Saturday, October 20, 2012

Installing Chromium OS on a Dell Mini 9

I've had my Dell Mini 9 for 3 or 4 years now. It came installed with Ubuntu 8.10 and I've upgraded it every April and October ever since. This has been mostly fine (apart from the occasional WiFi glitch) until recently.

I have been running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS since April, but recently system updates have been causing problems and last week I just couldn't get it to update properly at all. So, I thought I could either revert to Ubuntu 11.10, or try something else.

As a Google Chrome user, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at Chrome OS, which the Dell team had conveniently ported for the Mini 9. It took far longer to install than expected due to a small but significant error in the installation. This led to a trawl of the interwebs for a fix. Here I present my mashup of useful information (with references at the end). If it doesn't work for you, please let me know and I'll investigate.

  1. Download the archive (ChromiumOS_x86_April15_2012.img.gz) from here:
  2. Extract the IMG file using 7Zip on Windows or the built-in archive manager on Linux (I was using Ubuntu)
  3. Create a bootable USB using Win32DiskImager (on Windows) or, from a Linux Terminal window:
    1. sudo dd if=ChromiumOS_x86_April15_2012.img of=/dev/sdb bs=4M
    2. NB: this is using a 4GB USB stick mounted as /dev/sdb
  4. Plug the USB stick into the Mini 9 and switch it on
  5. Press 0 to get the boot options
  6. Select USB (option 2)
  7. Chromium will now start up.
  8. It will ask for some localisation info then you need to log in using your Google account
  9. Ok, you should now have Chromium running. You can play around with it while it runs off the USB stick. If you want to go for the install, then carry on:
  10. Open the Chrome shell using Ctrl + Alt + T
  11. At the crosh> prompt, type shell, that gives us a more normal Linux shell
  12. Type install, you'll need to enter the password: dell1234
  13. Once it's finished installing, type exit to get back to the crosh> prompt
  14. Type exit again to close the Chrome shell.
  15. Shut down the computer and leave the USB stick in.
  16. Restart the computer and log in again.
  17. Open the Chrome shell using Ctrl + Alt + T
  18. At the crosh> prompt, type: shell
  19. Type: sudo -s
  20. Enter the password (dell1234)
  21. Type: cd /media/removable/
  22. Type: cd "External Device 2"
  23. Type: cd syslinux
  24. Use VI to edit the file usb.A.cfg:
    1. at the crosh> prompt, type: vi usb.A.cfg
    2. locate the text root=/dev/sdb3 near the top of the file
    3. use the cursor keys to move the cursor over the b of sdb3
    4. type the following 5 characters: r a : w q
    5. this should have changed the root entry to /dev/sda3 and saved the file
    6. you can check by typing: cat usb.A.cfg
    7. type exit
    8. Type exit again to close the Chrome shell.
  25. Shut down the computer again
  26. This time remove the USB stick
  27. Restart the computer. It should boot up in to Chromium OS.
Now, whether it was worth all the effort is another question entirely. I may get round to posting some thoughts here once I've had a play around, but don't hold your breath - I can be very slow at writing posts!



Norman Jr. said...

Hi I recently ran across your post. I just went to try to get the file to use on my Dell Mini 9 and the files are no longer available. Any other way I can get the file?

Thanks for your help.

Dave Miller said...

I guess Dell have taken that install down. I ended up installing Xubuntu on my Mini9, which seems to be working fairly well. Sorry I can't be more helpful.