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Linux - Asahi Linux is Pretty Rad!

Recently I purchased another M1 Mac mini. This time just the base model, as I also own an M1 Studio Ultra with 20 cores and 128GB RAM. While still fairly expensive (for a base-model) at 625 GBP, with free next-day shipping it is not like I had many other options for M1 AARCH64 vendors.

I Got this machine solely to run Asahi Linux on. In recent months I have been playing with Arch Linux more (yes it is mandatory for me to let you know). Arch is generally viewed as a very extreme, neckbeard (nerd) form of Linux; but Asahi makes at least the install, fairly painless, and the box looks pretty.

Pain points

As with anything new, and unfamiliar, I fumbled at the first block, by refusing to install a KDE desktop, it gave me exactly what I asked for, and I had just a terminal. Good going me...

  • The defaults and options are not very obvious.
  • I did not seem to have access to wifi.
  • I Had to simultaneously learn arch, while coping without a GUI.
  • I Had to have additional equipment.

I am writing this right now from that M1 in Firefox in a GUI, so it went pretty well, I guess.

Installing Gnome - [as root]

pacman -Syu
pacman -S xorg xorg-server
pacman -S gnome
systemctl enable gdm.service
pacman -S gedit gnome-terminal
pacman -S xterm
dbus-update-activation-environment --all
pacman -S firefox firefox-i18n-en-gb
pacman -S network-manager
pacman -S gnome-network-manager
pacman -S vlc
systemctl enable NetworkManager.service
systemctl start NetworkManager.service
pacman -S xdg-desktop-portal-gnome
pacman -S --overwrite pipewire-pulse pipewire pipewire-media-session pavucontrol
systemctl --user enable pipewire-media-session.service
systemctl --user enable pipewire.service
systemctl --user enable pipewire-pulse.service
pacman -S ntfs-3g
pacman -S sudo
exec dbus-launch --exit-with-session gnome-session

So what does all the above get you? Well a gnome 4 series desktop (very similar screen-capture and screen-grab experience to OSX); Firefox web-browser (Chrome does not work AFAIK); the ability to launch terminal (yes Arch and therefore Asahi let you install a terminal that wont run); ntfs drive mounting; audio support using pipewire; vlc so I can see how much software rendering affects media playback; wifi via networkmanager and the sudo utility.

What does it do?

It is a really beautiful Linux machine (physical box) with a stunning and modern GUI.

  • Web browsing
  • Code editing
  • Video playback @4K
  • Media playback
  • USB Headset support (required more config wrangling)
  • YouTube
  • CLI tasks (obviously, it's Linux)
  • Docker + Kubernetes (with usual ARM oddities)

Via the flatpak hub that seems to have come with me installing next, next next with defaults, I have vs code IDE; various other GUI tools. I Have managed to crash the machine a few times; but considering Apple are absolute (think of the most unkind words you can muster, then multiply the hate); I really like it.

What it cannot do (yet)

  • Accelerated media playback
  • Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney (Widevine DRM)
  • Run OSX programs
  • Run Windows programs
  • Run iOS or Android programs
  • Some packages are x86 only, or not well documented

Why I did this?

I am much more hopeful with enough Linux nerds buying [cr]Apple hardware we can eventually force them (legally if needed), to open source the firmware and drivers.

Apple makes visually beautiful hardware; with interesting hardware capabilities.

In my opinion, Apple software is poorly written, with substandard experiences. I Believe I can do better with the same hardware, but need open firmware and drivers to support that, and believe as a manufacturer they should be legally required to support that.

I Hope you found this useful.