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
26 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
26 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
26 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
26 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
26 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
26 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

Cyber Monday Deals Feature 2022

Best Cyber Monday Apple Deals Still Available for AirPods, Apple TV, iPad, and More

Monday November 28, 2022 5:24 am PST by
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping rush is drawing to a close, but there are still some good deals to be had out there. For Apple products, many of the deals you've seen since last week are still available, though some have expired. So for anyone who missed out on Black Friday deals, there's still an opportunity to get some of the year's best prices on many Apple devices. Note: ...
iPhone 14 Pro Rear Camera

iPhone 15 to Use 'State-of-the-Art' Image Sensor From Sony for Better Low-Light Performance

Monday November 28, 2022 11:00 am PST by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 15 models will be equipped with Sony's newest "state of the art" image sensors, according to a report from Nikkei. Compared to standard sensors, Sony's image sensor doubles the saturation signal in each pixel, allowing it to capture more light to cut down on underexposure and overexposure. Nikkei says that it is able to better photograph a person's face even with...
Apple Watch Ultra Oceanic Plus App

Apple Announces Oceanic+ App Now Available for Apple Watch Ultra

Monday November 28, 2022 6:11 am PST by
Apple today announced that the Oceanic+ app is available for the Apple Watch Ultra starting today. Designed by Huish Outdoors in collaboration with Apple, the app serves as a dive computer for recreational scuba diving at depths up to 40 meters/130 feet. Apple already offers a basic Depth app on the Apple Watch Ultra for viewing your current depth, maximum depth reached, water temperature,...
app store awards 2021

Apple Announces 2022 App Store Award Winners, Highlighting Best Apps of the Year

Tuesday November 29, 2022 3:10 am PST by
Apple today announced its 2022 App Store Award winners, highlighting the 16 best apps and games selected by Apple's global App Store editorial team. The top apps were chosen by Apple for their quality, innovative technology, creative design, positive cultural impact, and ability to deliver "exceptional experiences." Apple CEO Tim Cook said: This year's App Store Award winners reimagined...
rapid security response

Apple Releases Another Rapid Security Response Update for iOS 16.2 Beta Users

Monday November 28, 2022 10:16 am PST by
Apple today released a Rapid Security Response update that is available for those running the iOS 16.2 beta, marking the launch of the second RSR update since the feature was released in iOS 16. The Rapid Security Response Update is designed to provide iOS 16.2 beta users with bug fixes without the need to install a full update. The initial RSR release for iOS 16.2 beta users was a test with ...
twitter elon musk

Elon Musk Claims Apple Has 'Mostly Stopped' Offering Ads on Twitter and Is Making Moderation Demands

Monday November 28, 2022 10:42 am PST by
Apple has cut back on its Twitter advertising, according to Twitter CEO Elon Musk. In a tweet, Musk said that Apple has "mostly stopped" its Twitter ads, asking if Apple hates "free speech." Musk went on to publish a poll asking if Apple should "publish all censorship actions" taken that impact customers and he began retweeting content from companies that Apple has had moderation discussions ...
iphone 11 tesla cybertruck close up

Elon Musk Pledges to Build iPhone Rival If Apple Ousts Twitter

Tuesday November 29, 2022 2:48 am PST by
Elon Musk has pledged to offer an "alternative phone" if Apple and Google remove Twitter from their app stores, adding to long-standing rumors about an iPhone rival from Tesla. Modified iPhone 11 Pro in the style of the Tesla Cybertruck, by Caviar. Musk's remark came after being asked about the potential scenario of Twitter being removed from app stores, which could conceivably happen if the...
General Black Friday Deals 2022 Green

All the Apple Black Friday Deals You Can Still Get

Friday November 25, 2022 4:40 am PST by
Although Black Friday is now technically over, many Apple products are still seeing major discounts through the weekend as we head into Cyber Monday. In this article, you'll find every Apple device with a notable Black Friday sale that's still available. We'll be updating as prices change and new deals arrive, so be sure to keep an eye out if you don't see the sale you're looking for yet. Note:...