Ubuntu 14.04 on a Macbook 2.1

The hard drive on an old white Macbook (v2.1) died recently so I went through the adventure of recovering data from it (needed to image the drive with dd conv=sync,noerror) and then reinstalling the OS. But I ran into some troubles with OS X 10.5. Some of the programs that one may like to use (e.g. Skype) are no longer supported and I would have had to buy the upgrade to at least 10.6. Rather than do that, I opted to install Ubuntu 14.04 instead.

First step in the installation was to burn a copy of Ubuntu 14.04 onto a DVD. Weird thing to do since I’m used the USB installation stuff that we typically now do. I grabbed the “64-bit Mac (AMD64) desktop” image DVD image file from here. It is important to grab the mac specific image because you may find the regular image will fail to install due to a firmware incompatibility with the EFI bootloader (lost the citation on this one). With the DVD in the Macbook, start it up and hold “c” to boot from the DVD.

The Ubuntu installation will be typical. Once finished, there’s a couple things you need to do post install:

  1. Install the mactel team’s fan support, otherwise you may notice your macbook fan runs at 100% all the time.
  2. Install the iSight firmware so that you can use your webcam. To do this, you must:
    1. Grab the firmware file (AppleUSBVideoSupport) from here (remove the .pdf first, wordpress wouldn’t let me host it without), or if you have a Mac OSX 10.4 or 10.5 installed, you can get the firmware file at:
      /System/Library/Extensions/IOUSBFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/AppleUSBVideoSupport.kext/Contents/MacOS/AppleUSBVideoSupport
    2. Make sure you know where you’ve downloaded/copied the AppleUSBVideoSupport to.
    3. Install the iSight firmware tools with: sudo apt-get install isight-firmware-tools. This will cause the software to ask for the path to the firmware file. If you have it on your desktop, the path would be /home/username/Desktop/AppleUSBVideoSupport.
    4. Reboot, and you are done!
  3. That’s it! Everything else seems to work just fine right out of the box.

Now one can get more life out of that Macbook without having to spend any cash on upgrading OS X.

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