflating computers with politics is sort of why Linux fans are not treated very seriously. I happen to love the Linux story, have read Torvald's really incredible book, and admire the the guys who can make Linus work. But the truth is, if Linux were the only available operating system, no more that 3% of the population would be able to operate computers.

I appreciate that it is fun to belong to an exclusive club. Unfortunately, that club would most certainly not include me. If it were not for Apple, my creative life would have never happened. I can gracefully edit videos, illustrate and animate in 3D, manipulate music files, do page layouts and so much more. I am very graceful on a Mac. I cannot even run Windows. And I will become graceful on Linux when I can fly by waving my arms.

Submitted by hipparchia on

gimp is fine for some basic stuff, but photoshop rocks.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Have you tried the Eg and FX Foundry extensions? I've used GIMP for a few years now to process photos, and with those extensions I can often make so-so photos look good.

I haven't used Photoshop, so I can't compare, but I suspect that at least a few of the complaints about what you can't do in GIMP are really about the individuals in question not knowing how to do it in GIMP.

Submitted by hipparchia on

I've used both for a lot of years and for a lot of things

Submitted by hipparchia on

i actually hate gimp with a purple passion, but part of that is because i first used adobe's suite of products for many years. now that i have to pay for all that art software myself, i use gimp, so i do like it for that reason, but still.....

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

We have a 2006 Dell Latitude D620 which I was planning to have a local computer shop upgrade [from Windows XP Pro to Windows 7 Pro] this March, since none of the XP upgrades--security patches, etc.--will be available after Spring 2014.

It has a decent CD Player, and hooked up to a large screen monitor, suffices quite nicely as a CD/DVD player (and still functions well for word processing, web browsing, and other less speed intensive/simple applications).

Generally, it's still in excellent hardware condition (had it checked out and cleaned recently), so we would like to upgrade it, and maintain it as a "backup" laptop.

Or does the Linux OS even run on a Windows-based computer that old?

If anyone can recommend a link to a Linux tutorial and OS download for a "non-Mac" laptop, I would sure appreciate it.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

Yes, it does. The thing to do is try a "Live CD." The simplest to use in my experience is Linux Mint (Ubuntu flavor, not Debian-flavor). But I've never used Bodhi, mentioned by brucedixon above, so that's well worth a try too.

What you do is go to the web site, download the operating system in an "iso" It'll be called whatever-operating-system-name.iso. Burn that to an empty DVD, or a CD if it's small enough. Turn your computer off. Boot with the DVD in the drive. It will boot into the OS and you can see what it's like. You can also see how well it runs on your hardware. Make sure wireless works, printing, and that sort of thing.

That's all there is to it. If you decide you want to install, you just push an icon. (That may give you some idea how out-of-date techno's information is about some linux distros.)

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

running the OS off a disk first.

"Wireless" capability is a necessity. Stay out-of-town so much, finally got rid of DSL, and for now using "Broadband-To-Go" connectivity. And will need an OS that works with an external monitor, printer, scanner, and a Kingston USB Flash Drive--just the "basics."

Will "read up" on all of this, probably start with trying out the Mint distro (if that's the correct term for version--see how "new" I am at this, LOL!) that you and Cujo359 both recommend. I'll wait until I get back home, in case I blow it, since that's where the other laptop is!

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

Since suspend might be the problem, be sure to try suspend when you've booted from the Cd/DVD.

Having said that it's super-simple, I guess I should also say that suspend can sometimes work from CD/DVD and then not work when you have the real install. At least I had that happen to me once. On the other hand, if it does not work, it definitely won't work in the real install.

If you do decide to install, do a dual boot. (Docs here. You would need only the "Install ubuntu after windows" section. LinuxMint =Ubuntu with a different "skin.") Then if there's a problem, you can always go back to your other, working, OS.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

Just a few minutes browsing indicates that there are "hibernation issues" with Linux (Bodhi) and our model Dell Latitude.

Probably not a good project to undertake, when one is pushed for time--which I am.

Sure hope that BD Blue, or other blogger(s) who switch over to Linux, check back in to report the results.

Hate giving Bill Gates any money (for Windows) after he pitted "teachers against end-of-life (health) care."

;-)

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

I think that you will end up spending a lot of time pulling out your hair no matter how you upgrade the software on your laptop. My usual procedure is to make CDs or DVDs (usually the latter these days, I'm afraid) of likely distros and see how they work on the laptop. This, in fact, is how I tried to test laptops for Linux compatibility before buying them once upon a time. Usual sticking points for me are wifi support and display support. If those work, usually everything else will, too. Most install DVDs are also live DVDs, which means they'll run right from the DVD, and you can try them out that way.

If you have at least 2GB of RAM, I'd suggest using one of the mainstream distros. Mint, SuSE/OpenSuSE, and Ubuntu have all had good laptop support in my experience, Fedora and RedHat/CentOS fitfully so. If you have less, besides Bodhi (no personal experience with it, but I'll go with Bruce Dixon's recommendation), I'd look at AV Linux if you're into multimedia or graphics, and xubuntu, a version of Ubuntu that doesn't have the smart phone interface.

On the hibernation/power management issue, when Linux went to rev. 3.0 a couple of years ago, a lot of things that worked got broken. It took awhile to fix them. If what you read about Bodhi is more than a few months old, it's quite possible that no longer applies.

Re: Bill Gates - software people often don't know jack about economics, particularly the rich ones.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

BTW, when I wrote "I think that you will end up spending a lot of time pulling out your hair no matter how you upgrade the software on your laptop", I meant that even if you choose to try to upgrade Windows, you will do that. People who complain about how hard it is to install Linux or BSD Unix have usually not ever tried installing Windows. In my experience, installing Windows is usually at least as frustrating and time-consuming.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

"I meant that even if you choose to try to upgrade Windows, you will do that."

I hear that, LOL!

Most of our upgrades have gone pretty well, but we had a nightmare scenario re-imaging or restoring a OS on one desktop a few years ago. I hope NOT TO have a repeat of that.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

You've given me "a lot to chew on," as the expression goes.

I'll be in a position in several more weeks to really study the links, and try to actually install one of the Linux OS.

I'm with you, in that I hold Bruce Dixon's opinion "on anything" in the utmost esteem. That's one reason that I checked into Bodhi, after reading his post.

The "hibernation" issue isn't a major issue, in itself. At one time, I used the "hibernation" function constantly. However, once I found out that the older Dell laptop model "can have" overheating issues, I began turning off both laptops, when we're away for periods of time in excess of several hours. And I'm using a cooling fan on both of them as a precaution.

So, bottom line--it probably is not necessary to rule out that "version" (if that's what it's called) of Linux.

I just checked, and the processor in the D620 is an "Intel T2400 @ 1.83 GHz."

And the "RAM is only 1,99 GB" (not sure why it's not 2 GB). Seems odd to me, but then I know very little about computer hardware.

I'll take your advice, and try out a Linux OS (or 2 or 3) from a "live disc" first.

The Gates video was pretty "scary," IMO.

I already found Mr. Gates' "meddling" in the US education system (with his privatization push and funding) to be disturbing. Guess his support of "union busting" in regard to public school teacher's should not have surprised me.

But his supposition that the American People have to choose between providing decent end-of-life health care for our eldest and most vulnerable citizens, and funding teaching positions is beyond the pale--and simply unconscionable.

Thanks again for the helpful advice, 'cause all that I know about Linux is what I've read at Corrente (or following the links provided).

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

And the "RAM is only 1,99 GB" (not sure why it's not 2 GB).

I'd guess that the part of RAM space that's used by the BIOS can't be remapped for some reason. For my purposes, though, I'd call that 2GB. Big distros should run on it OK, at least for the next few years...

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

I'll start with "Mint," since two of you "cybergeeks" recommend it (not meant as snark--I'm sure that you are one--and "yo" is anything but one, LOL!)

Here's a website that I ran across, that "sounds pretty good," so I bookmarked it for future reference.

Dedoimedo