Linux And Hope For The "Obsolete" Mac


If NASA can run the space shuttle program on 486s then we can all learn to get by. I’ve been a greater advocate of reduce, reuse, repurpose since the 1990s. So many of these computers end up in e-waste. There is always a purpose that an old computer can fill. Even those old 68k Macs can run linux and route traffic or whatever.


Preaching to the choir. But again, how do we spread awareness and persuade others?

Ideally, the goal wouldn’t be “just getting by.” I’m not just getting by on this 2008 MacBook White with Linux Mint, it is literally doing everything I need a student computer to do. I think the goal is going to be identifying what MODERN role each piece of still existing and functioning tech can play and then actually doing whatever modifications are required (SSD, Linux, etc) to get it to play that role. That avoids using resources to build something new and/or frees up much more recent hardware to take on roles which cannot be done at all by the older hardware.


Set up a refurb store selling reliable restored computers built for a purpuse? Add a Youtube channel of your builds. Partner with a charity/community/volunteer group to value add to their service? Can’t afford a small business/home server… build one for them.

Pretty much anything can run active directory equivelants… Hang all the services they need off it, set it up with Shorewall or whatever… Where you build it they will come.


If you mean “you” proverbially, sure I concur. If you mean me specifically, I have neither the capital nor the time to set up such a brick and mortar store. At best, I can do it as a sort of extension of my side-gig Mac Repair Business, which is just, you know, the office area of my small apartment.

I think there’s not going to be much income, if any, from it. It will have to be a hobby or philanthropy. I’ll practically have to give the completed computers away because I will need to spend a great deal of time making sure that the user can’t bork the Linux installation except under extreme circumstances. As an example, I would say that we’re 95% there with my current MacBook White. I’ve got it pretty much configured now that I could pass it on to most Mac users and Windows users, point out the slight differences in menu access versus each of them (as the set up is mostly Mac, but has some Windows-ish features as well), and they’d be off to the races. BUT given the issues around kernel updates and a few other issues, I would need to lock a few things down and make sure it would take an abnormal root level action to change. Then, I think I could likely convince people that if they don’t need a beast of a machine, they really, really don’t need a newer computer.


Its pretty easy once its set up. Just lock it down and don’t give the end user root access. You can set up wheel on Linux just like OS X you know? Then you can image it in case a person borks it. Just charge them a small restore fee. Set them up with the know how and a simple backup program simmiliar to time capsule and if they bork it tell them to come back to you for a restore/reimage.

If its a system like Ubuntu or other Debian based system I’m more familiar with then APT is a good point of call anyway because it makes everything automatic and for the most part it works, even for kernel and driver updates.

But really… the end user shouldn’t be doing any of those things. Updating/Upgrading a Linux Kernel is not a simple thing. It is the basis of the Operating System. You might well ask a user with no skills what so ever to go and reinstall Windows by themselves and hope for the best. Aside from that point… It’s just not really nescessary.


Linux Mint (which is an Ubuntu/Debian derivative) has Timeshift. It does take a lot of space though. I thought 60GBs would be just fine for my purposes here, but given that Timeshift already is taking up 18GBs, I’m beginning to doubt my decision. If I were to do it over, I’d probably put a 120 or 250 in here.

I’ve got a philosophical/ethical issue with not giving a buyer root access to their own property. I can see doing it for a parent, teacher, or employer though. But not a personal user.


There are many ways to skin a cat… I survive just fine with a 250gb hard drive in 2018 but I do external backups to a 1TB HDD. I agree having an image on your local hard drive if you’ve only got 60gb of space might be a bit much.


I have like 4.5TB in my Mac Pro at home, I just didn’t think I’d actually need such a large amount of space for a student/internet machine like this. I should maybe just turn timeshift off. I’m pretty effective now at restoring my system from scratch in case something catastrophic happens. But I definitely think I can’t do 60GBs for an end user if I’m serious about your refurb store idea. In 2018, I feel like 250 may be the general use case now.


I’m a power user, I have 250gb, it’s pretty optimal. Anything else I really need these days such as music, videos, and what not exists in the cloud. The cloud can be an issue where its not quite really there yet. Spotify/Netflix, etc… But I’m sure there’s something.


I still store a lot of media offline (anime music videos, music files, documents). Despite using google drive and dropbox for a lot of my professional and organisational stuff, I don’t really trust the cloud and I’m not always online. The question I need to answer is: given the target audience, how much storage is a correct amount of storage? I am not sure I have the answer, but as far as I know from teaching them, teens definitely still save crap to their harddrives…


I’d say 160gb is bare bones for one install/one root partition/nothing else. Ideally 250gb… I use 250gb for two instances of OS X, but like I said. I’m a Spotify/Netflix person these days. I recently deleted all of my MP3s off of my iTunes install. I still have them backed up, just not stored locally.

Anyway, what am I getting at? If you’re accounting for 20-30GB of OS install then you need at least 128GB for everything else in my books which means a minimum of 160GB ideally.


I liked the early Elementary Distros, didnt know that could be installed on a Macbook. Are you talking older macbooks or the current range? Mine is a mid 2010 model (White)


I tried out Elementary on my 2012 MacBook Pro, but despite the comparisons to macOS (mostly, I think because of a combination of slingshot, plank dock, and the task/menu bar being at the top) and maybe the window borders. But I found I couldn’t modify as much as I wanted to compared to other distros, especially compared to Linux Mint. I am sure if I worked at it I could turn this:

Into something more like this:

But I wasn’t able to find the traffic lights, and it was a bit difficult to find working icons. Elementary is trying to do its own thing and is really locked down, relatively speaking, because they want to be a third way and not actually take too much from Mac or Windows. I think Elementary might be good for young users who aren’t locked into a certain way of doing things, but for me, I found my inability to set things “how I like” was a deal breaker.


Oh yes, I remember how locked down it was, and its app store was sadly lacking. I thought it may have improved, especially since they want money for it now.

I really liked Ubuntu for a long time but absolutely detested the Unity UI.


I hate Unity, but at least Unity has a global menu that works. I think you should give Linux Mint with Cinnamon a go. Cinnamon’s lack of a functional global menu (one was developed, and I installed it, but it doesn’t run on Tara) is the only real drawback. I would like a working Launchpad too (Elementary’s slingshot has a Cinnamon port, but Tara has broken its pagination, and slingscold, which is a copy of Launchpad won’t populate, so you get an empty screen), but that’s pretty much it. Everything else is pretty much exactly like the current macOS interface in all ways which matter, as my screenshots show.


Yeah I have already used that (mint with Cinnamon) in the past. I’m just playing with very few distros in a virtualbox VM. If they will a) install and b) run. the last Mint version I tried just barfed.


How long ago was that. I’ve had success installing Linux Mint 18.3 on a 2.4ghz (I think?) i5 2012 MBP 13", a 2.0ghz Core Duo 2006 MBB, and then both 18.3 and 19 on this 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo MacBook White. 18.3 also runs on successfully on the 2012 Mac Mini (I haven’t used it, but I’ve seen plenty of write-ups/YouTube videos on it). When I get back to Tokyo, I plan to try it out on my union’s 2007 iMac with a mechanical drive. And see if what it produces is good enough to make it a general membership/visitor computer (for job hunting, resume making, that sort of thing). I don’t want to physically have to replace the drive, or obviously, I’d slap an SSD in there. But removing the glass and screen is a pain, even with the right tools.

19 was a noticeable improvement over 18.3, but requires me to use the supposedly out of date 4.13 kernel and not the 4.15 19 shipped with or the 4.17.5 which is currently the most up-to-date mainline kernel. This is a difference without distinction, 4.13 isn’t that old, and 4.14-4.15 cause me boot issues.


I suppose I’m interested in Elementary because I’m not overly concerned about the ability to completely customise the system, but want some degree of freedom to run a solution across different hardware, be it Mac or PC, with decent reliability and the ability to run the applications and command line tools I use frequently on macOS, most of which are Mac ports of Linux versions already.

But for additional customisation, I agree - you need to look elsewhere.

Never had any issues with hardware support out-of-the-box on any Mac I’ve installed it on, but we’re looking more at 2009-2012 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models primarily. I haven’t tested it on older hardware, but generally speaking if Ubuntu supports it, Elementary will as well as it’s built atop the Ubuntu codebase.


I wondered if it was my particular SSD that it might not have liked. Its a Crucial MX200, 250GB, nothing special or unusual. My Macbook is the mid 2010 model and is in fine shape. Anyway, it simply refused to work. Might try again sometime. Not yet quite ready to sacrifice it to Linux but I am doing more reading, anyway.


Yeah, as I said, the one advantage to Elementary is that true to its name, it’s good offor… well… Elementary. As a secondary teacher, many of my kids are already heavily tied to the iOS and macOS style and interface. Many of them already have iPhones, and most of them want MacBooks if they don’t have them already. So while I can definitely see putting Elementary on a random collection of cheap, used devices (albeit with very similar if not identical keyboard key placement) for use with younger students, for my JHS kids, I want to give them something as Mac-like as possible. On Mac hardware if possible.

@kyte That’s weird. There should be no reason why it doesn’t run great on that set up. Give 19 a try, even if just from the livecd version of it.