Ubuntu Linux successfully working on Mac Mini Server 2011
- From: Ross Maloney <rmatycorp@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2011 11:11:50 +0800
Ubuntu distributions Server and Xubuntu have been successfully installed and used on a Mac Mini Server (macmini5.3) released in July 2011. Ubuntu versions 11.10 and precise alpha 1 have been separately used. After each installation, the macmini5.3 could be booted into either Ubuntu or Mac OS Lion.
Version 11.10 Server and Xubuntu were downloaded by following the download directions on the Ubuntu web sites http://www.ubuntu.com and http://www.xubuntu.com, respectively. The precise versions were downloaded from http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/releases/precise/alpha-1. In all cases the amd64 version of the iso image was taken.
The Boot Camp utility on Mac OS Lion is of no use in installing Linux; it only assists the installation of Windows 7. At least the Disk Utility can be used to shrink the Mac OS Lion partition. In general, Mac OS Lion introduces a number of changes over previous versions of Mac OS which makes Mac OS Lion very difficult to use in setting up a dual boot with it a Linux. Pity, because the Mac Mini hardware in general, and the macmini5.3 in particular, is a great Linux platform. To use Linux in collaboration with Mac OS Lion is even better. A way has been found to over come these difficulties.
Experience showed that the Ubuntu iso images cannot be used directly. Unlike previous Mac Mini hardware, the CD/DVD drive is gone from the 2011 edition. That hardware had been the boot drive using iso images. To overcome this, a flash drive substitute as given here can be used. To move the Ubuntu iso image to a flash drive, the Linux utilities mkdosfs (part of dosfstools), fdisk, and unetbootin, are used. A 2GB flash drive should be sufficient, but a 8GB flash drive was used here. The flash drive is first set up as a single partition drive using fdisk. Then a 32 bit format is put on the drive using mkdosfs (-F 32). Finally unetbootin (downloaded from http://unetbootin.sorceforge.net) is used to transfer the Ubuntu iso image to the prepared flash drive. One of the conseqquences of this transfer is the appearance of the /efi directory on the flash drive. This is needed for booting the Intel hardware setup in the macmini5.3. With the flash drive in a USB slot on the macmini5.3, power it on while holding down the Option (Alt) key of the attached keyboard. The Mac Boot Options window which appears shows an entry titled "EFI Boot". Move the selection to this item using the keyboard arrow keys, and then press enter. The Ubuntu installation process then starts.
Use hard disk sdb for installing Ubuntu; disk sda totally contains Mac OS Lion. It is a good idea to create a small (say 10MB) partition on sdb to act as the Linux boot partition. During Ubuntu installation, one directs this partition to be set to type boot. Each of the hard disks on macmini5.3 are 500GB in capacity, so partitioning of sdb into multiple partitions, with separate swap partition, is appropriate here during the course of the Ubuntu installation.
Ubuntu installs a grub2 boot loader. When the macmini5.3 is powered on. that grub2 menu will appear. Move the highlight over Ubuntu and press enter to boot the installed Ubuntu. Although Mac OS also appears in that menu, for some reason it does not boot Mac OS Lion. The boot Mac OS Lion, hold down the Option key on the keyboard when powering up the computer.
Linux does not as yet fully support the wireless network chip on the macmini5.3, but all other hardware appears to work.
For my work the Ubuntu server distribution is the most appropriate. It is lean without the unwanted fruit contained in Xubuntu, and particularly in the standard Ubuntu desktop, distributions. The needed C, C++, and make could be installed from the distribution's flash drive using Ubuntu's "aptitude" package manager after the basic installation. However, for Fortran, Objective C, and x Window, aptitude had to be directed to use the Ubuntu Internet archives.
Mac OS Lion with Ubuntu alternative on a macmini5.3 is a great combination.
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