I was in the Galapagos for a week.

And spent almost two weeks total with Kali Linux on an old MacBook Air as my only computer. People are often warned that Kali should not be considered as a normal everyday laptop due to hardware compatibility issues, so I was curious how true that was.

Why Linux and Why Kali?

I wanted a laptop that could do everything I needed, but I wouldn’t cry if it got lost or stolen. Everything about the Galapagos is very controlled and safe, but we were putzing around Ecuador for a few days before with long layovers in Mexico City and Houston. Linux on an ancient and clean laptop was an ideal choice. Everything would be locked down, and if it got stolen, the damage of losing accounts and personal data would be isolated.

Kali was chosen because I had been working with it for a while already in VMs. I didn’t have enough time beforehand to screw around with changing desktop environments, etc. I needed something up and running sooner rather than later. I hate GNOME, and the lighter weight of xfce would be ideal for the older specs of this Air (4GB ram, 1.8 i5).

What Was I Going to Do With It

  • Standard web, email, youtubing
  • Slacking, Discording, and Signaling
  • Docker to screw around with coding if I had down time
  • Image sorting and previewing of RAW photos. Not editing.

What Went Well

Web, Email, and Youtubing

Stellar. Absolutely no problems. The included Firefox worked well, but I installed Brave and went to town. I never had any problems with any sites including ordering stuff off Amazon. Email we done via web clients. No problems there, either, and with passwords never being saved, I didn’t have to worry.

Slacking, Discording, and Signaling

No problems here, either. The fan kicked on due to the high demands, but they all worked great. You had to add repos for all three, so it’s one more step than apt-get install with the command line or GUI. I was able to keep in touch with friends.

Docker and Coding

No problems here, either, but then again, I really didn’t have time to do much. I downloaded a simple Python editor and goofed with code here and there on the plane, but nothing too heavy.


No problems connecting to my work VPN (OpenVPN) via the commandline. I didn’t need to, but felt connected to the real world should there have been any emergencies.

What Sucked

Image Sorting

I wanted a way to review the hundreds of pictures I would take per day and quickly toss out any that obviously sucked. I didn’t want to edit, because I knew this 4GB machine wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Overall, the experience sucked. I didn’t get a chance to download a real program like RawTherapee or Lightzone beforehand. Still, it wouldn’t have made things better due to their high demands and it was overkill for the task. There are two included programs in Kali that can view RAW images. Ristretto which had a bad habit of opening *every* file in a directory, which killed my workflow. Atril, which opens all images in their own separate window, didn’t tile the windows sequentially, and doesn’t have a deletion feature.

I ended up using Brave of all things and then manually deleting later. Brave at least let me quickly view images in sequential order. The only thing I was happy with was the SD card in the Air which allowed me to easily transfer the files to the hard drive. Kali handled this just fine.

Freakin’ NTP of All Things

Shortly after installing, the system clock would always set itself to February 1, 2021 8:00 am. I have no idea what is so special about this timestamp. This was a huge problem because it made SSL certificates on sites invalid, which nuked web browsing.
Looking online, there were a bunch of posts blaming timesyncd, system clock, and NTP. I eventually found one solution that work: https://github.com/nu11secur1ty/Kali-Linux/tree/master/NTP

This took a long time to find and I’m still not sure why it worked, but it’s the only solution that worked. Clearly, though, this is a problem that Kali should address.

Waking from Sleep/Suspension

I didn’t dive too far into this, but there are a lot of discussion across all distros about how their laptops won’t wake from sleep correctly, often forcing restarts. My experience mirrored this. If I closed the laptop or set it on Suspend/Hibernate in the UI menu, sometimes I could wake it later by pounding on the keyboard, opening the lid, etc. Usually I couldn’t and I had to force a restart. I ended up just shutting down whenever I remembered.

The most common “try this” solution was to increase the swap size. I did, but it didn’t work. It seems the system would wake, but the display wouldn’t. This is probably a huge problem tied to hardware that is not worth exploring.

Hotel Webcaptive Screens

You know those screens that popup, when you go to a website, in cafes and hotel networks, that require you to accept the terms and agreement or enter your room number, before you can connect? Linux in general, Firefox specifically, don’t handle these well and generally won’t show those popups.
The most reliable way is to connect to a network, go into the terminal, curl -LG to Google, see the URL that it really connects to, copy/paste that URL into a browser, then accept the terms. Otherwise, nothing connects and you’re wondering why Linux can’t wifi.


Yes, a very pleasant experience if you know what you’re doing! You do need a fair amount of Linux experience to figure out things like the NTP issue and webcaptive issue. It met almost all my needs, and I felt safe with it. I will definitely use this setup for traveling out of the country in the future.

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