Bringing Apple M1 support to Linux has been quite a journey so far as Apple's system-on-chips (SoCs) use loads of proprietary technologies and methods, and Apple has not been exactly cooperative. However, developers have managed to run Linux on an Apple M1-based system and at this point the machine can be used for basic things.
Asahi Linux, a project and community that is working to port Linux to Apple Silicon Macs, is usable as a basic Linux desktop on an Apple M1-powered PC, but without GPU acceleration, according to the progress report.
So far, developers of Asahi Linux have managed to merge various drivers (PCIe, USB-C PD, etc.) and bindings (PCIe) for Linux 5.16. They also managed to make things like pinctrl driver (Apple GPIO pin control), I2C driver, device power management, NVMe + SART driver, and DCP (display control) driver work.
"With these drivers, M1 Macs are actually usable as desktop Linux machines," said Hector Martin, the head of the project. "While there is no GPU acceleration yet, the M1's CPUs are so powerful that a software-rendered desktop is actually faster on them than on e.g., Rockchip ARM64 machines with hardware acceleration."
Since Apple's M1 SoC uses a proprietary (allegedly PowerVR-based) GPU, making acceleration work properly will be hard since it will require independent developers to build a driver akin to that designed by Apple itself. Meanwhile, there are programs that use Apple's proprietary hardware units in the M1 SoC (GPU, video acceleration, etc.) and, without proper drivers, these programs will be unable to get the benefits of Apple's processor under Linux.
Unfortunately, there is still no proper installer for the current Asahi Linux project, so users outside of the community cannot experience native Linux on an Apple Silicon-based system.
"Once we have a stable kernel foundation, we will start publishing an 'official' installer that we expect will see more wide usage among the adventurous," Martin said in a conversation with The Register.