My first pass for running Ubuntu on my little XO was less than spectacular. I do have the benefit of a wiki page to walk me through it, and it’s nothing terribly difficult, but I’m still disappointed that I couldn’t get it 100 percent working.
The process is fairly simple — get a developer’s key, then build a basic Ubuntu installation in a virtual machine, with the intention of installing it to a USB key and booting from that. (Now the purist in you might recoil at the idea of only running Ubuntu off a USB key, but really, for a machine that doesn’t have a hard drive in the first place, is it really that different?)
After that you copy some core files from a default Sugar installation to the USB key, and with any luck, it should boot into Ubuntu rather than Sugar. The full details are on the wiki page I mentioned above, if you want to try it.
Unfortunately I was a little less than successful. My first attempt kept ending up at a recovery console, with no root directory and a spasm of error messages, no matter what I typed. Since it was fairly useless no matter what I tried, I started over from scratch.
The second and third tries were a little better, but I seem to have stumbled across some sort of inconsistency between the virtual machine file size and the size that will actually, physically fit on a 2Gb USB key. So the second and third tries I cranked down on the actual file size (to something like 95 percent of the 2Gb drive) and it seemed to behave better.
But I was still getting some strange boot behavior. I have a feeling that some of the core files (and again, you can check what those files are on the wiki page) aren’t 100 percent compatible between the Ubuntu kernel and the OLPC kernel. I’m probably wrong on that, but it’s worth looking into.
I decided to back off for a little bit, and take another look at it in a few days. I generally have better success with these little puzzles if I step back for a second and think about them in the back of my mind.
I’m also going to keep an eye on the OLPC forums and see if anyone else is trying this particular stunt. My eventual goal is to put Crux on there (it’s an i586, so Arch is 99 percent impossible), and see if I can make it really fly.