Monday, May 9, 2011

Ubuntu on the PandaBoard

Once I was in the mood for trying other operating systems, I thought I'd try Ubuntu for ARM and see how it compared to Fedora and Android.

I downloaded the "Texas Instruments OMAP4 preinstalled netbook image for OMAP4 boards" of Natty Narwhal (11.04) from

Installation was much simpler than Fedora or Android (/dev/mmcblk0 was my SD card); using sudo or running as root:
gunzip -c ubuntu-11.04-preinstalled-netbook-armel+omap4.img.gz | dd bs=4M of=/dev/mmcblk0

I moved the SD card over to the PandaBoard and turned on the power and that was it!  Wow.

It took a long time to boot due to the slow SD card (again, a future post), but eventually it was up and running and I was browsing the web with Firefox.

X-Windows was just using the basic frame buffer driver so the graphics were not very fast, but it was certainly usable for basic web browsing.  I'll have to try the accelerated drivers later.

Some nice touches:

  1. The disk image included the two partitions necessary for the PandaBoard to boot.
  2. The image actually included a kernel (the Fedora images require you to build your own kernel or download one from or
  3. During the first boot, it resized the ext3 partition to fill up the SD card; the image had a 2.4 GiB partition for the root filesystem, but it expanded and filled up my 8 GiB SD card.
  4. The NIC has a fixed MAC address without passing a kernel command line argument.  I need to figure out how it did this.
  5. If you need to make changes to the kernel boot arguments, there's a flash-kernel script that updates the boot.scr file for you.  (This reminds of me of running lilo way back when to update the boot process on x86.)


  1. Hi Jeff, wondering how much time did the first booting take, since I am waiting for the booting at this moment, and the screen is frozen but the d1 led light is flashing - may indicate the ongoing file reading

  2. Hi Andol, I don't recall exactly, but I think it was 30 or 40 minutes because it was growing the filesystem to fill up the SD card.