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Ubuntu 6.10 Live DVD on the Apple MacBook

15 November 2006

Since I teach various Linux courses at Fontys Centrum IT, I want to run a live CD or DVD on my MacBook. First off, here are my specs:

As my Live medium I chose the Ubuntu Linux 6.10 Live DVD. This DVD has several nice options (install server, for example) that I like. It also can boot up in a live desktop environment. ~ As a matter of fact, everything I need works out of the box. Wireless works fine, my mouse (USB Logitech) works, the FireWire harddisk (which has a FAT32 filesystem, so I can hook it to my girl friend’s Windows PC) works perfectly.

There are only two things that didn’t work.

  1. Xvid codecs are missing, so I can’t watch my Prison Break episodes from the Live environment, but that’s perfectly fine. That’s not what I need the live environment for.

  2. The screen resolution can only be set to a maximum of 1024x768. As I mentioned before, the TFT has a native resolution of 1280x800. Because of the scaling, my screen doesn’t look as sharp and sexy as it should.

In order to solve this problem I had to take a few, rather easy, steps.

To get started, let us assign a password to the default ubuntu user.

sudo passwd ubuntu

Now enter something that you’ll remember easily, twice.

In order to get Ubuntu to recognize the native screen resolution automatically, we’ll need a special package: 915resolution. Since the MacBook has an Intel 945 graphics chipset, we can use this tool. But, this tool is not in the default package respository. It’s in the Universe.

So, we now need to change /etc/apt/sources.list and add the universe repository. This is rather easy, because these repositories already exist, but are commented out. Just open up /etc/apt/sources.list and uncomment the two universe lines. Make sure your sources.list looks like this:

deb edgy main restricted
deb-src edgy main restricted

## Uncomment the following two lines to add software from the 'universe'
## repository.
## N.B. software from this repository is ENTIRELY UNSUPPORTED by the Ubuntu
## team, and may not be under a free licence. Please satisfy yourself as to
## your rights to use the software. Also, please note that software in
## universe WILL NOT receive any review or updates from the Ubuntu security
## team.
deb edgy universe
deb-src edgy universe

deb edgy-security main restricted
deb-src edgy-security main restricted

Now, we can update our system and install the 915resolution package.

apt-get update
apt-get install 915resolution

You’ll notice that 915resolution spits out a lot of information on your chipset and native resolution. You should check here that the 1280x800 resolution has been detected.

Now you’re all set. Well, you’ll need to restart the X Server in order for it to recognize the newly discovered resolution. I basically pressed CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE to kick the X Server. I’m presented with a login screen. Here I login as ‘ubuntu’ with the password I specified earlier.

If everything went fine, you’ll now get a clear and sharp display of your Ubuntu life desktop.

I also turned on sub-pixel smoothing in System -> Preferences -> Fonts to get some sexier and smoother looking fonts.

That’s all. I can now boot-up the Ubuntu Live DVD and get the native resolution for my MacBook.

For those who want to keep the native resolution on their installed Ubuntu, just install the 915resolution package mentioned above and you’re set. Easy as that.