Apple Macbook 3.1 (2010) can install Ubuntu alongside Mac OS using a USB disk,  and successfully setting up drivers of video, audio, wireless, multi-touchpad, and so on. And this is a installation guide for someone who would like a dual-boot Ubuntu on Macbook Air 3.1

Note: This tutorial is written for someone with both Ubuntu and Mac OS X experience. Think a little before an action.


a, Create two partitions on Macbook Air(following MBA in short) for Ubuntu file system and swap area.
b, Install rEFIt as a boot loader for select booting Mac OS or Ubuntu.
c, Download Ubuntu iso image file.
d, using mkisohybrid to create Live usb and simulate usb as CDROM.
e, access Ubuntu graphical installation guide via USB.
f, boot into Ubuntu and install drivers.

Steps and details:

1.) Create two partitions for installing Ubuntu.

Run the app “Disk Utility” in MBA. Create two partitions on Macintosh HD, one 1GB as swap area(Disk0d3) and one for Ubuntu root partition(Disk0d4).

2.) Install rEFIt.

Download Mac Disk Imae of rEFIt from here and install it.

3.) Download Ubuntu iso image.

Download from here. ubuntu10.10 desktop i386 was tested.

4.) Create bootable USB

Prepare a more than 1GB usb flash drive and make a backup. Then here need a Linux machine(or a Linux virtual machine running on Macbook Air). On the Linux, download mkisohybrid_syslinux403.tar.gz. Insert USB flash drive and check the device name(for example /dev/sdb), run following:

tar xvf mkisohybrid_syslinux403.tar.gz
cd mkisohybrid
sudo sh /PATH/TO/ubuntu-10.10-desktop-i386.iso
sudo dd if=OriginalISO_hybrid.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1M
sudo eject /dev/sdb

5.) Install Ubuntu

Plug USB flash drive into MBA and restart. At rEFIt menu select booting from USB(try reboot if has a long-playing black screen and try press the “F6” or “e” key while starting up), press F6 select “kernel boot option: nomodeset” and then start installation.

Pay attention to following while installation:

a, make sure “install 3rd party software” was selected for wireless driver.
b, the two partitions created in step1(disk0d3, disk0d4) here display sda3, sda4.
c, Boot loader should install in sda4(ubuntu root partition) or original loader of MBA be destroyed.

6.) Install video card driver

Restart MBA select booting into Linux. Press “e” in Grub menu and then replace “quiet splash” with “nomodeset”, finally press Ctrl+X to boot Ubuntu. At first log-in Ubuntu brightness is not comfortable and hardware drivers are not prepared.

First connect to wireless network:

Go to System -> Administration -> Additional drivers, choose and install an appropriate graphical driver(at first log-in, “nvidia” may not shown in Additional driver, try reboot Ubuntu).

After properly installed video driver, follow this instruction for other hardware drivers.

The tutorial was originally written in Chinese on Hippo Notes and WowUbuntu