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“Zubuntu” keeps Zaurus spirit alive

Jan 5, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 25 views

Ubuntu Linux 8.04 (Hardy Heron) has been ported to the Sharp Zaurus PDA in an open source distribution called “Zubuntu.” Developed by hacker Omegamoon, Zubuntu 1.0 uses the LXDE interface, and can now be booted (mostly) from flash memory.

In May, Omegamoon's Zubuntu (Zaurus Ubuntu) project released an Ubuntu Linux 7.04 port to Zaurus, but the current 1.0 release based on Ubuntu 8.04 is said to be far more stable. Omegamoon stated in the release that, “You can consider Zubuntu a proof of concept, although this doesn't mean it's crippled or unusable.”

The Zubuntu project was inspired by Nokia's Handheld Mojo project, which is porting Ubuntu to the ARM architecture. In creating his root filesystem for the Sharp Zaurus, Omegamoon drew pre-built binaries from the ARMv5EL (ARM9) branch of Mojo Project's Frisky Firedrake tree. Omegamoon has previously worked on ports of Fedora Linux and Google's Android phone stack to the Zaurus. (Zubuntu, by the way, should not be confused with Xubuntu, an Ubuntu variant that uses the ultra-lightweight XFCE window manager.)

Supporting all but the SL-C5x00 and the SL-C6000 models of the venerable Zaurus, Zubuntu 1.0 can now run largely from internal flash memory. However, a “part has to be made available on SD, CF or Microdrive,” says Omegamoon, who suggests using an SD card of “at least 1GB.” After formatting the card as ext2 or ext3, would-be Zubuntu users can extract the root filesystem, as well as the root-addition archive for the specific Zaurus model. Omegamoon then shows how to flash the multiboot kernel, and in a separate post offers instructions for booting Zubuntu from internal flash.

In a presentation delivered at a CELF Embedded Linux Conference earlier this year, Mojo project leader Andrew Christian noted that while Nokia's Maemo project has packaged 500-600 Linux binaries, Ubuntu packages upwards of 12,000. Therefore, porting Ubuntu to ARM and thence to the Zaurus should make for greater software versatility.

Ubuntu appears to making considerable progress as it spreads into the embedded Linux world. In November, Canonical announced that it was porting Ubuntu Desktop Linux to the ARMv7 architecture, which is used by the ARM Cortex-A8, and today Freescale announced it was sampling a Cortex-A8-based i.MX515 system-on-chip (SoC) for netbooks that will run Ubuntu.


The Zubuntu 1.0 port of Ubuntu 8.04 is available now, says Omegamoon. More information may be found here, and more on the internal flash boot process may be found here.

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