Linux @ MacBookAir2,1

Some time ago I bought a new workstation for my home workplace. Its a reduced but lightwight laptop to run all major OSes. Here are some notes to make it useable under Linux. I installed openSUSE-11.2 on it both the hard way and much more recommended the easy one with the Superdrive which enables booting a non osX CD/DVD.

I simply placed Grub in the master boot record. Holding the option key, the left alt key, during boot can select osX if its needed. The 2.6.31 kernel seems to have problems booting the system. He stops very often with ACPI as last message. Boot options seem to play less of a role for that. However I have set apm=off. On my model it helps to remove all USB connections. Luckily there is only one USB connector possible. After starting the laptop and the first sound is heared or the screen becomes white I hit the power button to switch the laptop off. After pressing the power button again the system finally starts. I do not know why the MBA needs such a ceremony, but it helps at a rate of ~90%. Otherwise starting fails at around 90% or more. If USB does not work the four key reset combo helps with a switched of device. It is up+ctrl+alt + power. The green LED in the power cord should dim during that reset.

The keyboard can be set in the KDE4 systemsettings panel in the Country and Language tab -> keyboard layout. I use the Apple Laptop layout and some Macintosh option.

The Apple Superdrive is a small DVD drive designed solely for the MBA. It needs some power up help. The following code enables the drive under Linux:

The nvidia driver is recommended. I tested VDPAU and OpenGL which work fine. For connecting a external monitor one needs to open the nvdia-settings GUI and push in the “X Server Display Configuration” tab the “Detect Displays” button. Then the new monitor can be arranged and Xinerama is up to date. KDE is quite positive about that behaviour. The miniDisplayPort to DVI connector is needed for that to work.
The backlight does work with pommed. But due to a bug in Nvidias 190.53 driver changing the backlight works only in console mode. There are no problems with the nv driver in this regard. pommed enables as well the keyboard background light.

The sound card can be used with the MCP79 module. Set the model option to mb5. Sometimes the sound is set to mute. With kmix or alsamixer this can be unmuted.

Hypernate works, but only by explicitely choosing. On awake the nvidia driver takes some seconds to get back from intensive flickering to normal operation.

The internal broadcom wireless chip is a BCM4328. dmesg on the commandline will show. The binary driver can be downloaded from the manufacturer here

Additionally I have to blacklist the ssb driver. ndiswrapper is not needed.

The cheap inbuild camera workes in cheese without additional configuration.

So I think the support is pretty complete even with some manual interaction. Once Linux runs it reports to last over 5 hours under KDE with compiz without power cord. This of course only while reading some text. One might switch off the wireless and dim the backlight to get there.

Most unpleasant is the need to do some boot magick and a boot delay of half a minute. As well it is a schame for Apple to require the SuperDrive to boot from other vendors boot disks. All USB or other DVD drives are artifical blocked by Apple engineers through the computers internal firmware. So add the SuperDrive to your list of needed adds to the nacked MBA and take Apples marketing with a pinch of salt. All in all I would not have bought hardware that behaves such close minded for booting other operating systems when I had no need for osX.