2022 looks set to be the year of Linux on the desktop. By which we mean the Mac M1 desktop, judging by this week's emission from the Asahi Linux team.
While a good deal of Apple M1 support has turned up in the Linux kernel of late (early bits and pieces were released in 5.13, more has been merged into 5.16 and yet more is waiting in the wings for 5.17), it's still not really ready for end users. And that's without considering that new M1 Pro and Max chips have turned up in MacBook Pros.
Project lead Hector Martin noted some of the challenges posed by the new M1 silicon as Apple shifted from a component seemingly lifted out of an iPhone and lightly breathed over to something that could scale up both in terms of memory and CPU cores. Updates required tweaks to support the increased physical address space.
"Amusingly," Martin wrote, "while implementing support for this in Linux, we ran into a bug in Linux's ARM SMMU support that had been there ever since 52-bit address support was introduced.
- Progress report: Asahi Linux brings forth a usable basic desktop on Apple's M1
- 'Not great, but usable': GNOME desktop boots on Asahi Linux for Apple M1
- Asahi Linux progress: Apple Silicon OS works – though it's 'rough around the edges' and has no GUI acceleration
- Asahi Linux devs merge effort to run Linux on Apple M1 silicon into kernel
"This was breaking systems with more than 256 TiB of RAM – I wonder why nobody noticed? Either way, Linux now correctly supports standard ARM systems with up to 4 PiB of RAM."
The hyperscalers will thank you.
Other than that, it seems to have been pretty smooth sailing for the team, at least in terms of core support for the new Apple silicon (and Martin noted that Pro was little more than a cut-down Max for the team's purposes).
There is still plenty of work to be done, not least in the audio department. The next area of focus, according to Martin, is Wi-Fi. Besides a number of other bits of coding (including RTC support), there is also that pesky GPU kernel driver to be tackled (although Martin reported that the userspace is in "good shape").
At the current rate of development, it seems entirely possible that Asahi Linux could be booting on a Mac near you in 2022. ®