As announced at the beginning of December last year, work on porting Linux to the new Apple devices with the ARM chip M1 has now officially started. The project, which was initiated by Linux developer Hector Martin, is called Asahi Linux.
For the Asahi Linux project, Hector Martin is supported by Alyssa Rosenzweig, who won the Google Open Source Award in 2020 with her free Mali driver for Linux “Panfrost”.
As Rosenzweig writes in her blog, that she is currently working on reverse engineering the GPU of the M1 processor.
So far, almost nothing is known about specific details about the architecture of the GPUs designed by Apple itself. It has often been speculated that the Apple GPU is based in part on the ideas and technology of the PowerVR GPUs, the designs of which the iPhone manufacturer has long used in its smartphones.
Asahi project founder Martin is primarily responsible for the kernel and thus for the hardware initialization.
“Our goal is not just to make Linux run on these machines but to polish it to the point where it can be used as a daily OS. Doing this requires a tremendous amount of work, as Apple Silicon is an entirely undocumented platform” — Hector Martin, Founder of Asahi Linux.
The developers emphasize on the project’s official website that this is not a jailbreak and no macOS code is used. The project is therefore absolute and legal in every respect.
“As long as no code is taken from macOS to build the Linux support, the result is completely legal to distribute and for end-users to use, as it would not be a derivative work of macOS.”
Asahi Linux aims to become a fully functional Linux distribution for Macs with an M1 SoC, and the current status can be followed on the Asahi Linux project page on the GitHub developer platform.