Debian beats the pants off Ubuntu

To aid in getting experience with Puppet Enterprise I wanted to set up a few computers in my home network to install and test Puppet on.

I have a MacBook Pro mid-2010 which I had not been using much. I had previously installed Windows 7 on it. I decided a few days ago that I would install a Linux distribution on my MacBook Pro (7,1) and use that as a Puppet Agent box.

As I have been using Ubuntu, I wanted to install this on my MacBook Pro laptop.  I had to install the rEFInd Boot Manager first to enable booting my USB key with an Ubuntu ISO on it for installation. It also lets me boot the final installation of Linux.

The best way to get a bootable ISO image onto a USB key for installation is using the Universal USB Installer linked from PenDriveLinux. They have great tutorials for installation and it works well, easy and fast.

I tested several versions of Ubuntu — apparently it doesn’t always work well with WiFi on my MacBook Pro. I tested 13.10, 13.04 and 12.10 but most were unstable, particuarly when the GUI was running and for the life of me I could not get the WiFi to connect to my home ADSL router.  I used many methods over last Saturday and Sunday and still it would not connect.

Desperate, I did a Google search for Linux MacBook Pro 7,1 and found a page on the Debian community site detailing that the latest version of Debian (Wheezy) works well on this platform.  Having nothing to lose I downloaded the DVD ISO from BitTorrent. This morning I woke early and so decided to try installing it. I used the above Universal USB Installer and had to select Unsupported ISO as they have specific search patterns for ISOs in your Download folder. I used this to write out the boot DVD ISO image to my 32Gb USB key and inserted it into my MacBook Pro.

I booted up the MacBook and held down the Option key to get the rEFInd boot screen. It let me choose my Debian USB key and I started the install. During the installation it advised me it needed to B43 fw files which I did not have.  I skipped this for now and let the installation continue. I had shared out Internet via my desktop PC so the installation used this connection to get updated modules from the internet via eth0.  Once completed, the MacBook rebooted and I used rEFInd again to select the installed Debian partition.  Debian soon booted up nicely and I used the Root Terminal to install the b43 firmware as detailed on the MacBook Pro 7,1 community page.   I rebooted then clicked on the Debian GUI’s WiFi icon and selected my home network router, typed in the password and it connected first go!

I was very surprised about this, but happy that I had a nice installation of an up-to-date Linux distribution now running on my MacBook Pro.  I will either use this Debian install or Ubuntu on the other laptop my friend is giving me (or maybe I should try it with Windows 8 as this is supported as well.. we shall see). In any case, it’s been an interesting journey, but I’m glad it’s finally over.

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