Transformation to Linux Complete: Converted Macbook Pro to Ubuntu

I wrote about being a post-50-year-old who made the switch to Linux after a lifetime of use (pretty equally) on both Macs and Windows-based PCs. Since starting with Linux, I have been a notorious distro hopper, and as my familiarity with Linux has grown, so have my assessments of some of the better distros out there (I am pulling away from some of the ones I once recommended for beginners). That’s a fine topic for another discussion at another time.

I am writing this post running Ubuntu on a 15.6" Macbook Pro mid-2014. If memory serves, it has a 2.2 GHz processor and 16 GB of RAM along with an SSD. It was running the Big Sur edition of Mac OS and was capped out on upgrading to newer Mac OS versions when I decided to throw caution to the wind and install Linux (OK, so I did create a bootable Mac OS drive and backup the data). It ran fine, it worked fine. The issue was simply that it didn’t fit into my computing world any longer as a Mac OS system.

Per my usual starting point, I threw some Linux-based distros on bootable USB sticks at it. With Mac OS, simply hold the option key when booting and you get to choose the bootable drive,

The real problem with EVERY distro was the Macbook Pro’s stock Broadcom wifi card. Many people can tell you more than I can (and a search will reveal more), but the short of it was there was no wifi with any distro I tried. I was going to have to download the driver on another computer, drop it on a thumb drive, figure out the right location for the Linux computer and reboot and pray I got it right. The most simple solution came from using Ubuntu, a distro I have said more than once that I don’t love. What the he77, I thought. Why not?

On booting into Ubuntu FROM THE THUMB DRIVE, the same problem appeared – no access to wifi. By going into Software & Updates and selecting “Additional Drivers” I was able to activate it. Problem solved, so off I go to wipe my HD and install Ubuntu as the daily driver (I did back up Mac OS to a thumb drive and I backed up my HD on to external HD using Time Machine, so I CAN go back if needed).

I did the install WITH proprietary drivers on to ensure I got the Broadcom adapter working. Except it didn’t work. And I couldn’t activate it using the method above that I used when running it from the USB stick because it said I didn’t have internet and couldn’t download that driver to activate it (so much for it being part of the full install, right?). It said it could activate it IF I had an internet connection.

I recently moved and apparently I either lost, hid or tossed every single f_(&ing Cat 5 cable I had (Yes, I need to rummage through boxes in the garage, but not today). So plugging it into the router wasn’t going to be an option.

In a moment of frustration, the old school “plug the computer into your phone and set up tethering” trick came to mind. And it worked (chorus of Angels, ringing of bells and an immediate disappearance of all rain clouds). After about a minute of fumbling with my phone and about two minutes or less of download time the Broadcom wifi card was showing me the networks I could connect to. No reboot necessary.

Takeaways:

  1. New resepect for Ubuntu. There’s something to be said for being the “go-to” distro in terms of help and support. It’s pretty cool that that Broadcom proprietary driver is available so readily compared to many of the other distros I tried. Also…
  2. Upon having much more familiarity with Linux distros than I did when I started all of this, I have found that I enjoy GNOME, and I find Ubuntu more user friendly than I did before – now that I have lost my virginity with Linux so to speak. I also did some customization to make it comfortable for me (dock to the bottom of the monitor, hiding on, new desktop background, activations of pleasing colors and themes, etc.).
  3. This 8-year-old Mac runs like a champ. It’s super fast, super smooth and it will be my daily driver. I have a work desk at home that I use where my laptop sits on a stand beside a 24-inch monitor. I unplug the power adapter, the HDMI and the keyboard/mouse dongle and then trade out my work or personal computer depending on what I am doing. This Apple will be the “new” personal workstation meaning I will be running Ubuntu daily (that chomping sound you hear is not my chowing down on tortilla chips; rather it’s me eating my own words).

So I own a few different laptops and this was the LAST one that did not have Linux. Not only does it have it now, but it is NOT running alongside Mac OS or in virtual mode. It is a true Linux machine. And with that, my transformation is complete with ALL of my computers running various Linux distros – except for my work computer, unfortunately!

Here are the details of what I am running now:
Linux (NAMEDELETED)-MacBookPro 5.19.0-23-generic #24-Ubuntu SMP PREEMPT_DYNAMIC Fri Oct 14 15:39:57 UTC 2022 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
PRETTY_NAME=“Ubuntu 22.10”
NAME=“Ubuntu”
VERSION_ID=“22.10”
VERSION=“22.10 (Kinetic Kudu)”
VERSION_CODENAME=kinetic
ID=ubuntu
ID_LIKE=debian

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Your Linux usage history sounds a bit like mine. I never ‘hated’ Ubuntu, but definitely did my share of distro hopping. I too landed on Ubuntu. Mainly because it supports a wide range of hardware and I don’t mind using Gnome.

You might try using Plank as a dock. It’ll look right at home on your Mac laptop. I do that on my Dell laptop with the standard dock on the left.

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What is odd for me is that I am comfortable in most any INTUITIVE environment, but I do like eye candy. I have one computer running Zorin, another running Solus Budgie, two running Pop! OS and the Macbook pro rocking stock Ununtu. I have dabbled with several others, but I as I get more and more comfortable with different distros, I do find Ubuntu to be better than I gave it credit for being early on. I want to transition to Ubuntu Budgie, but it has a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out first.

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Why? I have one machine that is running W7, W10 and a Linux Mint VM and that is all the Linux I need on that machine.

I’ve dabbled with Pop! OS a few times. Each of those times pretty short. I didn’t think it gave me much over stock Ubuntu and to me it looked a little cartoony. Just not as polished as Ubuntu.

Elementary OS was one I used a lot. Ubuntu underneath with a pretty layer of Pantheon over the top. You’d probably like that one @fishyaker. Stock Ubuntu running Gnome with Plank looks similar enough for me.

If eye candy is your thing I would think of KDE I used lots of KDE way back in the days of Mandrake.

I like eye candy too…

One of the reasons I use MacOs :slight_smile: - the eyecandy stuff just works better-er, than on e.g. gNOME…

I like Ubuntu, I like “vanilla” Ubuntu, e.g. with gNOME (I say it like Bryan Lunduke does, i.e. “nome” or like Noam as in Noam Chomsky)… I also don’t have strict preferences for Linux - I’m happy so long as I’ve got a SHELL, a proper POSIX shell…

MacOS gives me ZSH (out of the box!), and it’s based on FreeBSD - MacOS IS UNIX!
Ubuntu 20/22 etc, give me ZSH (not always “out of the box” either), it’s based on Linus’ kernel work, and the GNU project. It’s good, it’s not necessarily “UNIX”, but it is so UNIX-y as to be virtually indistinguishable!

Note also - with “eye candy” I nearly ALWAYS install a bunch of MacOS clone themes onto my gnome desktop - icons and screen elements - and - I move the window control widgets to the left (like in MacOS or Unity). One thing : theming is partially broken in gnome 42 and 43 on Ubuntu (and Fedora 35, 36, 37) - due to some apps ignoring the theme, and using gnome foundation’s “enforced” adwaita on EVERYTHING…

Someone mentioned plank, I used to swear by this - and even created my own theme for it - I used it on Unity and Ubuntu gnome (and it’s the default dock for elementary anyway) - but - I realised sometime later, dash-2-dock, or Ubuntu-Dock convert the dash, into a dock and it’s part of gnome anyway - so sorry plank - goodbye! I also used plank on Debian XFCE in a few cases - it worked well there too - taking older versions of XFCE, I note some very bleeding edge versions of XFCE can implement a bottom panel that can work like a dock (i.e. an icon to launch an app, and that same icon to find that app again [default XFCE panel is to launch another instance of some app])… I’m sure that could be fixed, but I don’t spend enough time in XFCE for it to be of concern…


I don’t plan on switching EITHER of my M1 “Apple Silicon” (ARM64) MacBooks to Linux - I’m PERFECTLY 100% happy with ZSH running mostly “native” on a POSIX Unix system - that - just happens to be RISC, just like the olden days with Sparc, and PowerPC (e.g. AIX), MIPS and DEC Alpha, and there were more too, e.g. Motorola 88010 (which Data General used for the first AViiON systems)… Also - one of these M1 Macs belongs to my employer anyway…

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I do just the opposite because I’ve used Windows so much. The min/max/close “belong” in the upper right corner.

The “goofy” thing I like on Windows is to put the task bar on the top. On very early versions of Windows everything had a pull down menu. I just got used to having that pull down rather than the pop up you get from the default Start menu. The problem is different apps and actions have some odd behavior when the task bar is on top. It’s also easy to pull down the hidden task bar when you meant to click the min/max/close button.

PotAto, PotOto.

I think the only RISC I ever used was the Digital Alpha before HP bought them. Or was it Compaq?

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I do not like the retro-Robot theming of Pop! OS. Short of that, I do like that it just works as it should for my purposes. I have changed much of that cartoony theming you mention where possible. I played around with Elementary, but either I didn’t use it long enough or it felt like it was trying to be something it wasn’t (like a bad imitation of Mac OS). I am not an Apple fan, per se. I got pissed at Apple many years ago because they dropped customer support on my brand new iPhone 4 when a software update blew out the wifi and bluetooth chips. Apple’s response was… unacceptable.

Just my opinion and YMMV: Apple is an arrogant company. That, plus a general distaste for Windows, is what led me to Linux. I think in being a Linux user, I have had to learn to make some sacrifices, but those, to me, are small for the value I get. I don’t get “seamless” integration with MS Office apps, but I don’t pay for seamless integration. And there’s almost always a workaround. There are other examples, but that’s one most home and business users will run into at some point.

KDE is cool, but I do prefer Gnome (and I call it NOME, too, though purists will correct me over that damn G). I have come to love Budgie, but it’s still got a ways to go to get the polished FEEL to match its look.

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I respect other people’s right to use any platform they choose and let me do the same. No Apple for me personally although my kids both use Apple products. I had one Windows phone (it was pretty nice) and a few Android phones over the past 10 years or whatever it’s been.

The company I work for supports users with Windows or Apple desktops/laptops. It prefers we use Apple for phones, but I use Android. They don’t complain because I don’t have issues they need to provide me support for. They don’t support Linux on the desktop/laptop. I really wish they would. Some sort of pilot or proof of concept would be nice. I will volunteer for that if it ever comes up.

The web based versions of Office work pretty well I think. Even Teams in a browser is decent. It sort of seems easier to support in many ways. They would have to pick some flavor of Linux to officially support and it seems like Ubuntu 22.04 LTS (Gnome) would be a logical choice. (gNOME here too)

I also agree that Ubuntu Budgie needs a bit of spit and polish, but Budgie is a very pretty desktop environment.

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Compaq bought DEC, then HP bought Compaq :slight_smile:

They settled out of court the case that DEC had against Intel for stealing Alpha tech for Intel… Then HP quietly shelved the Alpha, in favour of its PA-RISC, which got morphed with Intel’s IA64 (this is NOT the same thing as x86_64 or amd64)…

So - Oracle are doing their damnedest to kill off sparc… That just leaves IBM with Power RISC for AIX (and I think AS400 run on Power these days too)…

MIPS is still kinda/sorta “alive” after being onsold to the Chinese (LongSoon).
PowerPC
I think the Chinese also cloned (unlicensed - the Chinese are VERY clever at theiving IP) sparc and run that (sparc is shared between Oracle, and Fujitsu).
And there’s lotsa talk these days about RISC-V - but I’ve yet to see a consumer product using it (SUPER expensive hobbyist SBC boards with RISC-V don’t count!).
ARM is RISC…

So :

  • MIPS (Longsoon have 32 and 64 bit variants)
  • Power
  • Sparc
  • RISC-V
  • ARM(32 and 64)

are still going…

Also - Intel finally killed of IA64 fairly recently… it was still CISC, but had some RISC stuff they got from HP off the PA-RISC architecture…

Hey - I know it’s just HTML5 rendered into a WebApp - but - there’s a “native” Linux version of Teams - I use it all the time for my job! The only thing I don’t like about it - it enforces Windows style “window drawing widgets” (on MacOS the Teams client respects Apple’s screen / window drawing tech / style).

Nearly ALL of Microsoft’s shite runs really well in a browser, like Chrome or Brave - but seems best on MS Edge (which also has a NATIVE Linux version that supports sync [I use my work creds to sync MS Edge])…

I did used to keep a Linux (personal) desktop machine on my desk at work - but that sorta thing is frowned upon these days - and - we’re supposedly “hotdesking” it anway - and now have a complete “clean desk policy”)… But work gave me a Mac - so that’s just as good as Linux (better in some ways)…

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That sums it up nicely.
I like the way you go about it Jefferey. Some people are unfortunately just not prepared to put in any learning effort.
You get much more out of Linux if you invest a little time reading and learning

So you are happy with Ubuntu for now.
One day have a go at something like Arch or Void, where you have to add everything you want rather than having it on a plate. It will sharpen up your thinking.

Regards
Neville

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I’ve done a lot of reading about Arch. I’ve dabbled with Manjaro, but software repositories threw me a curve ball… In short, I wasn’t ready for the options and the learning curve. I’m dabbling more and reading more, so I’ll get there. But I want to have a solid grip on it when I do and I’m a little short of that now.

I think Manjaro will be the distro I use to transition to Arch unless someone thinks there’s a better jumping off point.

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My family (including my accountant daughter who is still on my phone plan): 3 iPhones, 1 Google Pixel 6 Pro. The ladies love their iPhones.

Oddly, my younger daughter, a college student, started college with a brand new Macbook Air. She is in her junior year and it crapped out. New logic board. Cost is about $600. She said she’d had enough of Apple. So I gave her a Linux demo and she was lukewarm.

Seeing that was not going to work, I decided to complete her turn to the dark side. I got her a Chromebook (not mentioning that it is a Linux machine). She says she loves it, that it does everything she needs (and I do too, since it’s essentially running a Googled-out version of Linux). My only hesitation is that she’s in Google’s ecosystem, something I am actively working to get out of due to privacy concerns; I recently moved to a secure email address and I am in the midst of an ongoing transition to Firefox. Maybe I will get her there eventually, but baby steps, right?

Arch is a build as you want, too much bloatware in Manjaro and EndeavourOS. I have Arch running on a older PC, and it is running well. Also tried Gentoo on the same PC, just not enough hardware support to run Gentoo.

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Very interesting discussion among some pretty impressive, experienced users. I see my Linux history mirrored in several places. For now, I’ve settled semi-permanently on KDE Neon. It’s clean and pretty, recognizes even my old Canon printer with the .deb configuration file (as long as I remember to dump A4 for Letter), and behaves responsibly within my world. No wifi hassles because my system is Cat5, all the way.

On another hard drive, I have Kinetic Kudo Xubuntu. Might change that to Kubuntu, just to compare it to KDE Neon.

KDE Neon runs Gnome Boxes quite nicely, so I have a way to try out just about any distro I like without damage. And I have my wife’s old Chromebook (out of security boosts) to use as a real experimentation platform.

Distro hopping can be a nice memory.

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I have tried Manjaro a few short times and never was in love with it. Prior to that I used Antergos for several months and did like it. There were some issues when I didn’t update frequently enough and some sort of certificate or something expired. Then there was a process to recover from that. Some of the old Arch hands probably have that all figured out. Antergos is gone, but Manjaro is likely better in most ways anyway.

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Sorry to change the subject, but you are just the man to answer my question, having several laptops including a Mac.
I have an HP ZBook 15 G3 workstation which does about 4 hours before the battery runs out. I read of a Mac doing about 12 hours before needing a battery recharge. Could this, in your opinion, be true? Does this only apply to Windows or maybe with Linux, too?
How long do your Linux Mac machines run before a recharge?

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Not sure who you’re addressing with this question. Battery life is a function of the individual machine, not the OS.

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I was addressing fishyaker as he seemed to say he used Linux on both Macs and other laptops. I quite understand that the battery life is a ‘function of the machine’ and not the OS, so my question was, to put it simply, do Mac batteries last anywhere nearer 10 to 12 hours?
My apologies if it upsets you being off topic.

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Geoff:

I have (thus far) kept the Macbook Pro on the charger since the conversion. I am unplugging it now to see how it fares. I would note that it is a 2014 model, so even at “full charge” I was only showing 98-99 percent before the conversion. I am showing 99 since. I’ll run this off and on today, as I have a few things going on. I’ll let you know how long my sessions are, the downtime in between and how long it took overall for the computer to reach < 5%. I would also note that I am not doing ANY intensive tasking today. I have a few docs to write/edit, some browsing to do online and I need to catch up on some personal emails. In other words, basic tasks…