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Google CR-48 Hacked, Ubuntu Installed

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 23 comments

Ubuntu 10.10 has been installed on Google's new Chrome OS-based CR-48 laptop.

It was only a matter of time before someone decided to bypass Google's Chrome OS and install a different operating system on the new CR-48 laptop.

In this initial "hack," Ubuntu 10.10 was the new OS of choice, and a complete step-by-step walkthrough to get it on Google's laptop can be found here. Of course, you have to actually get your hands on the CR-48 first which is currently available in limited numbers.

"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 instructions read. "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."

According to the instructions, the CR-48's boot process does not support initrd which is required by Ubuntu. Out of three possible scenarios (two of which are followed by "ugh" and "double ugh"), hackers are suggested to use the existing Chrome OS kernel with the Ubuntu rootfs.

However the laptop will need to be switched into developer mode first before installing another OS. This is done by removing the battery, peeling off the sticker that hides the switch, and then flipping the switch towards the battery. Once that's done, the battery can be replaced.

The instructions indicate that users can install Ubuntu 10.10 alongside Chrome OS in a dual-boot scenario. To find out more, read the entire step-by-step list of instructions here. A quick video demo was also provided, as seen below.

Ubuntu 10.10 on Google's CR-48

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  • 0 Hide
    burnley14 , December 15, 2010 9:02 PM
    You throw a switch to put the laptop into developer mode? That sounds awfully rudimentary.
  • 2 Hide
    hellwig , December 15, 2010 9:09 PM
    burnley14You throw a switch to put the laptop into developer mode? That sounds awfully rudimentary.

    It's just a proof of concept model, not a retail version. Who cares if the 1000 people (guessing) who get one of these install something else? Now, if OEMs start making these things for retail, you can bet there won't be a switch that enables developer mode.
  • 2 Hide
    house70 , December 15, 2010 9:16 PM
    the laptop was designed for developers, so.... yeah. Big surprise here.
    It's like wondering why Nexus One was so easy to unlock.
  • Display all 23 comments.
  • -1 Hide
    Djhg2000 , December 15, 2010 10:09 PM
    Sure you can run without initrd, you just need to include your disk driver in the kernel.

    I'm running initrd-less since about half a year back.
  • 3 Hide
    LMF5000 , December 15, 2010 10:09 PM
    Doesn't installing ubuntu on a CR-48 kinda defeat the purpose of buying it in the first place? It's like when you pay an arm and a leg for a Mac and then you run Windows - you could have just bought a PC in the first place.

    Nonetheless, the hackers get my admiration for managing to crack it.
  • 0 Hide
    kyeana , December 15, 2010 10:12 PM
    No ability to use your own kernel? In my mind that totally defeats the point.

    If i want to install other software on the hardware that i bought, i should be able to. Simple as that.
  • 2 Hide
    nonameworks , December 15, 2010 10:21 PM
    ^^ And Google thinks some people want their computer to avoid getting viruses. If you want to put your own software on the hardware you bought buy hardware that allows you to do it. It is a security feature preventing you from changing the kernel.
  • 0 Hide
    kronos_cornelius , December 15, 2010 10:59 PM
    I imagine at least a jumper would be necessary to allow enthusiast and repair men to replace the operating system. So this just proves the net-book is well designed.

    However, I have issue with the idea of labeling this as a Hack. A hack fits to describe Apples devices because their engineers work day and night to lock their devices out of uses other than what they intend their users to do with them. Google, and Microsoft in the case of the Kinect, just focused on the purpose of the device, and did not bother to lock the device for that specific purpose. Google's Chromium OS website actually has every possible detail about the OS you need to tweak modify, or extend the OS. The same goes for Android.

    So you don't need to be a hacker, just computer literate. Not that that makes the modification easy (easier than a hack but not easy), you still need to understand what you are doing. I do see why the word Hack would drive more views for the article though. And that in turn educates readers about the stark differences between Google approach to technology and Apples, with Microsoft kind of in the middle at this point in history (strangely).

  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , December 15, 2010 11:03 PM
    Doesn't installing ubuntu on a CR-48 kinda defeat the purpose of buying it in the first place?

    It would if they actually bought it.
  • 0 Hide
    NeeKo , December 15, 2010 11:58 PM
    It was only a matter of time, everyone knew it.
  • -1 Hide
    qu3becker , December 16, 2010 1:06 AM

    HeY! why there is no news about me installing Ubuntu on a Win7 netbook and call it a hack?
  • 0 Hide
    brando56894 , December 16, 2010 1:35 AM
    djhg2000Sure you can run without initrd, you just need to include your disk driver in the kernel.I'm running initrd-less since about half a year back.

    exactly what I was about to say, the article makes it sound like its a huge burden (which it is if you dont know what you doing, but youre a UlTrA 1337 LiNuX H4X0R right? :-D ) when it really isn't. I'd assume if you're hacking a google chrome laptop you already know a decent amount about linux.
  • -2 Hide
    eddieroolz , December 16, 2010 3:01 AM
    And in the process of installing Ubuntu, they probably boosted the usability by 5x and the security by 100x....
  • -2 Hide
    digitalvampire , December 16, 2010 6:12 AM
    First, he/she didn't install a different OS. He removed a Linux distribution (yes, that's all Chrome OS is, and Android for that matter) and installed another Linux distribution. Chrome OS and Android are nothing more (stress, NOTHING MORE) than a stock Linux kernel stripped down severely and very little outside maintenance of device drivers from Google. And the only reason they are maintained outside the mainline Linux kernel is because they we're removed from it for "bad code and bad maintenance".

    Secondly, as you probably all already know, Ubuntu is yet another Linux distribution. However, it is about as representative of the GNU/Linux community as OSX is as representative of the BSD world. It took the Apple route and made it moron proof, but as history shows us, that tends to be pretty popular. Coincidence?
  • -1 Hide
    tu_illegalamigo , December 16, 2010 12:14 PM
    That`s great to be able to dual boot, and have more functionality when you need it. You can replace Ubuntu with any other distro if you so choose, and I doubt it would make much difference.
  • 0 Hide
    svdb , December 16, 2010 6:58 PM
    WTF was the point of that, other that showing off your "technical" skills? The advantage of the whole CR48 web-book concept was to NOT having to deal with an actual operating system.
  • -1 Hide
    bluedragon9958 , December 16, 2010 9:01 PM
    Ubuntu is garbage why bother...I'm sick and tired of non-standard Ubuntu garbage..Congrats, now you've made a turd.
  • 0 Hide
    dEAne , December 17, 2010 12:52 AM
    Yes this is what I want - We should have lots of options not that just Google WebOS.
  • 0 Hide
    svdb , December 17, 2010 1:52 AM
    dEAneYes this is what I want - We should have lots of options not that just Google WebOS.
    Go buy a PC. Doh!
  • 1 Hide
    orionite , December 17, 2010 2:58 AM
    I guess this might be interesting for the person doing the hacking. Otherwise, there is really no value in doing this. Anyone who would seriously get a 'chrome-book' in order to install a different OS, is clearly missing the point.
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