1

I made a successful installation of Debian 10.6 32 bits on my 2007 MacBook Pro "Core Duo" 2.16 GHz (T2600). 2007 MacBook Pro 15-Inch "Core 2 Duo" 2.16 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo (T7400)

Intro. October 24, 2006
Disc. June 5, 2007
Order MA609LL
Model A1211 (EMC 2120)
Family Core 2 Duo/Late 2006
ID MacBookPro2,2
RAM 1 GB (upgraded to 3GB)
VRAM 128 MB

(MacBook Pro model includes an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics processor with 256 MB 128 MB of GDDR3 video memory and dual-link DVI functionality)

Debian version is: i386/iso-hybrid/debian-live-10.6.0-i386-gnome.iso.

After some fixing such as installing the firmware-linux-nonfree packages, I now boot and get the following message:

"fb: switching to radeondrmfb from EFI VGA"

Once this message displayed, the system is stuck.

What does this message mean? Is there something I could do to unblock the situation?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

7
  • i am conscious this post might not be the best place to be sent here. Though, some of you might have experience on this. I am expecting feedback and leads. – Jerome Nov 7 '20 at 17:47
  • Feedback: probably better on the Unix Linux stack. – Solar Mike Nov 7 '20 at 18:11
  • That message means it is switching from the default/basic VGA to using the Radeon GPU. It might be an incompatible driver in Linux or a faulty GPU. You can try booting in Single User Mode (text) and remove the settings you tweaked. – Allan Nov 7 '20 at 19:34
  • @SolarMike actually this is the stack that has been delivering the most accurate diagnosis on my issue. Elsewhere the problem is unknown by all... as of now. – Jerome Nov 12 '20 at 19:59
  • Do you remember if you could boot to the "Debian GNU/Linux Live" version stored on the USB flash drive? – David Anderson Dec 6 '20 at 14:24
1

I also have 2007 MacbookPro2,1 and have found that the Linux Radeon driver does not work.

Without recompiling your kernel your options are extremely limited - you could try an extremely old kernel (before 2009 KMS introduction) which would be hard to find and insecure or try passing nomodeset kernel parameter (which will mean no graphics at all).

To get graphics to work need to do the following:

  1. boot from latest ubuntu live CD (hold alt, or c, at boot)
  2. dump the bios dd if=/dev/mem of=vbios.bin bs=65536 skip=12 count=1
  3. move it to your partition's /lib/firmware/radeon/vbios.bin

Based on this Archlinux forums thread Load custom Radeon firmware for Macbook Pro thread I saved vbios.bin to /usr/lib/firmware/radeon/vbios.bin.

  • Check it as described in link above:

b) You can verify the correctness with: hexdump -C vbios.bin | head -n 1 00000000 55 aa 7d e9 7f 02 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 |U.}.............| the first two bytes must be 55 aa, also later in the dump you see some copyright notices. :-)

  • Patch radeon_bios.c source to read this file and recompile kernel.

This method has worked for me for the last several years. Occasionally radeon_bios.c changes and the patch in the links above is outdated. As of last month (October 2020) the following patch will work with kernel.org kernel. For others you may need to manually adjust it.

--- archlinux-linux/drivers/gpu/drm/radeon/radeon_bios.c.orig   2020-04-08 13:12:37.572725381 +0200
+++ archlinux-linux/drivers/gpu/drm/radeon/radeon_bios.c    2020-04-08 13:26:48.700908967 +0200
@@ -33,6 +33,7 @@
 #include <drm/drm_device.h>

 #include "atom.h"
+#include <linux/firmware.h>
 #include "radeon.h"
 #include "radeon_reg.h"

@@ -60,15 +61,18 @@ static bool igp_read_bios_from_vram(stru
    vram_base = pci_resource_start(rdev->pdev, 0);
    bios = ioremap(vram_base, size);
    if (!bios) {
+       DRM_ERROR("No bios\n");
        return false;
    }

    if (size == 0 || bios[0] != 0x55 || bios[1] != 0xaa) {
+       DRM_ERROR("Invalid bios\n");
        iounmap(bios);
        return false;
    }
    rdev->bios = kmalloc(size, GFP_KERNEL);
    if (rdev->bios == NULL) {
+       DRM_ERROR("alloc fail\n");
        iounmap(bios);
        return false;
    }
@@ -77,6 +81,41 @@ static bool igp_read_bios_from_vram(stru
    return true;
 }

+static bool radeon_read_bios_from_firmware(struct radeon_device *rdev)
+{
+   const uint8_t __iomem *bios;
+   resource_size_t size;
+   const struct firmware *fw = NULL;
+
+   request_firmware(&fw, "radeon/vbios.bin", rdev->dev);
+   if (!fw) {
+           DRM_ERROR("No bios\n");
+           return false;
+   }
+   size = fw->size;
+   bios = fw->data;
+
+   if (!bios) {
+           DRM_ERROR("No bios\n");
+           return false;
+   }
+
+   if (size == 0 || bios[0] != 0x55 || bios[1] != 0xaa) {
+           DRM_ERROR("wrong sig\n");
+           release_firmware(fw);
+           return false;
+   }
+   rdev->bios = kmalloc(size, GFP_KERNEL);
+   if (rdev->bios == NULL) {
+           DRM_ERROR("alloc fail\n");
+           release_firmware(fw);
+           return false;
+   }
+   memcpy(rdev->bios, bios, size);
+   release_firmware(fw);
+   return true;
+}
+
 static bool radeon_read_bios(struct radeon_device *rdev)
 {
    uint8_t __iomem *bios, val1, val2;
@@ -663,7 +702,9 @@ bool radeon_get_bios(struct radeon_devic
    bool r;
    uint16_t tmp;

-   r = radeon_atrm_get_bios(rdev);
+   r = radeon_read_bios_from_firmware(rdev);
+   if (!r)
+       r = radeon_atrm_get_bios(rdev);
    if (!r)
        r = radeon_acpi_vfct_bios(rdev);
    if (!r)
18
  • Another option to consider if you are just wanting to use the MBP rather than install Linux in particular is to install Windows 10. It works fine on my 2007 MBP without any fiddling required. – lx07 Nov 8 '20 at 16:24
  • @ix07 Thank you for the time spent on this. I have to study your guide here before in jump on doing that. There is probably a learning curve as well as I have never recompiled a kernel, need to study that. I will keep you posted – Jerome Nov 9 '20 at 19:33
  • @ix07 I want to keep using the MBP because it is a good machine. I cannot use it with OSX, too slow. The reason I wanted to install Linux is It only has 3GB-ish RAM. Also I have tried with installing ubuntu but came across issues with booting as the MBP EFI boot is 32 bits and now Ubuntu is only 64 bits. Debian looked like the good option. About Windows, considering the RAM limits on MBP, I am wondering if this would work nicely with windows. Any thoughts / advices with Windows and a MBP with 3GB RAM...? just in case – Jerome Nov 9 '20 at 19:35
  • If you use rEFInd bootloader (32 bit) it will start 64 bit Linux no problem but you still get the Radeon issue above. My MBP also has 3GB and I triple boot OSX (El Capitan), Archlinux (64 bit) and Windows 10 (64 bit) on it. All are usable for internet/Office tasks but all are a bit slow - not much difference. Of the 3 Windows is the easiest to install. OSX Lion is the last supported release but has little software - El Capitan works but needs patching to work. – lx07 Nov 9 '20 at 20:13
  • 1
    @ix07 The alternative I have now would be to follow your steps thoroughly and recompile the kernel. I have never done that, I had a look, it is massively impressive for a newbie. But whatever ... – Jerome Nov 15 '20 at 16:34
1

Note: Since current stable release is now 10.7.0, this answer will use this release instead of 10.6.0.

This answer modifies the install procedure used by the OP in the following ways.

  • The non-free packages will be included in the installation ISO file. This will avoid encountering any problems downloading non-free packages after completing an installation.
  • While the initial installation will be 32 bit, the final installation will be 64 bit.
  • The installations will BIOS boot from the internal drive.
  • The use of the legacy Master Boot Record (MBR) partition table scheme will be used. If the use of the GUID Partition Table (GPT) scheme or the Hybrid MBR scheme is desired, the user will need to make the appropriate modifications to this answer.

The Debian installation ISO files can be burned to a DVD. These DVDs are configured to be either BIOS or EFI booted. However, early Intel Macs, such as the OP's, can not boot from a DVD with such a configuration. Also, not all Intel Macs can BIOS boot from an USB port. This would include the OP's model Mac.

A brief outline of the procedure is given below. A rather lengthly explanation will follow.

  • Use another computer to download the 32 bit Debian installation ISO file which includes additional software for graphical video hardware.
  • Use the dd command or Rufus to transfer the 32 bit Debian installation ISO file to a USB flash drive.
  • Use the Mac Startup Manager to 32 bit EFI boot from the USB flash drive and install a 32 bit BIOS booting Debian. During the installation, an additional ext4 formatted partition will be created on the internal drive for new installations.
  • Use the Mac or another computer to download a 64 bit Debian installation ISO file which includes additional software for graphical video hardware. Also, download a 64 bit Debian kernel image (vmlinuz) file and a 64 bit initial RAM disk (initrd.gz) file. These two special files allow a Debian installer to be booted from an internal drive.
  • Transfer the 64 bit Debian installation ISO, Debian kernel image and initial RAM disk files to the partition created on the internal drive for new installations. If another computer is used to download, then the transfer can be accomplished by using a FAT formatted USB flash drive or sftp.
  • Boot to Grub, then use the Grub command line to 64 bit BIOS boot from the partition on the internal drive created for new installations. Install a 64 bit BIOS booting Debian.
  • Remove internal partition created for new installations and reclaim the space for use by Debian.
  • (optional) Bless the Mac to BIOS boot by default.

The steps to install Debian are as follows.

Hint: For a better view, click on an image or open an image in a new window.

  1. Use another computer to download the current 32 bit Debian installation ISO file which includes additional software for graphical video hardware. At present, this would be firmware-10.7.0-i386-DVD-1.iso. Here, the assumption have been made that all files are downloaded to the users default Downloads folder.

  2. Transfer the 32 bit Debian installation ISO file to a USB flash drive. Insert the flash drive a USB port. Use the following instructions based on the type of operating system.

    • OS X (macOS): Use the diskutil list command to determined the device identifier. If the disk identifier is not disk1, then make the appropriate substitution when entering the first line.

      DISK=disk1
      diskutil unmountdisk $DISK
      sudo dd if=~/Downloads/firmware-10.7.0-i386-DVD-1.iso of=/dev/r$DISK bs=1m
      
    • Linux: Use the lsblk command to determined the device identifier. If the disk identifier is not sdb, then make the appropriate substitution when entering the first line.

      DISK=sdb
      sudo umount /dev/$DISK*
      sudo dd if=~/Downloads/firmware-10.7.0-i386-DVD-1.iso of=/dev/$DISK bs=1M
      
    • Windows: A third party tool will be required. One such tool is rufus. For example, if a volume on the flash drive has been assigned the drive letter E:, then the current version of rufus should be configured as shown below.

      Note: A flash drive can be selected even if the drive has not been assigned a drive letter.

      When finished configuring, select the Start button. When the popup shown below appears, select Write in DD Image mode followed by the OK button.

      Note: After successfully transferring the firmware-10.7.0-i386-DVD-1.iso file to a USB flash drive, a partition on the flash drive may be mounted and modified by Windows. While these modifications will not interfere with the installation of Debian, the modifications will prevent verification of the flash drive by a SHA checksum or comparison to the original file.

      Other possible third party tools are outlined in the "In Windows" section of the Arch Linux document "USB flash installation medium".

  3. Create a MBR Partition Table on the internal drive. Insert the flash drive in a USB port of the Mac where Debian is to be installed. Start or restart the Mac and immediately hold down the option key until the Mac Startup Manager icons appear. Choose the external drive icon with the label EFI Boot. When the image below appears, pick Advanced options ..., then select ... Rescue mode.

    Grub menu

    Continue until a similar image to the one below appears. Pick Do not use a root file system, then select Execute a Shell in the installer environment and finally, <Continue>.

    pick root file system

    Enter the following commands. When asked to continue, enter a y.

    parted /dev/sda mklabel msdos
    parted /dev/sda mkpart primary hfs 1mib 100%
    reboot
    

    If the Mac does not boot from the flash drive, then restart the Mac and immediately hold option key until the Startup Manager icons appear. Select the external drive icon labeled EFI boot.

  4. Install a 32 bit BIOS booting Debian. When the image below appears, select either Graphical install or Install. Here, Install was chosen, as shown below.

    Install

    Continue with the installation. When an image similar to below appears, select <No>.

    Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select Manual.

    Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select the line containing (sda).

    Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select <Yes>.

    Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select the line containing FREE SPACE.

    Partition disks

    Here you want to create a new primary partition at the beginning of the available space. When asked for a size, enter a size smaller than the maximum size. This value can be determined by subtracting from the maximum size the desired size of the swap partition and the size of the temporary partition needed for the 64 bit Debian installation files. In this example, the swap partition will be 6 GB and the temporary partition will be 16 GB. The difference is shown below.

    128.8 GB - 6 GB - 16 GB = 106.8 GB
    

    The size value you will enter most likely will be different from the value of 106.8 GB entered in this example. Configure the rest of the partition settings as shown below, then select Done setting up the partition.

    Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select the line containing FREE SPACE.

    Partition disks

    Here you want to create a new logical partition at the end of the available space. When asked for a size, enter the desired size of the swap partition. For this example, the value was already stated to be 6 GB. You should enter the value you have already determined. Configure the rest of the partition setting as shown below, then select Done setting up the partition.

    Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select the line containing FREE SPACE.

    Partition disks

    Here you want to create a new primary partition from the available space. When asked for a size, do not change the value shown. Configure the rest of the partition setting as shown below, then select Done setting up the partition.

    Partition disks

    For this example, the result is shown below. Select Finish partitioning and write changes to disk.

    Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select <Yes>.

    Partition disks

    Proceed with the installation. When an image similar to the one shown below appears, either choose a mirror or avoid using a mirror. In this example, the mirror is avoided, thus decreased the time required to install. Avoiding the mirror can be accomplished by selecting <Go Back>, then selecting <Yes>.

    Configure the package manager

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, probably the only software required is the standard system utilities. In this example, a Debian desktop environment will be omitted to decrease the time required to install. The SSH server will be included, so sftp will be available to transfer files later. Below is the configuration used in this example. When done making choices, select Continue.

    Software selection

    Proceed with the installation. If an image similar to the one shown below appears, select <Yes>.

    Install the Grub boot loader on a hard disk

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select the line containing /dev/sda.

    Note: When using earlier version of the Debian installer, the device /dev/sda needed to be manually entered.

    Install the Grub boot loader on a hard disk

    Finish installing Debian.

  5. Create a 64 bit Debian installer on an internal drive partition.

    Note: The instructions given in this step were derived from section 4.3. Preparing Files for USB Memory Stick Booting of the Debian GNU/Linux Installation Guide. The main difference is a partition on the internal drive will be used instead of a USB memory stick (flash drive).

    Start by booting to Debian. If the Mac does not boot to Debian (via Grub) by default, then restart the Mac and immediately hold option key until the Startup Manager icons appear. Select the internal drive icon labeled Windows. If a Debian desktop environment was not installed, login as root. Otherwise, login using the default username, open a Terminal window and enter the command shown below.

    su --login
    

    Enter a following command to permit writing to the /dev/sda3 partition, which has been assigned the /installation mount point.

    chmod a+w /installation
    

    Transfer, to the /installation mount point, the three files required to install a 64 bit Debian. One of these files is the current 64 bit Debian installation ISO file which includes additional software for graphical video hardware. At present, this would be firmware-10.7.0-amd64-DVD-1.iso. The other two files are the text based installer image files required when booting from the internal drive. At present this would be vmlinuz and initrd.gz. Below are various ways to transfer these files. Choose one way or find another way.

    Note: A choice below can depend on which predefined collections of software are currently installed.

    • Use another computer to download and transfer the files to a FAT formatted USB flash drive. Use either the cp command or the Files application to copy from the USB flash drive to the /installation mount point.
    • Use another computer to download the files. Use sftp on this other computer to transfer the files to the /installation mount point on the Mac. Enter the command hostname -I on the Mac to get an IP address.
    • Use the FireFox ESR application to download the files from the web. Use either the cp command or the Files application to copy the downloaded files to the /installation mount point.

    When finished, shutdown the Mac. If a Debian desktop environment was not installed, then enter the command below instead.

    shutdown -P now
    

    Remove any USB flash drives that may be plugged into the Mac.

  6. Replace the 32 bit Debian with a 64 bit Debian. Start by booting to Grub. If the Mac does not boot to Grub by default, then restart the Mac and immediately hold option key until the Startup Manager icons appear. Select the internal drive icon labeled Windows. When an image similar to the one shown below appears, press the C key.

    GNU GRUB

    Enter the commands given below to boot from the /dev/sda3 partition. This sequence of commands was derived from section 5.1.5. Booting from Linux using LILO or GRUB of the Debian GNU/Linux Installation Guide.

    insmod part_msdos
    insmod ext2
    set root='(hd0,msdos3)'
    linux /vmlinuz
    initrd /initrd.gz
    boot
    

    Proceed with the installation of Debian. When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select Manual.

    64 Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select the line containing #1 primary.

    64 Partition disks

    Configure the partition setting as shown below, then select Done setting up the partition.

    64 Partition disks

    For this example, the result is shown below. Select Finish partitioning and write changes to disk.

    64 Partition disks

    When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select <Yes>.

    Note: This is the point where the 32 bit Debian is deleted.

    64 Partition disks

    Continue with the installation of Debian. When an image similar to the one shown below appears, select the line containing /dev/sda.

    Note: When using earlier version of the Debian installer, the device /dev/sda needed to be manually entered.

    64 Install the GRUB boot loader on a hard disk

    Finish installing Debian.

  7. Remove the partition with the installation files and extend the Debian partition.

    Open a Terminal application window. Enter the commands given below.

    su
    sudo parted /dev/sda unit s \ print
    

    The output produced in this example from entering these commands is shown below.

    dma@debian:~$ su
    Password: 
    root@debian:/home/dma# sudo parted /dev/sda unit s \ print
    Model: ATA VBOX HARDDISK (scsi)
    Disk /dev/sda: 251658240s
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: msdos
    Disk Flags: 
    
    Number  Start       End         Size        Type      File system     Flags
     1      2048s       208592895s  208590848s  primary   ext4            boot
     3      208592896s  239937535s  31344640s   primary   ext4
     2      239939582s  251656191s  11716610s   extended
     5      239939584s  251656191s  11716608s   logical   linux-swap(v1)
    

    From the second row of entries in the above table, record the entry in the End column. This would be the row where the Number entry is 3. In this example the entry in the End column is 239937535s. The entry you will record will most likely be different. Next, enter the commands and entries shown below. Replace the entry of 239937535s with the your recorded entry from the table.

    sudo parted /dev/sda rm 3
    sudo parted /dev/sda resizepart 1
    yes
    239937535s
    sudo parted /dev/sda unit s \ print
    

    The output produced in this example from these commands and entries is shown below.

    root@debian:/home/dma# sudo parted /dev/sda rm 3
    Information: You may need to update /etc/fstab.
    
    root@debian:/home/dma# sudo parted /dev/sda resizepart 1
    Warning: Partition /dev/sda1 is being used. Are you sure you want to continue?
    Yes/No? yes
    End?  [107GB]? 239937535s
    Information: You may need to update /etc/fstab.
    
    root@debian:/home/dma# sudo parted /dev/sda unit s \ print
    Model: ATA VBOX HARDDISK (scsi)
    Disk /dev/sda: 251658240s
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: msdos
    Disk Flags: 
    
    Number  Start       End         Size        Type      File system     Flags
     1      2048s       239937535s  239935488s  primary   ext4            boot
     2      239939582s  251656191s  11716610s   extended
     5      239939584s  251656191s  11716608s   logical   linux-swap(v1)
    

    The first partition in the new table should now occupy the space previously occupied by the third partition. Next, enter the command given below to expand mounted filesystem to fill the partition.

    sudo resize2fs /dev/sda1
    

    The output produced in this example from entering this command is shown below.

    root@debian:/home/dma# sudo resize2fs /dev/sda1
    resize2fs 1.44.5 (15-Dec-2018)
    Filesystem at /dev/sda1 is mounted on /; on-line resizing required
    old_desc_blocks = 13, new_desc_blocks = 15
    The filesystem on /dev/sda1 is now 29991936 (4k) blocks long.
    

    The computation below can be used to verify the space used by the filesystem in blocks matches the number of sectors in the partition.

    29991936 blocks * 4196 bytes/block / 512 bytes/sector = 239935488 sectors
    

    Finally, enter the commands given below to close the Terminal window.

    exit
    exit
    

    Restarting the Mac would be recommended.

Setting BIOS Booting as the Default

If a BIOS booting Debian is the only operating system installed on a Mac, then the Mac should automatically boot to Debian. However, if BIOS booting has not be set as the default, there may be a delay before booting begins. Otherwise, the Mac Startup Manager can be used to boot Debian. To set BIOS booting as the default, boot from an OS X (macOS) installation DVD or USB flash drive, open a Terminal window and enter the command given below.

bless --device /dev/disk0 --setBoot --legacy

The version of OS X (macOS) chosen must be compatible with your Mac. The instructions for creating a Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) installation USB flash drive can be found here.

Debian Downloads

10.6.0 Release

Current (10.7.0) Release

References

Hybrid MBRs: The Good, the Bad, and the So Ugly You'll Tear Your Eyes Out
Alternatives to installing Ubuntu from bootable USB and bootable DVD
Rufus
In Windows section of USB flash installation medium
4.3. Preparing Files for USB Memory Stick Booting
Debian GNU/Linux Installation Guide
5.1.5. Booting from Linux using LILO or GRUB
Creating a USB Flash Drive Installer from a Snow Leopard ISO File

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