Notable Developer Starts Patreon to Fund Apple Silicon Linux Port

Developer Hector Martin, who describes himself as someone who "likes putting Linux on things," has launched a plan to create a Linux port for Apple Silicon Macs.

mac mini macbook pro macbook air m1
Martin, also known as "Marcan," has created a Patreon with the goal of earning enough funding to be able to take on the complexities of bringing Linux to Macs equipped with an M1 chip. Creating a Linux port is no easy task, and Linux creator Linus Torvalds has even said that he doesn't think it's a possibility.

Martin has experience getting Linux running on unusual platforms and has been able to create a Linux port for the PlayStation 4 but he acknowledges that an ‌Apple Silicon‌ Linux port is a much more serious undertaking. Creating a Linux port for Apple's Macs is a full time job, and Martin says that it's not viable without financial support. He's started a Patreon that's asking for $4,000 per month with $3, $6, and $12 pledge tiers. He's 88 percent of the way funded and doesn't plan to start the project unless he gets the full amount.


According to Martin, he's qualified to take on the project because of his experience working on Linux ports for other devices like the PlayStation 4. From the FAQ on his website:

I've been reverse engineering devices for over half of my life, since the early 2000s. I've worked to build unofficial open software support for platforms such as the Nintendo Wii (where I am one of the largest contributors to hardware documentation, open libraries, "jailbreaking" software (The Homebrew Channel), recovery tools (BootMii), etc), the Sony PS3 (where I wrote AsbestOS and a Linux patchset to enable Linux to work on the PS3 Slim as well as up-to-date PS3 units after the original Linux support was removed), the PS4 (which I ported Linux to, to the point of being able to run Steam games with full OpenGL/Vulkan graphics support), and other smaller platforms.

I always strive to write clean and robust code that is safe, puts the user first, and is upstreamable. I support open hardware and software development. I've gone through the Linux kernel patch process multiple times and I know what it takes to get stuff upstreamed.

Martin says that he wants to create a Linux port for ‌Apple Silicon‌ Macs that people "actually want to use" with all basic hardware working, decent power management, and more. The "big time sink" will be GPU support, which is necessary to make the port happen. Martin was able to get the PS4 version up and running because it's using a GPU that's only slightly customized, but ‌Apple Silicon‌ will be more difficult. There's proof of concept, though, in Nouveau, a GPU driver project for NVIDIA cards.


The project is not sanctioned by Apple, but so long as Martin does not use code from macOS to build Linux support, he says it is legal for him to distribute to users. Apple also allows for the booting of custom kernels on ‌Apple Silicon‌, which paves the way for Linux support, but Martin will need to reverse engineer Apple drivers.

Linus Torvalds earlier this month said that he'd love an ‌M1‌ Mac if it ran Linux, but that he doesn't feel it's possible without Apple's cooperation. "The main problem with the ‌M1‌ for me is the GPU and other devices around it, because that's likely what would hold me off using it because it wouldn't have any Linux support unless Apple opens up," said Torvalds. He went on to say that he thinks it "seems unlikely" Apple would open up its chipsets, but "you can always hope."

If the project is funded, and it's looking like it will be, Martin plans to develop in the open with regular pushes to GitHub, and he will accept help from anyone who wants to contribute.

Top Rated Comments

mathpunk Avatar
19 months ago

Of course the irony is that Macs ARE running Linux, just a heavily customized version.
No they aren't. macOS is derived from NextStep, which is a Mach kernel of BSD, which predates Linux by decades.
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
grjj Avatar
19 months ago

Of course the irony is that Macs ARE running Linux, just a heavily customized version.
Not in any way shape or form is macOS based on Linux and I wish this idea would die.

macOS is based on Darwin ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin_%28operating_system%29'), which is in turn based on the Mach ('https://developer.apple.com/library/archive/documentation/Darwin/Conceptual/KernelProgramming/Mach/Mach.html') micro kernel. None of that has anything to do with Linux or Linus Torvalds.

Both run utilities and codebases written by GNU ('http://www.gnu.org').

All of these are attempts to build a "better" version of UNIX.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
icanhazapple Avatar
19 months ago

Waste of time. Apple will more than likely lock down the ability to boot from other operating systems.
You can run unsigned code on an M1 - if Apple backtracked from this, there would be a HUGE uproar from the Developer Community. Apple does listen to Developers if they go too far on something.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chabig Avatar
19 months ago

Of course the irony is that Macs ARE running Linux, just a heavily customized version.
macOS is a cousin of Linux, not a descendant.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Wowfunhappy Avatar
19 months ago

Without proper documentation, it's very-likely NOT possible !
Marcan knows what he's doing, he ported Linux to the Wii, PS3, and PS4 (and many other devices besides). The version of Linux for the PS4 can run games from Steam.

He's made it clear that the Apple Silicon port will be much harder due to all the custom components, particularly the GPU. But, that's why he set up a Patreon!

I do wonder whether Apple might actually provide some minimal amount of assistance (namely documentation, and possibly making an engineer available to answer occasional questions). It's not necessary, but it would help a lot, and why not help developers who are working to make your hardware more capable?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MacUser2525 Avatar
19 months ago

Again... no part of anything Linux was EVER in ANY part of macOS.
KHTML and CUPS off the top of my head are clear examples of apple using Open Source code in their macOS operating system. Safari would never have gotten off the ground without the KDE projects code to render web pages.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

2019 mac pro side and front

Apple Teases Apple Silicon Mac Pro at Spring Event

Tuesday March 8, 2022 11:52 am PST by
The Mac Studio that was introduced today may be as powerful as the current Mac Pro, but Apple made it clear that the device is not intended to be a Mac Pro replacement. Apple senior vice president of Hardware Engineering John Ternus teased a new Apple silicon Mac Pro on stage at today's event to address any confusion about the company's Mac Pro plans. When talking about the transition...
General Dropbox Feature

Dropbox Planning to Add Native Apple Silicon Support to Mac App in First Half of 2022 [Updated]

Thursday October 28, 2021 6:41 am PDT by
Update 9:45 a.m.: In a reply on Twitter, Dropbox founder and CEO Drew Houston apologized for the confusion sparked by the "not ideal" support responses and said that Dropbox is "certainly supporting Apple silicon" with a native Apple silicon build planned for release in the first half of next year. Original article below. We're certainly supporting Apple Silicon, sorry for the confusion. We've ...
m2 feature purple

Evidence of M2 Apple Silicon Chip Spotted Ahead of Apple Event on Tuesday

Sunday March 6, 2022 6:39 am PST by
Evidence that Apple is testing the M2 Apple silicon chip, expected to debut first in a new MacBook Air and refreshed 13-inch MacBook Pro, has been spotted by a developer ahead of Tuesday's "Peek performance" Apple event. As reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman in his latest Power On newsletter, a "developer source" has informed him that in recent weeks, Apple has been testing a chip with an...
13 inch macbook pro m2 mock feature 2

New M2-Powered MacBooks Could Be Conspicuously Absent At Today's Apple Event

Tuesday March 8, 2022 6:58 am PST by
Last-minute rumors leading up to Apple's "Peek Performance" event have cast doubt on long-running expectations that Apple will reveal a new or updated MacBook model with an M2 chip on Tuesday. Last month, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported that Apple was preparing to launch at least one new Mac at its March 8 event, and at the time Gurman speculated that it would likely be a high-end Mac mini...
mac studio ultra performance gpu

M1 Ultra CPU is 60% Faster Than 28-core Mac Pro, GPU is 80% Faster Than Highest-End Radeon Pro W6900X Graphics Card

Tuesday March 8, 2022 1:46 pm PST by
The newly announced M1 Ultra is now Apple's fastest Apple silicon chip, unseating the M1 Max as the top-of-the-line option. With the power of the updated chip, the new Mac Studio is able to outperform not only the high-end prior-generation 27-inch iMac, but also the top-of-the-line 28-core Mac Pro. The M1 Ultra chip offers a 20-core CPU with 16 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency...
new m1 chip

Key M1 Mac Engineer Departs Apple for Intel

Thursday January 6, 2022 2:31 pm PST by
Apple's former Director of Mac System Architecture Jeff Wilcox this week announced that he has left Apple to take on a new role at Intel. As noted on LinkedIn (via Tom's Hardware), Wilcox was part of Apple's M1 team and he had a key role in the transition from Intel chips to Apple silicon. Wilcox's profile says that he "led the transition" for all Macs to Apple silicon, and prior to that, he ...
microsoft office icons

Microsoft Releases Office for Mac Update With Full Apple Silicon Support in Excel

Tuesday January 18, 2022 4:15 am PST by
Microsoft has released a new version of its Office for Mac productivity suite that includes an updated Excel app with 100% native support for Apple silicon machines. According to the release notes accompanying version 16.57, Excel will now run natively on Macs powered by Apple's M1-series processors without having to use the Rosetta 2 translation layer, which means anyone using a Mac with an ...
OneDrive

Microsoft OneDrive Gains Native Support for Apple Silicon Macs

Monday February 28, 2022 5:21 pm PST by
Microsoft has been testing a pre-release Apple silicon version of OneDrive since last year, and now the native version of the app is available for all OneDrive users. "We're excited to announce that OneDrive sync for macOS will now run natively on Apple silicon. This means that OneDrive will take full advantage of the performance improvements of Apple silicon," Microsoft said in an...

Popular Stories

RIP iPod Feature

RIP iPod: A Look Back at Apple's Iconic Music Player Over the Years

Friday May 13, 2022 2:25 pm PDT by
Apple earlier this week announced the discontinuation of the iPod touch, and because it was the last iPod still available for purchase, its sunsetting effectively marks the end of the entire iPod lineup. To send the iPod on its way, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the most notable iPod releases over the last 21 years. Original iPod (2001) Introduced in October...
iOS 16 mock for article

Gurman: iOS 16 to Include New Ways of System Interaction and 'Fresh Apple Apps'

Sunday May 15, 2022 6:14 am PDT by
iOS 16 will include new ways of interacting with the system and some "fresh Apple apps," Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has said, offering some more detail on what Apple has in store for the upcoming release of iOS and iPadOS set to be announced in a few weeks at WWDC. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman wrote that while iOS 16 is not likely to introduce a major face-lift to...
maxresdefault

Unbox Therapy Shares Hands-On Look at iPhone 14 Pro Max Replica

Monday May 16, 2022 4:40 am PDT by
YouTuber Unbox Therapy has shared a hands-on look at the iPhone 14 Pro Max using what he claims is a one-to-one replica created by third-party case makers with access to detailed schematics and dimensions for Apple's new upcoming flagship smartphone. As with the iPhone 13 Pro lineup, in 2022, we are expecting a 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro and a 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, but this time the Pro...
iOS 15

Apple Releases iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 With Wallet and Podcast Updates

Monday May 16, 2022 10:00 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5, the fifth major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 15 operating systems that were initially released in September 2021. iOS and iPadOS 15.5 come a little over two months after the launch of iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4. The iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in...
14 16 inch 2021 mbps back to back feature orange

Five Things You Still Can't Do With a MacBook Pro

Wednesday May 11, 2022 11:16 am PDT by
It's been over 200 days since Apple debuted its redesigned MacBook Pro lineup. Offered in 14-inch and 16-inch display sizes, the new-look MacBooks wowed Apple fans and creative pros alike with their powerful custom Apple silicon, mini-LED screen, and multiple connectivity options. But there are still some things you can't do with a MacBook Pro. Here are five features some Mac users are still...
apple mac ipad watch trade in

Apple Launches Limited-Time Bonus Trade-In Credit for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch in Many Countries

Wednesday May 11, 2022 5:14 am PDT by
Apple has launched a special limited-time offer for iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac, and iPad trade-in that offers customers additional credit when trading in their only device for a new one. The offer is being run in several countries including the US, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, and France. In the UK, Apple is offering up to £50 of extra trade-in credit...
airpodsprodesign

Kuo: AirPods, MagSafe Battery Pack, and Other Apple Accessories Also to Switch to USB-C in Future

Sunday May 15, 2022 5:59 am PDT by
Earlier this week, well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple plans to release at least one iPhone 15 model with a USB-C port in 2023. Now, in a follow-up tweet, he has claimed that accessories like AirPods, the MagSafe Battery Pack, and the Magic Keyboard/Mouse/Trackpad trio would also switch to USB-C in the "foreseeable future." Both the iPhone and all of the aforementioned...