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Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) on Macbook Air 2,1

Taggar: Ubuntu Macbook 2,1 MacbookAir KarmicKoala Linux

A couple of months ago I wrote about how to install 9.04 on Macbook Air 2,1. I never really got it to work well but I knew Karmic Koala was coming soon so I did not spend time on it.

Now it is out and unfortunately it does not work perfect out of the box. Installing from the normal desktop 32-bit CD I got read errors (might have been the external drive's fault). Instead I went for the alternative install CD and it worked better.

The newly installed system got a kernel boot option acpi=off and with that I managed to boot, but only after first booting OSX.

I also noticed that only one core was detected by the kernel and it had no support for frequency scaling.

After reading up on more kernel boot options and testing about 100 times (reboots) I finally found the holy combination that fixes all problems:

  • Boot Ubuntu direct w/o need to first boot OSX
  • Both CPU cores are detected
  • CPU freq scaling works
  • Shutdown turns off power
  • Suspend to RAM works

So, where is the magic? Here it is: acpi=noirq and pnpacpi=off. Enjoy!

Skrivet av atte, 2009-11-11 10:32

You da man. Thanks again, Skrivet.

Skrivet av CrayzeeWulf, 2009-11-12 17:10

ak: acpi=noirq and pnpacpi=off works every time, but I forgot to mention one important detail: don't have any USB hubs/devices plugged in while booting. If you have you might have to do an SMB reset to get the USB port working again.

Skrivet av atte, 2009-12-05 21:23

I've been struggling unsuccessfully to get karmic installed alongside os x on my macbook air. I think I'm way too inexperienced to manage it unless someone puts together a really easy to follow guide. Frankly "acpi=noirq and pnpacpi" means nothing to me and googling the two terms doesn't help. I don't really want to give up having devoted hours to attempting the install but fancy cutting my losses and running would seem to be the wisest action despite my reluctance to admit defeat. If you ever have a spare hour or so on your hands a detailed description of how you managed to get everything up would be really appreciated. Just thought I'd ask. No problems if it's not feasible. Good to know someones succeeded anyway.

Skrivet av guy m, 2009-12-07 13:46

guy m: Oh, sorry for that.

When the linux kernel is booting up it is possible to feed it extra parameters. acpi=noirq and pnpacpi are two of those parameters.

Depending on what bootloader is loading the kernel there are different ways to pass these parameters: In Grub you can press 'e' to edit the boot options for the selected alternative. One of the lines you can edit when you do this is the kernel line. Just append "acpi=noirq pnpacpi" to that line.

The Ubuntu install CD is using something else, I think it is called ISOLINUX. Just look at the options you have, I think it is something like F6 to add boot parameters. When doing that you will see an editable kernel boot line where you can add the same parameters as above.

Feel free to send me an email if you have more problems, jon a_t jpl dot se. Good luck!

Skrivet av atte, 2009-12-15 18:48

What a lifesaving post. I returned two back to Apple after failed USB ports.
If anyone needs to know how to restore SMC (not SMB) here is a link


Skrivet av Andrey, 2009-12-18 17:52

noacpi=off works fine on Koala

Skrivet av Andrey, 2009-12-18 18:02

Guys, without refi and with noacpi=off it boots everytime ! without problem ..

Skrivet av Paulo, 2010-01-03 06:20

I am trying to do exactly what it says here (and I am fairly an experienced Linux user).
Still, after kernel information the screen freezes and nothing happens. I have to manually force shutdown the machine and perform SMC restore to work.
Actually it freezes after the message:
[ 0.188708] EISA bus registered
[ 0.192027] ACPI: bus type pci registered

I am using the Macbook air Superdrive to boot the CD, if this is of any use.

Skrivet av panos, 2010-01-21 15:12

Panos: I think it is because you have something plugged into the usb port.

When booting with the CD to do the install, try only adding the noapic option. That is what I used for the installation.

Later I used acpi=noirq and pnpacpi=off to get all hardware to work (USB port empty at boot).

Skrivet av atte, 2010-01-22 12:28

Hi. Thanks for your help. I actually gave up attempting to install Karmic after writing the above words, but decided a couple of days ago to have another crack at it. With your help I'm now successfully booting into karmic using acpi=noirq and pnpacpi=off. It usually needs 2 or 3 restarts before getting there though. Maybe because I'm rebooting from the Mac Partition? A minor irritation anyway as I have thus far always got there in the end.

One thing though that maybe you can advise me on. rEFIt doesn't show the correct icon for a linux partition, showing a grey legacy icon instead. When I try to sync the partition tables with rEFIts built in editor it returns an error "GPT partition of type unknown found, will not touch this disk", or words to that effect.

I've seen a thread on the Ubuntu forums regarding this suggesting a fix that involves an awful lot of terminal trickery. Being someone who only got his first ever computer 8 months ago I'm reluctant to go throwing around lots of terminal commands I don't understand, especially when "sudo" is involved. Do you have any advice regarding whether or not I need to solve this issue?

The thread I refer to is here


Thanks a lot for your help anyway. It's much appreciated.

Skrivet av guy m, 2010-01-23 01:37

A simple solution to the icon problem is to simply replace the icon for "legacy". You can take an icon like this one I use and (from OSX) put it in /efi/refit/icons to replace the current grey one.

Skrivet av atte, 2010-01-23 17:01

Nice, thanks again. I was wondering if any problems could occur later with the "GPT partition of type unknown". I guess not. I'm also guessing there's a terminal command I can run to automatically load the acpi=noapic and pnpacpi=off parameters? I'll go google.

Skrivet av guy m, 2010-01-24 13:35

The kernel parameters should be added to /etc/default/grub and the line GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="acpi=noirq pnpacpi=off".

Then, run update-grub.

Skrivet av atte, 2010-01-24 15:18

And again, thanks. Job's a goodun. I think I'm going to go away and learn me some terminal.

Your kind assistance has been appreciated no end.

Skrivet av guy m, 2010-01-25 00:25

People, I spent about 3 days trying to install Ubuntu with different options and kernel parameters...
I've read a lot of manuals, forums, etc...
I did exactly as written above. - Nothing...
Also tried Alternative Installer, Mini CD installer - hangs up...
On normal installer without 'quiet' option it hangs exactly after something posed by 'panos':
[ 0.188708] EISA bus registered
[ 0.192027] ACPI: bus type pci registered

Please help! Looking on Ubuntu in VM (Parallels Desktop) - is nice but really want to see it native...

Skrivet av Eugene, 2010-03-15 19:08

Eugene, sorry to hear that. Have you tried the new upcoming version, 10.04?

My best tip about 9.10 would be to first boot osx and then reboot on the alternative install cd, it worked for me. If it does not, try with acpi=off.

Hopefully 10.04 will solve all our problems :-)

Skrivet av atte, 2010-03-18 19:21

I have tried installing Ubuntu 9.10. But when I check the noapic option and click on install to proceed, it reboots and the same screen is displayed again! I re-do the same thing and again it restarts, this time the CD is not loaded any more and the USB does not work! I reset SMC and re-tried several times. But alwasy the same thing! the installation won't start, it simply reboots. I have tried both the alternate and desktop versions. Any suggestion? Thanks!

Skrivet av anto, 2010-03-27 23:51

Anto: It is time to move on to 10.04!

Has anyone out there tried it on Macbook Air yet?

Skrivet av atte, 2010-03-28 18:17

I tried 10.04 with my new macbook air... everything works but the annoying usb port thing: has anyone found something to fix this?
Thanks a lot atte your help was highly appreciated!

Skrivet av Rob, 2010-04-01 15:03

atte, thanks for your comments!

YES - I'm keep trying installing different ways - no result...
My Macbook Air is MC234 model - with Core 2 Duo L9600 processor - maybe they (Apple) updated something and now linux kernel should be updated to support this?

I already tried 10.04 Alpha versions, Beta 1, and today fresh release Beta 2 64bit - same situation... once it boot once it hangs up once it restarts... :((((
really unhappy - Ubuntu looks great in Parallels VM - but really want to use it installed primary...

Any ideas what could I do more? for MC234 model...? Write somewhere asking for help..?


Skrivet av Eugene, 2010-04-08 20:52

Eugene: Sorry to hear that. Is your USB working? Maybe you need to do that SMB reset thing.

I also have the model with L9600 so I guess we have the same hardware. Have you done all the firmware updates available from MacOS?

If 64-bit 10.04 does not work, maybe try the 32-bit version. You don't have too much to loose since there is only 2 GB of memory in Air anyway. (Main feature of 64-bit is support for ~3GB+).

Skrivet av atte, 2010-04-08 23:41

Thanks atte!

Sure - USB hangsup each 1-2 reboot and each time I do reset COPS reset and it backs to life.

But you know, I'm totally new to Mac systems and just bought Mac Air, so I never heard that I should check firmware updated from Apple - I did it usually for Win systems but I thought it's not necessary to do for Macs.

Thanks you for the idea - I will try it today.

If it does not work - I'm thinking to try to build latest kernel 2.6.34-rc4...

Skrivet av Eugene, 2010-04-17 20:36

Tried latest updates - says it's not necessary to update my Air - so everything is latest...

Skrivet av Eugene, 2010-04-17 20:55

This is how I figured out how to boot off the CD. After choosing the language I hit F6 to pull up the boot options, then just hit esc. Don't check any of the options. Now backspace 3 times and add 'acpi=noirq pnpacpi=off' so the line ends '......quiet splash acpi=noirq pnpacpi=off'. Now hit return.

Eventually it'll boot. It isn't 100% effective, usually taking 3/4 attempts during which it either restarts without frying the usb or hangs on the flashing curser and needs a hard reset then smc reset. But eventually it does always boot with both cores detected.

This was the case with 9.10 and is the case for me now with 10.4. I'm using the 32 bit desktop edition.

After installing and editing /etc/default/grub it boots way more reliably.

If that still doesn't work then maybe try burning the disk again?

Incidentally, the problem I mentioned above regarding the 'GPT partition of type unknown' error was because I chose to install ubuntu to 'largest contiguous free space'. I ended up reinstalling it choosing 'manually edit partition table', created a 1gb swap partition and formatted the rest of the free space as ext3 and everything was dandy.

Skrivet av guy m, 2010-05-01 23:41

I tried to install the 10.04 on my macbook air.
first in parallels but that really didn't worked as I wanted it, thus then in dual boot... but something blocked during the installation and I had to switch off the computer - since then my usb-port (in wich the superdrive with the install CD was placed) doesn't work anymore... I tried almost everything I could find on the net - no solution... Any suggestion to get my usb-port working again so that I can continue trying to install Ubuntu on the Mac? Thx, Joe

Skrivet av Joe, 2010-05-26 20:50

after doing the COPS reset I don't know how many times, it finally deblocked the superdrive - thus now I am trying to install 10.04 once more...

Skrivet av joe, 2010-05-26 21:27

This no longer works with lucid =[

Skrivet av TheSilentNumber, 2010-05-27 12:41

With lucid, try acpi=nommconf

Skrivet av Andrey, 2010-06-12 11:36

On a 2.6.34 kernel version every options I entered using RefFIT could not reliably boot the kernel. The only way I can manage to boot is using the Alt button at startup and selecting the windows entry.

Skrivet av caratorn, 2010-07-24 14:58


Kontakta mig så fort det är möjligt

Skrivet av nas, 2010-09-12 17:58


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