Ubuntu MacBook

I'm now running Ubuntu as a daily driver, and it's pretty nice!


I have a 2013 MacBook Air which unfortunately will be out of support in MacOS Monterey. I could stick with Big Sur as I expect Apple will continue to push security updates to it for a good couple of years, but it's never a good sign when the latest software doesn't support your hardware.

The laptop is 1.3GHz Core i5-4250U, with 3.8 GiB memory and Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU. Nothing to write home about, but more than capable for browsing, emails, web development and listening to music. I initially started looking for Windows based laptops, but couldn't find any at a reasonable price with the same high quality finish MacBooks have.

I decided to keep the laptop alive by installing Linux. If the title didn't clearly give it away, I chose Ubuntu. It was an easy choice after building my Raspberry Pi Router

I've also used Ubuntu desktop a few times over the years with old PCs and VMs. Cutting my Linux teeth on Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Badger, and pretty much sticking with Ubuntu as my go to Linux distro from there on. The nostalgia thinking back to the 6.10 login music.


Ubuntu 21.04 is the current latest release, so I grabbed a copy from https://ubuntu.com/download/desktop.

It was really easy to flash a USB stick using dd or Disk Utility and boot from it by holding the alt key during the Mac boot chime. From there the OS asks to run a live environment or install straight away.

Biting the bullet, installation was a breaze. I decided to say a proper goodbye to MacOS and chose to wipe the entire disk rather than dual boot to avoid any GRUB + MacOS issues. Plus LUKS disk encryption is available for the security concious, which is similar to FileVault in MacOS.

Surprisingly a lot of stuff works smoothly. I had to enable Wi-Fi drivers by installing from the Addition Drivers area in the software centre, but other than that almost everything works

One thing that didn't work was the iSight Camera. Though luckily a driver and installation guide was available here by Patrik Jakobsson. I didn't have to install any calibration files, but the webcam works perfectly now. One thing I did have to do however was add the kernel driver to /etc/modules to get it to load on boot.

Another thing I have noticed is I can't use the built in SD Card reader. I'm sure it's possible to enable, but it currently doesn't show up at all when running lsusb, something to look into.

Software wise there's plenty to choose from, real Docker is nice, though I opted for Podman as I feel it has a better security setup. Ubuntu loves Snaps which are nice though take forever to boot initially, some snaps still take a good 15 seconds to load. It does look like people within Canonical are looking into this, so hopefully things will speed up soon.

Firefox is the default browser, which is fine though I opted for a Chromium based browser. I noticed even Microsoft Edge is available now, though only the beta version. The plus side of a chromium based browser is it allows installing desktop Progressive Web Apps, which have good integration with the OS. I'm currently using the Spotify PWA version which works flawlessly, as well as MyFeed PWA as my RSS reader, they also boot way faster than snaps!

VSCode is available as well as node, PHP, Ruby, Rust and everything you can think of development wise.

Custom keyboard shortcuts are also nice to map the same key combos i'm used to with MacOS which has definitely helped the transition.


So far i'm pleased with the setup, it's allowed me to continue using my laptop, whilst safe in the knowledge my machine will stay up to date and supported. I'm looking forward to what 21.10 Impish Indri will have to offer, plus it's nice to use a desktop based Linux on a daily basis, a big different from the usual Linux server based world.