Working Hard Drive Image for Roboard RB-110 with Ubuntu 10.04

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To be as up-front as possible, if you want a working image of a hard drive that you can immediately ghost to an 8GB micro SD card, you can download the image here. After downloading, you can then directly copy the image onto a micro SD card. For me, I would simply run:

 

dd if=roboard_img.bin of=/dev/sdb 

This will give you a fresh, working hard drive that boots into Ubuntu 10.04, and you can immediately get started interfacing with the ports on the RB-110.  As of writing this, I actually forgot if I disabled a password requirement for everyone, but you can gain admin credentials with username “blimp”, password is “password”.

I spent a solid week trying to install linux onto the RB-110, a single board computer designed specifically for robotics applications.  I found many different tutorials online, and a few of them provided step by step directions with particular versions of Linux, but in the event that a single step failed, the entire tutorial became worthless.  The only reason I was able to get this working is because I had a significant amount of help from Roger “Fingers” Hu. It would probably more accurate to say that he got it working and I assisted by fetching snacks and the like.

In order to hopefully help others avoid that same pain, I’ve posted the image here so that you can skip the potentially burdensome and lengthy process of the install.  If you do decide to install this on your own, I listed the high level conceptual concepts important to the process.  Please note that I intentionally did not go into detail with any of these steps other resources will be more informative and explicit with the particular step.  This is meant to mainly provide the overall direction and purpose behind some of the steps involved.  Here were the steps that were important for me:

  • Ensure that the Micro SD card is formatted as FAT32
  • It’s helpful to have an SD card to USB adapter on hand; the laptops I worked with didn’t have BIOS settings that detected the SD card (see below)
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  • Because of the chipset on the RB-110, you will need a specialized kernel available for download on the Roboard homepage
    photo 2
  • I installed the initial version of Ubuntu by using a virtual machine
    • Without doing so, you’ll run into a chicken and egg problem where the kernel needs to be updated, but you won’t have network connectivity to be able to do so.
    • Using VirtualBox or VMWare, create a virtual machine and then get rid of the virtual hard drive. Instead you will insert your MicroSD card into your host machine and then mount the MicroSD card to the virtual machine
    • Installing Ubuntu using a Virtual Machine will also prevent the problem you’d otherwise have by using the Roboard itself. With only 256 MB RAM, you cannot successfully install Ubuntu without using an alternate installation image.
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  • You can install multiple kernels, but the GRUB boot loader needs to be configured such that the custom kernel is the default
    • Use GRUB 0.97. The Roboard will not support GRUB 2
    • Custom boot flags need to be specified in addition to selecting the custom kernel
  • After installing the kernel, you still need to run (this took forever to find):
    • dpkg -i *.deb
      update-initramfs –k 2.6.34.1-vortex86-sg -c
      update-grub
  • Your network card will not work until the custom kernel is installed while on the Roboard.
  • To get your environment set up and/or compile large packages, you’re probably better off by taking the MicroSD and booting from that from another host machine (i.e. a drastically faster laptop)
  • Finally, you might have problems mounting a USB device. I found that by disabling USB 2.0 in the BIOS, that fixed the problem. While I didn’t verify, the error messages I had been getting were consistent with the notion that the board wasn’t supplying enough power for USB 2.0.