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Fedora Partners With Asahi to Port Linux to Apple’s Arm Silicon

With Red Hat helping Asahi Linux develop software for porting Linux to run on Apple’s Arm silicon, how long before Red Hat Enterprise Linux supports Apple hardware?

Hector Martin, founder and project lead at Asahi Linux

Hector Martin, founder and project lead at Asahi Linux.

Red Hat’s community Linux distribution, Fedora, and Asahi Linux, a project that’s been working to develop a reverse engineered port for running Linux on hardware using Apple’s Arm-based silicon, announced on Wednesday that they’ve developed a working relationship, and that going forward Asahi’s flagship distribution will be called Fedora Asahi Remix.

That’s a change from the Asahi Arch Linux ARM Remix, which has been Asahi’s flagship distro for the last year or so.

Early last year the project released an alpha version of its Asahi Linux installer that’s able to boot a Linux desktop based on Arch’s Arm port onto Apple’s Arm silicon, but the use of Arch as the default distribution was always expected to change.

The news of this new partnership with Fedora came in the form of dual announcements, one from Fedora and the other from Asahi. Fedora’s announcement was made first, during a livestreamed presentation at Flock, a Fedora-focused conference that this year is taking place in Dublin, Ireland. Later in the day, Hector Martin, founder and project lead at Asahi, posted an announcement as a blog post on Asahi’s website.

“We’re confident that this new flagship will get us much closer to our goal of a polished Linux experience on Apple silicon, and we hope you will enjoy using it as much as we’re enjoying working on it,” Martin said. “We’re still working out the kinks and making things even better, so we are not quite ready to call this a release yet. We aim to officially release the Fedora Asahi Remix by the end of August 2023. Look forward to many new features, machine support, and more!”

Making the livestreamed announcement at Flock was Red Hat’s Neal Gompa and Meta’s Davide Cavalca, who spent the better part of an hour explaining Fedora’s side of the equation.

The takeaway from them is that the Fedora Asahi Remix is currently an official Fedora remix, or a separate operating system from mainstream Fedora, but that as the Asahi code becomes production ready, the plan is to move it into Fedora so that support for Apple’s Arm silicon is available for all Fedora users out-of-the-box. Gompa said that could happen as soon as the next Fedora release, which is due in October.

More importantly, Fedora will be making the code that it’s developing with Asahi available downstream, for other distros to merge into their releases if they wish.

According to Martin, some kind of arrangement with an established Linux distro, like it now has with Fedora, was always part of the plan.

“After all, maintaining bespoke downstream distro remixes is a chore, and we can’t rely on unofficial third-party support to bring our work to every other distro,” he said. “We’ve always had our sights on deeper cooperation with upstream distros to bring Apple Silicon support directly to them as an officially supported platform, and the Arch ARM integration was mainly intended to serve as a reference for this.”

The Fedora/Asahi Partnership

In his blog post, Martin said that Fedora was the first distribution to reach out to Asahi:

“Very soon after Asahi Linux started (well before our Arch ARM-based release), Neal Gompa joined our IRC channels and we started talking about working towards integrating our work into Fedora. This was the very first offer to officially collaborate with a major upstream distro, and we were very excited! The Fedora Asahi project started in late 2021, and work began in 2022 alongside the Arch ARM release.

“Over the following year, we worked closely with the Fedora folks to fully integrate Apple Silicon support into Fedora, including all our custom packages, kernel and mesa forks, and special image packaging requirements, and now we’re finally on the final stretch before release.”

Although the port is not yet officially ready for prime time, Gompa opined before the in-person audience at Flock that for light users who only need to surf and check their email, the port is already ready to be a daily driver. Calvalca agreed, and said he was already using it daily.

The trouble is, that’s not going to work yet for those who use YouTube, Spotify, or Zoom, as speakers and cameras, as well as Thunderbolt and HDMI display ports on laptops, are not yet supported.

In his blog, Martin recommended a more measured approach.

“Adventurous users can try out the Fedora Asahi Remix today, but please expect rough spots (or even complete breakage),” he said. “We’re still very much in the process of integrating everything and a bunch of new features are coming, and things are expected to break while we get everything in shape. Please keep that in mind if you choose to try it ahead of time. We ask that reporters and bloggers wait for the official release before evaluating our work.”

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