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Install SolydXK on iMac

Posted: 18 May 2016 09:58
by tony
I have installed linux mint and solydxk on an imac 2009 (Model ID imac10,1, more info: This is not a detailed howto, but rather a collection of hints for someone in a similar situation. It was quite a battle for me.

The main reason I got this imac is because I love big glossy monitors. I have a QNIX 2700 (resolution 2560x1440) at work, and find it great. This iMac has the same LCD panel.

(A) hardware upgrade:
* upgrade RAM from 4G to 12GB (bought 2x 4G module from ebay)
* replace the internal hdd by a SSD (a bit tricky, need to buy: SSD, mount kit, inline thermal sensor by OWC)

(B) Partition scheme (SSD Samsung 256GB)

Code: Select all

      | Type       | Size (GB) | Description           | Remark
sda1  | EFI        | 0.2       | EPS
sda2  | HFS+J      | 0.6       | OSX recovery
sda3  | HFS+J      | 60        | OSX boot volume       | 30G is minimum
sda4  | BIOS_grub  | 0.001     | BIOS boot             | without this grub refuses to install to a GPT disk
sda5  | ext3       | 2         | boot images           | very handy for clonzilla, gparted, knoppix etc.
sda6  | linux-swap | 8         | linux-swap
sda7  | ext4       | 20        | linux mint            | 20G is minimum for desktop usage
sda8  | ext4       | 20        | sylodxk               |
sda9  | HFS+/FAT32 | 70        | shared                | can be  reformatted/changed later if needed
sda10 | ext4       | 70        | linux-data            | can be  reformatted/changed later if needed
(C) Things to know
* a mac can be booted to EFI or BIOS mode. It's important to be sure which mode is right for me. I tried EFI mode, which is easier to get it work but lacks GPU acceleration. Then I had to stick with BIOS mode.
* in order to boot to BIOS mode, a hybrid MBR is required. Read for more info
* a boot chooser will make the booting process much more convenient. I use rEFInd

(D) Steps
* get OSX right first: EPS, system volume, HD recovery. Keep the remaining size as a big partition
* install rEFInd
* burn linuxmint/solydxk iso images to CD. I didn't manage to boot to BIOS mode from USD media.
* start imac, hold alt key, choose the CD icon labeled "Windows" to boot solydxk
* verify that imac has booted in BIOS mode: ls /sys/firmware (should not see efi)
* partition the disk as planned above, using gparted. NB: grub on GPT disk requires a BIOS boot partition (1M)
* start installation, choose to install grub to the whole disk (/dev/sda)
* when installation is over, shutdown (reboot didn't work, hang at the end)
* start imac, use refind so boot from "Legacy boot from the whole disk", which will chainload grub

(E) Install another linux distro
* install linux as normal, which will override the previous grub config

(F) manage grub config:
* reinstall grub with --boot-directory=/mnt/sda5/boot/grub (see arch linux wiki for more info)
* copy and merge grub config from solydxk & linuxmint to a single file /mnt/sda5/boot/grub/grub.cfg (should be done by a script which must be run whenever grub config on solydxk/mint changes -- TODO)