ntang (ntang) wrote,

Linux on Intel Mac Mini: strike one

(Or four or whatever it should technically be... fortunately I'm not out after 3 strikes.)

So yesterday I tried to get Gentoo (x86) on the Mac Mini. Repartitioned the drive (split it in 2) with Boot Camp, set up the BIOS emulation crap (Boot Camp does that for you, I didn't have to do anything special), and then installed Gentoo. The install went beautifully - everything was great. Well, after I did a manual install - I tried using the 2006.0 LiveCD installer, and it vomited all over itself through repeated attempts. (I wanted to try a few different options, and honestly, I suspect that some of the problems I saw were problems in the installer and not w/ the weird Mac Mini setup.) Then I did a manual install, was *very* impressed with how quickly it built the kernel and modules, and then I rebooted. And... the cd wouldn't come out, and it booted into the LiveCD again.

Hmm. I tried holding the mouse button down, as instructed, no go. I tried hitting various keys on the keyboard, also, no go. Finally I cracked the case open (which is way, way harder than it should be) only to find out that there is no manual eject button on the drive. Fuck, dude. And now that I've put it back together, the fan is much louder (although I'm not sure if that's from the OS install or because I reassembled the case imperfectly). It's interesting inside - very tight - and opening the case without scratching it up at least a little (on the bottom, in all fairness) is pretty f'ing difficult. At this point anyone looking at the bottom of it would know I've opened it, but fortunately, I didn't damage the innards. So finally, despairing, I started jamming on all of the keys that are supposed to eject a cd on the Mac Mini and rebooted it over and over and one of the times, I got the magical timing right, and it spit out the cd. I have to say, I've never been so relieved at getting a cd to eject before in my life. That's $800 not down the drain.

With the cd out, now the box was complaining about not finding a bootable disk. Fuck, dude. Well, I had installed lilo on the boot partition, thinking I'd get a dual-boot system and figuring I could use the hold-option-during-boot option to pick my OS and actually get both on the same box. Reading something else, though, it appears that you actually want lilo to overwrite the MBR, which seems really weird since the disk is using the EFI to start up, but whatever, I can try that later. Apparently lilo is polite enough (or lucky enough) to be able to coexist with the EFI booter in the MBR but GRUB will overwrite it... I dunno. It could also be because the automated installed may have screwed up the partition tables. Mac OS X wasn't bootable either, at that point. Anyways, I can try a clean install w/ booting to the local disk, and then if that fails, I can boot off the LiveCD and just install lilo into the MBR and see if that makes a difference.

So.... I popped in the Mac OS X install CD and did a fresh install, and sometime (today?) I'll try another Gentoo install and see if I can't get it working. Alternatively, if I can't manage the dual-boot, I'm cool with wiping OS X completely and having a dedicated linux box - if nothing else, it'd let me get around having to use the Mac's stupid partitioning tool (would you like 1 partition or 2?) and I could just blow away the disk and break it into the standard /boot, /, swap, etc.

(You could probably ask -- and fairly, at this point -- why I'm still going to try again after nearly reducing my box to an unbootable mess. Well... why not? I bought it to be a linux box, and not only that, but this is unexplored territory. Look online. Almost no one has managed a clean install of linux on an intel Mac Mini yet. A few have, kernel hackers and the like that patched their kernel and used all kinds of esoteric techniques - and that may ultimately be what is required. But I'd like to think that with some persistence I can solve this problem, document it, and not only use it for myself but put it out there for everyone else who wants to try. At this point, some of the fun of it is simply because it's new and no one has written down step-by-step instructions for doing it. They will, and probably soon, but no harm in trying to beat them to the punch. ;) )


(So my cold, or whatever, has improved slightly. I slept poorly, but now my headache is better (but not gone). However, after skipping out on yesterday's festivities in Queens, I now have another set of plans for today, in Queens, in the middle of the pouring rain. Do I want to go? Well, if I wasn't feeling like crap, or if it wasn't so far, or if it wasn't raining, I'd be much more likely to want to, but right now? Not really. I think I'm going to cancel on yet another set of plans in Queens this weekend and just feel really guilty, because the alternative is going and feeling like crap and getting everyone else sick (it's a cooking meet, for chrissakes), which doesn't really strike me as much better.)

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