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  1. #1
    Just Joined! Xheralt's Avatar
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    Intel iMac still in service, how to get Linux to boot on it?


    Hardware and circumstances: Flatpanel iMac, wintel cpu, B43xx wifi card, www access is wifi only

    The intent is for Linux to be the only OS on the machine; given it's age, OSX no longer supports the hardware. I've been hunting around for a distro that is lightweight (low RAM environment, 512MB, so LXDE or XFCE), has LibreOffice on the LiveCD or in repo, and either recognizes the B43XX wifi card out of the box, or has the driver on the livecd and installable within the live session. Having reasonable (gui) tools to configure things like mouse wheel scrolling (Mac supermouse with omidirectional scroll wheel) would be great, the lack thereof is why I dumped Vector.

    All this machine specifically needs to be able to do is run LibreOffice and send documents for printing to a network printer (I can do that configuration from CUPS, not a problem). Basic www surfing would be a great bonus.

    Other factors:

    > OSX install long since wiped; after most recent failed Linux install, machine is "no OS" at this point.
    > I no longer have an OSX install disk to go back to, so no recourse to those tools.
    > Moderately advanced distro is ok, just not straight-up Slack. I'm not that good.

    Machine always boots just fine from LiveCD/DVD but not from HD after (autopartition) install. I had it previously working under Linux, but changed distros and made the mistake of letting an installer autopartition. Only one distro seemed to set it up correctly OOTB (LXLE?) but the distro was deemed unsuitable for other reasons and replaced.

    The machine seems to need a Grub partition, but the most relevant documentation (on Arch wiki) is hopelessly tangled by trying to cover all other possible hardware contingencies regarding (U)EFI booting. I'm not using Arch, it just seemed the best bet (after *buntu sites) for general/useful advice. Hoping you folks can untangle things a bit for me.

    When the machine worked, it had a 2MiB partition called "grub" that some versions of gparted didn't seem to recognize (color-coded black, "unknown"). This (in retrospect) conforms to what Arch wiki calls partition type EF02. Once established, the partition seemed to work for distros other then the one that originally installed it. Machine fails to boot after Autopartition install removed it. So I guess I need to manually re-establish it. That's what I'm not sure about.

    Am I guessing correctly that I need to:

    (1) reformat the hd entirely to clean up (failed) attempts to install grub to MBR
    (2) create a 2MiB "EF02" partition
    (3) go through the usual distro install (single root partition, no separate /home) and install Grub to the 2MiB partition instead of MBR?

    Is it that simple? The machine in question is at my church, I don't have it at my fingertips this instant to test.

    Further muddying the waters for me is other directions referencing a 512MiB EFS partition. I don't recall such being present when the machine was working. Do I need it, and if so, what does it do?

    Since the iMac doesn't natively boot from USB I've been using the PLOP bootmanager to add that capability. If I permanently installed PLOP, would it mess things up, or would it actually be preferable?

    Last distro installed was Absolute 14.11, current candidate is Manjaro 0.8.11. I've previously tried mepis.org's MX-14, Vector 7.0 Gold, and LXLE (among others). Any other recommendations would be appreciated, but I'll tell you right now, NO Gentoo, NO *buntu. LXLE was about as close to the latter as I want to get.

  2. #2
    Linux Guru Rubberman's Avatar
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    You may have to use bootcamp in order to install Linux on this system - for dual boot certainly. Does it have a bootable CD/DVD or USB capability? If so, first boot a live linux CD, DVD, or USB drive and verify that the system CAN run Linux. If so, then you should be able to install directly from the running live image, telling the installer to use the entire disc. That will wipe the OSX partitions and rewrite the boot loader for grub as it installs the new OS.

    As for the Broadcom B43xxx wifi card, you will probably have to install the driver and firmware available here: wireless.kernel.org. You may want to download the driver, firmware, and instructions to a thumb drive before you install Linux since the WiFi is your only Internet access. Are you SURE your iMac doesn't have an ethernet port that you can connect directly to your router?
    Sometimes, real fast is almost as good as real time.
    Just remember, Semper Gumbi - always be flexible!

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