Saturday, October 12, 2013

8 months with a macbook pro retina 15''

Back in February, I wanted a new laptop for my work, so I bought a fancy Dell Latitude E6540 laptop. Bad luck, it was giving my sore eyes and horrible headaches, to the point I couldn't work more than a dozen minutes with it. As in my work, we were not allowed to buy PC laptops with any other vendor, my boss convinced me to get a 15'' macbook pro retina (yes that's about as expensive a laptop as you can get). Although quite reluctant at first, I did need a new laptop, so I gave in. Of course, I had to install debian on it. I booted once or twice on macos to leave enough space for Debian and install rEFIt so that I could boot into it. I had to use version 3.9 of linux else it wouldn't boot.

After about 8 month, I must say I'm quite pleased with the beast. The retina display is very neat (a 2880x1800 resolution!), and it is pretty fast. There are two annoyances though:

  • I never managed to get either the non-free NVIDIA drivers or the integrated intel graphics to work. The NVIDIA driver give blank screen on X startup, while it doesn't even start with the intel drivers (and I've tried all the tricks I could find around). The fine point is that I don't have any hardware 3D acceleration !
  • The wireless network is pretty unstable.

Another point is the update of GRUB: Debian's post-install scripts don't play nice with the EFI setup, so here is what I have to do to update to a newer version of grub, (and it's also what I had to do initially to install GRUB):

# mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
# grub-install --efi-directory=/mnt

The /dev/sda1 partition is the so-called EFI partition. I think it is created by rEFIt and it is essentially empty.


Anonymous said...

maybe a few tips:
- rEFIt works, but I've always found it to be quite slow… rEFInd is a fork which works even better; best and super simple IMHO is gummiboot - fastest and least hassle.

- I suspect the nvidia binary drivers don't work because you're booting in EFI mode; you can always fall back on BIOS compatibility mode, I suppose… then you're back to using grub-pc etc

- it's possible to switch to the Intel card in MacOSX with an app and then reboot in Linux (gets stored in nvram)

- Finally, I'd be nice if you could add some notes to (even just an lspci -nn ; lsusb would help)

As an example, I did this one:

Vincent Fourmond said...

I will definitely inaugurate the wiki page for that hardware, as soon as I get the time to gather the date. I should have done that much earlier, though -- didn't think about that.

I never managed to boot in BIOS mode. It just never starts, and I don't have a clue about that.

Alex said...

Your macbook has NVIDIA Optimus? You poor bastard. The Dell notebook I have at work has that. It's the worst. I'm still holding out hope that some combination of X/kernel/drivers will make it work as well as it does in Windows (i.e. I can use it without completely hating my life), but I'm probably going to be disappointed. So far, I've gotten it into states where only the internal display works and states where external displays work, but with massive graphical corruption. Optimus is probably the worst thing to happen to Linux graphics since the bad old days of ATI.

macintosh said...