Installing Linux On A Mac

Recently Apple released High Serra, macOS 10.13, of which my iMac is to old to install on. The latest release that it can run is Mac OSX 10.11 El Capitan. Along with this came other problems. Some programs will only work with the newer OS (iMovie for instance) and security will degrade over time.

I don’t want to chuck the iMac out because although it is old, there is nothing wrong with it Hardware wise. Here are the specs :-

  • Core 2 Duo 2.66Ghz
  • 4Gb Ram
  • ATI Radeon 2600 Pro 256Mb Graphics
  • 360Gb Hard Drive
  • 20″ Screen

As you can see, apart from being outdated by modern machines, its perfectly OK for browsing the web and I have been doing my videos for YouTube on it as I don’t need any fancy effects on YouTube, just cut clips and add new ones in basically.

I don’t play games on the iMac as I have an Xbox One though I do have some RTS games on Steam but I use Windows 10 for that.

For office duties I use Synology Office (web based office that runs off a Synology NAS) and Libre Office so that is no problem with Linux.

So basically the main reason why I want to put Linux on this machine is for security and to re-use old hardware for web browsing and a backup Video Creator machine in case something goes wrong with my PC. My PC Specs are below :-

  • Athlon II X2 240e CPU (soon to be replaced by a Phenom II X3 710)
  • 8Gb Ram
  • Nvidia GForce GT 730 1Gb Graphics
  • 1Tb Hard Drive

As you can see, the PC is a bit faster than the iMac, mainly because of the Graphics, extra memory and the extra core in the CPU, which is important for Video Work.

I was already running Linux Mint 18.2 on my PC along with Windows 10 for the after mentioned RTS Games so I thought I would keep things simple and stick with the same version of Linux as I am very happy with Linux Mint.

So here is my plan of action:-

  1. Backup the iMac to an external drive.
  2. Run a Live USB of Linux Mint 18.2 to make sure that it works ok
  3. If the test run works, install Linux Mint 18.2 on the iMac
  4. Update the system
  5. Edit the config files so it automatically connects to my NAS.

Backup

To backup a Mac is really simple, you have 2 options. You can either use Time Machine that to be honest is not that good or you can use a program called SuperDuper. The software might look old but it works, and works well. This program basically clones the hard drive onto an external hard drive, so backs up EVERYTHING on the external hard drive for you.

You can boot off this external hard drive and clone it back to the internal hard drive if anything fails, this is my first line of my backup solution for my iMac.

Run a Live USB

You then have to create a Live USB version of Linux that you want to install. So armed with an 8Gb USB Stick I downloaded the ISO image from Linux Mint’s website (making sure I downloaded the 64Bit Image, not the 32Bit Image) and use UNetbootin to copy the ISO onto the USB drive and make it bootable.

Once this was done I rebooted the iMac while pressing the “Command Key” or on a Windows keyboard the “Alt” key for the menu to come up then I selected the USB key. This booted me into the Live CD version of Linux Mint.

The first thing I noticed when I booted into the OS is the wireless was not working. The wired connection, or Ethernet, was recognized. As this iMac was no where near the router wired connection was not optional for me. Lucky I had an old USB Wireless key that Linux Mint did recognize so I plugged that in.

Once I was connected to the internet I clicked on the install icon.

Installing Linux

Installing Linux is very easy these days. Long gone are the text installers of yesteryear and even selecting what you want to do with the hard drive is easy in this instance as I wanted to wipe Mac OSX 10.11 out all together and just use Linux on this machine, so I selected “Use Entire Disk” option and wiped the hard drive out. The system made all the relevant changes to the hard drive and it took about 15 minutes to install Linux Mint fully.

Updating Linux

After install and a reboot I was in my newly installed copy of Linux Mint. The first thing I always do when installing ANY operating system on a PC or Mac is update. So I did that and after about 1/2 hour the system was fully up to date. Now I wanted to use the internal Wireless in the iMac and not the USB key I was using so I went to the Additional Drivers option in Linux Mint and that found the relevant drivers for the internal Wireless Card as well as the Microcode update for the Core 2 Duo CPU. I installed them and the internal wireless card started to work ok.

AMD, for some unknown reason stopped supporting Linux for there graphic cards, but the Open Source Community have made there own “Radeon” driver for older radeon based graphics and this driver works fine with the Radeon 2600 Pro Graphics that is on this iMac. If you do build your own PC for Linux, I would strongly recommend a Nvidia graphics as Nvidia still produces drivers for Linux.

Everything else worked out of the box.

Getting my network shares to connect to Linux

Unlike Windows, where you can “map” a drive for network shares, there are no drive letters for Linux.

Instead you can either use the file manager (Nemo for Linux Mint) to connect to a network share every time you turn on the PC or Mac or edit a configuration file called /etc/fstab and get the system to automatically connect them.

I did the later. I created a few folders where the network share would connect to then edited the file like follows :-

//192.168.x.x/Network Share Name /home/john/Pictures/External cifs uid=1000,credentials=/home/john/.smbcredentials,iocharset=utf8 0 0

This connects to the NAS drive (The 192.168.x.x bit, where x.x is the network address of the share) to the folder at /home/john/Pictures/External, which is just a folder called External in my pictures folder.

The username and password for my NAS is in a file called .smbcredentials in my home folder. The reason where there is a “.” there is in Linux that hides the file. This file looks something like the following :-

username=xxxxxxxx
password=xxxxxxxx

Everytime the system boots up it will now connect the pictures folder of my NAS device to /home/john/Picutres/External automatically and I can copy files to and from this share like I would any other folder on the Hard Drive.

Conclusion

I am very happy with the way things turned out. Instead of having to scrap a perfectly good machine Linux has given my old iMac a new lease of life. It can even do the Videos I do for my YouTube Channel a lot quicker than iMovie ever did. For my light Office Duties Libre Office came installed with Linux Mint and Synology Office just needs a web browser (I did install Chromium instead of Firefox, but that’s a personal thing) My Epson Printer works fine with Linux with no problems.

I would recommend anyone who has an old PC or Mac lying around to try Linux out.

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