This page describes a method to install Debian on Apple Intel Mac Pro computers. It has been tested in two computer systems with a Quad-Core and dual Quad-core Xeon 5300-series "Clovertown" machines.
If you have already tried to install Debian on Intel Mac Pro, you may have experienced the fact that the Debian Installer CD boots and allows you to configure the early steps of installation, like language, keyboard, etc. but it doesn't mount the CD-ROM. Eventually, no media is available to continue with the base-system installation.
For the inpatient, the next section explains how to install Debian with a custom mini installer CD and custom kernel in a few steps.
Download this [http://debian.calel.org/macpro/mini.iso Debian Installer Mini CD for Intel Mac Pro] (md5sum 355637030cc685b1c37d037ee9ec926b), burn it to a CD, for example, 'wodim -v -eject dev=/dev/cdrw -data mini.iso'.
Being a mini CD, it contains only .udeb packages, no .deb packages. You will need a network connection to install the base system. In the long version section I explain how I made this Debian Installer CD.
Under Mac OS X, install [http://refit.sourceforge.net/ rEFIt], the EFI boot menu for Intel Mac. Easiest is to download the Mac disk image, double click on the icon and run the installer.
Still under Mac OS X, open the CD bay, insert the Debian Installer Mini CD and reboot. In the boot menu choose the penguin.
Boot the installer in expert mode. Install as you would in any system, except when partitioning the disk. Choose to partition manually, then set the bootable flag on the partition mounted in /. During the installation of the base system choose 'none' when selecting kernel to install. During GRUB installation, install GRUB in MBR (won't destroy rEFIt, nor any Mac partition).
After GRUB installation, just before finishing the installation and rebooting, open a virtual terminal, <ctrl>-<alt>-<f2> for instance, chroot /target, get the [http://debian.calel.org/macpro/linux-image-2.6.20-macpro-amd64_2.4.20_amd64.deb Custom Intel Mac Pro kernel image] and install it with 'dpkg -i'.
You may have to install initramfs-tools with, 'apt-get -f install initramfs-tools' before installing the kernel, depending on what software you installed.
To get the custom kernel I used a USB key. Did 'tail -f /var/log/syslog' before inserting the key to get the device it attached to, then 'chroot /target', mounted the key 'mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt' and installed the kernel image 'dpkg -i /mnt/linux-image-2.6.20-macpro-amd64_2.4.20_amd64.deb'. You may use the network to get the kernel image as well, for example, with wget.
'update-grub' just in case, then go back to the installation terminal, <ctrl>-<alt>-<f1> and finish the installation.
(This part requires you have some familiarity with kernel compilation and debian packaging).
I have two 64-bit dual Quad-Core Xeon E5335 "Clovertown" machines at work. One is an HP server, the other an Apple Mac Pro. Both are primarily used to run Monte Carlo simulations in parallel, or otherwise.
I obviously had no trouble installing Debian Etch on the HP server. On the Mac, the first thing one needs to do is to install rEFIt under Mac OS X, open the CD bay to insert the installation CD, boot and choose the penguin.
The Debian installer boots and allows me to configure the early steps of installation, like language, keyboard, but it doesn't mount the CD-ROM. Eventually, no media is available to continue the base-system installation. I tried the standard approaches given in several wikies on the subject, e.g. boot parameters like 'install noapic irqpoll acpi=force', and combinations thereof, but none really helped. I also tried a USB-key installation, only to learn that Mac firmware does not support USB-key installations.
Then a co-worker handed me an Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty server installation CD, which recognized the CD-ROM, mounted the CD, installed the base system, and went all the way to the finish line. After boot, the kernel would not load, though. I read several guides describing some very intricate recepies, which included the need of ?BootCamp, Live CDs and disk partition utilities. None of these approaches is really necessary, once you realize the only thing they are trying to do is to set the boot flag on the partition (Why this is necessary beats me). Here is my infinitely simpler recipe:
- Install in expert mode
- GPT partition type
- Flag the root partition as bootable
- Install GRUB in MBR (won't destroy rEFIt, nor Mac partition)
This may work with other Linux distributions than Ubuntu.
This exercise made me realize the installer needs to attach the CD-ROM as SCSI, not IDE as the Debian Installer does, perhaps under SATA (not sure here.)
My plan of action was then to compile a custom kernel a la Ubuntu, that attaches the CD-ROM as the hardware requires, then make a new Debian Installer CD with it.