Ubuntu on my Imac : "Because I can"

“Because I can” That is the sole reason why I would embark on a project like this one. And ” Because I can ” has been the reason why geeks, nerds and hackers have gone forth and accomplished things that seemed irrelevant, improbable or even just plain impossible. And yet .. it IS the perfect motivation. The project I’m talking about is my second trek into the world of running Ubuntu Linux on “non – Ubuntu” hardware. Well, there actually is no such thing as “non Ubuntu hardware” but lets say the slim design of my 2009 Imac was not designed to run this perticular operating when it was shipped from Cupertino ( or whatever Chinese sweatshop these devices get produced in ). I can imagine Steve Jobs in his bed, dreaming how all these 24 inch Imacs would find their ways to the hearts, wallets and desks of many a mac geek out there, smoothly running Apple’s OSX software, whatever feline incarnation would be appropriate. Surely having a bunch of geeks hacking and coding away at their “doubtfull code” and installing such gibberish on this pristine machine would not have been part of Steve’s plan. An to be honest, it wasn’t MY first plan either. I had bought my Imac to be my 24 inch monster machine that I could use in order to have all my creative “urges” quenched. And for the last 2 years it has done just that. Reliable, Fast and effective. However, the last couple of months I HAD been getting some “spontanious” freezes while working in OSX and this bothered me. Not because the mac froze up once or twice. (I mean it NEVER froze up before but hey , iacts still more reliable then Windows ) but because this would happen in the mids of a production of a podcast OR screencast episode. Highly annoying.

When finally taking the time to “prep” the system for “nuke and pave” I started thinking about a couple of things.  First of all : How long had it been since a nuke-and-pave : Well , since 10.6 came out, this would make that over a year (allmost 2). Second I thought : What do I use the mac for : Well, Everything ! Surfing, communicating, chatting, visiting a dodgy site in my quest for an obscure download of a long gone 50’s TV show etc .. What did I NEED the mac for : Well, basically to provide me with a simple but stable platform for content creation.  So the thought came to mind that if i REALLY required the mac to be a “production system”, any other “dilly-dally-ing” (oh how I love that word) would not be healthy for the speed, stability and “clean-ness” of the system and that I in fact should use ANOTHER computer for those tasks. That WOULD be a bit of a bummer since our Imac is in our ‘lounge’ (spare room which holds both our macs) and that Niejana and I mostly use these 2 computers (who are setup side by side) when we are online. So sitting in a corner on another machine to do my daily stuff seemed like a not so appealing option. 

I did however glare at my Macbook Air that I have recently “converted” to that “other” operating system in the house. With some tinkering, some googling and a new logic board (the old one had a DOA situation) I had dual booted this Macbook air into Ubuntu 10.10 to experience the awesome power of Ubuntu on Apple hardware. It was a lot of fun to do and offered a fantastic challenge for a cross platform slider geek like me. The result is a unique, highly customised and very advanced operating system on hardware where it’s not supposed to exist. A geeks idea of a productive rainy afternoon.

So why not do the same on the Imac ? Why not dual boot this system too ?  Have OSX on one partition, Ubuntu on the other one, and a nice bootmenu to devide them ? ” WHY” you ask ? well… because I can.

So 2 days later i’m stuck with the result. Ubuntu 10.10 running on my 2009 Imac. I have chosen for this “older” version because 11.04 is just to fresh and i’m not yet sure what I feel about Unity, Ubuntu’s new graphical interface. Since I wanted to customise the interface to a “unique personal level” I went with classic gnome, Compiz, a nice “tron” background and the Ubuntu studio theme. Add some Chrome themes, transparent terminals and desktop effects to the mix and .. voila: A completely customised Ubuntu experience … on a mac.  Since I HAD been using rEfit ( an OSX Bootloader to let me “choose” operating systems) I did have to compromise a little. I used a bluetooth keyboard and since the bluetooth stack is not even loaded while rEfit boots up and asks you which OS to choose.. I could not “move the arrow keys” on my bluetooth keyboard to choose my OS. Thus a wired keyboard was needed. But the rest was basically an “out of the box” experience. After loading the proprietary ATI driver I even managed to get the second screen I’ve hooked up working.. But it proved to be too much on reboot. After rebooting the system, X died and refused to load untill I would either reconfigure it using safe mode, or just remove the second screen. I sacrificed my second monitor for some “virtual desktops” and was ok to go.

So now the challenge is to find as many “OSX alternatives” as I can in order to prevent mysellf from having to boot into OSX all the time. And that is a fun way to get to know Linux. I’ll keep you posted on some of the better apps i’ve come across and what “sliding need” they answer. Untill then you can just gawk at my cool desktop.

And if you think THIS is cool ? Check out Knightwise.com fan @bldngnerd  (Balding Nerd) 1-upped me on doing a TRIPLE BOOT on his 11.6 inch macbook air, pumping both OSX, Ubuntu AND WindoSo 2 days later i’m stuck with the result.ws 7 on one machine. Where I have a scrawny screenshot.. he has a whole video… Enjoy.


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