Debian Wheezy on my Macbook, cool.

Another one bites the dust

Picture of my macbook running Debian
Mac running Deb.
Sorry for image ugliness, but i wanted to show both screen content and the macbook.

I couldn’t resist and at the end I managed to get Debian running on my macbook.

I kept myself the chance to reboot on OsX using refit (which now is discontinued in favor of refind) and grub, but the truth is that since then i never rebooted on Os X again. Not even once.


Well, first of all let me say that the more packages you install, the more you realize that this distro has nothing less (apart the price) than the commercial OSs.

Some info about my Mac:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo

Memory : 4Gb @ 1067Mhz


A living example:

I was in the need to simply cut a small part from a video, so I searched for some program which could do the job on Debian using Gnome, and decently. After a small search Openshot Video Editor came out, and you know what? It’s evidently very close to I-Movie. Definitely. Just less Mach-ish than I-Movie.

screenshot of Openshot video editor

And it does a good job too! For this and a lot of other reasons of various nature, i decided to migrate my computers to Debian (my servers run Debian since ever)  and so I advise you to do. Not yet convinced? take a look at the FSF founder website Richard Stallman: Or take a look to the packages you would need if you decide to switch to Debian, which could be a good starting point to get closer and know a little better this distribution.


By the way, since i had to reboot into OSX, i will take a screenshot of the “About this Mac” main window, so i can tell which model it is, how much ram, which cpu, etc etc.

Why I had to reboot in OsX?
Because i wanted to remove the Nvidia proprietary driver as i don’t like to have an opensource operating system and a proprietary driver for my graphic card. So I was basically just trying to replace the Nvidia proprietary driver with the Nouveau one. Also I noticed that with the Nvidia drivers the virtual console which usually you can access with CTRL+ALT+{F1,F2,F3} are no longer accessible, you just get a black screen. Let’s say that this was the main reason, because i like to log to a virtual console to access rapidly the log or to use the to fix my desktop etc. I think that Vt cannot miss.
Another very important reason is that the external monitor doesn’t work. Is not possible to use a projector or a big tv to show my colleagues something and this is unacceptable.

I will update this post with my progress about this.

I have to admit, I’m a little ignorant in X, windows manager, desktop manager, so drivers etc so this is a sort of live blogging about i managed to get to the result. I have a Job (beautiful job) so I don’t know how long this will take. What i know is that my macbook is not the last generation, to say the truth, my Mac is pretty old and it comes from my “Apple period” which is finished soon. So my machine is not the latest hardware… On the other side, I’m using Wheezy which is beautiful and It works like a charm, but it’s the “stable” distro since no more than a month, so all the documentation refers almost always to squeeze, which is not that bad if we are speaking about vpn or apache2, but the desktop is a delicate topic, the most of the time is under heavy development and it has short life releases to push improvements and fixes.

I think that a old machine and a new operating system makes this a little more tricky than usual. I thought to try Ubuntu since there is even a repository dedicated to macs and macbooks, but i preferred staying with Debian (for romantic reasons).

Tip: To take a screenshot of your mac and to get it automatically saved as png, you can:1) Shift + Command + 4 will let you draw a rectangle on your monitor and then the content will be saved to your desktop as png.2) Shift + Command +3 will take a screenshot of all your desktop and it will save the screenshot on your desktop as png.


Here we go:

Screenshot of "About this Mac"
Screenshot of “About this Mac”

Tip: Something cool is the CairoDock to be installed by the user. It does more or less what the OSX dock does.


Well as said previously, i managed to get back to my Debian installation on my Macbook, it wouldn’t have been simpler that this, but my usual rush made me screw the system and i reinstalled taking care to not format the home partition, so at the first reboot i just installed the few software i needed like skype, chrome and a few others directly using the debian official repos (openshoot), and my setting were already there, cool aspect of having the home dir on a separate partition.

And since i think this information could be useful to other with my same model, i paste the output of lspci |grep VGA here:

giuseppe@macbian:~$ lspci |grep VGA
02:00.0 VGA compatible controller: NVIDIA Corporation G96 [GeForce 9600M GT] (rev a1)
03:00.0 VGA compatible controller: NVIDIA Corporation C79 [GeForce 9400M] (rev b1)

This, because i am messing around with NVIDIA graphic proprietary driver. I downloaded it first from NVIDIA website then when i tried to install it the first time i tried to compile it with dkms but it triggered an error. So I just re-built answering “NO” when asked if dkms was to be used or not. So i managed to get to the end of the install with no errors and the installer proposed me to create a xorg.conf file to be placed in /etc/X11/ so at next boot the new driver will be used. I obviously answered “Yes, please” because of the pain of writing a xorg.conf by hand was the alternative. I never did it before.  But at reboot nothing happened, or better, the X system didn’t come up.

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Author: Giuseppe Urso

Giuseppe lives in Haarlem now with his shiny dog, Filippa In 1982 received his first home computer, a Commodore 64, followed by Datasette and a 1541 Floppy Disk Drive. In 1999 he installed his first Linux distro (LRH6). In 2006 he switched to Debian as favourite OS. Giuseppe Urso actively sustains the Free Software Fundation and his founder Richard Mattew Stallman, he speaks to people trying to convince them to join the fight now, and about how important is to use Free Software only. He has a job as Infra Specialist at Hippo Enterprise Java Cms an Open Source Enterprise class Content Management System, one of the coolest company ever, in Amsterdam. He's always ready to install Debian on other people computers for free.

2 thoughts on “Debian Wheezy on my Macbook, cool.”

  1. Pingback: Debian on Desktop and Notebook: here we go | Roll your Debian
  2. Installation was almost painless except for the boot.
    The boot could be the hardest part (together with the touchpad). My advice is to plan for a long time before start messing around (like i did). The video card is an Nvidia 9400 and 9600 this could be tricky as well. I can’t tell if it switches between graphic cards or not, like it should normally do with and without power adapter ecc. It seems to use the biggest one, the 9600 but i can’t tell exactly because i rebooted in osx, sothere is no lspci command.
    By the way I just had to rebbot into OSX because trying to remove the Nvidia driver i must have done a mess with grub. Now it can boot without hanging at boot for a nouveau error message about a timeout ( don’t remember exactly), but each time (unless i modify the grub config) i have to modify the boot params adding nouveau.noaccel=1 blacklist=vga16fb at the boot command in grub typing “e” after selecting the os i want to boot with.

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