Posted on December 2, 2012

Debian + Enlightenment on a Macbook Pro

Been spending the last nights trying to make a clean installation of Debian with Enlightenment on my Macbook Pro (mid 2010). The idea was to start with a really basic Debian server, no desktop environment at all, and then go all the way up to having Enlightenment as the window manager; all this, installing just the absolutely necessary software.

Small warning: these instructions are for the mid-2010 model. If you have a different model just hack your way through and


  1. Get your Debian cd. I picked up one of those netinst small CDs (180 mb) since I wanted a really small installation, where I would do all the tweaking afterwards;
  2. Get rEFIt and install it. I suggest that after you install rEFIt you try first to restart your Mac and verify that you can still login to OSX;
  3. Open Disk Utility and make that HFS+ partition smaller. No need to create any new partition for linux – parted will do that for you later;
  4. Shove that Debian CD in your Mac and reboot.

Installing Debian

As you boot your Mac into the rEFIt menu, you should see an option there to boot from the CD. Otherwise, just press C when booting and the Mac bootloader will do that for you.

Here’s the things you should pay attention to during the installation:

  1. Get yourself a network cable so that you can pull new packages from the internet during the installation. You will not have wifi until much later in the process.
  2. During partitioning, you may see another partition (something like Mac OS Recovery partition) in your disk, besides the OSX partition and the rEFIt partition. You’ll probably have to delete this one since Linux needs to be on one of the first 4 partitions and the installer will still create another partition after the OSX one.
  3. When the time comes to install Grub, do not put it on the Master Boot Record - that’s for rEFIt!

If everything goes ok, you’ll end up removing the CD from the drive and rebooting. Now, DO NOT boot into linux yet! While in the rEFIt screen, first go into the settings screen and synchronize the partition table. Now restart the mac again and now yes, boot into Linux.

Getting Enlightenment

So, after you boot into linux, you’ll only have the good old bash. In fact, the system is so basic that you won’t even have sudo, lynx or vim (these are kind of standard for me, but you will certainly have your own favorites here).

Now, I’m going to focus on what you have to do to get enlightenment. If you notice you that there’s some other tool you’re missing, just apt-get it.

You’ll start by editing your sources.list and changing your distribution to testing. You’ll need this because (as of writing time) E17 is part of the testing distribution and is not part of stable. I also added to each line there the contrib and non-free repositories, just in case.

Save and apt-get update, apt-get upgrade and apt-get dist-upgrade. This will take a while. After that is done we get Xorg and E17: apt-get install xorg e17

You’ll be able to start E17 by running startx.

You’ll notice that E will be very very empty. As in, totally completely empty. But that is what I was wanting to do.

Now I have a clean system where I will install all the things I need and want, and only those. Again, whatever you want to install is your business. There is only one more thing to finish this post and put you in the right track and that is to be able to let go of that cable.

Cutting the cable

Going wireless was by far the thing that took more time so far. Now that I managed to do it, it actually looks pretty simple…

Install wireless-tools to figure out if your network card was found:

apt-get install wireless-tools
  1. check what’s under wlan0. If it’s empty then just read through
  2. apt-get install module-assistant
  3. m-a a-i broadcom-sta
  4. update-initramfs -u -k $(uname -r)
  5. modprobe -r b44 b43 b43legacy ssb
  6. modprobe wl
  7. iwconfig

You should now see your network card under wlan0. Only thing missing is installing an app to connect to your wireless network:

apt-get install wicd wicd-cli wicd-daemon wicd-gtk

In your E menu, under Applications, Network, you’ll find Wicd. Open it and in the preferences make sure that under Wireless interface you have wlan0.

That should do it.

Now, there’s still a lot to do but this is a good start for a super fresh system, ready to be tweaked.