Linux is supposed to get old iPads going

If Apple stops providing iPadOS updates, the tablets don’t have to end up in the drawer. Recently, Linux first booted on A7 and A8 iPads.

Linux is designed to make old iPads work

Older iOS and iPadOS devices that still work fine, but don’t operating system updates pose a real dilemma for users: If you go online with these, attackers could exploit unpatched vulnerabilities, which is why this is not recommended. Can Linux represent an alternative here in the future? This should soon be a possibility for Apple tablets.

Small, fine Linux on an old iPad

The idea: The compact Alpine Linux should soon also be available on iPads with the outdated 64-bit -SoCs A7 and A8 work. The A7 is a processor that appeared in the iPhone 5S in 2013 and then ran in the first iPad Air and the iPad Mini 2. The A8 dates from 2014 and was part of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, iPad mini 4 and – as the A8X – iPad Air 2. At least the A7 devices were sawed off by Apple with the release of iOS or iPadOS 13 updates, with A8 models this should be the case with iPadOS 16 from autumn.

As various Linux hobbyists are now reporting, it was already possible to boot the Linux kernel 5.18 on an iPad Air 2 at the beginning of June. In order for this to work, the postmarketOS distribution, which is based on Alpine and is particularly suitable for smartphones, was adapted and then brought to the Apple tablet via the BootROM exploit Checkm8. However, it will still be a while before there is a “One Click” solution – at the moment this is still proof of concept.

Linux also helps with the Mac

The project is similar to plans on the Mac, which has the same problem as the Apple tablets: Here, too, Apple blocks the devices from updates after a certain period of time, which makes them unsafe. Depending on the computer, the options here are already well advanced and can also be easily implemented by beginners. Linux continues to receive updates and offers a lot of up-to-date software, and you can also convert your Mac into a practical server. Linux should also soon be available natively on M1 Macs.

It’s still unclear how well the old iPads will work under Linux. The supply of hardware-related drivers – be it for graphics, mobile communications or WLAN – has so far remained in the dark. You also have to live with limitations in terms of performance, but the tablets should easily come close to the level of single-board computers. As is well known, the Raspberry Pi also runs on an ARM basis. Incidentally, work is also being done on postmarketOS for Apple TV.

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