The Virtualbox Option

Frustrated by the incompatible nature of the Macbook’s proprietary architecture, I found relief in the highly compatible nature of Virtualbox.  Ubuntu runs very well in Virtualbox on the Mac, even with an external display.  

I would describe it as quick, snappy, or responsive.  It’s a wonderful alternative to replacing the machine.

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Ubuntu 14.04.1 on MacBook Pro 11,3

It works, but not well enough for me.

I had some time on my hands, so I decided to load up Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on my late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina.  I did what I usually do, spent a while reading the most germane postings on the web, then partitioned off about thirty gig of space and worked my way through the install.

I knew from my reading that there were a few issues that would likely never be addressed, like the camera not working, but that wasn’t a deal-breaker.  I don’t really care about the camera on the laptop.  I use the phone to do most video stuff.

At the end of the day I found myself wiping the OSes and reloading OSX from scratch.

Apple’s closed ecosystem strikes again.

There are, apparently, two video systems in this laptop.  One by Intel, and one by Nvidia.  I knew this going in, and suspected it might not be working in my favor.  That fact really didn’t factor directly into the end result, but it does illustrate how Apple plays in its own sandbox, ignoring the rest of the children.  Compatibility is not a consideration.

Testing:  I started with the normal Ubuntu install.  The regular Unity desktop didn’t handle the pixel density well, resulting in tiny fonts and other video wanks. 

Next I tried Ubuntu Gnome.   The Retina display looked great in the Gnome desktop environment.  Everything was looking good.  I even got a little excited for a moment.

However, when I added a 1080p display via HDMI, Gnome’s video subsystems kept getting confused.  When I pulled windows from the Retina display to the external monitor, they were huge.  They were not being scaled for the display.

I use external monitors all the time, so this was a deal-breaker.  While it is certainly true Linux will run on the MacBook Pro, the details on which it stumbles are too important for me to overlook.  

As always, your mileage may vary.  

I’ll just wait until I can replace this Mac with a better laptop.

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