Install openSUSE Tumbleweed + KDE on MacBook 2015

It is pretty easy to install openSUSE Linux on a MacBook as operating system. However there are some pitfalls, which can cause trouble. The article gives some hints about a dual boot setup with OS X 10.10 and at time of writing current openSUSE Tumbleweed 20170104 (oS TW) on a MacBookPro from early 2015. A recent Linux kernel, like in TW, is advisable as it provides better hardware support.

The LiveCD can be downloaded from www.opensuse.org and written with ImageWriter GUI to a USB stick ~1GB. I’ve choose the Live KDE one and it run well on a first test. During boot after the first sound and display light switches on hold Option/alt key and wait for the disk selection icon. Put the USB key with Linux in a USB port and wait until the removable media icon appears and select it for boot. For me all went fine. The internal display, sound, touchpad and keyboard where detected and worked well. After that test. It was a good time to backup all data from the internal flash drive. I wrote a compressed disk image to a stick using the unix dd command. With that image and the live media I was able to recover, in case anything went wrong. It is not easy to satisfy OS X for it’s journaled HFS and the introduced logical volume layout, which comes with a separate repair partition directly after the main OS partition. That combination is pretty fragile, but should not be touched. The rescue partition can be booted with the command key + r pressed. External tools failed for me. So I booted into rescue mode and took the OS X diskutil or it’s Disk Utility GUI counter part. The tool allows to split the disk into several partitions. The EFI and the rescue ones are hidden in the GUI. The newly created additional partitions can be formatted to exfat and later be modified for the Linux installation. One additional HFS partition was created for sharing data between OS X and Linux with the comfortable Unix attributes. The well know exfat used by many bigger USB sticks, is a possible option as well, but needs the exfat-kmp kernel module installed, which is not by default installed due to Microsofts patent license policy for the file system. In order to write to HFS from Linux, any HFS partition must have switched off the journal feature. This can be done inside the OS X Disk Utility GUI, by selecting the data partition and holding the alt key and searching in the menu for the disable journaling entry. After rebooting into the Live media, I clicked on the Install icon on the desktop background and started openSUSE’s Yast tool. Depending on the available space, it might be a good idea to disable the btrfs filesystem snapshot feature, as it can eat up lots of disk space during each update. An other pitfall is the boot stage. Select there secure GrubEFI mode, as Grub needs special handling for the required EFI boot process. That’s it. Finish install and you should be able to reboot into Linux with the alt key.

My MacBook has unfortunedly a defect. It’s Boot Manager is very slow. Erasing and reinstalling OS X did not fix that issue. To circumvent it, I need to reset NVRAM by pressing alt+cmd+r+p at boot start for around 14 second, until the display gets dark, hold alt on the soon comming next boot sound, select the EFI TW disk in Apple Boot Manager and can then fluently go through the boot process. Without that extra step, the keyboard and mouse might not respond in Linux at all, except the power button. Hot reboot from Linux works fine. OS X does a cold reboot and needs the extra sequence.

KDE’s Plasma needs some configuration to run properly on a high resolution display. Otherwise additional monitors can be connected and easily configured with the kscreen SystemSettings module. Hibernate works fine. Currently the notebooks SD slot is ignored and the facetime camera has no ready oS packages. Battery run time can be extended by spartan power consumption (less brightness, less USB devices and pulseaudio -k, check with powertop), but is not too far from OS X anyway.

4 thoughts on “Install openSUSE Tumbleweed + KDE on MacBook 2015

  1. As a user of a Macbook Pro 13′ Retina early 2015, running Tumbleweed has been fairly straightforward. Some issues I’ve encountered:

    1. The laptop overheats every time I start Chrome, unless thermald is installed, which isn’t by default. Also, I’ve installed mbpfan to control the fan, which isn’t in Tumbleweed.
    2. Suspend to RAM works only once per boot.
    3. Occasionally, the laptop starts on its own after shutdown and remains in a state in which the fan makes noise, it becomes warm and the screen is off until the battery runs out or I shut it down. Probably related to this is that some times, when this happens, the grub selection prompt responds too slowly to the keyboard.
    4. Using the xf86-intel driver might cause system hangs.
    5. The GUI to enter the password for LUKS often does not appear, leaving only a green text prompt.
    6. The driver of the USB/bluetooth trackpad by Apple only handles pointer movement and left click.

    • The exact sequence is the
      * alt+cmd+r+p (~14 seconds until backlight switches off)
      * press alt on boot sound
      * select the TW EFI drive from the Mac Boot Manager

      Will change it in the Text.

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