I got a Mac Pro…to run Linux and Windows

It’s a dual quad-core Intel 3.0GHz Xeon machine (that’s 8 cores!) with 8 GB of RAM and 1TB of disk space and an NVIDIA Geforce 7300GT! I also have 2 new 20″ widescreen monitors attached to it. My guess is that Apple is eating a substantial amount of the cost of these computers to get them in the hands of people like me. While, maybe people who hate Apple less than I do. Actually, I doubt there is anyone who hates Apple more than I do. But luckily I’ve got it to dual-boot Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP64. We have another identical workstation running OSX, so I plan to do some benchmarking at some point. Here’s how to configure a Mac Pro to dual boot Linux/Windows:

  • Do not try to install 32-bit operating systems. I had fun trying to do this on a computer with 8GB of RAM.
  • Don’t read anything from Apple about dual booting. Especially don’t use Boot Camp – it’s worthless. It seems like the Mac Pro is set up like pretty much any other computer running BIOS. Apple tries to scare you into believing that your computer will blow up and destroy the world if you don’t have Mac OSX and Boot Camp installed. Don’t listen to them. The only real difference is that you have to hold down ‘c’ to boot off the CD. That, and you need a paper clip to open the CD tray because Apple doesn’t believe in putting eject buttons on their computers.
  • Install a 64-bit version of Windows first. I found it useful to boot with the Ubuntu LiveCD and create partitions with gparted. The Windows XP installer seemed to get confused when I had to hard disks in the machine, but when I removed the disk that Windows was not being installed on, everything worked just fine.
  • You will need to download and install Intel Pro1000 and Nvidia drivers in order to get networking and graphics acceleration in Windows. I have not tested sound yet.
  • Next install the latest 64-bit version of Ubuntu 7.04. There is a lot of active discussion on their message boards, and the hardware support for the installer seems better than Debian for Macs. It will install Grub, and you should be able to boot without any problems. You may encounter some cryptic errors related to reading the CD which seem to be related to the model of the CD-ROM drive that came in your Mac Pro. There are a couple different hardware versions that have shipped, and some work while others don’t.
  • Currently, getting sound in Ubuntu requires manually compiling the newest version of ALSA. The packaged Nvidia graphics drivers will work, however.
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