Developers get Linux with Gnome shell bare metal running on Apple M1 soc

Developers have managed to get Linux running with the Gnome shell on an Apple Mac computer with M1-soc. Users can use Linux with a GUI on systems with this chip, although GPU acceleration does not yet work.

One of the developers is Alyssa Rosenzweig of Asahi Linux, a project that is trying to get Linux to work properly on Apple’s M1 chip. She writes on Twitter that she managed to put Debian 11 with the Gnome shell on an Apple computer with an M1 processor. She calls it “not great, but useful.” “If it’s that fast with most drivers missing, Asahi Linux will run like a dream on these machines when everything is ready,” Rosenzweig said.

The developer also mentions that the whole thing runs on a ‘near-mainline kernel’. In addition to the mainline Linux kernel, the developers have made some proprietary patches to run the Gnome desktop environment on the M1 soc, giving the team the display output, USB, and Ethernet working.

The developers have implemented patches for the pin controller and PCIe, among other things. Alyssa Rosenzweig herself worked on her own display driver, which is currently still being worked on. The system can use Linux allocated frame buffers and bit-banging hidden registers with the current display driver, which allows double buffering and prevents tearing. In time, the driver should work with the display coprocessor of the M1 soc, which would enable 4k output, among other things.

Getting the Gnome desktop environment working is the most recent development of the Asahi Linux project, although the developers have been working on Linux for the M1 soc for some time. The team at Asahi Linux got it done before to run Debian on a Mac Mini with this chip, although that was without a graphical desktop environment like Gnome at the time. Virtualization company Corellium also shared a ‘very early beta’ of Linux for this soc in January.

Images by Alyssa Rosenzweig, via Twitter