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James Gardner: Home > Blog > 2010 > Draft Instructions for Debian...

Draft Instructions for Debian Lenny 5.0 on the Macbook Air

Posted:2010-03-08 13:10
Tags:Debian, Macbook Air
Headline:Draft instructions for installing Debian Lenny on a Macbook Air and getting everything working.

I bought a MacBook Air as soon as they were availble in the Apple Store in Regent Street, London and it had served me well until January. Ubuntu Karmic was telling me my hard disk was failing and sure enough I started getting strange data loss problems. Not wanting to believe it and since the number of bad sectors wasn't going on I thought it might just be Karmic mis-behaving so I installed Debian 5. It only lasted a few days before the data loss problems removed large parts of the disk, preventing me from booting at all. At that point I took the MacBook Air in to have a replacement hard drive fitted and 5/6 weeks later I still haven't got it back (but that's a different story) so I haven't re-tested the instructions in this file. In fact it was so difficult compared to Ubuntu I expect I'll just wait for the release of Lucid and install that. I hope that dispite that they might still be useful to someone. See the further reading links at the bottom too.



Installation proceeds fine but afterwards GRUB doesn't work. Other instructions suggest running update-grub2 gptsync during the installation. I did afterwards from a rescue disk but it had no effect. Instead I got reFIT to rescan the partitions to boot by selecting the appropriate icon from the reFIT screen. This did the trick.

Set up sudo

# apt-get install sudo
# visudo

Change Apt Settings

Now remove the CD from the list of Debian sources.

sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Change Nautilus behaviour

First click Edit->Preferences then in the Behaviour tab tick "Always open in browser windows". Then install the equivelent of Microsoft's CmdHere powertoy for Nautilus under Linux:

sudo apt-get install nautilus-open-terminal


The wireless drivers I need are on a remote server I access with SSHFS. I need to install SSHFS to mount the drive with the wireless drivers. You need a USB ethernet drive or get them from the MacBook Air CD instead:

sudo apt-get install sshfs

Mount it:

mkdir ~/Desktop/Archive
sudo sshfs -o allow_other,ro root@ ~/Desktop/Archive


Install the unrar deb from http://packages.ubuntu.com/hardy/unrar:

sudo dpkg -i unrar_3.7.8-1_amd64.deb

Then get ndiswrapper installed and working:

sudo apt-get install ndiswrapper-common ndiswrapper-utils-1.9 # May not need ndiswrapper-common here.
sudo apt-get install ndiswrapper-source
sudo module-assistant prepare
sudo module-assistant auto-install ndiswrapper

Get the broadcomxpinstaller.exe file from the Mac OS X DVD and install the firmware like this:

mkdir ~/Desktop/wireless
cp /home/james/Desktop/Archive/Work\ 3/Essentials/Mac/broadcomxpinstaller.exe ~/Desktop/wireless
cd ~/Desktop/wireless
chmod u+w .
unrar x broadcomxpinstaller.exe
sudo ndiswrapper -i bcmwl5.inf
sudo ndiswrapper -m
sudo modprobe -v ndiswrapper

Check the status:

sudo ndiswrapper -l
bcmwl5 : driver installed
        device (14E4:4328) present (alternate driver: ssb)

Add the line:


to /etc/modules and the line:

install ndiswrapper modprobe -r ohci_hcd ssb; modprobe --ignore-install ndiswrapper $CMDLINE_OPTS; modprobe ohci_hcd

to the end of /etc/modprobe.d/ndiswrapper

If you reboot you should find the driver is loaded:

$ dmesg | grep ndis
[  277.010208] ndiswrapper version 1.53 loaded (smp=yes, preempt=no)
[  277.089968] usbcore: registered new interface driver ndiswrapper

Disable then enable networking from the Network Manager icon in the top right in Gnome, wait a few seconds and the networks should be detected. Choose the correct network, enter the WEP key and then run:

ifdown wlan0
ifup wlan0

You should now be connected.

Next time you login, network manager should connect you automatically.


Create /etc/modprobe.d/sound with this content:

alias snd-card-0 snd-hda-intel
options snd-hda-intel model=mbp3

When you reboot sound should work. Test it with a YouTube video (Flash is already installed).

Importing from Digital Camera

The Canon IXUS 30 is detected, but the import fails because it doesn't use PTP mode. This is easily worked around though by using a command line wrapper of the libgphoto2 library:

sudo apt-get install gphoto2
gphoto2 --get-all-files --camera "Canon Digital IXUS 30 (PTP mode)" --port "usb:004,025" --debug --debug-logfile=my-logfile2.txt

Running Windows

This can be done via KVM but there is no need to use Virtulization Manager (virt-manager). In fact it is easier to set things up manually.

Stop the libvirt daemon, you don't need it and it gets in the way:

sudo /etc/init.d/libvirt-bin stop

Copy the XML files from your previous setup to /etc/libvirt/qemu. Then install the tools you need:

sudo apt-get install kvm uml-utilities

Now manually configure the network (you'll need to do this once for each time you reboot your computer and want to use a virtual machine):

sudo brctl addbr br0
brctl show
sudo ifconfig br0 netmask up
sudo modprobe tun
sudo tunctl -b -u root -t qtap0
sudo brctl addif br0 qtap0
sudo ifconfig qtap0 up promisc

Ensure that /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward has the number 1 in it and that IP routing is set up for your actual network device that connects to the internet (mine is eth1 which is used in the command below, usually it is eth0):

sudo -s
echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
sudo iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth1 -j MASQUERADE

The bridge now looks like this:

$ sudo brctl show
bridge name bridge id               STP enabled     interfaces
br0         8000.00ff18fbff78       no              qtap0

You can choose your own IP address for the bridge but it must be on a different range from any other networks your machine is using.

$ /sbin/ifconfig
br0       Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:ff:18:fb:ff:78
          inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
          inet6 addr: fe80::2864:d1ff:fe10:65af/64 Scope:Link
          RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:42 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:0
          RX bytes:0 (0.0 B)  TX bytes:8304 (8.1 KiB)

lo        Link encap:Local Loopback
          inet addr:  Mask:
          inet6 addr: ::1/128 Scope:Host
          UP LOOPBACK RUNNING  MTU:16436  Metric:1
          RX packets:8 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:8 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:0
          RX bytes:560 (560.0 B)  TX bytes:560 (560.0 B)

qtap0     Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:ff:18:fb:ff:78
          inet6 addr: fe80::2ff:18ff:fefb:ff78/64 Scope:Link
          RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:20 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:500
          RX bytes:0 (0.0 B)  TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)

wlan0     Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:1f:5b:84:23:e2
          UP BROADCAST MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
          RX packets:2482 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:2688 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000
          RX bytes:2053520 (1.9 MiB)  TX bytes:436466 (426.2 KiB)
          Interrupt:16 Memory:90300000-90304000

You can now ping the bridge:


You can start the virtual machine directly like this:

sudo /usr/bin/kvm -M pc -m 512 -smp 1 -name WindowsXP -monitor pty -localtime -no-acpi -boot c -drive file=/home/james/Vms/windowsxp/hda.img,if=ide,index=0,boot=on -drive file=,if=ide,media=cdrom,index=2 -net nic,macaddr=54:52:00:12:ba:a7 -net tap,ifname=qtap0,script=no,downscript=no -serial pty -parallel none -usb -usbdevice tablet -k en-gb -soundhw es1370

Here's a version for an Ubuntu virtual machine:

sudo /usr/bin/kvm -M pc -m 512 -smp 1 -name GRP -monitor pty -localtime -no-acpi -boot c -drive file=/home/james/Vms/grp/ubuntu-kvm/disk0.qcow2,if=ide,index=0,boot=on -drive file=/home/james/Vms/grp/ubuntu-kvm/disk1.qcow2,if=ide,index=1 -net nic,macaddr=52:54:00:39:81:49 -net tap,ifname=qtap1,script=no,downscript=no -serial pty -parallel none -usb -usbdevice tablet -k en-gb

If you want to start the second machine after the first you'll need a new tun device first:

sudo tunctl -b -u root -t qtap1
sudo brctl addif br0 qtap1
sudo ifconfig qtap1 up promisc


Sound doesn't seem to work. I'm not sure why but it isn't a major concern for me personally as I only use virtual machines as servers.

The two "-net" switches have a different meaning but are both needed:

Specifies network interface options on the guest side, each guest should have a different mac address


Specifies network interface options on the host side. The "script=no" means not use the scripts in /etc/kvm/kvm.ifup which is what we want because we've configured the networking manually.

Once the machine has booted you'll need to manually give it a static IP address in the range inclusive. The gateway and the DNS server should be set to the IP address of the bridge too, in this example.

If you are running Linux you can achieve this by adding this to your /etc/network/interfaces file:

# The primary network interface
auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static
 up route add dev eth0
 up route add default gw
 down route del default gw
 down route del dev eth0

You should set /etc/resolv.conf to look like this:


If you have problems with networking try to ping the bridge:


If this fails you have misconfigured networking. Now try to ping an external IP address on the internet which you know exists. For example:


If this fails you have not set up IP routing correctly on the host machine. Now try to ping a domain name:

ping google.com

If this fails you have not set up DNS servers correctly.

The advantage of this manual command line approach is that you can easily add more configuration, such as USB devices, which you couldn't easily do through the GUI.

If you are happier with GUI interfaces you can install Virtual Machine Manger but be aware it might set things up differently. When debugging problems with the approach the GUI app takes it is handy to look in /var/log/libvirt for tips.

sudo apt-get install kvm virt-manager

Gnome Configuration

Make all the fonts size 9 instead of 10.


sudo apt-get install vim-nox mercurial unzip rsync dosfstools dia apache2-utils dia iceweasel-firebug
sudo apt-get remove --purge epiphany-browser nano

Microsoft Fonts

Replace these lines in /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ lenny main
deb-src http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ lenny main

with these:

deb http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ lenny main contrib
deb-src http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ lenny main contrib

Install like this:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer

Then put the lines back and run this again:

sudo apt-get update


Install dependencies:

sudo apt-get install libnspr4-dev

Add this to /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb http://www.backports.org/debian lenny-backports main contrib non-free

Install Flash:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree
sudo /usr/sbin/update-flashplugin-nonfree --install

After these commands comment out the line you added in /etc/apt/sources.list and run this again:

sudo apt-get update


Following the instructions for the touchpad below also fix the keyboard. Make sure the keyboard section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf has these lines:

Section "InputDevice"
   Identifier      "Generic Keyboard"
   Driver          "kbd"
   Option          "CoreKeyboard"
   Option          "XkbRules"      "xorg"
   Option          "XkbModel"      "pc105"
   Option          "XkbLayout"     "gb"
   Option          "XkbOptions"    "lv3:rwin_switch,apple:badmap"


sudo apt-get install libpci-dev
wget http://hackweb.altervista.org/downloads/backlight-0.1.1.tar.gz
tar zxfv backlight-0.1.1.tar.gz
cd backlight-0.1.1


$ backlight
Failed to detect video card, aborting...


This is a bit of a pain but the instructions below do work:

Build and install the bcm5974 driver:

sudo apt-get install git-core dpkg-dev debhelper
git clone http://bitmath.org/git/bcm5974-dkms.git # rev 9ef004eb41fe5e2b087d61b00e3963fad97e6332
git clone http://bitmath.org/git/usbhid-dkms.git # rev 04b66d9b55676e0347b9c8bfa04d5d15dd8dc0f0
wget http://linux.dell.com/dkms/permalink/dkms_2.0.20.4-0ubuntu1_all.deb
dpkg -i dkms_2.0.20.4-0ubuntu1_all.deb
cd bcm5974-dkms/
make bump
sudo dpkg-buildpackage
cd ..
cd usbhid-dkms/
make bump
sudo dpkg-buildpackage
cd ..
sudo dpkg -i bcm5974-dkms_1.1.1_all.deb usbhid-dkms_0.11.1_all.deb
sudo modprobe bcm5974

Replace your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file with this.

# Get back to the default configuration like this:
#   sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

Section "Module"
   Load    "glx"
   Load    "synaptics"

Section "InputDevice"
   Identifier      "Generic Keyboard"
   Driver          "kbd"
   Option          "CoreKeyboard"
   Option          "XkbRules"      "xorg"
   Option          "XkbModel"      "pc105"
   Option          "XkbLayout"     "gb"
   Option          "XkbOptions"    "lv3:rwin_switch,apple:badmap"

Section "InputDevice"
   Identifier      "Synaptics Touchpad" Driver  "synaptics"
   Option  "SendCoreEvents"        "true"
   Option  "Device"                "/dev/input/mice"
   Option  "Protocol"              "auto-dev"
   Option  "SHMConfig"             "true"
   Option  "New AccelFactor"       "0.03"
   Option  "LeftEdge"              "0"
   Option  "RightEdge"             "1280"
   Option  "RightEdge"             "1280"
   Option  "TopEdge"               "0"
   Option  "BottomEdge"            "800"
   Option  "MinSpeed"              "0.94"
   Option  "MaxSpeed"              "1"
   Option  "AccelFactor"           "0.0015"
   Option  "RTCornerButton"        "2"
   Option  "RBCornerButton"        "3"
   Option  "LTCornerButton"        "2"
   Option  "LBCornerButton"        "3"
   Option  "FingerHigh"            "30"
   Option  "FingerLow"             "20"
   Option  "MaxTapTime"            "150"
   Option  "FastTaps"              "0"
   Option  "TapButton1"            "1"
   Option  "TapButton2"            "2"
   Option  "TapButton3"            "3"
#edge scroll
   Option  "VertEdgeScroll"        "0"
   Option  "HorizEdgeScroll"       "0"
   Option  "VertScrollDelta"       "5"
   Option  "HorizScrollDelta"      "0"
#two finger scroll
   Option  "VertTwoFingerScroll"   "1"
   Option  "HorizTwoFingerScroll"  "1"

Section "Device"
   Identifier      "Configured Video Device"

Section "Monitor"
   Identifier      "Configured Monitor"

Section "ServerLayout"
   Identifier "Main Layout"
   Screen "Default Screen"
   InputDevice "Synaptics Touchpad"
   InputDevice "Generic Keyboard"
    Screen         "Default Screen" 0 0

Section "Screen"
        Identifier      "Default Screen"
        Monitor         "Configured Monitor"

Now you can restart. Two finger tap is middle click, three is right click. Scroll by putting two fingers on the pad and moving around.

Filesystem Support

sudo apt-get install hfsutils hfsprogs dosfstools

Make Gvim Default

Get a terminal, and cd to ~/.local/share/applications. There is now a new file in there called gvim-usercreated.desktop

In that same path create a new file called defaults.list with the following info:

[Default Applications]

Restart nautilus with killall nautilus then edit ~/.gvimrc:

set gfn=Monospace\ 9

Further Reading

System Message: WARNING/2 (<string>, line 599)

Bullet list ends without a blank line; unexpected unindent.


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James Gardner: Home > Blog > 2010 > Draft Instructions for Debian...