Allocate an old computer to my daughter, as part of home schooling due to COVID-19, so that she can attend Webex conference with her teacher and classmates as well as sign into some online E-learning app.
For actually a few weeks I developed interest in the opportunity to convert an
aging iMac (mid-2011) into a Linux computer.
I have been hesitant by fear to mess it up or to embark onto a time consuming project.
That was before I remembered I had an even older Mac around I could probably mess up with and that could be useful for my daughter's Home schooling.
This older Mac is an Apple Macbook from 2006 with 2GB of RAM.
It was getting covered with dust in the bottom of a drawer for a few years
Well, it looks like the current pandemic situation is giving it a chance the revive, but under a new skin!
For starter, you need an ISO image of a suitable Linux distribution that this computer could support.
My initial choice was Ubuntu 16.04 (32bit), but ended up using a lighter one in the name of Lubuntu 16.04 (32bit).
This Macbook does not support booting from USB, so make sure the Mac you wish to
repurpose supports this before going wild about using Etcher to create a USB
flash drive to boot from. If your Mac support it, good for you and go ahead with
In my case I burned the ISO on a DVD, from another Mac with optical drive.
Here are the steps to get the install going:
- Go to Lubuntu 16.04 release download page and grab the image that fits your Mac. For my 2006 Macbook, it was "32-bit PC (i386) desktop image".
- Once downloaded, right click on the downloaded file in the Finder, and pick the option to Burn it. Advice: You may want to select a low Burning speed to avoid to waste a DVD-R with an aborted copy.
- On the target Mac, that hopefully has a working optical drive, insert the
DVD and restart it holding the
Ckey until it boots on the DVD.
- Follow the installation instructions with the choices that makes sense to you.
- If you ever get to configure your Keyboard, do not just pick the language but also the layout of the language, for instance, "English (Macintosh)", because English PC and Macintosh have different keyboard layouts 😉.
- At the end of the installation, you are asked to restart the computer.
- After restart, Boom! You should be running Lubuntu by now, congrats.
You should be doing the Software updates in order to have, for instance, the latest Firefox...
Configuring the Apple iSight webcam
Out of the box you won't be able to use your Mac internal webcam. It is though a fairly simple task to achieve to configure it.
Just use the following steps:
- Get the AppleUSBVideoSupport file. You can find that file on an existing Mac
OSX 10.4 or 10.5 installation at this location:
/System/Library/Extensions/IOUSBFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/AppleUSBVideoSupport.kext/Contents/MacOS/AppleUSBVideoSupportor you can download it from Download the zip that contains the AppleUSBVideoSupport file
- Store the AppleUSBVideoSupport somewhere in your newly Lubuntu Mac.
- Open the Terminal(
Menu > System Tools > LXTerminal)
- Update your repositories with
sudo apt-get update.
- Install the iSight Firmware Tools with
sudo apt-get install isight-firmware-tools
- The installer will ask you for the AppleUSBVideoSupport file. give it the right path to that file.
- Reboot or log out and log back in. You can now use your iSight.
Where to go from here
You may want to optimize and customize your Lubuntu, right?
This Lubuntu 16.04 review and how to make it better video does a great job at guiding you.
The repurposed Mac runs fairly smooth, at least much better than it was before
It is perfect for browsing the web unless you get to use some fancy online apps, like Cisco Webex for instance.
Using this last one is possible through Firefox or Chrome add-on/extension. You should give it a try to judge. In my case and at this stage I'm not sure that my issue with it was only related to CPU/RAM. This could also be a bandwidth issue.
In the end, since my daughter's need is heavily relying on the ability to have stable conference calls, it is less likely she will use that computer. On the other hand, the E-learning online app was running smoothly though.
The exercise was worth it in my opinion, because now I feel more confident to go ahead and repurpose my mid-2011 iMac with most likely 64-bit Ubuntu.