August 16, 2022
Enlarge / Asahi Linux is now up and running on the Mac Studio and the first M2 Macs.

Andrew Cunningham

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

The Asahi Linux team put out a new release today with plenty of additions and improvements. Most notably, the distro now supports the M1 Ultra and the Mac Studio and has added preliminary support for the M2 MacBook Pro (which has been tested firsthand by the team) and the M2 MacBook Air (which hasn’t been tested but ought to work).

Preliminary Bluetooth support for all Apple silicon Macs has also been added, though the team notes that it works poorly when connected to a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network because “Wi-Fi/Bluetooth coexistence isn’t properly configured yet.”

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

The Asahi team has said in the past that it expects support for new chips to be relatively easy to add to Asahi since Apple’s chip designers frequently reuse things and don’t make extensive hardware changes unless there’s a good reason for it. Adding basic support for the M2 to Asahi happened over the course of a single 12-hour development session, and just “a few days” of additional effort were needed to get the rest of the hardware working as well as it does with M1-based Macs. This process may become more complex as the Asahi team gets more hardware working—supporting a new GPU will probably be a bit more involved than getting the keyboard and trackpad working—but it seems that the team will be able to support the M2 chip family fairly quickly as Apple introduces more models.

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