Installing Ubuntu 14.10 - Utopic Unicorn on a Macbook Pro 11-1 (2014)

This page is about installing Ubuntu 14.10 - Utopic Unicorn on a MacBookPro 11,1 (2014), a 13-inch Mac laptop released in 2014, which has a retina display, solid-state drive, and is based on Haswell Intel CPU and Intel integrated graphics.

Significant parts of this guide are derived from the previous installation guide.

This guide only contains parts that are relevant for Ubuntu 14.10.


Creating a bootable USB-Stick

Prepare an USB-Stick with a livecd desktop version of Ubuntu 14.10, detailed instructions are available here Create a usb stick on mac osx

This guide assumes that you want to keep an OS X partition. Therefore we start with resizing the existing OS X partition using diskutil. You may have to boot into recovery mode (Press Cmd+R during start of the boot process) in order to make it work. Resize your OS X partition so that at least 20 GB of free space or more remain, depending on your needs.

Booting Ubuntu from the USB-Stick

Insert the USB-Stick, reboot your Mac and immediately press the alt key to bring up the bootdisk selection. Choose the USB-Stick. Once the live version is up and running you may want to adjust the display settings and configure an appropriate scaling setting to make everything more readable on the retina display.

System Settings --> Display --> Scale for menu and title bars: 1.75

You may also want to enable natural scrolling as the default behaviour feels wrong when you're used to OS X.

System Settings --> Mouse & Touchpad --> scrolling

Now launch a terminal and install the wifi drivers

sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

Next connect to your wifi so we are able to download the latest updates during the installation.

1. Installation

Now start the graphical installation.

Choose a partition layout that suits your needs. If you don't know what you're doing, go for 1 ext4 partition with mount point / and 1 partition as linux swap, roughly 1.5x the size of your RAM. Be careful to not erase the whole drive if you want to keep your existing OS X installation.

Once the installation is finished DO NOT REBOOT, yet. (If you did, boot from the USB-Stick again and proceed as below)

1.1. Setting up efibootmgr

We will be using efibootmgr here as it is extremly lightweight and doesn't break your OS X installation. System updates on the OS X side are working with this setup as of Jan 2015.

Open the terminal again to configure efibootmgr:

sudo apt-get install efibootmgr
sudo efibootmgr

Displays your current setup which should point to your mac partition (BootOrder 0080) which we want to change so that grub is launched by default

sudo efibootmgr -o 0000,0080

Make sure that BootOrder is now BootOrder 0000,0080 otherwise you'll not be able to boot OS X from grub (Note: You can still boot to OS X by holding down the alt key during the very beginning of the startup and then select the EFI partition)

Now reboot your machine into the newly installed 14.10

2. Configuration

2.1 Display optimization

As already done with the livecd, adjust the scaling setting to your needs. Be careful with changing font-sizes etc. it can easily mess up your system. If scaling only is good enough for you this is likely the most efficient way.

System Settings --> Display --> Scale for menu and title bars: 1.75

2.2 Grub tuning

By default grub is in hidden mode which we are going to change

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

Comment out every line that starts with GRUB HIDDEN


and change GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="" to


This seems to prevent occasional freezes caused by the SSD. Change anything else you'd like to have different and save. Then update grub.

sudo update-grub

2.2.1 Fixing small grub fonts

On the command line execute the following:

sudo grub-mkfont -s 36 -o /boot/grub/DejaVuSansMono.pf2 /usr/share/fonts/truetype/dejavu/DejaVuSansMono.ttf

Open and edit again /etc/default/grub and add the following line at the bottom:


Update grub again and after the next boot you have a nice readable grub startup screen.

2.3 Setting up Internet connectivity

As we again do not have internet connectivity we need to install the bcmwl sources again. While it may be possible to copy them from the USB-Stick after the installation I find it much more convenient to quickly connect my mobile via Bluetooth and download the drivers. The Bluetooth connection can be conveniently set up via the icon in the menu bar.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

Disconnect the Bluetooth internet connection and connect your wifi at this time.

2.4 System upgrade

Time for a system upgrade

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

2.5 Setting up Power Management

For better battery life and power management we're going to install powertop and TLP.

Install powertop

sudo apt-get install powertop
sudo powertop --calibrate

Make sure powertop with --auto-tune is executed during startup

sudo nano /etc/rc.local
powertop --auto-tune

Install tlp

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tlp
sudo tlp start

2.6 Fixing the touchpad

To fix the standard touchpad behaviour which is just unusable we switch to the mtrack drivers and remove the synaptic drivers as described here.

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.mouse active false
sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-input-mtrack
sudo apt-get autoremove xserver-xorg-input-synaptics
sudo rm /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf

Then edit 50-mtrack.conf

sudo nano /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-mtrack.conf

The most important and time consuming part is to figure out a configuration that works for you. The below configuration should be quite close to OS X behaviour depending on how you've used the touchpad. This configuration has tapping enabled and configured.

Section "InputClass"
 MatchIsTouchpad "on"
 Identifier "Touchpads"
 Driver "mtrack"
 Option "IgnoreThumb" "true"
 Option "ThumbSize" "50"
 Option "IgnorePalm" "true"
 Option "DisableOnPalm" "false"
 Option "BottomEdge" "30"
 Option "TapDragEnable" "true"
 Option "Sensitivity" "0.6"
 Option "FingerHigh" "3"
 Option "FingerLow" "2"
 Option "ButtonEnable" "true"
 Option "ButtonIntegrated" "true"
 Option "ButtonTouchExpire" "750"
 Option "ClickFinger1" "1"
 Option "ClickFinger2" "3"
 Option "TapButton1" "1"
 Option "TapButton2" "3"
 Option "TapButton3" "2"
 Option "TapButton4" "0"
 Option "TapDragWait" "100"
 Option "ScrollLeftButton" "7"
 Option "ScrollRightButton" "6"
 Option "ScrollDistance" "100"

Documentation of the settings and values can be found in the readme of xf86-input-mtrack on github

Natural scrolling can be enabled with:

echo "pointer = 1 2 3 5 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12" > ~/.Xmodmap

Now restart lightdm to test the new configuration

sudo restart lightdm

That should leave you with pretty basic, working installation of Ubuntu from which on you can continue according to your preferences.

Remaining issues and optimization potential

  • Battery Life and power management tuning
  • Automatic background light / brightness management
  • SPDIF port red light (old methods to turn it off seem not work) - It looks weird when the red light remains on
  • Camera - Not tested

Useful links and resources

Sources and resources

MacBookPro11-1/utopic (last edited 2015-02-13 18:40:24 by binaryanomaly)