It has been a while since Apple’s new M1 Mac PC was launched. But now reports have surfaced that everyone’s favourite Ubuntu Linux is completely installable and usable on the new M1 Macs. According to sources, various developers working on the project have released a port through which you can install Linux for M1 Macs.
Ever since Apple launched its new Macs with the company’s new high-performance ARM chips, third-party software developers have been hard at work getting alternative operating systems up and running on the new hardware.
Few developers booted Windows 10 and Fedora Linux on an M1 Mac via virtualization, but the biggest breakthrough in alternative OS development for M1 Macs has come from the team at Corellium, a firm that specializes in ARM device virtualization. The team has managed to port Linux and make it “completely usable” on the M1 Mac Mini.
But since it’s just an initial port there are indeed a lot of limitations. Let not forget that the M1 Mac comes with apples new silicon and is generally new in the market.
How did Corellium Ported Linux on new Macs
Corellium lays out how they ported Linux to the new Macs. The company leveraged its experience developing the Sandcastle project — which enabled booting Android on older iPhones susceptible to the checkm8 exploit — to write Linux drivers for the new Apple SoCs.
Fortunately, Apple officially allows booting custom kernels on Apple Silicon Macs, so there’s no need to leverage an exploit to boot an unsigned kernel. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details
With a bit of work, the Corellium team managed to add support for enough hardware interfaces to boot Ubuntu Linux on the M1 Mac Mini.
The patches needed to boot Linux on M1 Macs are documented here, while the source code for the pre-loader needed to start the processor cores can be found here. The changes have been pushed upstream, though it’ll take a lot more work before the code gets merged.
Corellium has shared instructions on how to boot Ubuntu. You can find the full instructions on Corellium.com , but in summary, you’ll need to download their live image, copy the image to an external USB drive (at least 16GB), connect your USB drive to the Mac Mini’s USB-C port, boot into the recovery OS, install the custom, and then log in using the default credentials.
As you can see, the installation process is not very user-friendly, so it’s not recommended for beginners to muck around with Linux on their Mac Mini. Furthermore, there’s no GPU acceleration or support for the M1’s machine learning cores, so don’t expect to play games or run ML tasks