MacBook Air 7,1: 10 Necessary Steps to Run Ubuntu 15.10 Wily

Switching from a MacBook Air 3,1 to a MacBook Air 7,1 was necessary. I was sure it would include some hardware problems to deal with because I don’t use Mac OS X, I use Linux. But not only minor problems laid ahead. The hard disk of the MacBook Air 7,1 was not recognized by the installation CDROMs of OpenSuSE Leap 41.1 and Ubuntu 15.10. What’s the matter? This text describes my journey to a booting operating system on my new toy. It shall be a guide for people to follow before there is installable distribution that even work on the MacBook Air 7,1 and further Apple notebook with an Apple NVMe controller.

The problem about installing Linux on the up-to-date versions of the MacBook Air and probably some other notebooks from Apple, like the Macbook version 8 is the build in hard disk controller. The Macbook Air 7,1 is still delivered with a solid state disk (SSD). It comes with an NVMe controller but a new one from Apple Inc. itself. The mass storage device registeres at the operations system as one. And that is the problem: it does not register as a NVMe device.

Nowadays Linux kernel comes with an NVMe module but they don’t recognize the Apple one. Fixes are out there and the problem shall be solved by kernel 4.4.0. I tried a 4.3 version and could see the SSD. I wasted a lot of time with a kernel 4.4.0 release candidate 2 (rc2). Despite seeing the devices, partitioning did not work. The kernel module crashed – at worst. The hard disk maintenance program of Mac OS X was able to deal with it. In the end I found out that kernel 4.4.0 rc4 works.