Scott's Weblog The weblog of an IT pro focusing on cloud computing, Kubernetes, Linux, containers, and networking

Running Fedora on my Mac Pro

I’ve been working on migrating off macOS for a couple of years (10+ years on a single OS isn’t undone quickly or easily). I won’t go into all the gory details here; see this post for some background and then see this update from last October that summarized my previous efforts to migrate to Linux (Fedora, specifically) as my primary desktop operating system. (What I haven’t blogged about is the success I had switching to Fedora full-time when I joined Heptio.) I took another big step forward in my efforts this past week, when I rebuilt my 2011-era Mac Pro workstation to run Fedora.

When I mentioned this on Twitter, a few people asked the question every parent dreads hearing: “Why?” (If you’ve been a parent for more than a couple years you’ll understand this.) The motivation for using Linux is something I’ve already discussed. As for the hardware, it’s simple: the hardware for the Mac Pro is very good (see the base specs here), so why not re-use the hardware for use with Linux? I mean, if I’ve already decided on running Linux (which I have), then why spend money on new hardware when the hardware I have meets my requirements?

Anyway, once I’d migrated all my data off—which itself was no small feat, and perhaps worthy of a separate blog post of its own—I installed Fedora 28 via a USB drive I created using Fedora Media Writer on my MacBook Pro (that’s right, I haven’t completely eradicated macOS just yet). The installation seemed to go fine, but in reality I encountered a number of issues after it completed:

  • The installer didn’t set the hostname (I admit that I may have missed this during the installation process).
  • I would get sss_cache messages along the lines of confdb_get_domains error anytime I tried to manipulate users or groups; turns out the system’s sssd configuration was mangled (in comparison to my laptop’s configuration) with missing services, services not enabled or running, etc.
  • As of Fedora 28, the installer no longer creates an account during the installation. Unfortunately, the user creation process post-installation doesn’t expose all the options, so I couldn’t set a consistent UID and GID across my Fedora systems. (This probably doesn’t matter in the long run, but I still prefer to keep them consistent.)

After fighting with the Samsung SSD I was using as my boot drive in the Mac Pro (and finally accepting that there would be an additional EFI System Partition on the drive that would apparently go unused), I re-installed Fedora, this time using Fedora 27 bootable media (again, created using Fedora Media Writer). This time the installation was much smoother, and the resulting system build was much more stable. After a not-so-quick dnf update followed by an even-longer dnf system-upgrade (to upgrade to Fedora 28), I was back to Fedora 28, but this time without any of the issues I’d experienced earlier. I don’t know the source of the problems with the original F28 installation, but re-installing using F27 and then upgrading to F28 worked better than a fresh F28 installation. Go figure!

Overall, most everything works as expected. There are a few oddities:

  • I’m using the Mac Pro’s digital audio out (S/PDIF) to connect to a Samsung sound bar under the monitors. I guess Fedora doesn’t send enough information to the sound bar, because it will turn itself off after a short after no sound being sent to it. It turns itself back on when the system sends sound, so it’s more of an annoyance than anything else.
  • The built-in Wi-Fi adapter doesn’t work (but this is a known issue with most Apple hardware, and can be resolved if needed), but I don’t need it so it doesn’t really matter.
  • I’m not using an Apple keyboard so I didn’t have an Eject key on the keyboard to open/close the Mac Pro’s optical drive (which is recognized by Fedora). CLI to the rescue—just use eject -T /dev/sr0 to toggle the drive’s open/close status.

Otherwise, Fedora seems to run just fine. I am seeing some kernel-related errors on boot that I need to track down, but those errors don’t seem to be translating into issues actually using the system (I’m writing this blog post on the Fedora-powered Mac Pro right now).

As a bonus, the Micron p420m PCI SSD drive that wasn’t recognized under macOS works perfectly under Fedora. Now to get Libvirt configured to use that for all VM-related storage…

If you have any questions or want more information, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

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