Apple’s Macs with M1 series processors offer the best performance-per-watt of any laptop or desktop computers available at the moment. But the transition from using Intel chips to custom-made ARM processors limits your options for running software other than macOS.

You can no longer dual boot Windows on a Mac (although you can run it in a virtual machine using software like Parallels). And most Linux distributions that were compatible with older Macs won’t work on new models with Apple Silicon. But the folks at the Asahi Project have been working on bringing Linux to Apple Silicon, and now they’ve released the first public Alpha of Asahai Linux for Macs with M1 chips.

At this point, the software is still aimed at developers and power users who can help file bug reports. Things are still pretty rough around the edges: There’s no support for Bluetooth, cameras, or sleep mode yet. DisplayPort and Thunderbolt ports aren’t working yet, nor are the HDMI ports on MacBooks. And GPU and video codec acceleration are unsupported. Fortunately, the Asahi team says that the M1 CPU is so fast that software rendering works very well for video and graphics.

Speakers and controls for display brightness and other settings aren’t working yet either, but they should be soon. The headphone jack should work for audio if you’re using a model with an M1 chip, but Macs with M1 Pro or Max processors use a different audio codec, so that’s still a work in progress.

But most other basic features are working including WiFi , Ethernet, USB, storage, keyboards, touchpads, and CPU frequency switching. So you should be able to use a Mac running Asahi Linux for basic computing functionality, but you’d probably still want to switch back to macOS if you need to take full advantage of the computer’s capabilities… for now. Fortunately, the Asahi Linux installer is designed to set up a dual boot system that allows you to choose between macOS and Asahi at startup.

Anyone who wants to give it a try just needs a Mac with an Apple M1, M1 Pro, or M1 Max processor, at least 53GB of free disk space, an internet connection, and macOS 12.3 or later. Note that the recently released Mac Studio isn’t yet supported.

Asahi Linux is based on Arch Linux, and a full install also includes the Plasma desktop environment, but there’s also an option for a minimal environment that will let you customize your experience. You can also use the Asahi installer just to install a UEFI boot environment that allows you to load other supported software.

Right now there aren’t really any other supported operating systems that I’m aware of. But the Asahi team says there are plans to work with other developers to port existing Linux distributions to Apple Silicon.

You can find more details in the Asahi Linux Alpha Release announcement.

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10 replies on “Asahi Linux Alpha lets you run Linux on Apple Silicon”

  1. I want to personally thank all the Apple customers for supporting a company that has pressured TSMC to make advanced processes cost effective. Without this TSMC silicon, I would be running my x86 Linux box on slower, more power hungry Intel process silicon. I may not be an Apple customer, but I certainly benefit from their business practices.

    1. I don’t follow?

      TSMC has huge competition for everything they can churn out. They did not make anything cheaper.

      Apple got their chips cheaper because they ordered a huge chunk of TSMC’s capacity early, as well as their historical links. Intel, AMD, etc. were left with a smaller remainder of TSMC’s capacity, and had to bid aggresively for that capacity, raising their own costs.

    1. Everything I would want except sound over HDMI and accelerated graphics works on Asahi Linux on my M1 mini. Future work from the team will bring those up to fully supported status, and will be available with a package update, no need to reinstall to get future hardware support. That’s pretty fucking phenomenal if you ask me.

  2. Does it have a window manager working? I could not find any video showing it booting desktop environment. The ones I saw end with a command line instead.

    1. Yes.

      The default install comes with Plasma.

      People have also showed GNOME running on it.

  3. Very impressive work.

    Even so, it looks to me like it’ll take at least another year until the hardware is supported well enough to be comparable to your average Dell or Lenovo laptop. And that’s if everything goes swimingly from here onwards.

    1. You call it impressive, I call it disappointing. A year of work and none of the important bits have been cracked:

      Not working:

      HDMI on the MacBooks
      GPU acceleration
      Video codec acceleration
      Neural Engine
      CPU deep idle
      Sleep mode
      Touch Bar

      Touchbar, sleep mode and neural engine maybe not that important but the rest is essential.
      Also, even if they crack this, we will be on the M2 and everything starts again.

      1. I think you underestimate how much reverse engineering had to go into getting the stuff so far to work.

        Also, for most of the things you have listed, they are not at 0. GPU stuff, for example is quite far along.

        And no, they will not have to start from 0 with M2, because Apple themselves will not re-engineer everything from scratch for every generation. Almost everything they’ve done for M1 will carry over to M2.

        But yes, I had also hoped we’d be farther along with Asahi by now. I was eyeing that M1 MacBook Air with some envy for a while, but I am glad I held off. Will not jump on board until 6-12 months after this is all sorted out, at best.

        Overall, a ton of good work went into what they have so far. But there is still so much left to go.

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