Making iSight camera work in Ubuntu

As I said in a previous post, I bought a [[MacBook]], and I am making all bits work correctly. Out-of-the-box support from Ubuntu (the only GNU/Linux I tried on the MacBook so far) is excellent, but some things (camera, WiFi…) need proprietary drivers, so some more tweaks are needed.

I have followed the instructions in the Ubuntu community site, as with the procedures detailed in the previous post.

Basically, it all boils down to:

Fetch the Apple drivers for the camera

As root (if, unlike me, you like sudo, then run the following as user, but prepended with sudo), mount the Mac OSX partition (you didn’t delete it, right?) and copy the relevant file somewhere else (the cp command should be all in one line):

# cd
# mkdir /mnt/macosx
# mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/macosx
# cp /mnt/macosx/System/Library/Extensions/
     Contents/MacOS/AppleUSBVideoSupport .
# umount /mnt/macosx

You might have noticed that the Mac OSX partition is not sda1, but sda2. Don’t ask me. It turns out like this after following my own installation instructions. Apple must have decided to install the OS in the second partition for some reason.

Install the required packages

We need a package called isight-firmware-tools. Unfortunately it is not present in the Hardy repos at the moment (it was in the Gutsy ones, I think). You can add a Launchpad repo, editing /etc/apt/sources.list to add:

deb hardy main
deb-src hardy main

Then, as root:

# aptitude update
# aptitude install isight-firmware-tools

You will be prompted for a path to the driver you copied before. You can press Enter without paying much attention, then execute (assuming you copied the driver to your root home):

# cd
# ift-extract -a ./AppleUSBVideoSupport

To activate the driver, restart [[HAL (software)|HAL]]:

# /etc/init.d/hal restart

Test it with [[Ekiga]]

As explained in the Ubuntu community site, you can run Ekiga as user (after installing the ekiga package). Choose V4L2 as video plugin, and Built-in iSight should appear among the Input device list. If it does, the process worked.


  1. rex27 said,

    July 28, 2008 @ 20:10 pm


  2. angel said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 19:53 pm

    Hallo. i have a big problem i think! i have deleted the osx partition, there is a chance to install the firmare?
    Than You

  3. isilanes said,

    September 4, 2008 @ 11:11 am

    Angel, I think the firmware for the camera is also present in the CD that comes with the laptop (search there for a file called “AppleUSBVideoSupport”).

    Appart from that, it appears to be downloadable from the Apple site[1]. However, good luck finding it there. I just tried and couldn’t find it (maybe a deeper effort is due).

    [1] Built-in iSight Webcam at

  4. mely said,

    September 21, 2008 @ 17:18 pm


    I have some problems,

    when i start ekiga, i chose V4L2 as video plugin, and the Input device list is empty, i can see “aucun périphérique trouvé” in english: “no device found”.

    Everithing is fine yet, i don’t understand because i followed the post without error.

  5. isilanes said,

    September 22, 2008 @ 16:10 pm

    mely, have you tried the other tests that can be found at the site?:


    Run gstreamer-properties. Go to “Video” tab, then in “Default Output” and “Default Input” chose “Plugin”-s an “Device”-s that work. For me, “Autodetect” in “Default Output” didn’t work very well. I chose “X Window System (X11/XShm/Xv)” in “Plugin”, and “Intel(R) Video Overlay” in “Device”. Then in “Default Input” you should choose V4L2 in “Plugin”. In “Device” you will (should) have “Default” and “Built-in iSight”. Any of them gives me the same result: when I hit “Test” a window opens, showing me a video of what the camera currently sees (my ugly face, sadly).

    If it doesn’t work for you, and specially if “Built-in iSight” does not appear as an option in your Video->Default Input->Device, then chances are your iSight was not detected.

    If the above doesn’t work, run lsusb, and tell me if you see the following line:

    Bus 007 Device 005: ID 05ac:8501 Apple Computer, Inc. Built-in iSight [Micron]

  6. mely said,

    September 22, 2008 @ 23:28 pm

    and thanks for your quickly answers.

    The properties doesn’t work for me, “Built-in iSight” not appear as an option, i’ve no options in Video->Default Input->Device.
    When i run lsusb, i see the following line:
    Bus 007 Device 005: ID 05ac:8501 Apple Computer, Inc. Built-in iSight [Micron].

    I will be able to on the website tomorrow after school for try it.
    But, how do i know if i have a santa rosa macbook?


  7. isilanes said,

    September 23, 2008 @ 13:18 pm

    mely, from the Ubuntu community documentation:

    If you own a MacBook of the Santa Rosa generation (v3.1 and v4.1) see this guide. To determine which version / generation of MacBook you have, either click in OS X on the Apple on the top left, then “About this Mac” — “More Info…”, see the generation in the “Model Identifier” row; or run in Linux:

    % sudo dmidecode -s system-product-name

    When I run the above in my laptop, it outputs: “MacBook3,1”

  8. mely said,

    September 23, 2008 @ 21:49 pm


    I have MacBook 4,1.

    I could see the guide, i have resolved sound problem, but for the camera is the same solution of this page, I retry it, and it don’t work for me.
    When I run gstreamer-properties, I’ve no options in Video->Default Input->Device though when I run lsusb I can see Bus 007 Device 005: ID 05ac:8501 Apple Computer, Inc. Built-in iSight [Micron], isight was detected.

  9. isilanes said,

    September 24, 2008 @ 11:43 am

    If lsusb shows that line, then apparently the driver was correctly installed. I am sorry to say that I can not help you further :^(

    If you executed up to, and including, the ift-extract command, with no error, then I don’t know what is going on… maybe it’s a 4.1 issue. Try the Ubuntu community site, or the Gentoo wiki, which in general are excellent info resources.

  10. mely said,

    September 24, 2008 @ 13:04 pm


    never mind, i’ll do without camera, it’s not very important, i’ve mac os for it.

    Thanks for all.

  11. kelvin said,

    October 19, 2008 @ 5:26 am

    For anyone else who stumbles upon this page:

    The link (Built-in iSight Webcam at by isilanes on 04 Sep 2008 at 11:11 am got my iSight to work, surprisingly despite that the guide was for the MacBook Santa Rosa.

    I am grateful to this page.
    I own a MacBook 2,1.

    The Link:

  12. isilanes said,

    October 20, 2008 @ 10:07 am

    I’m happy to hear that, kelvin.

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  15. Dong Calmada said,

    February 19, 2010 @ 14:00 pm

    It worked! Thanks a lot.

  16. Mark Dominus said,

    May 11, 2010 @ 18:26 pm

    Thanks, this was really helpful.

  17. Evan Crockett said,

    June 14, 2010 @ 1:57 am

    I had trouble from the very first command. I’m extremely new to Ubuntu, and have almost no idea how to use the command line. Here’s what I did:

    evan@evan-laptop:~$ sudo cd
    sudo: cd: command not found

    ??? I don’t get it, can anyone help a brother out?

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    October 1, 2010 @ 14:38 pm

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    September 5, 2011 @ 7:23 am

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  20. Billy Fix Isight said,

    October 23, 2011 @ 22:04 pm

    Hey Guys!
    I installed Ekiga and my iSight camera worked great but I could not use it anywhere else.
    I found out that when I tried Cheese, the camera screen was black. When I tried gstream -properties, it told me the camera was “busy” and could not change to 640×480. I had to go to the list of “services” running and deleted everything related to camera softwares (including ekiga, which actually was using my camera in the background for no reason.)

    After that I came back to Cheese and changed the resolution to 320×240 (or something like that) and changed it back to 640×480 and then the picture appeared. I hope this helped!!!

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  22. Hatem Abouzeid said,

    January 11, 2016 @ 21:21 pm

    my camera on macbook pro 5.5 not working after i installed ubuntu 14.04 LTS i also by mistake deleted the Mac OSX partition, so i don’t have it any more on my Macbook pro.

    Please advice how can i solve this and makes my camera works fine again.

    I also need to download the necessary applications that i should have after i installed ubuntu and advice me what should i do to make my macbook woks fine with all the features & as well need to download Itunes so please advice,

    Thanks in advance

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