Samsung’s ARM-powered Chromebook can run Ubuntu

Just days after Google introduced the new Samsung Chromebook, a Google developer has figured out how to run Ubuntu on the $249 laptop.

Samsung’s latest Chromebook is the first model to feature an ARM-based processor. It’s also one of the first devices to hit the market with a chip based on the new ARM Cortex-A15 design. But since Ubuntu (and many other Linux-based operating systems) already support ARM Architecture, it’s not that difficult to get the Chromebook to run a different operating system.

Samsung Chromebook running Ubuntu Linux

At this point, the Samsung Chromebook doesn’t run Ubuntu quite as well. Developer Olof Johansson figured out how to get Ubuntu up and running on the ARM-based Chromebook, but he reports that the trackpad isn’t working perfectly yet.

But the good news is that you don’t need to replace Chrome OS to run Ubuntu. You can write an Ubuntu image to an SD card and boot the Chromebook from a removable storage card.

The Samsung Chromebook 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a Samsung Exynos 5 ARM Cortex-A15 processor. When it’s running Chrome OS, it boots in about 10 seconds, resumes from sleep instantly, and gets about 6.5 hours of battery life when running Chrome OS.

I wouldn’t expect Ubuntu to perform quite as well. One of the benefits of Chrome OS is that it’s an operating system designed around a single app: a web browser. So the OS doesn’t need to load as much software upon boot as Ubuntu, Windows, or other operating systems.

But if you’re drawn to the idea of a $249 ARM-based mini-laptop but don’t like the idea of a browser-based operating system, it looks like you’re not stuck with the operating system that comes with the Samsung Chromebook.

thanks CyberGusa!

  • guy

    Even Google employees don’t want to use Chromebooks with Chrome OS…

    • http://rationaldreaming.com/ Mike

      And you know this… how?

      • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

        It was a joke about the fact that the guy responsible for the first Ubuntu port for the new Chromebook is a Googler. I wouldn’t read too much into it though.

        Right now most of these Chromebooks are in the hands of Google employees, and they’re known tinkerers/hackers/Linux users. So it’s not surprising that someone would at least try this.

      • http://rationaldreaming.com/ Mike

        Okay — apologies for being obtuse :)

      • guy

        Because I invented Chrome OS after I invented the Internet.

        Just in case:
        /end lame joke

    • Olof Johansson

      Wrong conclusion, sorry. :)

      I really enjoy Chrome OS. I’m using it on several devices at work and home (since I work on developing it), but I also like to tinker.

      I know there’s going to be interest in getting other distros up on this, and helping getting that effort started is just fun. It doesn’t mean I will use them all that much myself in the long run.

      • guy

        I guess I’m not very funny. Well, good luck with Chrome OS and getting other Linux distros on the Chromebook.

      • http://profiles.google.com/michel.memeteau michel memeteau

        thanks Olof, your work is really valuable to all the community. It’s basically the best Smartbook we’ve been waiting for 2 years

      • Evan Schoepke

        Olof Johansson you’re my hero!! I’ve been waiting yrs for a decent #chromebook (typing on it now). If I can load ubuntu either by dual boot or sd card will I be able to run art/design apps like Blender, gimp, and inkspace?

      • Forest Ka

        If you want to use Blender, you can probably recompile it on the Chromebook. AFAIK, there’s no inherent obstacle in ARM (as demonstrated by Blender running on Android). Gimp and Inkscape probably have ARM ports in the repo.

      • Ezequiel Gonzalez

        If I could boot from sd or usb to run other linux distros, without affecting or accessing the ssd and the chromeOS installed there, I would be happy. For most of what I do online, I will use ChromeOS, but when the need arise to use full Linux power, then I would just plug in a usb or sd card and run Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora or Gentoo with the assurance that my beloved ChromeOS installation will not be affected.

        I love ChromeOS and the way it updates itself automagically. I do not want to change it, replace it or mess with it. I want to keep it as my safe, always available online access Operating System on my beloved Chromebook.

        But I would also love to have my favorite Linux distros available Please modify the system so that we can boot and run our favorite Linux distros from USB or SD.

  • http://twitter.com/frivolutionary A frivolutionary

    **snickers**

  • Scotland

    Does Ubuntu have an accelerated graphics driver for the Mali graphics on this system?

    • Carlos Vargas

      From the looks of it, there will be but no direct OpenGL support from Samsung, although if they are going to work with the existing Lima Project you can expect some OpenGL Support at the end of the day.

      • ddevine

        Maybe they won’t release any source true, but surely the binaries from ChromeOS would be possible to use? Chrome OS just uses Xorg right?

        Also I fail to see why a full Linux distribution would not run as well as ChromeOS – sure one is a little lighter than the other but I don’t think the performance difference is neccessarily that big beyond initial boot time (which depending on your DE and services installed might be indiscernable).

      • Gregory Hogan

        Olof said that you should be able to steal the binaries from chromeos and fiddle a bit to get acceleration in other linux distros. But as a chrome os developer at Google (I think that’s what he is), it’s not really his place to help us do that!

      • Ryan

        No, ChromeOS uses the Linux framebuffer. There’s no reason why a full distro *couldn’t* run as well, but in the shape most of them are in now, they won’t.

      • ddevine

        OK, so it uses fbdev and I assume it uses FBDev to get acceleration.

        But what do you mean about “the shape most of them are in now”?

      • Craig

        You seem very confused and are conflating different things.

  • Carlos Vargas

    Oh my god this is awesome, this has sealed the deal for me. I’ve just purchased one after reading this.

    To though naysayers read the article in Phoronix http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTIxMjU it seems that Samsung is going to support the SoC to run on Linux so you can expect that GPU to be supported as well.

    • joe

      Are you willing to wait and just use Chrome OS for a while? It’s going to take some time before things get stable and efficient enough for practical use.

      Any info on installing directly to the internal drive?

      • Carlos Vargas

        There really isn’t any info, but if the previous Chromebooks are any indication there will be a way to do so. That said, I do plan to use Chrome OS as is as long as Linux Support is relatively unstable. I just wanted an ARM Laptop that is capable to running linux but not made from cheap parts like those Allwinner a10 laptops.

    • runeks

      Careful there.
      “Samsung is preparing to open-source some code pertaining to their Exynos ARM SoC”
      They’re planning to open source *some* code pertaining to the chip. I highly doubt we will see an open source GPU driver, although it would be so awesome. The reason I’m sceptical is because Samsung doesn’t own the driver code, so they can’t open source it. I’m not even sure ARM can open source the code, since they may have licensed bits of it from third party sources.

  • Dave Granger

    Please tell me it’ll run 10.04 too, not just that Unity nonsense.

  • Anonymous 2.0

    I just can’t believe a Samsung Chromebook cannot run Minecraft! That was practically the soul purpose of buying this thing.