Archive for the 'Tech' Category

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Linux on Mac Pro with multiple drives, for real this time

Recently I wrote about wanting to run multiple instances of Linux on the Mac Pro at work, using multiple drives.

OK, so Intel based Macs have an EFI, not a BIOS and so a standard PC install won’t work (that’s old news). The most common way to dual boot a Mac is to use rEFIt which presents a graphical menu on boot and lets you choose which OS to boot.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to use rEFIt when using multiple drives and MBR installations (as I recently discovered).

However, it is possible to use rEFIt with an EFI-only Linux installation on other drives. Yipee.

So here’s how it could look, for example..

Drive one:
EFI partition
OS X
Ubuntu
Windows

Drive two:
EFI partition
Fedora 64bit

Drive three:
EFI Partition
Fedora 32bit

Drive four:
Something else again..

Either way, the good news is that it’s possible to do with an EFI-only install, however not all distros support this yet. Fedora makes this possible by using efidisk.img (available in both 32bit or 64bit).

Simply download the one you want and dd it to a USB memory stick. Plug it into the Mac, power it on and hold down the Alt key until the boot menu appears. If you’re using rEFIt, then just reboot and it should detect it. Either way, you should see an icon for the EFI installer.

During Fedora installer, use the whole disk you want to install onto. This will create the required EFI partition and install the boot loader there also. Before you finish the install, switch to terminal 2 and sync the MBR table (this is because GRUB needs it):
gptsync /dev/sdb

Now when you reboot, rEFIt should see it as an entry to boot to, as should holding down the Alt key on boot.

For Debian and Ubuntu it’s a little more complicated (but not impossible). I wrote an extensive post about Linux on an EFI only machine, to which this applies.

If you want to use the 64bit EFI loader for a 64bit install of Linux, then the EFI in your Mac must be 64bit. Else use my 32bit loader and choose the appropriate option from the menu.

The other unfortunate thing I discovered is that the Mac Pro I’m using has a 32bit only EFI. This means that I can’t install a 64bit EFI-only version of Linux on it. Time to ask Mike for a new Mac I think..

Update: There is a way around this and my updated tarball makes it possible to install 64bit Linux on a Mac with 32bit only EFI.

Does your Mac have 64bit EFI?

Update: Actually, you might be able to install 64bit Linux on a Mac with 32bit EFI by including the “fakebios” GRUB2 option. I’ve updated the grub-efi tarball to include this and it works on my Mac Pro. Thanks to Martijn Broeders for this.

To install 64bit Linux onto a Mac using only EFI (and not MBR emulation) then your Mac must have a 64bit EFI. Run the following under OS X to discover whether you have 64bit or only 32bit:
ioreg -l -p IODeviceTree | grep firmware-abi

This should return something like:
| | "firmware-abi" = <"EFI32">

If you see “EFI32” like I do, then it means your machine can’t execute 64bit EFI loaders, so you’re stuck with 32bit, d’oh!. If you see “EFI64” then you should be able to install native 64bit Linux using EFI only, yay!

I discovered this while trying to load 64bit only my Mac Pro at work as an alternative to running Linux with multiple drives and MBR (which doesn’t really work) 🙁

This is why the 64bit Fedora efidisk.img never worked on my Mac, but the 32bit one does.

-c

Microsoft’s new “Patent Pledge for Open Source Developers”..

..is complete rubbish.

Essentially, Microsoft has made a pledge (note, not a promise!) NOT TO SUE “open source” developers who create software for “their flagship products” SO LONG AS THEY DON’T SELL IT.

If You engage in the commercial distribution or importation of software derived from an open source project or if You make or use such software outside the scope of creating such software code, You do not benefit from this promise for such distribution or for these other activities.

I’m pretty sure that will be in violation of anti-competitive laws in just about every country in the world.

Microsoft calls this promise:

The most comprehensive commitment to the promotion of interoperability in the history of the software industry.

HAHA, now that is funny. Guess they’ve never heard about a little thing called open standards and the free software movement.

Via’s new powerful, power efficient chipset

Via’s new low power but powerful chipset looks very interesting..

The graphics capabilities are courtesy of what Via is branding as the Chrome 520, an integrated graphics processor on the VN1000 that has 32 stream processors and four sampling units. According to the company, a 128-bit 2D graphics engine provides GDI/GDI+ acceleration, hardware 2D rotation, and a true-color hardware cursor with 256-level blending.

Via says the Chrome 520 supports Shader Model 4, OpenGL 3.0, and OpenCL 1.0 for “next-generation GPGPU applications.” Meanwhile, a ChromotionHD 2.0 video processor is said to offer “advanced filtering and cutting edge post-processing,” performing “ultra-smooth decoding” of 1080p HD video in MPEG-4/AVC, H.264, MPEG-2, VC-1, WMV-HD, and AVS video formats.

Computers still too expensive in Australia, despite strong Aussie dollar

Dell just released their new Vostro v13 for US$450 in the States. How much is it in Australia? AU$999.

Based on exchange rates at the time of writing, US$450 = AU$490.

We’re being ripped off over AU$500! That’s more than a second laptop costs in the USA!

Sure, it’s all about the market, but with the strong Aussie dollar it sucks that we cannot get some benefit when it comes to computers!

Apple does the same thing. The 13″ Macbook Pro is US$1190. In Australia it’s AU$1599. A rip off of over AU$300!

On the flip side, it stops me from spending money..

Fedora, Macs and EFI

When installing Linux beside OS X, Fedora toggles the boot flag on for its partition. This causes GPT to see it as an “EFI boot partition,” rather than “Basic Data”. This appears to cause a problem if you want to triple boot with Windows and under OS X the disk utility will see it as one whole partition, with the Linux half missing.

To fix this, toggle the boot flag to off using parted and then sync the GPT partition table to the master boot record partition table. It’s easiest to do this while the installer’s running (switch to TTY2) else you’ll have to install anaconda under your install to get gptsync (or run it from the rEFIt menu).

Simply run the following:
parted /dev/sda
toggle 3 boot
quit
gptsync /dev/sda

The gptsync command should spit out the “Current GPT partition table” which should show something like:
EFI System (FAT)
Mac OS X HFS+
Basic Data
Basic Data (if you have a fourth partition for Windows)

The “Proposed new MBR partition table” should show something like:
EFI Protective
Mac OS X HFS+
Linux
FAT32 (LBA) (or NTFS, depending if it's already been formated)

Now Windows should install cleanly on the fourth partition (if you’re doing that) and the partition structure under OS X should be correct.

The Incredible Guide to NEW Ubuntu (Karmic Koala)

The guys over at “Make Use Of” have released a new free PDF book for Ubuntu. After a quick inspection it looks pretty good, with reasonable explanations about components of Linux.

Xandros selling Microsoft patent protection direct

Back in 2007 Xandros struck a patent deal with Microsoft, while in June this year they said they were: “kind of getting away from being a Linux company.”

I never actually noticed this before, but Xandros sells patent protection from Microsoft directly to end users who purchase their Debian based GNU/Linux distribution.

Xandros racketeering for Microsoft

They call it “Intellectual Property Assurance” but I call it a “Protection Racket“:

A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces other less powerful entities to pay protection money which allegedly serves to purchase protection services against various external threats, usually violence or property damage – sometimes perpetrated by the racketeers themselves.

Isn’t that a perfect explanation of what Microsoft’s been doing?

Laptop reliability

Thinking of buying a new laptop? Take a look at this report before you choose..

SquareTrade analyzed failure rates for over 30,000 new laptop computers covered by SquareTrade Laptop Warranty plans and found that one-third of all laptops will fail within 3 years. SquareTrade also found that netbooks are 20% more unreliable than other laptops, and that Asus and Toshiba are the most reliable laptop brands.

This won’t be my new MythTV box..

Thanks to Robert for pointing this out, but according to Raymond Wagner the new Dell Zino HD won’t cut it for a back end or front end MythTV box (if you’re doing high def).

That processor is marginal at best. You would likely not be able to
decode full bitrate ATSC, much less do so with any deinterlacing. The
$110 more expensive 6850e would be a bare minimum, and even then you can
hardly manage half-bitrate HDPVR recordings, and bluray/hddvd is out of
the question.

You should be able to get the HD3200 working well enough with the fglrx
drivers, but it will not currently, and will likely never support
hardware accelerated decoding. You can upgrade to the HD4330 which now
has XvBA support indirectly through VAAPI, but will not be supported by
MythTV until at least 0.23.

Awww… I was always weary of the AMD video card anyway!