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The Case of the Outdated iMac

 ·   3 min read  ·   Quinton Jasper


I have an old 2010 iMac (A1311) who’s main function is to sit on top of my minifridge and look pretty.

In terms of its functionality, it once ran MacOS version 10.13 High Sierra to some extent. But, because I’m a Linux freak, I’ve made
multiple attempts at installing Linux, hoping it would be a good solution for updating it’s since discontinued operating system. However, each time I’ve installed a new distribution (I’ve tried many) I consistently find myself at a black screen on first boot into the installed system. Sometimes, if I’m lucky enough, I even get a black screen on first boot into the installed, live environment! So, what’s going on here?

Things I’ve Noticed

While Macs are often problematic when it comes to customization, I’ve determined that the overarching design decisions made by Apple here are not entirely to blame.

I’ve managed to get Linux installed on several other Apple products from the 2009-2011 era, and have had moderate success. The only issues I really have are due to the fact that the hardware and chassis are over 10 years old now and are deteriorating. This also plays a major role as to why I’m having my problem with this specific device.

The Issue

The problem here is due to outdated graphics card drivers. This iMac is equipped with an ATI Radeon HD 4670. To get a better grasp of the timeline, according to the limited responses on da forums, these drivers were last supported in Ubuntu 14.04 (ca. 2014)
and I believe they have been depricated and removed in later versions of the linux kernel, terminating support after version 3.4. I guess that’s to be expected, since ATI Technologies was purchased by AMD and subsequently dissolved by 2010.

The Current Solution

The solution that every single support forum told me was:

Include nomodeset in your grub boot parameters

And it does work! Not very well, but at least I’m able to use the computer.

If you’re a beginner and don’t know how to do this yourself, do a search for How to add GRUB boot parameters.

NOTE: I’m a little paranoid with using direct links to webpages because they always break over time. But knowing exactly what to search for always works in the end.

Further Testing

So, the above solution will work in the majority of cases, but as I’ve also implied, its not satisfactory for my needs. By using nomodeset, we disable hardware acceleration, which isn’t ideal. This is where a little more research will come into play. It would be nice if I could remove the unsupported GPU, or bypass it to use Intel integrated graphics. Though, I have a feeling it wont be that simple. I’ll post updates if anything new develops.

Quinton Jasper
Applications Developer