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Asahi Linux for M1 Apple Silicon gets its first alpha release

Arch-based distribution for Apple Silicon can also be used to more easily install OpenBSD.
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Written by Chris Duckett, APAC Editor on
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Image: Asahi Linux

Asahi Linux has released its first public alpha build for users on Apple M1, M1 Pro, or M1 Max devices.

The distribution is based on the ARM build of Arch Linux, and arrives with a KDE Plasma desktop and a ton of caveats.

Users will need at least 53GB of spare storage and the installer downloads up to 4GB of data depending on if users want a Plasma desktop, or want a minimal installation, or even purely a UEFI environment that then allows for other operating systems such as OpenBSD to be installed.

The distribution explained that it needs the space due to having around 2.5GB for Apple's bootloader and firmware, as well as a full copy of the macOS recovery image and spare space for the ability for macOS to do updates.

"You need 15GB for Asahi Linux Desktop, but macOS itself needs a lot of free space for system updates to work, so the installer will expect you to leave 38GB of extra slack in macOS by default to avoid shooting yourself in the foot," it explains. 

"For example, if you have 60GB of free space, you will be able to shrink macOS by up to 22GB by default, freeing up 22GB for the new Linux install and leaving 38GB of remaining free space in the macOS partition. If you want to disable this check, enable expert mode when prompted."

Asahi does not have GPU support, nor DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, or HDMI ports; the neural engine on the M1 chip is not used; and the camera and touch bar are unsupported. Full support for USB3, speakers, and the display controller is labelled as coming soon.

"Keep in mind that this is still a very early, alpha release. It is intended for developers and power users; if you decide to install it, we hope you will be able to help us out by filing detailed bug reports and helping debug issues," the distro said.

"That said, we welcome everyone to give it a try -- just expect things to be a bit rough."

Due to Asahi using 16K pages, a bunch of software does not work including Chromium.

"There is a category of software that will likely never support 16K page sizes: Certain emulators and compatibility layers, including FEX," the announcement states.

"Android is also affected, in case someone wants to try running it natively some day. For users of these tools, we will provide 4K page size kernels in the future, once the kernel changes that make this possible are ready for upstreaming."

Asahi added that during installation of any OS on Apple Silicon, it is verified with Apple's servers unless the users turn off the phone home functionality, but it still requires downloading "certain components" from Apple's CDN.

On the OpenBSD side, it said its hardware compatibility was on par with Asahi.

Updated at 20:10pm AEDT, 21 March 2022: Additional information on storage.

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