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Issue #7 May 2005
- Video: Intellectual property explained
- After the Gold Rush: Patents, speculators, and innovators
- When code mixes: Managing software license compliance
- What every administrator needs to know about open source licenses
- Installing Fedora Core on the Mac mini
- Red Hat heads South for the Summit
- An interactive tour of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4
- Video: The story behind the subscription model
- Taking your desktop virtual with VNC, part 2
- FUDCon 2: Coming to a LinuxTag near you
- New availability features in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4
- Getting started with MySQL
From the Inside
In each Issue
- Editor's blog
- Red Hat speaks
- Ask Shadowman
- Tips & tricks
- Fedora status report
- Magazine archive
Installing Fedora Core on the Mac mini
by Colin Charles
- Getting your feet wet
- Reinstalling OS X
- Starting with Fedora
- Configuring your Mac mini
- A pretty swanky mini box!
- About the author
The Apple® Mac® mini is Apple's latest offer in the arena of groovy computing. It also serves a Linux geek's bliss: it sports an affordable PowerPC system in a small, quiet, stackable, and attractive case.
Models available from Apple currently ship either with the 1.25GHz or 1.42GHz PowerPC G4 processor and with 40GB or 80GB of disk space by default. It comes with a Radeon 9200 32MB video card and a standard of 256MB of RAM (which can be upgraded). Options for Bluetooth® and Airport® Extreme exist, however the latter will not work on Linux. Note that it only has one memory slot, so upgrading the memory is recommended at purchase time.
Getting your feet wet
Unpacking the Mac mini was a rather exciting process. Looking at the form factor, it could sit almost anywhere! The kit includes a DVI to VGA adapter, which I plugged in, to attach the monitor to. The Mac mini, not coming with any display or input devices, relies entirely on "bring your own" hardware. I attached a 15" CRT and a standard Apple USB keyboard and optical mouse.
Turning it on, you get automatically booted into Mac OS X.
Don't get too used to it just yet, because to get Fedora on
your Mac mini, the disk is going to have to be repartitioned. From a
Terminal, you can find the default disk usage and partition format (only one large
partition) with the
df -h command. The output is shown in Example 1, "Output of disk usage on a factory default installation of OS
Filesystem Size Used Avail Capacity Mounted on /dev/disk0s3 74G 8.7G 65G 12% /
Reinstalling OS X
This only applies to those wanting to dual-boot Fedora Core alongside Mac OS X; if that's not you, skip over to the section called "Starting with Fedora". Seeing that the Fedora Core installer can't resize HFS+ partitions, and there's only one large partition in the factory default shipped mode, its time to get the installer DVD and reboot with it. When rebooting, hold down the ‘C' key to boot from the optical media drive.
Once the installer starts, the Disk Utility
needs to run so that partitioning can take place; do this by clicking
-> . Next, click on the Partition
tab, and under Volume Scheme, select two
partitions— for instance, one for Mac OS X and the other for
Linux. Optionally, give the partition
1 a partition name, and then click on the
button. This is a destructive exercise,
so if you had any data earlier, make sure you already have backups. Now
exit the Disk Utility (click -> ) and
continue on with your Mac OS X installation on the first
Once the installation of Mac OS X is complete on
1, and you've verified that Mac OS X works as before, it's
time to go ahead and install Fedora Core!
Starting with Fedora
To install Fedora Core on your Mac mini, you need to download the ISOs. At the time of writing, the current release available is Fedora Core 4 Test 3, and it comes in a set of 5 CD downloads, or 1 DVD, and is available from http://fedora.redhat.com/. While test releases are not recommended for general user installation (you even get a warning at the start of the installation), you can be relatively assured that most things work rather well in the test release—however, waiting for Fedora Core 4 to be released is also an option. Keep in mind that the PowerPC architecture port only made its way out since the Fedora Core 4 cycle; it was always previously based from the development tree.
Place CD 1 or the DVD into the optical drive, and restart your Mac mini
while holding down the ‘C' key. You will notice the "yaboot" boot screen
as shown in Example 2, "Boot options". yaboot is defined as the Macintosh
OpenFirmware loader—it is like the the GRUB equivalent on x86
machines. As of Test 3, some have noticed that passing a boot option to
get the X configuration right was required—this should be fixed by
the time we arrive at Fedora Core 4, proper. So at the boot prompt, type
linux resolution=1024x768, then hit the Enter key.
Welcome! Hit <TAB> for boot options. Welcome to yaboot version 1.3.12 Enter "help" to get some basic usage information boot: linux
The Fedora install is now rather regular as it is on the other architectures. The media check is optional, and once that is complete, the X server should start, giving you a graphical installation screen (depicted in Figure 1, "The Fedora Core installation screen"). When you arrive at the partitioning portion of the installation (Disk Partitioning) is where things get a little tricky. While auto-partitioning works, it requires either Linux partitions to remove or free space.
Depending on how you partitioned the disk earlier during installation, the
default would have been to make
not free space, but another HFS+ partition. This means if you attempt to
utilize the auto-partition option, it will fail. So, at the Disk
Partitioning screen, choose
Manually partition with Disk
Druid; otherwise, go ahead, and choose the auto-partition
option, and use up all the free space available.
If partitioning manually (and following the suggestions in the article), Figure 2, "Disk layout (before any changes)" will be what is visible. hda5 is the free partition that's HFS+ formatted. Just delete it, and get ready to create some partitions.
All Linux systems need to have at a minimum two partitions:
/ (for the root filesystem) and swap (which is usually
double the available physical RAM). However, on an Apple system, you require
another partition for yaboot, the bootloader, to be created as a
Apple Bootstrap partition. This needs to be no larger than 1MB (in reality
it should be 800KB), and its creation is depicted in Figure 3, "Create an Apple Bootstrap partition for the bootloader".
Simple partitioning will leave a 512MB swap space (if you have 256MB
physical RAM) and fill up the remaining space with
(with a recommended layout in Figure 4, "Suggested partition layout"). Commit to the changes, let it
format the necessary partitions, and continue on with the installation of
Once the screen that mentions the installation is complete, you can click
Example 3, "yaboot options" depicts what is expected to be displayed on the
screen. This is controlled in the
file, and the default timeout for choosing the default OS is five
First Stage Fedora Core Bootstrap Press l for Fedora Core, x for MacOSX, c for CDROM, n for Network, o for OpenFirmware.
Configuring your Mac mini
It's pleasing to know that most of everything "just works" with your Mac
mini. In terms of networking and connectivity, the Mac mini supports three
options: wired Ethernet, wireless Airport Extreme, and Bluetooth. Wired
Ethernet gets automatically configured, either via DHCP or static IP, via
system-config-network tool. Airport Extreme, however, sports the
Broadcom chipset, where open source drivers are non-existent at present
(and there's no reason the believe that they will ever exist).
The built-in Bluetooth works via the
that are shipped in Fedora Core. It is exposed via
/etc/init.d/bluetooth start and if using the GNOME
Desktop, under , there exists the
and . The former enables file sharing to happen via
Bluetooth devices (like mobile phones, PDAs, etc.), and the latter detects
the Bluetooth devices within proximity.
Sound works out of the box, since Fedora Core 4 Test 3, with a merged
patch. However, it is known that output tends to be muted by default, and
to get its levels up, the
alsamixer utility needs to be run.
alsamixer is depicted in Figure 5, "alsamixer, displaying a working soundcard configuration", and to move from
each device, the left and right arrow keys are used. To enable, or disable
an item, use the ‘M' key. Pressing Escape ensures that the settings get
saved. Test sound by playing something simple, for example
While the Mac mini doesn't ship with a mouse, if you have a
one-button Apple mouse, you will surely miss the middle-click and
the right-click buttons. These can, however, all be emulated from the keyboard
via the sysctl interface. As root, edit the
/etc/sysctl.conf file and add the following:
dev.mac_hid.mouse_button_emulation = 1 dev.mac_hid.mouse_button2_keycode = 87 dev.mac_hid.mouse_button3_keycode = 88
The above will allow the F11 and the F12 keys on the keyboard to provide
the middle and right click mouse buttons. If however, you prefer to use
Fn+Alt or Fn+Apple, just having the
dev.mac_hid.mouse_button_emulation = 1 is
sufficient. On your next reboot, the buttons will be available; however,
sysctl -p will also enable them immediately.
A pretty swanky mini box!
That's what the Mac mini is... tiny, aesthetically pleasing, and great with Linux. Save for the wireless, where a USB dongle might suit, everything pretty much works out of the box with Fedora Core 4 Test 3. Give it a go, and send us some feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, if you find bugs, Bugzilla it! Enjoy your Linux on Mac mini experience.