Fedora Asahi Remix 40 served on Apple Silicon

First big update of the go-to Linux for newer Macs

Lagging the mainstream edition by a couple of weeks, the Asahi-flavored version of Fedora 40 is here – redolent with KDE Plasma 6.

Fedora Asahi Remix 40 is the variant of Fedora for Apple Mac hardware with Cupertino's in-house silicon. For now, this still means M1 and M2 Macs only. Asahi project lead Hector Martin said on Mastodon that support for M3-powered models would be delayed. (The M4 chip is much too new – it only appeared this week and so far not in any Macs.)

Although this is the Asahi Linux project's Fedora remix and the flagship distro, it's not quite as simple as "Fedora 40, but on Arm boxes with fruit logos." Asahi doesn't offer all of the umpteen variants and spins of Fedora – we counted 19 variants when we covered the release.

For one thing, Asahi focuses strongly on Wayland, and that means you have a choice of KDE or GNOME. Of the 11 desktops that Fedora offers between the GNOME-based Workstation edition and its ten different spins, those two are pretty much The Reg FOSS desk's least favorite options, but the ones we'd prefer are all X11-based, so they are off the menu.

The default desktop in Asahi is KDE Plasma, and here fruit fondlers get the shiny new Plasma 6.0, floating desktop panel and all. Those of a more Gnomish disposition get GNOME 46. To be honest, neither desktop is radically different from their respective preceding versions.

Fedora Asahi 40 brings in two new options, though: a minimal install, which allows you to configure your own desktop, and a server install for headless deployments – ideal for putting a MacBook with a broken screen to productive use. Alyssa Rosenzweig's graphics drivers are now OpenGL 4.6 compliant, which exceeds the support Apple offers in its own OS.

We looked at Asahi Fedora 39 late last year, and to be honest, we suspect we haven't booted that partition since. Although like many long-term Mac users, we feel that macOS has mostly been going downhill since its recognized highpoint of 10.6 "Snow Leopard," we still prefer it to Linux for most things.

This provided a reasonable baseline for testing the upgrade procedure, though. This is a three-step process. First, ensure that Fedora 39 is fully updated – it's just one command: sudo dnf upgrade --refresh. For us, that meant a little under 900 MB of updates, but it took just a few minutes. The most, er, entertaining part was when a half-upgraded screen-locking daemon tried to kick in and failed, gracelessly kicking us out of our session with an error message.

Wayland is so visibly superior to X11 in every way that even the humble screensaver is- oops.

Wayland is so visibly superior to X11 in every way that even the humble screensaver is- oops

Then, it's just a few commands, as detailed in Fedora's documentation. The key ones are:

sudo dnf install dnf-plugin-system-upgrade
sudo dnf system-upgrade download --releasever=40
sudo dnf system-upgrade reboot

The first is instant. The second step downloaded 3.2 GB of packages and took about quarter of an hour. We thought we were mostly done, but no. The third step reboots the machine into a graphical update session, which took longer than the others – including the full system update – put together. But the important thing is that it worked fine. Afterwards, it booted into the new OS version smoothly, and sure enough, our KDE panel (version 6.0.4) was floating – offset slightly from the screen edges.

KDE Plasma 6 on Wayland on Asahi, with a strange mix of light and dark themes.

KDE Plasma 6 on Wayland on Asahi, with a strange mix of light and dark themes – click to enlarge

This cynical old hack remains deeply skeptical about the benefits of Wayland for actual users, as opposed to its claimed benefits for the people developing it – but that's true of most Linux tools in the last decade or so. Here at Vulture Towers, Irish Sea Division, even the minimalist Wayland desktop of Raspberry Pi OS 5 would be preferable to Asahi's two current offerings. As such, for us, a Wayland-only Linux distro remains an unappealing option. We will be holding on for LXQt 2.1 or Cinnamon, or best of all, Xfce.

In fact the server edition may prove especially useful, because of a big snag that's nothing to do with Apple hardware. This applies equally to the Raspberry Pi 5, for instance. The problem with trying to use desktop Linux on any ARM64 machine is that much functionality involves proprietary freeware: Google Chrome, Slack, Dropbox, Zoom, Skype, and many more.

Even to this long term FOSS user, it's a surprisingly long list, and the thing is that these tools are all x86-only. It's especially irritating because quite a lot of the apps have native ARM64 versions for macOS, but not Linux. Even some FOSS favorites such as the Panwriter distraction-free editor are x86-only due to the absence of Arm Linux boxes in the build pipeline.

We're told this also applies to codecs for protected streaming content too, although that doesn't affect us personally. If you only run 100 percent FOSS tools from your distro's own repositories, it's fine, but as soon as you look to any external source, it's game over.

However if you need to run Linux workloads yet covet the performance of Apple's multi-core monster SoC, Asahi is your best option, and the new release is better than ever. ®

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