How Ubuntu Linux could help Google's CR-48 notebook

Given the CR-48's Web-centric focus, early attempts at dual-booting Linux might be a sign that that's what the product needs

Google's Chrome operating system-based CR-48 notebook computer may be in just a select set of hands so far, but it's been generating plenty of media attention.

Reviews to date have been largely mixed, though of course the details of the specific hardware in the devices right now won't matter much in the long run.

What's been particularly interesting, though, is that while the world awaits the arrival of official Chrome OS notebooks, a number of enterprising technophiles have already found a way -- and a reason -- to add Linux to these early devices.

Looking Beyond the Browser

Linux aficionados, of course, have a long history of replacing factory-installed operating systems -- Windows, especially -- with a Linux distribution instead. In the case of Windows, there are countless good reasons to do so.

Such moves may be for practical or ethical reasons, but in the case of the Chrome OS notebook, it's clear from reviews that there are some things the CR-48 just isn't designed for -- such as, most things outside the browser.

Google Chimes In

So, in true Linux geek fashion, there's evidently been a concerted effort to get Ubuntu -- the most popular Linux distribution of all time -- up and running on the device.

And running it now is, if the YouTube video below is any indication. Ubuntu 10.10, or Maverick Meerkat, is running on the device in that video, and -- despite the fact that the whole purpose of sending out the notebooks was to test Chrome OS -- a separate post on Google's own site even offers a tutorial on making that happen.

'An Intentional Design Feature'

"While Chrome OS verified boot protects against unintended system modification by malicious or buggy software, the ability to hack your own device is an intentional design feature of Google Chrome notebooks," the page reads.

"The instructions for building your own version of Chromium OS, and installing it on a CR-48 are given elsewhere," it notes. "Some enthusiasts, however, may want to install something completely different. This page provides an example, showing how the official Chrome OS software can coexist with Ubuntu, a popular linux distribution."

The tutorial goes on from there to describe how to get Ubuntu on the CR-48 side by side with Chrome OS, including freeing SSD space, configuring the kernel and setting boot priority.

The result, it seems, is a dual-boot machine that has all the Web-centric advantages of Chrome OS along with the more traditional benefits of Linux.

A Dual-Boot Scenario

Will official Chrome OS netbooks offer a dual-boot option when they finally debut?

That remains to be seen. Given what sounds like a fairly limited Web-centric experience with the CR-48, however, it seems like that might be a good idea. And with all its many benefits for business and individual users, Linux would be a great choice.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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Tags open sourceLinuxGooglesoftwarelaptopsGoogle Chromenon-Windowsoperating systemsnotebooks

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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