A couple of weeks ago, I purchased the 13" Macbook Pro Retina. I spent a long time thinking about the purchase because I wanted something that would work well with Ubuntu and had at least 1080p and 8GB RAM. Since I've bought it, I gave OSX a try in the hopes that it will be usable for development since I'm almost exclusively on Ubuntu for the last several years. I think it's definitely usable but it's hard to change old habits so I installed Ubuntu on the Macbook. The following is my process, my mistakes and what I've learned.

1. Partition

The first step is pretty simple.  You can resize the Macintosh partition using the OSX Disk Utility.  I resized the partition to 88GB and left the rest as free space.

2. Create USB Installer

You should follow the directions to create a 64-bit Ubuntu USB startup drive.
At the end of the instructions, you'll see an error message indicating that OSX isn't able to read the drive.

Don't worry, this is normal and it should still work as a USB installer but you just won't be able to read/write to the drive itself.

(OPTIONAL but RECOMMENDED) Since you won't be able to read/write to this drive, if you have another USB stick handy, you should upload the wifi driver to the 2nd USB stick.  After the Ubuntu installation, wifi will not work and you will need to install the driver and its 3 dependencies to get it working.

3. Install Boot Manager

I used rEFInd as the boot manager instead of rEFIt.  It seems to work for me.  You can find it here: and download the binary zip file.  Once downloaded and unzipped, open a Terminal window and install:

cd ~/Downloads/refind-bin-0.6.7  

4. Install Ubuntu

Here comes the fun part.  Insert your Ubuntu USB installer and restart your computer.  When the computer restarts, you should see your new boot manager screen with an Apple and a triangle shaped icon for the Ubuntu installer.  Right arrow over to the installer and hit Enter to select it.  This will load the typical Ubuntu installer.  Select "Install Ubuntu".  If this is the first time you are installing Ubuntu, it should give you the option to install Ubuntu alongside Mac OSX.  If you are reinstalling over a bad installation, it will give you the option to erase Ubuntu only and reinstall.  WARNING! If you are attempting a reinstall and select this option, the previous swap partition will not be reused or erased.  A new one will be created meaning you will lose about 8GBs of space for nothing.  Instead of having the installer create the partitions for you, initial install or reinstall, I recommend selecting the "Something else" option and create your own partitions.

If you select "Something else" you will see a screen with a list of partitions.  If this is a reinstall, scroll to the bottom of the list and delete the previous install's paritions.  At the very bottom of the list is "Free space".  Select that and click on the "+" sign to create a new partition.  You can create a root "/" using ext4 with a size of about 25GB.  Next, create a swap partition with a size around 8 to 16GB.  Finally, create an ext4 home "/home" partition with the rest of the remaining space and continue with the installation.  After the installation, it will ask you to reboot and you should do so.  If you get a blank screen after the message, just hit the space bar and it will continue.

5. Setting Up WIFI

After you restart, you should see a Ubuntu logo, an Apple logo and the Linux penguin.  You may also see the diamond shaped logo if your USB stick is still plugged in.  If you didn't have a 2nd USB stick, you will need to get the wifi drivers.  Select the Apple logo to boot into Mac OS, format the USB installer so it can be read and copy the drivers from the link above onto the USB stick.  Reboot.

When you have your wifi drivers, select the penguin, NOT the Ubuntu logo.  If you select the Ubuntu logo, I think it will go to the grub rescue screen and I had to hold down the power button to reboot again.  After selecting the penguin, you should see the normal GRUB menu on the left hand side.  Go ahead and select the first option, "Ubuntu" and continue to log in and admire your beautiful Ubuntu installation.  You can change the resolution by clicking on the Dash and selecting "Displays" to make things easier to read.

Insert your USB stick with your wifi drivers if you haven't already done so and open a Terminal. Change to the directory of the USB stick and install each of the 3 dependencies first and then the wifi driver last.

cd /media/[USERNAME]/[USB DRIVE]
sudo dpkg -i  dkms*.deb
sudo dpkg -i libc6*.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-lib*.deb
sudo dpkg -i bcmwl*.deb

You should now have wifi access.  Woohoo!

6. Repair EFI Boot Manager

I needed to do this so that I could load Ubuntu's 64 bit EFI boot manager.  In the terminal, enter the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y boot-repair && boot-repair

When the popup appears, click on "Advanced options" and go to the "GRUB location" tab.  Check the box next to the option "Separate /boot/efi partition" and click on "Apply".  You will be presented with a series of commands to enter into the Terminal.  Follow the instructions.  I ran into a dependency error on the last command I was presented with related to efi-amd64.  Go ahead and continue forward anyway and you will get the message that boot repair was successful.  Just for peace of mind, I ran the boot-repair command again but was not presented with the commands to enter and the final message indicated the repair was successful.  If someone understands this section better than I, please let me know.  After rebooting, you should now select the Ubuntu icon and not the penguin icon.

7. Fix Sound Setting

The last thing I had to fix was the sound setting.  Fortunately it was extremely easy.  Edit the file: /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf and add the following line to the bottom.

options snd-hda-intel model=mbp101

8. Additional Notes

At this point, you should be good to go. Everything else seems to be working well and it's customizations from this point.  One important note, DO NOT INSTALL NVIDIA DRIVERS.  This will screw up your installation and you will not be able to boot back in.  Also, do not install laptop-mode-tools as that will also prevent you from logging back in.  In the event you do and you need to recover, boot from your USB startup drive and select "Try Ubuntu".  Open a terminal and enter the following commands while replacing "/dev/sda4" with your root partition. The "Disks" utility can help you find out what that is.

sudo mount /dev/sda4 /mnt
sudo chroot /mnt

You will now be able to do things as if you're already logged in such as:

sudo apt-get purge laptop-mode-tools

Boot loaders

I don't like seeing the Microsoft logo as an option.  I removed the Microsoft directory from /boot/efi/EFI.  You can move it somewhere else in case you want to put it back.

I like fast boot times.  If you log into the Mac OSX side and edit /boot/refind/refind.conf, you can reduce the timeout to a few seconds so that it will automatically load Ubuntu faster.  Also, on the GRUB side, you can edit /etc/default/grub and reduce the timeout value there as well.

I hope this helps someone save time instead of trying to figure it all out.  I'd definitely like to hear from anyone if this helps them and if there are any problems, please let me know!

9. References


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