Debarshi's den

Fedora (11 & 12) on an Intel Macbook: getting it to boot

with 3 comments

Supposedly from Fedora 11 onwards there is “native” support for UEFI based hardware. But there are still quite a few quirks and I have spent well over 48 hours trying to update my Intel-based Macbook to each one of these releases. I know others have suffered too, so let me quickly jot down the hurdles and how I overcame them.

Earlier it was common to use rEFIt to dual boot Mac OS X and GNU/Linux. You needed to boot into Mac OS X in order to install rEFIt as mentioned on their website. I have been using this since Fedora 9 and it works. However Anaconda’s storage configuration code was recently re-written and this does not work so well any more starting from Fedora 11.

On Fedora 11, once you have installed Fedora 11 on a usual (rEFIt + Mac OS X + GNU/Linux) setup, making sure GRUB was installed in the /boot partition (eg., /dev/sda3) instead of the MBR, you will end up with an unusable system. This is basically a regression in Anaconda and you can read up the bug report for the gory details. To overcome this, start the Macbook, enter the rEFIt shell and run gptsync to synchronize the GPT and MBR tables. (From what I have understood this way of using rEFIt to boot works through the legacy BIOS compatibility mode.)

Fedora 12 turned out to be trickier. There was simply no way that I could get the damn thing to boot with rEFIt. After the usual installation (well it was not so usual because I had a damaged CD, etc.) I rebooted and entered the rEFIt shell to find the GPT and MBR tables not agreeing with one another as it was with F11. But running gptsync and trying to boot from the hard disk ends up with a kernel panic like the one described in So after 20 agonizing hours I decided to recreate the disk label (or partition table) on the hard disk, changing it from ‘gpt’ to msdos’ using GNU Parted, and reinstall from the live CD. Needless to say I lost my Mac OS X installation. (Not that I used it much, but I really need Skype.) This time around there was no kernel panic. Even better, there was no GRUB! So, I followed the advice on, booted into the live CD, opened a terminal and did:

$ su -
# grub
> root (hd0,0)
> setup (hd0)
> quit
# reboot

Now why did ‘grub-install /dev/sda’ not work when I tried it earlier is still unclear to me. I suspect it is due to the reasons mentioned in the GRUB manual.

Anyway, I have a computer that works now and 20GB of extra space that was taken up by Mac OS X before. On the downside I no longer have Skype. Maybe I will try to get the GNU/Linux version of it to work with Pulseaudio.

Written by Debarshi Ray

15 January, 2010 at 16:09

Posted in Fedora, Macbook

3 Responses

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  1. FYI skype does work in F12. steps to install and configure skype for fedora are available here


    15 January, 2010 at 17:07

  2. I had a similar problem with my iMac which got even more complicated as the built in optical drive had gone for a toss, and the damn thing would not boot from a USB dvd drive or a USB thumb drive.

    My solution (which did manage to keep the OS X install intact) was a even more elaborate hack, which involved installing grub2, booting from a Debian netboot image from grub2, installing debian over the internet, recovering grub proper from debian and then installing Fedora over NFS.

    The gptsync is an annoying issue, and can cause a lot of headaches.


    15 January, 2010 at 18:59

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