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I've never supported Apple in any way, but they do make incredible hardware. As I've just purchased and got working a nice Apple wireless keyboard (bought second-hand!), I'm curious about the possibility of buying a second-hand MacBook and installing Ubuntu on it.

What, of what's important, isn't working? Notably, I do Flash Player development from time to time, so I do at the very least need to get a 32-bit debug player installed. (I usually run 64-bit, so I'm familiar with having to tweak things to get it all working properly) I'd also need to be able to play DVDs with CSS, run Google Chrome, etc. Is it fairly similar in capabilities as a non-Apple computer as far as what I can use? It seems that there's a different architecture used, namely PowerPC, and I don't know what this means to me as an end-user.

Can anyone recommend me for doing this or against it?

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It can be done. I'd take a look at the Apple Users sub-forum on ubuntuforums.org for in-depth details.

These are also two good starting points for info: 1, 2.

Also check out which model MacBook it would be. For example I have a crappy plastic one that's a couple of years old. Runs like a trooper. It's designated '5,2'. The model type will be important in determining what needs to be done to get things working.

PRO

  • Lovely hardware.
  • Flexibility of GNU/Linux.

CON

  • Things like special function keys won't work out-of-the-box.
  • Battery life will be significantly lower [citation needed].
  • A generally less integrated experience (e.g. I notice that Thunderbolt and WLAN aren't working yet with Natty and the latest offering of MacBook Pros).
  • Hibernate and suspend tend to be a bit iffy.
  • You're getting rid of what is, in my opinion, a pretty good OS. If you need the *nix aspect of Linux it's all there. If you want something like the repository system you have options available too.

My idea would be to set-up a dual-boot environment.

Unless you're considering buying a very old Mac notebook, you needn't worry about the PowerPC architecture.

Playing DVDs is easily done. I've never had much fun with 64-bit Flash. Google Chrome arguably works better in Ubuntu.

Hope this helps.

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That definitely helps. I'm not too interested in Thunderbolt as I don't really have any hardware for it, but WLAN is a biggie. Due to philosophical-religious reasons, I will not use Apple software. I understand where you're coming from, but yeah, personal choice here. –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay May 27 '11 at 3:53
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@TK Kocheran: That's fair enough. I note that WLAN on the slightly older MacBook Pros under Lucid 10.04.1, not the vanilla 10.04 is noted as "works, with remarks". Lucid is still pretty good IMHO. I have at least one machine here running it. –  boehj May 27 '11 at 4:16
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All current MacBookPros are Intel-based, and 64 bit. Have a look at the compatibility table for the indiviual MacBookPro models, as there can be a lot of variability in hardware support. I use a 6,2 model (15" from 2010 series), and I believe it to be the best option (along with with the other 2010 models: 6,1 and 7,1 models).

The wireless and nvidia drivers work automatically (which is new in Natty). The backlight control has just been fixed (manual install), saving a lot of battery (not as quite as efficient as MacOS, but better than an average PC). Hibernate does not work, but suspend works fine. DVDs are fine, but regionless/ripped DVDs are blocked at the hardware level (Matshita drive). See the remaining details at (and related pages for other models):

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBookPro6-2/Natty

Older models generally have more problems (firmware and wifi issues in the 5,x and older series). The latest 8,x series (2011, with Sandy Bridge), had some issues booting. In the long run, the 8,x will probably be better (potential to boot from USB), but at the moment, the 2010 series (6,1 6,2 and 7,1) probably has the best hardware support. If you wait until the fall for Ubuntu 11.10, you might consider the 8,x, but if you're looking for a used one, you're more likely to find 6,x and 7,1 now.

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