Install Ubuntu On A PandaBoard In Less Than 15 Minutes

This brief tutorial explains how to install the server version of Ubuntu on a PandaBoard. When I first started using the PandaBoard, I was confused by the myriad of Linux builds that are available. I eventually chose the TI OMAP4 “preinstalled” image maintined by the Ubuntu team. I chose this build for several reasons:

  • It’s available as a tarfile, so I don’t have to compile the kernel from source. However, source code is available in case I want to rebuild the kernel.
  • It’s keep up to date: the 12.04 release of Ubuntu for Intel PCs is also available for the PandaBoard.
  • A server image is available in addition to the desktop image. The server image is useful for robots that don’t need the overhead of the graphical desktop manager in the desktop image.


The Installation Procedure

Installing the Ubuntu TI OMAP4 server image is easy. After you download the image, you can complete the installation in less than 15 minutes. The desktop version takes a few more minutes because of some additional configuration options. To install the server image, complete the following steps.

  1. Download the latest Ubuntu Texas Instruments OMAP4 preinstalled server image from
  2. Mount an SD card, and make note of the path to the mount point. It might look like /dev/sdc, for example. The last letter should be something other than an “a.” The /dev/sda node points to you primary drive; if you copy the Ubuntu image to /dev/sda, you will erase your primary drive.
  3. Write the Ubuntu image to the SD card by entering the following command, replacing /dev/sdx with the path to your SD card:

    sudo sh -c ‘zcat ./ubuntu-12.04-preinstalled-server-armhf+omap4.img.gz | dd bs=4M of=/dev/sdx ; sync’

    After the zcat command finishes, you will have a clean version of Ubuntu on the SD card, but it still needs to be configured.

  4. Make sure you will be able to access a command prompt on the PandaBoard either by connecting a serial cable to the PandaBoard or by attaching a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
  5. Inset the SD card containing the Ubuntu image into the PandaBoard.
  6. Apply power to the PandaBoard.
  7. When prompted, answer the Ubuntu configuration questions.
  8. Approximately five minutes after answering the last question, the PandaBoard will reboot and display a log in prompt.

    Note: There is a bug in the Ubuntu configuration that causes the configuration to start again after the reboot. If you are presented with the configuration questions again after the PandaBoard reboots, mount the sd card on your build system and delete the file /var/lib/oem-config/run.

  9. Verify that you can log in using the user name and password that you created during the configuration.

After completing these steps, you will have a functional version of Ubuntu running on your PandaBoard.

For information on applying the real time patches from, see the tutorial on the Silicon Valley HomeBrew Robotics Club Wiki entitled Installing Ubuntu With Real Time Patches On The PandaBoard.

Comments are closed.