installing Debian on Mac Book Air

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My employeer has supplied me with a Mac Book Air for a while now, and I'd like to get Debian running on it. It's a MacBookAir4,1 as per the different models on wikipedia. I've downloaded the Debian 7.0 Alpha installer and burned it to a CD. I've downloaded the 2012-05-12 firmware and added that to a USB stick.

I've been reading about other peoples notes on installing Debian on this kind of hardware. I've already got a second partition on my hard drive (which is currently HFS+ formatted, but I was happy to reformat that in the installer).

I had also installed rEFIt, though I'm told it shouldn't be necessary. So I removed it. But not before trying several installs before then, and getting very confused about peoples notes on installing with the bios style partition table synced to the GPT one, and what not.

So I booted to the installer CD. I've downloaded the multi-arch CD. On my first go choosing the 64 bit option seemed to freeze the system. So I choose the normal install option. The installer behaved as expected. And then I rebooted, without worrying about installing grub-efi. So my new system didn't boot.

I rebooted to the CD again, and choose the rescue option.  After getting a shell with /dev/sda5 as the root system, and /dev/sda4 as the boot partition (I decided to have a separate boot, but I probably didn't need to do that) I mounted /dev/sda1 as /boot/efi. Then I installed the grub-efi-amd64 package. Strangely that didn't create the /boot/efi/EFI/debian/grubx64.efi file like I was expecting. But when I ran 'grub-install' again, it did. I'm sure the package install scripts would have called that, but perhaps I had something else not mounted correctly at that time or something. I copied /boot/efi/EFI/debian/grubx64.efi to  /boot/efi/EFI/boot/bootx64.efi, so the Mac EFI firmware would give me that as an option to boot.

At this point I can hold the 'Option' key down while booting, and choose the 'EFI boot' option, and see the grub menu. But when I select that I get a message saying:
Loading Linux 3.2.0-2-686-pae ...
Loading initial ramdisk ...
error: no suitable mode found.
Booting however

I didn't know what I'd done wrong. Reading a gentoo wiki page made me think that booting my 64 bit Mac system to a 32 bit kernel was causing an issue, as Macs EFI is running in 64 bit mode, and can't therefore boot to a 32 bit mode kernel.

So I re-installed. This time the installer didn't freeze on the 64 bit option, so I continued. This time, before the installer rebooted, I jumped to a shell and installed the grub-efi-amd64 package. Strangely the md5sum of the generated /boot/efi/EFI/debian/grubx64.efi file was different. So I re-copied it to /boot/efi/EFI/boot/bootx64.efi.

The grub was more than happy to boot the system, and now I'm typing this blog post in my new Debian install. Yay!

So far, I'm fairly happy. Sound works, without me trying anything. The camera works in the 'Cheese' application. Wireless works, and bluetooth looks like it will work. The screen seems a bit small, but it is running at 1366x768, which is the resolution available on this laptop, so I guess I'll just have to get used to it. Gnome 3.4 seems ok to use so far. It's going to take me awhile to get un-used to the Apple keyboard short cuts, and used to the gnome keyboard short cuts.

I'm installing xserver-xorg-input-multitouch, to see if that helps with click'n'drag. At the moment I can't move windows easily, because when I click on a windows title bar, I then can't move the mouse pointer, and I can only release the key on the minimize menu option that pops up.

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