3th of February, 2011

Boot LINUX from SD-Card on a MacBook Pro 7,1
without changing anything on your Harddisk

I used LINUX for everyday work for many years, but in 2010 I had to change to Macintosh out of several reasons. Nevertheless - sometimes I like to try, what happend in the world of penguins. So I was searching the web for an idea to 'play' LINUX on my MacBook Pro without changing anything on my Harddisk. Unfortunatly I did not found any solution to boot from USB-Port - it seems, that only Mac OS itself can be booted from an external drive or USB-Stick (one USB-Stick died during my experiments - and also LINUX itself was not able to re-animate it). But I found a possibility to boot from SD-Card.

Important: Working on a SD-Card-Drive is not a solution for everyday work, the data rates are too slow. But it may be a good idea for testing a LINUX-System and see, how it works on a MacBook Pro.

This is my workaround:

First thing you need ist a bootable CD of a LINUX distribution. I use KUbuntu Maverick, kubuntu-10.10-desktop-amd64.iso, from www.kubuntu.org. Download the image and burn it on CD (you may use the Disk Utility App on your Mac for this).

Next you need is the Mac-disk-image of rEFIt-0.14.dmg (or newer version) from here: refit.sourceforge.net. At last you need a SD-Card of at least 8 GByte (data rate: the faster the better).

Put the SD-Card into the slot an start the Disk Utility App on your Mac. Select the Card and give them new partitions: First a Partition of 50 MBytes formatted "Mac OS Extended Journaled" . . .
. . . and second a partition of MS-DOS-FAT of at least 7 GBytes.
Before writing the partition-table to the card and formatting be sure, that you have chosen the "GUID-Partition-Table" to write (use the "Options"-Button to select this).
Open the Terminal App and ask for 'diskutil list' . Answer should be something like this (where '/dev/disk1' is our SD-Card):
Next: Open the file rEFIt-0.14.dmg with doubleclicking and move (copy) the appearing "efi"-path to the 50-MByte-HFS+-formatted partition:
Now use the Terminal again with the commands 'cd /Volumes/p1/efi/refit' (where 'p1' is the name of the HFS+-formatted partition of the SD-Card) followed by './enable.sh'. You will be asked for the administrator-password in this step:
Now it is time for reebooting and for the Installation of your LINUX-System. Put the bootable LINUX-CD into the device and then reboot your Mac - and press and hold the "alt"-Key during the reboot process. If everything goes right, you shold see symbols of a Harddisk, a SD-Card and two CDs appearing on your screen. If there is not a CD-symbol, something failed during the first step (burning the LINUX-CD). If there is no symbol of SD-Card, some of the other steps wents wrong: Just do it again. If there is not a symbol of your harddisk - then good luck and I hope you backed up your system before !
If everything is right, select the CD-symbol labeled as "windows" (I do really not know, why it is labeled so) and start the installation process. During installation you have to prepare the partitiones manually. Select only the /dev/sdb3-device (on the SD-Card) for formatting and give them the mount point "/" (= root). Device for boot loader installation must be also /dev/sdb3 (not /dev/sdb !). You need no swap-Partition. Just ignore the warnings about this.
That's it.
After finishing the installation process you can boot the LINUX-System by pressing the "alt"-Key during the reboot process. Select the SD-Card-symbol for rEFIt-booting. After this an apple and a tux will appear on the screen. Just select the tux for LINUX ;-)

More information about Maverick Meerkat on MacBook Pro 7,1 you will find here: help.ubuntu.com. If you have some problems with this workaround feel free and ask me via twhm[at]gmx.de .

Thomas Weihermüller, Dresden, Germany