Linux on late-2010 Mac Mini

Got given one of those exquisitely made late-2010 Mac Mini that is too old to do any modern computing (read, no modern browser available at all now). MacOS runs with seconds-wait between every mouse click – but fair enough, it is a Core 2 Duo with just 2GB of RAM.

Had good experience with LXLE distro on some older PCs – early i5s with 4GB of RAM – so I thought what’s to lose? Well, it turns out, a few more steps, u-turns and Googling required than the PCs!

Here are the steps:

1. Boot into MacOS Recovery and use Disk Utility

Despite blogs and comments saying pretty much “just boot up the Linux USB and off you go” – it failed consistently every try. A comment on Reddit offered the help needed (sorry, can’t find that post now!)

  • Boot up Mac Mini whilst holding the Option key
  • Select Recovery drive
  • Click on Disk Utility
  • Delete existing MacOS partition (yes, this is a clean install, not a dual boot)
  • Create new partition and set as FAT

2. Boot into LXLE installation USB without any network

  • Boot up Mac Mini whilst holding the Option Key
  • Select USB
  • Follow the instructions to install LXLE, but DO NOT enable network (having the internet and downloading updated packages invariably hangs the installation)

3. Detective work with GRUB

  • Upon reboot once the installation completes, it was rather dejecting to see a GRUB command prompt instead of the usual cursor-based menu.
  • came to the rescue
  • As outlined in the above article, a bit of detective work is required, but here’s the commands that worked for me:
  • grub> ls
  • (hd0), (hd1), (hd2), (hd0, gpt2), (hd0 gpt1)
  • grub> ls (hd0,gpt2)
  • [this is where I found all the typical linux directories like bin/ boot/ etc]
  • grub> set root(hd0,gpt2)
  • grub> linux /boot/vmlinuz-5.something-something-generic root=/dev/sda2
  • grub> initrd /boot/initrd.img-5.something-something-generic
  • grub> boot
  • That booted into LXLE after a bit of sweaty waiting and praying!
  • Then make sure you run ‘update-grub’ then ‘grub-install /dev/sda’ to make auto-booting permanent.

4. Enable IPv6 at the router

  • Not sure why, but whenever I did an ‘sudo apt-get update’ or using the GUI package manager, all the package URLs from just don’t resolve and therefore fails.
  • Tried different ways of fixing this to no avail, until chancing upon an unreferenced comment somewhere that PPA Launchpad won’t resolve IPv4 anymore – which can’t be confirmed anywhere on the actual website (or perhaps I was too frazzle to see it).
  • Having exhausted my understanding of the package system and my Googling abilities, I decided to enable IPv6 on my router – hoping that nothing breaks for the rest of the network.
  • Luckily, setting ‘IPv6 Connection type’ to [Native] (as I’m on PPPoE for the WAN) on my ASUS router did the trick – nothing (so far) broke on my network and PPA Launchpad served packages now.

5. Update packages – it will take a bit of time as 650MB of data is downloaded and installed.

6. Running Hardware Detect

  • Hardware detect identified a Nvidia driver that I can use instead of the generic driver.
  • I thought, surely a specific driver would be better – but the fonts on the menu and everywhere in the GUI became MASSIVE.
  • Need to adjust DPI
  • editing or creating /usr/share/lightdm/lightdm.conf/50xserver-command.conf and adding the command xerver-command=X -core -dpi 150

Comments are closed.