Archive for January, 2011

Following on from the last post, now that I have a clean MacBook Pro and a functioning DVD drive I once again want to try Ubuntu on native Mactel hardware. There are various instructions out there, and I will post a list of sources, but here are my instructions:

WARNING: I take no responsibility for any damage or data loss incurred by following these instructions. They are merely provided here for informational purposes, and any use is taken at your own risk!

  1. Grab a copy ofthe  Ubuntu 10.10 Alternate-x64 iso and burn to a DVD. After much trouble booting I realised I had not been correctly interpreting the fail message displayed by Apple Disk Utility after it had attempted to burn an iso that was larger than the target media! Why it does not alert you before hand that the image is larger than the disc size I will never know! Waste of media and time. It looks like the Ubuntu team have given up on keeping iso’s to common CD-R size.
  2. Use either BootCamp or Disk Utility to partition the disk. I created two partitions earlier… a 10Gb for Ubuntu / and a 4Gb for swap.
  3. Install rEFIt. I recommend using the mac disk image, and the installer, as it is all automated.
  4. After you install rEFIt, you will have to reboot twice before you see the rEFIt menu. Trust me, this was also a source of confusion. Helps to read the documentation throughly. When you get to the menu, select Partition Tool, and let it sync the GPT with the MBR.
  5. Take the alternate iso and insert into drive, reboot and at the rEFIt menu select Boot Linux from CD.
  6. Run through the installer as per usual with the following exceptions:
    • When selecting your keyboard, select USA Macintosh.
    • At the Disk partition screen, you will have to manually set things up. In my case, I selected /dev/sda3 as my / ext4 partition, and /dev/sda4 as my swap parition.
    • At the GRUB installation screen, make sure you select your / partition (/dev/sda3 in my case). This will install boot loader into that parition rather than nuking the MBR.
  7. Once that is done, installation will proceed as normal. Reboot, select Boot Linux from HD on rEFIt menu and you are in.

Now this is where all the tweaking comes in:

  1. Get the mactel PPA installed. This will provided all the drivers and utilities you will need on the mac. Open a terminal and run the following commands
  2. $ sudo -i
    [Enter your password]
    # add-apt-repository ppa:mactel-support/ppa
    # apt-get update

  3. Go to System -> Administration -> Additional Drivers.
    Enable the “Broadcom STA wireless driver” and the “NVIDIA accelerated graphics driver (version current) [Recommended]”
  4. After they have installed, go back to the open a terminal and run the following command to install the required pack ages.

    # apt-get install pommed bcm5974-dkms macfanctld applesmc-dkms gpomme nvidia-bl-dkms gpointing-device-settings

    This will install the packages to set up mac keys and allow screen and keyboard backlight to be controlled, install the broadcom multi-touch-pad driver,  the fan control daemon to maintain adequate cooling, additional smc sensors and a gnome client to pommed.

  5. After you have done this, reboot ubuntu to allow all the drivers to be set up and running properly. After reboot you should find that the keys to adjust brightness on screen and keyboard work well. Multitouch support should be enabled, allowing two-finger tap (right-click) and three-finger tap (middle click) and two-finger scroll. Graphics should look crisp and at the right resolution, the wi-fi should also be working.

The last fix to apply is turning off the Optical S/PDIF. You know you have this problem when you can see a red light glowing from the headphone jack. All we have to do is mute the S/PDIF output using alsamixer. Open a terminal as an unprivileged user and run the following command:

$ alsamixer

You should get the following window

Scroll the display right using the right arrow key until you have S/PDIF highlighted as above. Press M to mute and you should see the red glow from the jack disappear. The optical out is now turned off. This will save battery power and not wear out your optical out for nothing.

You will need to run some other commands to make this persistent across reboots. I will update the post later with those instructions, or you can read head from my sources list below.

Other things to note:

  • iSight worked out of the box. Install cheese to test (this is equivalent to PhotoBooth under OS-X).
  • Suspend worked out of the box and fast! (under 10s)
  • Memory utilisation is a lot lower than under OS-X and I am in 64-bit mode.
  • Compiz worked out of the box. Part II will discuss making it more pretty and adding some of the feature you can find under OS-X

Additional things to do and test:

  • Fix the Plymouth boot splash (a cosmetic fix)
  • Need to test microphone
  • Need to test sensors
  • Need to test power management
  • Need to get Hibernate tested and working
  • Need to test external monitor
  • Need to test bluetooth

I will update this list as I test things.


installed nvidia-bl-dkms to get the fine-grained backlight adjustments.

[Update 07/01/2011]

Found fix for multi-touch pad settings.

Install gpointing-device-settings, and you get a new control panel under System->Settings->Pointing Devices


The value of getting AppleCare

I have a MacBook Pro 4,1 (Early 2008), and it has served me well. It’s been nearly 3 years since I bought it, and I have had a number of faults develop over this time.

  • Failing battery
  • Dead pixels on screen
  • DVD drive having trouble  burning and reading discs
  • Corrosion on keyboard wrist plate.

I have already had the battery replaced in 2009 after nearly 280 cycles. Its charge time had dropped to under an hour from the 4 hours it initially gave me. On this second battery, I was back down to an hour, and it had reached about 270 cycles. About roughly the same time has passed.

Being that it’s a quiet time of the year, and with my AppleCare due to expire in March this year,  I decided finally had to bite the bullet and hand it over to Apple. I backed up all the data, wiped everything and reinstalled OSX with a default account, and all software updates applied.

I discovered an AppleStore in CastleTowers shopping centre which is quite convenient for me so I took it in there.

I booked in an appointment with an Apple Genius for Friday 31st December at 11.20.

When I got there, I was attended to very quickly. I presented my laptop and described all the problems I was having. All of them were noted down, while my laptop was connected to the store LAN and booted from the network, and system information collected.

I was given a receipt to sign. It indicated repair cost estimate for $1,600.00, $0 cost to myself. I was told there would be a 5-7 day turn-around time. That was okay for me. I didn’t really need it that much time of year.
On Sunday 2nd January 2010, I was surprised to receive a phone call at 3.30pm that my Macbook was ready to be collected and that I could do so even that very day until 5pm. So I raced down there. When I got it back, they had completely replaced the screen assembly including the casing. They replaced the keyboard wrist plate, which by nature of its design includes the keyboard trackpad and power-button. A new DVD and Battery were supplied as well.

Here is a breakdown of parts and costs:

  • 60W Lithium Ion Battery $ 160.00
  • 8x DoubleLayer PATA Superdrive $ 214.00
  • Matte Display Clamshell $ 863.00
  • Keyboard Assembly $ 86.00
  • Top Case Assembly $ 388.00
  • Hardware Repair Level 1 $ 39.00
  • TOTAL ________________________________ $ 1,750.00

If you also include the fact that I had the battery replaced back in 2009, the total value of my AppleCare amounts to $1,910 (thats using this battery price…I’m certain it was slightly more than that at the time).

So my initial $400.00 AppleCare cost has more than paid for itself.
Based on the overall product quality, and the level of service, and Apple standing by their AppleCare warranty, it would be very hard for me not to consider a Macbook Pro again.

Note: A friend pointed out why would I buy something with so many failures, however, I’d argue these failures would be just considered wear and tear by other manufacturers and good luck getting your warranty honoured.