Progress report: Asahi Linux brings forth a usable basic desktop on Apple's M1

Drivers slip into the kernel as team ponders GPU hardware

Efforts to bring Linux to Apple Silicon have resulted in a basic functional desktop, according to the Asahi Linux team.

The project kicked off in earnest with a lengthy blog post earlier this year detailing the challenges involved in getting the OS onto Apple's latest and greatest.

Since then Apple M1 support has been sidling into the Linux kernel and by August the GNOME desktop was shown booting up with the experience described as "not great, but usable."

September's progress report, published today by founder Hector Martin, was packed with good news for fans of the project, including the comment that Asahi Linux "is usable as a basic Linux desktop" albeit without GUI acceleration.

As for what desktop, Martin told The Register: "Whatever desktop you want, that's up to you!"

He went on to tell us that the plan was provide an Arch Linux ARM image preconfigured with KDE ("which happens to be my desktop of choice") and likely a barebones image so users could install their own preference.

The lowest level drivers had been merged into the Linux kernel earlier this year, but Martin said more were needed to make things usable. The goal is to eventually get everything upstreamed.

Already merged for version 5.16 of the Linux kernel (5.15 is currently in RC status) are the PCIe bindings and driver, and the USB-C PD driver. In review are other bits and pieces, including the Pinctrl drive for the GPIO pins of Apple's M1 and code to handle the M1's Device Power Management. In development is work on the Display Controller hardware among other things.

The team has also been at work on the installer. Handy, because getting the code working on a vanilla M1 Mac Mini remains somewhat challenging. "Once we have a stable kernel foundation," said Martin, "we will start publishing an 'official' installer that we expect will see more wide usage among the adventurous."

Martin told El Reg that the installer would be a script that dealt with the murky world of partitions and the like before eventually installing a Linux distribution. The completion of the install will require a reboot into Recovery Mode via the power button and the running of another script set up by the installer.

Once the distribution of choice is up and running (and Martin noted interest from a Fedora developer as well as the use of Debian), ARM64 applications are expected to work without issue. Martin added: "For running x86 apps Rosetta style, there is FEX, which I'm very excited to try out. It should work with Wine to allow you to run Windows games too."

The progress report is positive stuff, even with the GPU elephant lurking in the corner of the room. Developer Alyssa Rosenzweig reported some impressive performance from the code on Apple's M1.

Martin said in his post: "While there is no GPU acceleration yet, the M1's CPUs are so powerful that a software-rendered desktop is actually faster on them," but acknowledged that plenty of rough edges still required smoothing before the desired polished experience could be delivered, not least that GPU.

"That said," he continued, "we hope this will allow those willing to be on the absolute bleeding edge to get a taste for what running Linux on these machines is like – and, for some, this might be enough for production usage." ®

Other stories you might like

  • Google sours on legacy G Suite freeloaders, demands fee or flee

    Free incarnation of online app package, which became Workplace, is going away

    Google has served eviction notices to its legacy G Suite squatters: the free service will no longer be available in four months and existing users can either pay for a Google Workspace subscription or export their data and take their not particularly valuable businesses elsewhere.

    "If you have the G Suite legacy free edition, you need to upgrade to a paid Google Workspace subscription to keep your services," the company said in a recently revised support document. "The G Suite legacy free edition will no longer be available starting May 1, 2022."

    Continue reading
  • SpaceX Starlink sat streaks now present in nearly a fifth of all astronomical images snapped by Caltech telescope

    Annoying, maybe – but totally ruining this science, maybe not

    SpaceX’s Starlink satellites appear in about a fifth of all images snapped by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), a camera attached to the Samuel Oschin Telescope in California, which is used by astronomers to study supernovae, gamma ray bursts, asteroids, and suchlike.

    A study led by Przemek Mróz, a former postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and now a researcher at the University of Warsaw in Poland, analysed the current and future effects of Starlink satellites on the ZTF. The telescope and camera are housed at the Palomar Observatory, which is operated by Caltech.

    The team of astronomers found 5,301 streaks leftover from the moving satellites in images taken by the instrument between November 2019 and September 2021, according to their paper on the subject, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters this week.

    Continue reading
  • AI tool finds hundreds of genes related to human motor neuron disease

    Breakthrough could lead to development of drugs to target illness

    A machine-learning algorithm has helped scientists find 690 human genes associated with a higher risk of developing motor neuron disease, according to research published in Cell this week.

    Neuronal cells in the central nervous system and brain break down and die in people with motor neuron disease, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the baseball player who developed it. They lose control over their bodies, and as the disease progresses patients become completely paralyzed. There is currently no verified cure for ALS.

    Motor neuron disease typically affects people in old age and its causes are unknown. Johnathan Cooper-Knock, a clinical lecturer at the University of Sheffield in England and leader of Project MinE, an ambitious effort to perform whole genome sequencing of ALS, believes that understanding how genes affect cellular function could help scientists develop new drugs to treat the disease.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022