I recently installed Ubuntu 20.04 on my mid 2014 MacBook Pro 11,2. Most things worked out of the box, but there were a few things which required tweaking. The following post records these tweaks. The most useful sources for this post were the Arch wiki pages, specifically the MacBookPro11,x page and the general Mac page.

My first impression of Ubuntu 20.04 was that it was extremely slow. It was slow to login, slow to launch applications, slow to scroll in Firefox, slow to register keyboard input. My second impression was that my laptop was much hotter than usual. After resolving these issues, I realised that the webcam was also non-functional. Fortunately, all these issues can be resolved!

Problem 1: High laptop temperature

Firstly, we need to install a better fan control daemon to get the CPU temperature under control. There are two options here:

  1. mbpfan
  2. macfanctld

I installed mbpfan which appears to be more actively maintained:

sudo apt install mbpfan

Problem 2: High CPU usage

Secondly, we need fix the high CPU usage. According to top, the process kworker was consistently using more than 50% of one of the CPU cores. htop appears to hide kernel processes by default, so it’s easier just to use top here. Searching this issue led to a section of the Arch wiki Mac page helpfully titled kworker using high CPU. According to the wiki, this is ‘sometimes the result of runaway ACPI interrupts’. This appears to be generally true for the MacBook Pro 11,2. To check if an ACPI interrupt is causing problems, run the following:

grep . -r /sys/firmware/acpi/interrupts/`

Look for an interrupt with hundreds of thousands of interrupts. For a MacBook Pro 11,2, it’s probably gpe06. (Don’t be fooled by gpe_all; I’m pretty sure it includes the total number of interrupts from all the numbered gpexx, including gpe06.)

On my system, I found the following output:

/sys/firmware/acpi/interrupts/gpe06:38821921

Check that this is the problem by manually disabling it (you might need to use sudo):

echo "disable" > /sys/firmware/acpi/interrupts/gpe06

Checking top, you should notice that CPU usage has dropped to somewhere close to 2%. You should also notice that that entire system is rapidly becoming more responsive.

If disabling gpe06 resolved the issue, we need to make sure that it permanently disabled. Some have suggested creating a systemd script or a cron job to run the command above on boot. However, the official solution is to add the following kernel boot parameter to grub:

acpi_mask_gpe=0x06

For example, I edited the file /etc/default/grub and added acpi_mask_gpe=0x06 to the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash acpi_mask_gpe=0x06"

Apparently you can also just add it to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX. Don’t forget to update grub with the new settings by running:

update-grub

Problem 3. WebCam doesn’t work

The MacBook Pro 11,2 has a Broadcom 1570 720p FaceTime HD Camera. There is no official kernel support for this device, nor are there any official drivers available. However, there is a third party reverse engineered driver called bcwc_pcie. I followed the installation instructions on the wiki, but initially I encountered a known issue where /dev/video is not created. Strangely, after following some steps involving insmod everything worked. I’m not sure whether simply adding facetimehd to /etc/modules and restarting would have worked too.

Problem 4. Bluetooth audio stutters

I was able to connect to my bluetooth speaker without issue, but audio playback stuttered so much that it was unusable. After looking at a few possible fixes, the simplest was to install Pulseaudio Volume Control, and change the the latency offset to 45 ms.