Thomas Skardal

Hello, computer.

Fedora 23 installation report

January 14, 2016

I’ve been thinking about installing some flavour of linux on my macbook for a while. After Ubuntu added features that many see as privacy concerns I’ve mostly been using other distros. Up until now I’ve been a Debian and Arch user, but after reading about Fedora I got interested in giving it a try. Here are some of the stuff I learned.

My biggest concern for this installation was to mess up something so that I couldn’t boot OS X (this laptop is my work computer). I read a lot about EFI boot and rEFInd, and ended up without rEFInd. After the installation the computer will start GRUB. It is possible to boot OS X from there, but it doesn’t work out of the box and I haven’t managed to fix it. The workaround is easy though. Just hold alt when booting, and you can chose which EFI partition to boot.

My first try was at the KDE spin (spins are Fedora with different default desktop environments). It crashed a lot and HiDPI support was far from decent. After a while I got tired of it and installed the cinnamon desktop. The HiDPI support is way better, but after a while, all the KDE applications started to annoy me. I decided to go for the standard version of Fedora with Gnome.

This time everything looks good and promising from the start! Even the installation procedure was nice and scaled for my retina screen :-) For the KDE spin it was quite challenging to read the tiny text. The only problem (present for all spins) is wifi. It works fine while installing, but as soon as you boot you’re without wifi. If you have a thunderbolt adapter for ethernet you’re covered. If not, you can use a computer with internet access to download and extract the necessary firmware files. Transfer them to a USB drive and put them on your mac. After a reboot it should be working. More about this here.

Even though this driver (b43) worked kind of fine I ended up installing broadcom-wl. The reason for this is simple. The b43 driver caused some kind of screen flickering whenever there was any significant network activity.

It is also worth noting that if the wirless device suddenly stops working it can most likely be revived by either doing a suspend/resume or manually reloading the kernel module (modprobe -r wl && modprobe wl).

I like having my F1-F12 keys behaving like F-keys instead of media and function keys. I rather press the fn key whenever I need them. After some searching, trial and error I got it working as preferred. Take a look at these two guides.

When it comes to display drivers I tried using the proprietary NVIDIA drivers, but I ended up removing them. With the NVIDIA drivers screen backlight adjustment stopped working, and suspend on lid close also stopped working. Even though I managed to get the backlight working again I decided to go back to Nouveau. This model of MBP has a hybrid GPU solution consisting of both an Intel and a NVIDIA GPU. Unfortunately the NVIDIA GPU is used by default and drains a lot of battery. There are some ways to switch between the two such as Bumblebee but I can’t manage to get it working on this model. I’ve only found others with the same experience. So for now I’m leaving this alone.

When it comes to battery time I haven’t done any serious measuring, but it is definitly worse than with OS X. I haven’t done much research on this, but installing tlp and tlp-wrd seems like a good start. I’m sure that switching between Intel and NVIDIA would have made a huge impact though.

If you haven’t figured out already; Fedora is quite strict when it comes to include packages in their official repositories. Anything with patent issues or that isn’t free are not allowed. If you want to install packages such as VLC, various kinds of codecs (mp3 maybe?), or maybe the broadcom-wl drivers already mentioned, you will have to use the RPMFusion[] repos.

A final suggestion is to enable swipe gestures in firefox so that you can navigate back and forth in your browsing history by swiping left and right. Just like you’re used too :smiley: