For the first time, Apple Silicon Mac users using Apple’s M1 chip, such as the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and MacBook Air, can now boot and run Linux natively.
The vintage at play here is Ubuntu, and the port was developed by Corellium, which otherwise virtualizes iOS and other ARM-based operating systems to allow for easier security testing. It’s also worth noting that Apple has previously sued the company over its iOS security testing tool. The lawsuit did not go to Apple.
Corellium Chief Technology Office Chris Wade announced the pinnacle of the team’s work yesterday on twitter. And in a blog post on Corellium’s website, the team behind the port writes that it was developed in parallel with the group’s efforts to “build a model of the [M1] for our security research.”
The blog post has plenty of additional details about the hurdles Corellium had to overcome, including dealing with how Apple’s SoC yields additional CPU cores, dealing with Apple’s own interrupt controller, and much more. Among other things, Corellium added “a pre-loader that acts as a wrapper for Linux and provides a trampoline for launching processor cores.”
The post contains a tutorial for installing Ubuntu on M1 Macs, and there is a Github repo (corellium/linux-m1) that you can download the kernel from. If you follow the steps, boot directly from USB. However, we’re still a long way from dual-booting multiple operating systems in the Boot Camp style. Even after the Corellium team’s work, the steps required are more complex and technical than most users will want to mess around with, and it’s definitely not recommended to do this as your daily driver yet.
Still, enthusiasts or those who want to lead the way now have an option, so if it’s your problem, head to the city. Wade calls the port “fully usable” and you’ll get the fully-featured Ubuntu desktop if you go through this process.
There are other attempts to bring Linux to M1 Macs, and further refinements of each are sure to come, so it’s early days. And before you ask, doing this with Windows still looks pretty fuzzy. You should be running the ARM version of Windows, and that’s not an option for most people right now.
When we interviewed Craig Federighi, Apple’s director of marketing, and asked about running Windows natively on Apple Silicon Macs, he said, “That’s really up to Microsoft… we have the core technologies for them to do that, to run their ARM version.” of Windows, which in turn of course supports x86 user-mode applications. But that’s a decision Microsoft has to make, to license that technology so that users can run on these Macs. But the Macs are certainly very quite capable.”
List image by Samuel Axon