April was winding down, and Cinco de Mayo was right around the corner. In Kansas, the weather can go from bitter cold to hot in late April and this year was no exception. I was looking for a distraction from the cold. I looked through my long Someday list in my planner and decided that it was time to try Ubuntu Linux.
I rummaged through closets looking for my old MacBook Pro. An Intel dual core unit with the RAM maxed out; I figured it would be a safe machine for a Linux install. Turns out my wife had the laptop at the office. Her laptop had died several months ago, and she had used this machine as a backup while her laptop was in the shop. By the end of the week she had brought it home, and when she left the house to spend time with friends, I decided it was time for me to geek out. With the house and the Smart-TV to myself, I settled in for a cold spring's night of hacking.
I figured that the Intel MacBook would be an easy target for a Linux install. I had plenty of experience with Linux in the late 90s; it is one of two reasons I was a Mac fan boy; the other was Windows 98.
After suffering a Windows 98 meltdown I decided to try Linux at home. My hope was to find a system I could run at home that I didn't have to support. That was my day job. I bought a couple of Linux distributions and tried them on my home PC. After several months, of mucking with sound and video drivers that never fully supported my equipment, I gave up and returned to Windows.
This pattern repeated itself until Apple announced their public Beta of OS X. I jumped at the chance to use a Unix based OS on my home computer and purchased a candy colored iMac. The machine never crashed, I would leave it on for months at a time, and got nervous about all the free time I had. I even pulled my old PC out of the closet and tried to install the latest Linux distro on it, but after a few minutes staring at a graphic subsystem error, I realized that I didn't need Linux anymore, and tossed the PC in the trash.
Fast forward seven or eight years and a Linux distribution named Ubuntu manages to creep onto my otherwise Mac only radar. It looked as though someone was finally making a Linux that works on the desktop. Sounds exciting, so I put it on my Someday list and on a cold May night in 2013 I finally checked that item off.
First impression, I shouldn't have bothered; Linux still sucks on the desktop.
I grabbed a torrent of the latest 64-bit Ubuntu and realized that I hadn't burned anything to DVD in years. I dug through an old desk in the house, found a whole stack of writable DVDs and burned the ISO to disk.
I sat down in front of the Smart-TV, plugged the laptop into a power outlet and began. You hold down the C key to get the Mac to boot from DVD, done and done. A pretty Ubuntu screen comes up, the system starts, then a funky screen, the DVD stops spinning, and nothing. Looks like a graphic card problem, I say to the dark and hit the web with my Nexus 10, looking for answers. (I mention the Nexus 10 because, at its heart, the Nexus 10 was a Linux computer that just worked).
I search for MacBook Pro and Ubuntu and find several threads about needing to configure the EFI boot loader to handle Linux. Most of these are about dual booting, something I don't want to do, and never understood. Either an operating system works, or it doesn't. The only reason you would need two operating systems on a single machine is... Sorry, there isn't a reason.
I make a one martini assumption that I need this rEFI thing, and head down that path. I go through the EFI stuff for several hours and never get any further. About three hours later and serval episodes of Family Guy, Highlander, and MacGyver on the Smart-TV (I wonder what OS it runs?), I give up, fix another stiff drink, and go to bed.
The next day is a Saturday, and I wake up with a fresh perspective. I decided to chase down my original conclusion that Linux still can't handle a standard graphic card and found a step-by-step post on installing Linux Mint on my version of a MacBook Pro. The problem was indeed the Nvidia graphics card. Since Ubuntu had failed the previous night, I headed to the Linux Mint site where I found a variety of distributions. It says that if you are unsure which one to grab, to get MATE. So, I did.
I followed the step-by-step, and an hour later had a functioning Linux laptop, with the proper Nvidia drivers.
Boy was I sorry, but that is a story next time.