Apple’s Linux distribution for silicon Macs is already live on the all-new M2

Enlarge / Asahi Linux is now live on Mac Studio and early M2 Macs.

Andrew Cunningham

Unlike Intel Macs, Apple’s silicon Macs were designed to run only Apple software. But the developers on the Asahi Linux team have been working to change that, carefully reverse engineering Apple’s processors and other Mac hardware and releasing it as a work-in-progress distro that can actually boot. and run on bare metal, no virtualization required.

The Asahi Linux Team release a new version today with many additions and improvements. Most notably, the distro now supports the M1 Ultra and Mac Studio and added preliminary support for the M2 MacBook Pro (which was tested first-hand by the team) and the M2 MacBook Air (which doesn’t been tested but should work).

Preliminary Bluetooth support for all of Apple’s silicon Macs has also been added, although the team notes that it performs poorly when connected to a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network because “the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth coexistence is not yet correctly configured”.

There are still plenty of other things that aren’t working properly, including USB-A ports on the Studio, faster-than-USB-2.0 speeds from any Type-C/Thunderbolt port, and GPU acceleration, but progress is being made on all of these fronts. GPU work in particular is coming, with a “prototype driver” that’s “good enough to run real graphics applications and benchmarks” that are already working, although it’s not included in this release.

The Asahi team has said in the past that they expect support for new chips to be relatively easy to add to Asahi, as Apple’s chip designers frequently reuse items and don’t bring major hardware changes unless there is a good reason. Adding basic support for the M2 to Asahi happened in a single 12-hour development session, and only “a few days” of extra effort was needed to get the rest of the hardware works just as well as with the M1. Mac. This process may become more complex as the Asahi team runs more hardware – supporting a new GPU will likely be a bit trickier than operating the keyboard and trackpad – but it looks like the team will be able to support the M2 family of chips fairly quickly as Apple introduces more models.

The stated goal of the Asahi team has always been to contribute all of its work upstream as it is ready, and new versions of the Linux kernel already implement Apple Silicon Mac support. Eventually everything from Ubuntu to ChromeOS Flex could run on Apple Silicon Macs without a ton of extra effort, which could be useful many years from now when Apple stops supporting older Apple Silicon Macs with new versions of macOS. A version of OpenBSD is also running on Apple Silicon with the help of Asahi team efforts.


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Steven L. Nielsen