What is Asahi Linux?
Asahi Linux is a way to access Linux through Apple Silicon Macs. In other words, it ports Linux to your Mac computers. According to the official website of Asahi Linux, the name is a phrase in Japanese that means “rising sun”. Asahi has been making progress since 2021 and is actually a project rather than a fully fleshed-out product at the moment. They have documentation that the team has been continuously editing.
What is an Apple Silicon Mac?
In 2006, Apple announced that they were moving from IBM PowerPC processors to Intel-based processors. From then till 2020, Apple shipped every Mac product using Intel chipsets. In 2020, Apple unveiled the M1 chip, its very own chip for the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Instead of using x86-64 instruction set architectures, the M1 uses the ARM architecture, like the A-Series chips in iPhones and iPads. Apple called this new series of chips for Macs “Apple Silicon”. The M1 chip blew the competition out of the water. Apple had created a “system in a chip”: the CPU, RAM (unified memory), I/O, security, and GPU used to need separate chips, making processing slower, as well as making the laptop as a whole bulky and heavy. Apple Silicon integrated everything on a single chip, allowing all components to access the same data pool instead of having to make copies, decreasing the amount of heat the chips gave off – cutting out the need for a fan at all! The M1 CPU has 8 cores, 4 high-performance and 4 high-efficiency, increasing battery life. Since most programs at the time were written for x86 chips, Apple developed a program called Rosetta. Rosetta allows x86 instructions to be transcribed into ARM, making it incredibly easy for developers to write Universal apps or apps that can be used on Intel or M-series processors.
Why Linux on Mac?
In order to understand the need for Linux on Mac devices, let us first decipher what Linux is as well as its capabilities. Linux is an operating system, first and foremost. It is very reliable and has a number of advantages that draw users towards it. Low costs can make it incredibly attractive, especially for the tools you get. It also has easy access to servers and allows for configuration files to be edited quickly and with little thought or process. In addition, Linux is very adaptable and can foster many programs and applications due to its flexible nature. Since it is an open-source operating system, developers can almost always take it into account, allowing for Linux to be compatible with many programs. So how is Linux on Mac helpful? There are a number of reasons why Mac users may find Linux to be useful. Although the Mac operating system is secure, if there is a need for a significantly more secure OS, users may want to turn to Linux. Linux is far more customizable than Mac and can support a lot more applications. Students and other learners may need Linux to help them learn more technical skills from an OS that is common in the workplace. They may also need it for certain classes where the Linux environment more accurately reflects the topics they need to learn about. MacOS also is very particular about what users have access to. Meanwhile, Linux allows for greater accessibility. This access, alongside the aforementioned security benefits, means that the overall usage of Linux is more secure and reliable.
Progress of the Asahi Linux Project Thus Far
Asahi Linux has had incredible progress as of late. It is a project that has many uses, and now will be able to help people faster than anticipated. Asahi is at the point where it can now support USB3 fairly well. The next step that developers are trying to take is to make sure speakers are decently supported. While testing, there were a lot of issues, and speakers were being damaged due to the inability to adequately support them. The project has come very far; however, there are still a few issues. Particularly when dealing with different OS releases by Apple, there are still some situations where Linux cannot be used.
There has been much progress since the project started. One particular recent event was in July. There was a major breakthrough, as the team had accomplished Linux on the M2 chip as well as Bluetooth. In order to download Bluetooth, there are a lot fewer steps you need to take, as the developers created the feature as a precursor to others in that new tools will be easy to give to users. Lastly, the M2 chip’s Linux version was a lot easier to develop than the M1’s since there was already a blueprint for it. However, there is still a chance of errors as both versions are still being tested. In November, the USB3 became supportable, and speakers were also reconsidered. Another feature that has been pushed is the keyboard backlight. Asahi now supports backlight features, and the developers have been working on display brightness as well.
Asahi has put on their official website that they will be releasing in a way where they are not changing anything about the computer’s original OS, so as not to violate copyright laws. They will also have to consider the implications of constantly changing operating systems on the reliability and efficiency of their program. Overall, many people are excited about the release. However, some have doubts about how effective this project will be in large-scale practice. This project is also extremely interesting as it is used fairly often and is made of a team of people who mainly contribute. However, there are still contributors outside the team, as they describe themselves as a group that includes anyone who would like to add.
Downloading Asahi Linux onto Apple Silicon
Asahi Linux is compatible with all Macs, barring the newly released Mac Studio.
- Make sure to back up all important information on your Mac, as there can be unforeseen issues due to Asahi Linux being a project that is still very much under construction.
- Open Terminal and type in this command:
curl https://alx.sh | sh
- Enter your laptop’s password and hit return. Once you’ve read the welcome prompt, hit the return key again to start the Asahi Linux installer.
- If you are an expert at Linux, enable expert mode. You will not need to enable it if you are not super well-versed in Linux.
- After this step, the Asahi Linux installer will ask you to partition the disk on your Mac to make space for Asahi Linux. Press R and then hit return so that the installer can partition some storage space for the operating system.
- After this, it will ask for partition details. For this installer, the 30% option is recommended, but if you want to input custom information, you can also do so.
- Read the message, type ‘y’, and hit return.
- Once it says “Resize complete”, press return to continue with the installation.
- Now that you’ve partitioned, you can begin installing the OS into the space you just made. Press ‘f’ and hit return to begin the installation.
- It will give you three options. Select Asahi Linux Desktop.
- Dedicate how much space you want to give the OS. Make sure to follow the formatting instructions for the text you input.
- After dedicating space for the OS, give your OS a name. It can be anything you want.
- It will take some time for the installer to create boot files for your OS. Once it’s done, enter your laptop password to continue installing the operating system. Press enter to continue.
- The terminal will display some information on what to do when you reboot your system. Make sure to take note of it and follow it exactly. Press enter to reboot your system.
- On the reboot screen, select the boot disk with the Asahi logo.
- Once selected, a Mac recovery screen will pop up. Disregard it. Do not do anything until a terminal window pops up on your screen.
- Press enter to continue.
- Read the prompt, enter your laptop password, and hit enter to continue to set up security settings with Linux.
- After a lot of text shows up, a prompt asking if you want to put your system into Permissive Security will show up. Type ‘y’, hit enter, and enter your macOS username and password.
- You should see a prompt that says, ‘Installation complete! Press enter to reboot.’ Press enter.
- The device will now automatically reboot into Asahi Linux.
- Set your location to the time zone you live in, the language for your keyboard, and create your username and password to log into Asahi Linux.
- You are now completely done with the setup. Congrats! Asahi Linux is now successfully installed on your Mac.
User Reviews on Asahi Linux
Most users have thoroughly enjoyed the access Asahi has given them. Firstly, online critics have seen the speed of Asahi Linux as an extreme plus of the software. They say that it is faster than the MacOS itself and has very few flaws. Even out of these shortcomings, most of them are being resolved as we speak and will be available in the near future. One specific version that has been praised is the M1 version on the Apple Mac Mini. This device pairs very well with Asahi and is able to run incredibly fast and effectively.
Aside from its extremely fast speed, users have said that its shortcomings are not the fault of Asahi but of MacOS itself. The software has been known to run faster than MacOS, and the development process has been completely independent of Apple’s development process. This is due to legal reasons, as Asahi cannot use or distribute anything of Apple’s creation. Most users have acknowledged that the software is a great way to use Linux and access a reliable operating system for their various needs; however, they have also noted its issues.
Although there are clearly a plethora of advantages to being able to use Linux on an Apple Silicon device, there have been a few critics online who have doubts about whether this is a project worth completing. Some online users have posted that they believe there is no point in purchasing hardware that is priced so high while simultaneously needing to download software that is not tested as thoroughly as other operating systems. This is a concern that causes some users to turn away from Asahi and towards other methods of using Linux, such as Virtual Machines, which are hosted online. Overall, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of using this project on an Apple Silicon device, according to the popular view.
The M1 chip is one of the most innovative and efficient CPU’s to exist today. MacOS Big Sur and MacOS Ventura work flawlessly on the system, but Asahi Linux runs even faster on the system. There are a few things that the Asahi team can work on, one of the biggest being extending Asahi Linux access to the Mac Studio, no speaker support – something that is incredible as some may need Asahi Linux for music creation. Other problems include lack of Bluetooth access and running the OS on high-resolution monitors prove to be difficult. All-in-all, Asahi Linux is an amazing operating system that works flawlessly and is faster than the native macOS. The operating system harnesses the true power of the M1 chip and reliably installs – the installer partitions space that MacOS does not take up – meaning if we ever want to get rid of Asahi Linux, it’s as easy as deleting any other program. For a project that’s in development – it’s a remarkable piece of software – something that can be used by all who need Linux but do not want to use virtual machines. It can also be used by people who just want Linux to run natively on the M1 chip.
First build of Asahi Linux for MacBook now available for download
- Sriabhi Venkataraman
- Trisha Narwekar