James Gardner: Home > Blog > 2008 > Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron on the...

Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron on the MacBook Air

Posted:2008-06-06 16:04
Tags:Desktop Software, Debian, rants, moan


Personal Problems with Mac OS X

OK, so after a good few months of liking Mac OS X I've finally become frustrated with it. Major problems:

The main problem though is a personal one. The whole set up is slightly unfamiliar and this means that when something doesn't work the way I expect it to (particularly when working with remote servers) I have two places where the problem could be rather than one and this makes getting things done harder than it needs to be for me.

The final nail in the coffin for Mac OS X was when I tried to use boot camp to resize the disk a second time to install Ubuntu 8.04 final. The partitioning kept failing and despite all efforts to repair/verify/fix permissions etc (and a crash where the advice was to hold down the off button to reset the computer) I consistently got an error saying the block count of free space was incorrect and couldn't be fixed. I'm nervous of any sort of disk error which can't be fixed so I backed up all my data and reformatted.


Another rant: Once you've tried to reinstall an operating system a couple of times in a few days some of the "features" which were really fun when I first booted the MacBook Air became a real pain. Sitting through the welcome video with its happy tune when all you want to do is get on with real work is not a lot of fun. Likewise having to fill in the registration form again with the same details is tiresome. Not being able to skip the photo setting stage is just silly.

Lessons Learned from the Reinstall

Update: It sounds like playing around with http://refit.sourceforge.net/ probably would have helped here.

This meant I was left with the option of dual boot without swap or removing Mac OS X. For the time being I've gone with losing Mac OS X and just sticking with the complete hard disk given over to Ubuntu. Luckily this does work!

On to the Ubuntu on Air Part

These are the main sites you need to look at and they are constantly being updated with more information:

There is some information which might be helpful here too:

Download the 8.04 CD and burn it to a CD using Disk Utility in the Utilities folder of Applicaitons on Mac OS X. Next install Ubuntu using the whole disk and destroying Mac OS X and all your data (if that is what you want) then get the wireless drivers working...

Log in and follow the instructions to get and install unrar and the ndiswrapper files. Get the broadcom driver from the Mac OS X cd then run these commands:

cd Desktop/broadcom
chmod u+w .
unrar x broadcomxpinstaller.exe
sudo ndiswrapper -i bcmwl5.inf
sudo ndiswrapper -l
sudo ndiswrapper -m
sudo modprobe ndiswrapper

Edit /etc/modules and add ndiswrapper as the last line and then save the file. Wireless should work without a reboot so you can choose the network and enter the WEP key (remembering to choose WEP 128bit Hex if you are using a hex key).

The big problem I had with networking on Ubuntu is that it uses NetworkManager which uses D-Bus and HAL extensively and is configured via an applet which loads in the GNOME panel (the command is started with nm-applet --sm-disable if you are interested). This works absolutely perfectly in GNOME but I'm using XFce and no command line interface exists to configure the network directly (although cnetworkmanager might eventually work but doesn't at the moment). NetworkManager doesn't use the usual /etc/network/interfaces file so the only solution is to load the gnome-panel from a terminal in Xfce, run the nm-admin --sm-disable command manually, configure the network then kill the panel again. This is really silly but until a command line utility exists this was the only solution I could find. There is an Xfce applet which lets you run GNOME applets in the Xfce panel but the nm-applet applet is not one of the ones listed to add. Personally I love the fact the networking works so easily but I really, really object to the way it can only be configured through a GUI applet. This seems to go very much against UNIX principles and might be a slippery slope that the community really shouldn't be going down. Then again, I might just be missing something obvious to the rest of the world!

The touchpad is more of a problem. I couldn't get touchd to compile despite installing these: sudo apt-get install libdbus-glib-1-dev libdbus-1-dev libglib2.0-dev and running modprobe uinput doesn't create the /dev/mouse/uinput file which is supposed to exist so I created the touchpad.sh script and assigned it to F4 using gconf-editor and the instructions here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?p=429683&postcount=1 in B1. Whilst this works (just) in Gnome it isn't much use in Xfce so I'm just using an external mouse until someone fixes this one.

Sound works fine but the microphone doesn't.

Here are the commands I needed for mounting the MyBook using Samba and the FreeAgent which now has a (read only) hfs+ filesystem because I had to format it when the FAT 32 filesystem would only work intermittently on Mac OS X.

sudo mkdir /mnt/mybook
sudo mkdir /mnt/freeagent
sudo smbmount // /mnt/mybook
sudo mount -t hfsplus /dev/sdb1 /mnt/freeagent

That's it so far. The essentials of a web browser and being able to copy and paste to working terminal are working perfectly now and I can access all my data. Not much else is working but then again, I don't need it to. I'll keep adding to this as I find more things that work.

Lots of the custom codecs and plugins wouldn't install correctly without:

touch /home/james/.Xauthority
chown james:james /home/james/.Xauthority


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