I upgraded my Mom's old 11 inch Macbook Air since she said the screen was too small. Enter a 13-inch, Early 2014 model with OS X 10.9.3 and enter an opportunity for me to test how well Archlinux works on this gorgeous Apple hardware in the month of June 2014. Yes, I am looking to upgrade from my Thinkpad X220 and Lenovo sadness.

Firstly I must say, Archlinux wiki's Macbook page is a bit of a mess. It over-complicates partitioning and boot loading. However I don't feel like wading in there to try fix it.

It's surprisingly simple to Archlinux going on the Macbook Air.

  1. Boot into OSX. Upgrade.
  2. Resize the disk using Disk Utility, amazingly you can resize a running MacOSX install
  3. Install rEFInd, with the all drivers switch, ./install.sh --alldrivers
  4. Boot the Archlinux ISO on a USB stick by holding down the Alt key
  5. Fdisk, create a new partition /dev/sda4, mkfs.ext4 format it, mount it and pacstrap the mount
  6. Oops, pacstrap doesn't work without Internet and 03:00.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4360 802.11ac Wireless Network Adapter (rev 03) is not supported by the 3.15 Linux kernel :( Had to purchase a USB 3.0 to 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN Network Adapter, Apple IIUC doesn't offer USB3 hardware!?
  7. Reboot and with some luck rEFInd, will pick it up! Hint: Installing refind-efi and refind-mkrlconf should give you more control, e.g. for adding "rw quiet" or hitting F2 (twice).

Wireless is since working well so far with the broadcom-wl package from AUR.

Issues

Keyboard

The Alt key is way too small and I am not sure what to make of the fn & cmd key.

Fixed with setxkbmap -option altwin:swap_alt_win.

Someone needs to tell me where the HELL is the Insert key on a Macbook Air.

TrackPad

I am familiar with the Thinkpad nipple. I'm struggling with the trackpad. I can't figure out how to paste!!!

Is it a "three finger click" to paste? Anyone know the keyboard shortcut?

Better with synclient PalmDetect=1.

BETTER with xf86-input-mtrack-git from AUR.

caffeinate

Suspending, shutdown etc. works out of the box with Archlinux. I think systemd should get the thanks. Really fast.

When I close the lid, the Macbook Air goes to sleep. But sometimes it's doing a long upload or download and I do not want it to sleep.

Sound / Audio output doesn't work

rain:/etc/modprobe.d$ lspci | grep Audio
00:03.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation Device 0a0c (rev 09)
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation Lynx Point-LP HD Audio Controller (rev 04)

I'm not sure what I did, but it's working now with pavucontrol. Might be my general confusion with starting pulseaudio.

Brightness buttons don't work

Pommed dies with E: Unknown Apple machine: MacBookAir6,2. Filed a bug.

Is the Thunderbolt port usable? Yes!

User Experience notes

The Air doesn't have a fan, so when I come back to using the X220, I find the X220 noisy.

The Macbook Air so far seems to hover around 51C (~70C with Youtube playback) and its temperature /sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp doesn't fluctuate as crazily as the X220 does. Which is good!! Its actually cool enough to be on my lap without feeling like I am killing my sperm off.

The 1440x900 screen is nicer, but I expected it to a LOT better. I guess I was stupidly expecting Retina.

The battery seems to drain as fast as the old 9 cell in the Thinkpad worryingly. I have tuned it with PowerTOP and still I'm not very confident at all. I suspect the screen on full brightness doesn't help.

Webconverger

The distro that I maintain and earn a living from, Webconverger works with the Apple Macbook Air hardware too with the USB network device is attached.

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