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Running Ubuntu Linux Is Messy On The 2013 MacBook Air

Michael Larabel

Published on 26 June 2013
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 2 of 2 - 18 Comments

Some other smaller issues that were experienced for the new MacBook Air with Ubuntu 13.10 is that suspend-and-resume doesn't work and the brightness control keys don't seem to work either. At least, to a bit of a surprise, there have yet to be any audio-related troubles.

Since installing Ubuntu 13.10, on some boots I still run into GPU hanging issues for the HD Graphics 5000 on the Core i5 4250U. In regards to the benchmarking,t I'm more interested at the moment in first getting Mesa 9.2 and Linux 3.10+ up and running on the hardware for better performance -- as many Phoronix articles have been illustrating in the past few weeks. The Linux 3.10 kernel may potentially also resolve the GPU hanging issues once the kernel will boot. Aside from the Hangcheck timer elapsed, another kernel error related to the Intel DRM driver was an Intel error about an Unknown unclaimed register before writing to 20a8.

When looking at the GPU hanging issue though, it appears there may also be thermal problems. The kernel dmesg was implying the CPU core package temperatures were exceeding their threshold and that as a result the CPU clock was being throttled.

There is also one other issue that is potentially important and still being investigated... It appears that at least some USB devices aren't working under Ubuntu Linux with the Linux 3.9 kernel from the 11-inch MacBook Air. When plugging in a variety of USB 2.0/3.0 flash drives and USB enclosures, none of the storage devices are working with the two USB (3.0) ports found on the new Apple laptop. Attempting to mount the drives just yields bogus information about bad super-blocks and other information, when they will mount just fine on other Ubuntu Linux non-Apple systems. Also, good luck with Thunderbolt on Linux.

The battery life when using Ubuntu Linux on the Haswell-based MacBook Air is also not comparable to that of running OS X -- it's much worse. The results though from that battery testing between OS X and Linux will be saved for its own Phoronix article in the coming days and once being able to run the updated kernel on the Air. There will also be plenty of other OS X vs. Linux benchmarks.

Anyhow, that's the short scoop on running (Ubuntu) Linux on the new MacBook Air; it's possible, but it's messy. The wireless doesn't work "out of the box" and other small but usual Apple laptop shortcomings with Linux. Related to the Linux kernel, there's also some GPU hanging issues and potential thermal problems and USB issues still being investigated. The Linux 3.10 kernel is still being investigated along with the battery life, which can't yet compete with Apple's OS X operating system. Stay tuned for the OS X vs. Linux Haswell performance tests and more information in the coming days on Phoronix.

For those curious about more hardware specifics for the Apple MacBook Air MD711LL/A with Intel Core i5 4250U processor, uploaded to OpenBenchmarking.org via the Phoronix Test Suite are the system logs and early benchmark results via currently the 1306254-SO-APPLEMACB22 result file. For the Haswell ultra-portable laptop there is the Apple many 2013 MacBook Air logs, including lspci, lsusb, cpuinfo, and more.

Any questions concerning Linux on the MacBook Air can be directed to @MichaelLarabel on Twitter or the Phoronix Forums.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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