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I recently installed Ubuntu 16.04 64-bit on my old mid-2010 iMac, but quickly ran into some issues. When installing, the screen would go black after the grub interface, unless I added "nomodeset" to the boot commands. Now Ubuntu 16.04 is installed, but the screen will stay black or freeze on the purple start up screen unless I have "nomodeset" enabled. While it is currently in a working state, it isn't using the GPU for graphics acceleration. I know the graphics power of this Mac is already poor, but I intend to install Steam on Ubuntu to play some basic 3D games, so I need graphics acceleration to work. I am struggling to find an answer to this problem online. While I've since lost the webpage, I read somewhere that the issue may have something to do with how Ubuntu wants to take over the graphics driver on the kernel in order to reduce flickering during boot, which isn't compatable with iMacs. I am open to installing an older version of Ubuntu if necessary.

Graphics card: Radeon HD 4670

CPU: Intel i3-540

Output from command "/usr/lib/nux/unity_support_test -p":

OpenGL vendor string:   VMware, Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: Gallium 0.4 on llvmpipe (LLVM 4.0, 128 bits)
OpenGL version string:  3.0 Mesa 17.0.7

Not software rendered:    no
Not blacklisted:          yes
GLX fbconfig:             yes
GLX texture from pixmap:  yes
GL npot or rect textures: yes
GL vertex program:        yes
GL fragment program:      yes
GL vertex buffer object:  yes
GL framebuffer object:    yes
GL version is 1.4+:       yes

Unity 3D supported:       no

Output from command "dmesg | egrep 'drm|radeon'":

[    0.000000] Command line: BOOT_IMAGE=/boot/vmlinuz-4.10.0-42-generic.efi.signed root=UUID=883068b9-9317-47a9-98e6-202c75b7d2f2 ro quiet splash radeon.modeset=0 vt.handoff=7
[    0.000000] Kernel command line: BOOT_IMAGE=/boot/vmlinuz-4.10.0-42-generic.efi.signed root=UUID=883068b9-9317-47a9-98e6-202c75b7d2f2 ro quiet splash radeon.modeset=0 vt.handoff=7
[    1.381779] [drm] Initialized
[    1.412144] [drm:radeon_init [radeon]] *ERROR* No UMS support in radeon module!
[   10.490259] [drm:radeon_init [radeon]] *ERROR* No UMS support in radeon module!

Let me know if you need any other information.

Update 1/2/18: Based on what I have found, the issue occurs because of something called kernel mode set (KMS). The default, open source radeon driver needs KMS, so it gets disabled when I use nomodeset. Unfortunately, it seems like the new proprietary drivers (fglrx) don't support the old graphics card. I believe my best course of action would be to install the legacy proprietary drivers, but I haven't found a way to do so. If you have any ideas on how to do this, please let me know.

Update 5/26/18: After giving up on this for some months, I come back to it, and I find the drivers online right away! I figured out that they will only install in CLI. But now, I have a different problem. The installer is complaining about missing kernel headers, saying that version.h could not be found. Anyone know a way to fix that?

Update again: Gave up on this again, since it seems that the installer, or any legacy FGLRX driver requires an older kernel and therefore an older version of Ubuntu: http://wiki.cchtml.com/index.php/Ubuntu_Quantal_Installation_Guide This means I must install Ubuntu 12.10, which I believe I attempted previously, but to little success. I'm too busy at the moment to try again and find out the reason. On the download page for 12.10, there is a Mac version, but I don't think I was able to boot the installer last time I tried.

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You may try this: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RadeonDriver It looks like it's supported.

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  • That's the driver that comes installed with Ubuntu. It requires Kernel Mode Setting, which the Mac doesn't support – Nathan Walker Feb 21 '18 at 20:37
  • Indeed, fglrx wasn't installed on my (minimal) Lubuntu (nor proposed as I launch "install but the drivers from the "Additional drivers" program). – andrei i Feb 26 '18 at 10:51
  • The drivers from the link I've indicated before are de "default" drivers, and yes, they have no effect: when starting 'linux' on mac (via the ReFind or ReFit bootloader) the screen becomes blank although Linux starts normally "on the background". The TEMPORARY workaround I've found is to strike twice F2 before launcing the 'Linux' button on ReFind and add on the string of kernel options the following 2 options: radeon.modeset=0 nomodeset – andrei i Feb 26 '18 at 10:58
  • With these 2 options the use of the Radeon video card is eluded (so your original question too, unfortunately), but Linux starts well. So, the question is now: how to make this permanent. The most natural way would be to put these options in Linux's grub. In my case, I have no "grub" bootloader on the ReFind menu (have to work on that!). Another solution is suggested here: sourceforge.net/p/refind/discussion/general/thread/c30a6920 . Both are thus ReFind problems (to solve) I've tried (by modifying the refind.conf file on the Mac) to make them work... but didn't succeeded (yet). – andrei i Feb 26 '18 at 11:21
  • By the way, on my mid 2010 iMac (i3) the option "nomodeset" is not sufficient in order to avoid the Radeon video card issue: the screen is still blank (actually... black). The same holds for the option "radeon.modeset=0". I have thus to ask BOTH options in order to obtain a normal Linux boot... – andrei i Feb 26 '18 at 11:28
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I was running into the same problem with my 2011 Mac mini when installing Ubuntu 18.04.

Changing to the rEFInd boot manager fixed the issue for me.

Be aware that rEFInd will pull any boot params from grub, so if you have added nomodeset, etc it will need to be removed manually from /boot/refind_linux.conf

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Try to install the netinstall version and pick Ubuntu Mate Minimal for gui. I have a mini pc and works very good.

 example

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    Can you explain why you think this would solve my problem? I'm not using a mini PC, and I believe the issue revolves around how Ubuntu's graphics driver and the iMac interact. – Nathan Walker Dec 31 '17 at 20:46
  • Because when you make normal install you get a lot stuff that you don't. – Cornea Valentin Jan 1 '18 at 6:21
  • So with netinstall/minimal you can install latest/supported video driver for you pc/mac. On my mini pc i had issue with the video driver so this was my solution. – Cornea Valentin Jan 1 '18 at 6:26
  • Which driver should I attempt to install? – Nathan Walker Jan 2 '18 at 17:30
  • Which net install download should I use? – Nathan Walker Jan 6 '18 at 2:14

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