Ubuntu 14.04 on my Macbook Pro 11,3

Table of Contents

The installation has worked! I was lent a Live USB with Ubuntu on it by a colleague who got it from another colleague of his. My previous attempts to make a Live USB under Mac OS X did not work. The moral of that story is be prepared to find a friend with GNU/Linux already installed and ask them to make you a Live USB. There were still a few hitches.

1 Partitions

I tried doing the partitions with Disk Utility, but that crashed and I learned that I had to reboot Mac OS in Single User Mode (⌘-s during launch sequence) and run fsck. Then I resized the current partition with diskutil and things went smoothly from there.

2 Booting

I needed to convert to EFI boot, per this bug. After trying some tips, I discovered these fairly straightforward instructions that worked for me.

3 Getting wireless working

I didn't do whatever one would need to do to get wireless working "out of the box" so I just installed the relevant drivers & support files directly from the USB's file system.

4 Further configuration

  • I type with Dvorak, but even after disabling "English (US)" as a keyboard system, I was still getting a "keyboard switcher" when I pressed C-<space> in Ratpoison (no problem in Unity). The trick was turning off ibus support for multiple input modes, under Unity's Language Preferences.
  • Historically, I've augmented my Dvorak layout using xmodmap. However, I noticed that some key combinations like M-> (that is, Meta-Shift-period) did not work with my remapped Meta key anymore, in Ratpoison. I also noticed that xmodmap was working fine under Unity, and I guessed that it might be some black magic involving xkb, a system I've studiously avoided in the past. Anyway, upon converting my .modmap file to .xkb format and making a few tweaks, modifiers were working as expected.
  • Maxing the resolution, and using large fonts to compensate. There are a couple of plugins for firefox that nicely sort out its scaling issues.1
  • I switched to gdm, which offers a much nicer-looking login screen. It also does some weird magnification tricks that lightdm doesn't do, something to be aware of with regard to font choices. I also installed a nice theme for rEFInd, and removed some unnecessary icons by tweaking its configuration file.

For reference, I've put the various config files in this directory.

5 Retrieving my works-in-progress

I save most of my works-in-progress under Git, so this content was a git clone away (once I consulted my notes on where the repo lives).2 PDF files and so forth can be copied over by mounting the Mac drive:

  1. sudo mkdir /media/Mac
  2. sudo /sbin/parted and then print RET to check which drive is which
  3. sudo mount /dev/sda2 /media/Mac
  4. copy needed files
  5. sudo umount /dev/sda2



The plugins are Default Full Zoom Level and Theme Font & Size Changer. One of the main pragmatic reasons for wanting to move away from OS X is that I couldn't get any decent graphical browser running under X. I recommend the Emacs Web Wowser for fast semi-graphical browsing in Emacs. To make Firefox keyboard driven, I'm trying Pentadactyl with an updated variant of these bindings.


In case of self-hosted repositories, the steps are:

  1. ssh-keygen -t rsa
  2. cat /home/user/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
  3. add this to /home/git/.ssh/authorized_keys on the server
  4. git clone git@server:/opt/git/repo.git

Author: Joseph Corneli

Created: 2014-08-16 Sat 13:33