Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the OLPC XO
Ubuntu Netbook Remix is a slick new user interface for Ubuntu on sub-notebooks like the Asus eeePC and the OLPC XO. Installing Netbook Remix on the XO is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re looking to get some extra geek points then strap in: it’s going to be a long ride.
This guide assumes that you are intimately familiar with your chosen flavor of Linux and at least somewhat familiar with Ubuntu or Debian.
Stuff you’re going to need:
- An OLPC XO and developer key.
- A host machine running some flavor of Linux.
- An empty USB stick or SD card with at least 2GB capacity.
- A whole lot of patience.
- A whole lot of time on your hands.
The installation can be broken into the following stages:
- Install QEMU on host machine.
- Install Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron” on QEMU disk image.
- Install QEMU disk image to removable media.
- Configure Ubuntu installation to boot on the XO
- Configure the XO to use Netbook Remix.
Stage 1: Install QEMU on the host machine
QEMU is a platform emulator that allows you to emulate a variety of different kinds of computers. We’re going to emulate an ordinary PC and install Ubuntu onto our fake PC, copy the installation to a disk, and boot the OLPC into the copied installation. This works because Ubuntu packages are all built for generic x86 machines.
I used an AMD64 architecture machine running Gentoo Linux for my host environment. If you’re running something else you’ll need to find specific instructions for your distro.
Installation on Gentoo is best accomplished by reading and following the QEMU article in the Gentoo Wiki.
Running QEMU is a lot easier with a GUI launcher like qemu-launcher that lets you configure all the QEMU command-line switches through a convenient interface. Unfortunately, qemu-launcher isn’t in portage so you’ll need to install it in your overlay. If you don’t already have one, go read the Gentoo Wiki article on installing 3rd party ebuilds.
Download the qemu-launcher ebuild from Gentoo Bug 151228, and save it as qemu-launcher-1.7.4.ebuild.
Create the directories app-emulation/qemu-launcher in your overlay and install the qemu-launcher ebuild into it. Add app-emulation/qemu-launcher ~amd64 or ~x86 to your /etc/portage/package.keywords and emerge it.
Ubuntu users have an easier time; nearly all the “Ubuntu on OLPC XO” articles describe how to install qemu on Ubuntu hosts in excruciating detail.