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What is the recommended release of Ubuntu for 32-bit Intel based Macs?

I see for 13.10 that there are specialised images for macs, (e.g. ubuntu-13.10-desktop-amd64+mac.iso). These only support 64-bit, and there is nothing similar for the i386 images. Looking at older versions such as 12.04 LTS, there are no mac variants at all.

I have tried using the regular 12.04 i386 image to create a bootable USB stick, but I was not able to boot the MacBook using this. Only the Macintosh hard disk appeared in the boot menu options.

I do not need to keep Mac OS X on the MacBook and would be happy single booting Ubuntu. Not sure if that makes things easier or harder.

  • There isn't one since you have to support GPT and UEFI for current MacOS. x64 is recommended to support UEFI and, by proxy GPT. So now you understand the reason for the recommendation. It doesn't answer your question, but it does tell you why. – RobotHumans Mar 13 '14 at 22:14
  • @hbdgaf I don't intend to keep MacOS on the MacBook. Does that mean I can discard the GPT requirement? – pauldoo Mar 13 '14 at 22:21
  • It still will probably require UEFI, but I'm not a Mac owner. I don't buy locked hardware. I don't know. – RobotHumans Mar 13 '14 at 22:21
  • @hbdgaf - I figured it out and answered below. – pauldoo Mar 15 '14 at 13:43
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I figured out how to do this and am now dual booting OS X and Ubuntu 12.04, so here's the solution...

  1. Prepare a USB stick for installing Ubuntu from. I downloaded 12.04.4 i386, and created a bootable USB stick using the instructions here.

  2. Shrink the Mac OS X volume to make space for Linux. I executed sudo diskutil resizevolume disk0s2 250G. The exact size you need will depend on how large your hard disk is and how much space you intent to reserve for Linux. Reboot, and confirm you have some unused space by using Disk Utility.

  3. Install rEFIt from inside Mac OS X. I installed v0.14. Note the installation docs say you may need to reboot twice after installing.

  4. Reboot and use the rEFIt menu to sync partition tables. For me MBR was out of date with respect to GPT.

  5. Boot with the USB stick inserted, and use rEFIt to boot from the USB stick. For me rEFIt showed the USB stick as an external hard disk.

  6. Install Ubuntu normally. I selected the option to install Ubuntu alongside Mac OS X.

  7. After the install completes you can reboot. Use the rEFIt menu to sync partition tables again. I don't recall if this had any effect at this point.

  8. You will find that the Linux option in the rEFIt menu doesn't work yet. You can select it but you just get a blank screen.

  9. Boot from the USB stick again and use the "Try Ubuntu" option.

  10. Open a terminal and mount the Ubuntu partition installed to the hard disk.

    sudo mkdir /target
    sudo mount /dev/sda4 /target
    sudo mount -o bind /proc /target/proc
    sudo mount -o bind /dev /target/dev
    sudo mount -o bind /dev/pts /target/dev/pts
    
  11. Chroot into this, with sudo chroot /target.

  12. From inside the chroot shell install refit and grub packages with sudo apt-get install refit grub. Note this will remove grub-pc, this is fine.

  13. From inside the chroot shell resync the partition tables with sudo gptsync /dev/sda. For me this updated the MBR tables. (gptsync should have been installed as one of the dependencies of refit.)

  14. From inside the chroot shell update grub with sudo update-grub.

  15. Reboot and remove the USB stick. You will find the Linux option in the rEFIt menu now works just fine. The option for Mac OS X should also still work.

This method was mostly deduced by taking hints from the Debian wiki about MacBooks. I had no trouble with this, but you may find additional troubleshooting tips there.

  • This doesn't answer the question of which version of Ubuntu is recommended on 32-bit Intel Macs, but 12.04.4 seems stable so far. Perhaps the install of a later version would require fewer manual tweaks. – pauldoo Mar 15 '14 at 13:46
  • This process also works for installing 14.04. In step 12, replace 'grub' with 'grub-coreboot'. – pauldoo Dec 20 '14 at 21:07

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