Well, since my macbook decided to screw up after a failed software update under OSX (thanks Apple) I decided to rebuild my system from scratch.
Since I’ve been considering doing this study-from-home Games Development course, I need Windows and I don’t too much fancy paying for it, Windows 7 is available legally for free, so I decided to use that. Since this was a new build, I upgraded to Leopard since my old OSX install was Tiger and my old linux install was an old Intrepid install that had been dist-upgraded to Jaunty so this time I decided to use Jaunty from scratch.
First of all, I booted off of the OSX disks and partitioned my 120GB hard drive into two sections. The first was 30GB for OSX, the rest was free space.
Once OSX had finished installing, I used Disk Utility from within OSX to further partition the drive’s free space to give me a 20GB partition for Windows 7, a small 1GB partition at the end of the drive for swap and the rest was given over to Jaunty. I formatted all 3 of these partitions as FAT or MS-DOS format. I couldn’t actually format them this way from the partitioning tool s after I created the partitions with the Mac filesystem, I reformatted them with Disk Utility individually. I probably didn’t need to format them at all, but what the hell.
Why didn’t I just use BootCamp? It seemed annoying. The BootCamp Assistant insisted on not letting me have control over my paritions and seemed very Windows-centric, not offering any mention of Linux. It also didn’t mention Windows 7, just XP and Vista so I decided since it didn’t seem to be supported anyway that I’d go with other methods instead rather than try and force it to work how I wanted and pray it worked.
Next, I did all the system software updates for OSX so that they wouldn’t interfere with any later steps. I then downloaded and installed reFIT, a nice EFI bootloader that made everything else very easy.
After that I rebooted and installed Windows 7. Windows 7 insists on a NTFS formatted partition so I formatted my previously FAT formatted 20GB partition and let it use that. The install went quite smoothly without any issues. After each restart, the reFIT bootloader should display a Windows symbol with a harddrive overlaid on it in it’s menu. Boot from that until you are finally at a working Windows 7 desktop.
At this point I rebooted and tried to access my OSX install using the option on reFIT, it worked fine, much to my surprise, and it seems thatinstalling Windows no longer trashes your bootloaders.
After that, I booted my Jaunty install disk (I used the alternate install disk because my normal one wouldn’t even boot in the computer). Installation was easy but there are a few things to watch out for. Make sure to select custom partitioning at the partitioning stage and then select the large empty FAT partition as the main / parition for Linux. I used ext4 as my filesystem but use whatever you like. Then select the small 1GB FAT partition for swap. I am assuming you have a basic grasp of how to partition and format things with the Ubuntu installer which for the most part is fairly self-explanatory anyway. Another thing to watch out for is the bootloader installation. With my paritioning layout of EFI, OSX, Windows 7, Linux and Linux Swap, I opted to install the GRUB boot loader onto (hd0, 3) or directly into the linux partition. Once the installer finished, I checked I could still boot into each system and everything worked fine, no hassle. The reFIT menu now had three icons an Apple, Windows and Linux one, each with harddrive overlays and they all worked fine.
At this point you have a working triple-boot system. However, the linux install doesn’t perform very well out of the box. I followed the very good instructions to improve my Linux experience on my macbook here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBook2-1/Jaunty
I was having quite a few driver issues and things such as sound wouldn’t work. However thanks to the advice of Jonas Wisser I decided to download the BootCamp drivers from the Snow Leopard prerelease. These worked a treat and basically fixed everything as far as I can tell so far.
Some words of warning:
- My original system got trashed because an OSX update died, I’m guessing it tried to update the EFI firmware which I had replaced with reFIT. Having reFIT installed could make your system unbootable after you do an OSX update so I’d recommend keeping the reFIT installer around so you can reinstall it after doing updates before rebooting, just in case.
- Windows 7 is a free release candidate until March 2010 where it will apparently degrade until you either pay for the full version which should then be released or it stops working all together.
- Some stuff in Linux doesn’t work perfectly on the Macbook, such as the iSight having a green capture issue. This is discussed more on the page linked to previously.
So far I’m very pleased with my new install. Nothing has exploded yet, no weird errors, the installation was flawless. Basically nothing has really gone wrong or broken. I’m not much of a fan of Windows and I’ve barely even touched my Windows 7 install but I’m quite impressed by it, it seems pretty stable so far and it’s not done any of the things that normally annoy me immensely about Windows yet, so for the time being I think Microsoft might have finally released a decent version of Windows. I wont be switching any time soon, or ever, but so far I can at least tip my hat to Microsoft on what so far appears to be a job well done. I haven’t played much with Leopard yet, so I can’t really say how I feel about it other than it’s not very much different to Tiger so far, except with a little more polish in some areas. Jaunty I had running on here before and so far it’s working nicely. Just need to fully test out all the changes I made as recommended via that link I posted earlier to see if I can make it even better.