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howto: chromebook review and install ubuntu

Just installed Ubuntu 11.04 on my new Samsung Series 5 Chromebook Wi-fi edition that arrived earlier today—it’s amazing. Full Ubuntu install. I haven’t figured if it’s dual boot yet, but I’m pretty sure it will be. Can’t believe I just got this amazing machine for $344 (Amazon had a 20% off back-to-school deal). Definitely don’t regret picking this one up over other thin and light laptops I was checking out, because I saved a pretty penny over upgrades (~$40 for 2x4GB RAM and ~$100 for a decent-sized SSD) over the cheapest base configuration in other models (around $700).
Performance-wise, this machine is performing quite zippy when compared to my Dell Mini 9 from ~3 years ago. I remember that had a lot of freezing/lock-up issues for a few seconds when I multi-tasked a lot, because it was a single-core Intel Atom CPU. Seems like the Samsung Chromebook is doing fine on Ubuntu with it’s dual-core Atom. OH, and did I mention, this machine is supposed to get around 9-10 hours on the battery? I’ve already been using this for around 6 hours and the battery meter reports 3:25 left.

Below are the links I used to help me get Ubuntu up and running. Enjoy!

On Day 6, I decided it was time to push the Chromebook. I’ve read articles about installing Ubuntu on the CR-48 (the beta version of the Chromebook), and it sounded pretty awesome, so I’m going to give it a try. It is kind of breaking with the idea of “Nothing But Chromebook For a Week”, but I think this simple mod will expand the potential user base for Chromebooks, so let’s do it anyway. Check the article I followed if you have questions.
The first thing you need to do is enable developer mode. Luckily, Google has demanded that every Chromebook have a Developer Mode switch, so pop open the tab on the right side of the Samsung Chromebook, and flip the little switch. I’m not sure where it is on the Acer model, and it appears to be under the battery on the CR-48. Reboot your laptop, and it’ll wipe your stateful partition. Let me say that again: IT WILL WIPE YOUR DOWNLOADS FOLDER! So back it up if you have anything useful there. Then go through the normal set up process, and then hit Ctrl + Alt + -> (the forward arrow where F2 should be). This will drop you into the developer shell. Log in as “chronos” for your user. Here you’ll have full access to a real SSH client, and most other bash tools (finally!). Now, we need to enable the developer BIOS, so it’ll let us boot non-Ubuntu distros. Simply type “chromeos-firmwareupdate —mode=todev”, and you’ll be good. Reboot once more for good measure, and let’s jump into install our new OS.
Jump back into the developer shell and log in as chronos again. To download and run the script to get everything install, run “wget; sudo sh hnkxo”. First, it is going to prompt you for how much space you want to allocate to Ubuntu. The stateful partition is under 11GB, so for best results, I’d recommend choosing 9GB. That’ll leave over 1GB for caching and downloads in Chrome OS. It is going to take quite some time, because it has to download 5GB of compressed data, so hopefully you’re on some speedy wifi. Once it finishes, it should reboot for you. If not, reboot, and you’ll be dropped into Ubuntu! The username is “user” with password “user” (super security!). Create a new user, modify everything to how you want it (Go into Mouse in the Preferences menu to enable 2 finger scroll and tap to click). To make this stick, we need to modify which kernel is more important.
If you run “sudo cgpt show /dev/sda” in the terminal (Ctrl + Alt + T), you’ll get a list of the partition table. KERN-A and KERN-B are the 2 Chrome OS kernels (so Chrome OS can update the kernel not in use, and switch on next reboot. If the update fails, you can just fall back to the previous kernel). KERN-C is a copy of the Chrome OS kernel and will be used for Ubuntu. We need to set KERN-C’s priority to a number higher than the A and B. That way, when we are in developer mode, we’ll boot Ubuntu, and when we are in normal mode, it’ll boot Chrome OS. Best of both worlds, right? To do this, simply type “sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 5 -S 1 /dev/sda”.
Finally, to resize your partition to fill the whole 9GB, you’ll just need to run “sudo resize2fs -p /dev/sda7”. Because the filesystem for Ubuntu, ext4, is awesome, it’ll do this on the fly while you’re still using Ubuntu. Cool huh?

That should cover everything on how to get Ubuntu installed. From there, I was able to do just about everything I needed, especially development related tasks. The hardware in the Chromebook is definitely fast enough to do everything I need for development. I still switch back to Chrome OS for most of what I do day to day, because it does most of what I want. Chrome OS in developer mode gives me access to bash, and from there I can do even more.



first post

just trying it out.