Ubuntu on my MacBook

My latest project was to install Ubuntu 10.10 on my MacBook 2.1 (mid-2007 model). I’ve gotten a few questions about what the process was like, and how I overcame some snags, so I’ll make a few notes here about some particularly thorny problems.

1) Installation

Before you install, make a full backup (obviously). Besides that, you will need a Mac system file for the iSight to work, so copy this file (using Terminal) to a USB stick or external hard drive:

I used a 10.10 LiveCD for the installation, and I did a single-boot. If you put in the LiveCD, reboot your Mac, and hold down the Alt/Option key, it gives you an option of whether you want to boot from the HDD or the CD. Choose the CD.

Once the LiveCD is loaded, you have the option of installing or trying. Choose trying. When you get into Ubuntu, open the GParted partition editor. Delete the existing partitions and Edit > Apply. Then create a new partition scheme and choose msdos (should be the default). Reboot. At this point it should auto-load from the CD, but if it doesn’t, do the Alt/Option trick again and force it to boot from CD.

This time, select Install. Connect the system to a network (wireless or wired) before doing the install so you can download updates and third party drivers while you install. You will be prompted to create a new keyring for the wireless network password, but cancel out of this, because it will cause headaches later.

Once Ubuntu has been installed, you will need to bless the drive so that you don’t have a long EFI wait before GRUB loads (i.e., the white screen that shows up when you power on your machine won’t stick around for very long). To do this, reboot your machine, hold down Alt/Option, put in the OSX CD, and load from the OSX CD. When it comes up, select your language and click the arrow. Then, open the Terminal, and execute the following:

When you’ve executed this command, click on the Installer menu and quit, and select reboot.

2) Headphone Jack

The headphone jack won’t work properly once you install (for some reason). The red light comes on inside it and the headphone jack won’t play any sound. To fix this, open Terminal and launch alsamixer.

From within alsamixer, hit tab twice to bring up the full panel. Press right until you get to S/PIDF and hit m to mute it. That will turn off the red light. Then press left to go back to the second Speaker option, which should have a MM tag instead of a 00 tag under the volume level. Press m to unmute it and your headphone jack should work again.

In order to save these preferences, hit Esc to get out of alsamixer and back into the Terminal, then execute:

3) iSight & Microphone

In order to use the iSight and microphone (essential for video chat) you have to make some changes. For the microphone, just go to Sound preferences, Input tab, and unmute the microphone.

For the iSight, you will have to install the latest version of isight-firmware-tools. Installing them from apt-get gives you an older version of the tools that is not compatible with the latest firmware and won’t work. You have to go to https://launchpad.net/~mactel-support/+archive/ppa/+packages and download version 1.5.92. Before the install, copy the AppleUSBVideoSupport file to ~/Downloads and give the installer this path:

Restart your machine and the iSight should work. You can install Cheese to test it, or go to the preferences in Skype and do the camera test.


  1. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBook
  2. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBook2-1/Lucid
  3. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MactelSupportTeam/AppleIntelInstallation
  4. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MactelSupportTeam/AppleiSight
  5. http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1498561
  6. http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1568368&page=2

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