Apple Macbook Pro Retina

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Macbook Retina Models

The 13 and 15 inch models are slightly different. The 15 inch model is more complicated, as it has both an Intel and an nVidia graphics card. The setup steps common to both are here, and specifics are separated off below:

In theory, the steps here should be very similar to the 11,x model.

Installation Steps

These instructions will perform a Dual Boot setup with MacOS. A single boot installation could be performed, but you will need to use the rEFIt instructions for installing rEFIt to the EFI system partition using bless instead of to the MAC partition (which is the default). I have not tried this yet but you can read about it on the rEFIt website.


We will be bootstrapping using Ubuntu. Grab a mac image and flash it to a USB drive. SD cards don't seem to work.

To connect to Ethernet, you'll need a Thunderbolt or USB adapter. Thunderbolt adapters will have to be plugged in at boot (hotplugging doesn't seem to work).

Use MacOS Disk Utility to resize the MacOS partition on the fly, which by default takes up most of the disk, and behind it create your Linux root partition of the size you desire. Note: if you have full disk encryption, you will need to temporarily disable it (takes a while) to make any changes to the partition table.

Now, choose a bootloader so that you can boot the liveUSB and the kernel we'll be making later.


Now you must choose your a EFI boot manager. Currently Apple's Bootcamp doesn't support linux. However there are two option for you: rEFIt and rEFInd.

Using Refit

NB: Refit is no longer supported by OSX Yosemite, this due to changes in the OSX boot loader now treats local installation as quasi LVM. See ReFind for further details

Refit it is very easy to install however be aware that it is dead. There is longer any active development for it. I can confirm that is works well with OSX Mountain Lion however it's untested on OSX Mavericks which it hasnt been tested on. If you want to install it go here.

A major drawback of this method is that you cannot use an initramfs, so if you have lvm or encryption then you must use rEFInd.

You cannot pass kernel arguments using rEFIt, so it is useless on 15 in macbooks where kernel arguments are required (unless you hardcode all arguments, which is very cumbersome).

In this method, the Mac app rEFIt will act as the boot manager/boot loader and it will boot the kernel directly.

Use at least a 3.7 Kernel. The wireless drivers you need later do not compile with a kernel greater than 3.8 at the present time.

Complete the rest of the gentoo installation, and reboot. rEFIt should show Gentoo_37_x64.efi as an option in the boot menu.

Using Refind

Refind which is a fork of Refit and is being actively development and maintained. For installation see follow this link.

This option is recommended for 15 inch versions, as it allows for passing kernel parameters.

Setting up rEFInd must be done from OSX. Essentially it boils down to:

Getting rEFInd

Installing rEFInd

user $mkdir /Volumes/esp
user $sudo mount -t msdos /dev/disk0s1 /Volumes/esp
user $sudo cp -r refind /Volumes/esp/efi/refind
user $sudo bless --mount /Volumes/esp --setBoot --file /Volumes/esp/efi/refind/refind_x64.efi # actually sets it active

Configuring rEFInd

Later, once you've built a kernel, you'll need to edit /Volumes/efi/refind/refind.conf (from within Linux) to add your kernel, as you would with GRUB

FILE /Volumes/efi/refind/refind.conf
menuentry Linux-Bleeding-Modeset-Switch {
    icon EFI/refind/icons/os_gentoo.icns
    loader EFI/gentoo/kernel-3.14-m
    initrd EFI/gentoo/initrd-3.14-m
    options "ro root=UUID=a3b54691-7d5b-3b20-8b80-08cbfa521fbf noapic" # Basic kernel options, specifying root partition by uuid.
 #    options "ro crypt_root=/dev/vg1/root dolvm real_root=/dev/mapper/root rootfstype=ext4 noapic" # kernel options for lvm + luks encryption

You can (and probably should) have several entries, and can edit this file from within linux.

Just compile your kernels normally and install them to EFI/gentoo on the efi partition.

LiveUSB Bootstrap

Now that the bootloader has been installed and the disk is prepared, we are ready to start bootstrapping.

Shut down the Mac, and boot it up twice (Requirement for rEFIt). You should start seeing the rEFIt or rEFInd boot menu after the second reboot.

Now, plug the Ubuntu USB stick into the Mac and boot the Mac. Select the new option in the menu which should be the USB stick. If there are multiple options, keep trying until you get one that boots. At the Ubuntu boot screen, press F6 to disable apic, or you may experience random crashes.

When it boots, most everything should work except the sound on the liveCD.

Proceed with a standard Gentoo install using the Ubuntu live environment. Install your snapshot into the root partition you created (Probably /dev/sdb4) and configure it per the installation instructions but do not install the boot loader. Note that by default the EFI system partition will be /dev/sdb1, Apple root will be /dev/sdb2 and Apple recovery will be /dev/sdb3.

Kernel Configuration

If you are going to use rEFIt, make sure you

I've included my 3.14 kernel config as a reference, which supports:

  • Open source intel and nvidia drivers
  • Apple magic mouse
  • LVM
  • LUKS encryption
  • Bluetooth
  • Everything below

These options are in addition to the standard options you would select for Intel based PC's

Configure your kernel as normal, but add the following options for EFI Stub (needed for rEFIt or rEFInd), More details about Kernel configuration for EFI stub are here: EFI stub kernel:

Processor type and features  --->
  [*] EFI runtime service support 
  [*] EFI stub support
Device Drivers  --->
  Input device support  --->
    [*] Mice  --->
    # For trackpad support
    <*> Apple USB BCM5974 Multitouch trackpad support
  Hardware Monitoring support  --->
    # Motion, light sensor, keyboard backlight
    <*> Apple SMC (Motion sensor, light sensor, keyboard backlight)
  Graphics support  --->
    <*> Intel 8xx/9xx/G3x/G4x/HD Graphics
    Backlight & LCD device support  --->
      # Screen backlight
      <*>     Apple Backlight Driver
  X86 Platform Specific Device Drivers  --->
    <*>   Apple Gmux Driver
  Multimedia support  --->
    Media USB Adapters  --->
      # Webcam
      <M>   USB Video Class (UVC)
  Sound card support  --->
    Advanced Linux Sound Architecture  --->
      PCI sound devices  --->
        <M>   Intel HD Audio  --->
          [*]   Build HDMI/DisplayPort HD-audio codec support
          [*]   Build Cirrus Logic codec support
  USB support  --->
    # USB 3.0 (for integrated keyboard/trackpad)
    <*>  xHCI HCD (USB 3.0) support

Ensure the following options are NOT set (required for proper Broadcom wireless):

Networking support  --->
  Wireless  --->
    < >   Generic IEEE 802.11 Networking Stack (mac80211)
Device Drivers  ---> 
  Network device support  --->
    Wireless LAN  --->
      < >   Broadcom 43xx wireless support (mac80211 stack)
      < >   Broadcom IEEE802.11n embedded FullMAC WLAN driver
  Sonics Silicon Backplane  --->
    < > Sonics Silicon Backplane support

If and only if you are using rEFIt, specify the root hardcoded in the kernel:

Processor type and features  --->
  [*] Built-in kernel command line
  (root=/dev/sda4) Built-in kernel command string

Make sure the root= line on your kernel command line configuration is correct.

Once configured, compile the kernel as normal but do not copy it to /boot. Once it is compiled, do the following:

Required for Audio: Add the following to the bottom of /etc/modprobe.d/alsa:

FILE /etc/modprobe.d/alsa
options snd_hda_intel model=mbp101

Installing the kernel

Your built in Macbook SSD should be /dev/sdb if you booted from the Ubuntu USB which will probably be /dev/sda. Assuming it is /dev/sdb, your "EFI System Partition" will be /dev/sdb1, in which case, copy it to the EFI partition as such:

user $mkdir /mnt/efi
user $mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt/efi
user $cp /usr/src/linux/arch/x86_64/boot/bzImage /mnt/efi/EFI/Boot/Gentoo_37_x64.efi

If you used rEFInd and need an initramfs, copy it over too, and update refind.conf to have a matching menu entry.

It's a good idea with rEFInd to keep a few working kernels around, in case you bork one - this way you can get back in to rescue the system.

Wireless Drivers

There are two driver options for Broadcom wifi.

Open source B43 driver

The BCM 4331 wireless network card is supported by the B43 open source kernel driver. Note: Only B/G modes are supported by this in-kernel driver. 802.11n is not supported. To install disgrade the up listed kernel option for wireless and follow the Wifi guide.

Closed source Broadcom driver

The Broadcom closed source driver is the alternate option for the BCM 4331. In which case please disable the kernel options as detailed above. This driver does support 802.11n. NB broadcom driver must be version or higher. Enable the following kernel options to expose LIB80211 in the kernel:

KERNEL Kernels options for Broadcom-sta driver
Device Drivers
    -> Network device support
        -> Wireless LAN
            -> <*>   Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 Network Connection
root #echo "net-wireless/broadcom-sta" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords
root #emerge --ask broadcom-sta
Only broadcom-sta supports 802.11n at time of writing (Aug 1 2013).

The broadcom-sta driver will have to be recompiled each time you upgrade your kernel.

Media keys

We will control the media keys using xbindkeys. Create an .xbindkeysrc in your home directory with the options mentioned. You can also use xbindkey -k to generate new mappings. To install, add "xbindkeys" to your .xinitrc. You can access function keys by holding the Fn modifier in the bottom left of the keyboard.

We'll also need to create a local.d script:

FILE /etc/local.d/01-keyboard.start
/usr/bin/setpci -v -H1 -s 00:01.00 BRIDGE_CONTROL=0
/bin/chmod a+w /sys/devices/platform/applesmc.768/leds/smc\:\:kbd_backlight/brightness
/bin/chmod a+w /sys/class/backlight/gmux_backlight/brightness

Keyboard backlight

Install xbindkeys and add the following to your .xbindkeysrc:

FILE ~/.xbindkeysrc
"/usr/bin/kb-brightness down"
  m:0x0 + c:237
"/usr/bin/kb-brightness up"
  m:0x0 + c:238
FILE /usr/bin/kb-brightness
current=`cat $kbdb`
if [ "$1" == "up" ];then
   new=$(($current + $step))
elif [ "$1" == "down" ];then 
   new=$(($current - $step))
if [ $new -le 0 ];then
echo $new > $kbdb

Display backlight

This will not work with the proprietary Nvidia graphics driver by any known method.

Add the following tho .xbindkeysrc:

FILE ~/.xbindkeysrc
"/usr/bin/bl-brightness down"
  m:0x0 + c:232
"/usr/bin/bl-brightness up"
  m:0x0 + c:233
FILE /usr/bin/bl-brightness
current=`cat $bldb`
if [ "$1" == "up" ];then
   new=$(($current + $step))
elif [ "$1" == "down" ];then 
   new=$(($current - $step))
if [ $new -le 0 ];then
echo $new > $bldb
current=`cat $bldb`

Audio control keys

This assumes you are using ALSA, and have your card properly configured:

Add the following to your .xbindkeysrc:

FILE ~/.xbindkeysrc
# Increase volume
"amixer set Master playback 1+ unmute"
# Decrease volume
"amixer set Master playback 1-"
"amixer set Master toggle"

Application configuration

Keeping retina resolution

If you plan to use the retina display at native resolution on the 13" or 15" MBP, you probably want to make it a little more readable. To do this, most toolkits have DPI configuration. In KDE, you can find it in systemsettings > Application appearance > Font > DPI, set it at 160 for 1.5x resolution and 220 for 1.0x resolution (letting it at 96 will be equal to 2.0x resolution). For terminals such as xterm and urxvt, edit ~/.Xdefaults to add:

FILE ~/.Xdefaults
Xft.dpi:       160
Xft.antialias: 1
Xft.hinting:   1
Xft.hintstyle: hintfull
Xft.rgba:      rgb
urxvt*font: xft:DejaVu Sans:pixelsize=16

For GTK+, font size can be set in ~/.gtkrc-2.0. It can also share KDE settings when using oxygen-gtk.

Downscaling resolution

This will just globally cut the resolution in half, and provides a much more "normal" experience, while sacrificing the additional resolution. IMHO, this is totally worth it and actually works way better.

Add the following to your .xinitrc:

FILE ~/.xinitrc
monitor=`xrandr | grep -i edp | cut -d " " -f 1`
xrandr --newmode  "1440x900_60.00"  106.50  1440 1528 1672 1904  900 903 909 934 -hsync +vsync
xrandr --addmode $monitor 1440x900_60.00
xrandr --output $monitor --mode 1440x900_60.00

Turn off backlight when screen closed

The hardware does not automatically shut off the backlight like other laptops. Make the following change. Edit /etc/acpi/ and find the commented #lid) section, the lid) case should look like this:

FILE /etc/acpi/
  xset -display :0 dpms force off

In addition, edit /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/00-xhost and add the following line to the bottom of the file. This gives root permission to run xset.

FILE /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/00-xhost
xhost +local:0 > /dev/null 2>&1

Restart ACPID and the X server for this to take effect.

What's Not Yet Working

Everything I can think to test works, except the following:

  • Thunderbolt does not work with hotplug. Boot with the adapter connected.
  • The SD card reader is giving me some troubles. It works fine with some cards but I am having errors with other cards. But it does seem to work sometimes. I get the following:
 [16032.337737] mmc0: Switching to 1.8V signalling voltage failed, retrying with S18R set to 0
 [16049.257421] mmc0: error -110 whilst initialising SD card


The Arch Linux wiki is a very good reference. If you're interested in setting up an encripted rootfs on lvm Funtoo has a great article.