Installing Ubuntu 11.04 on the BeagleBoard-xM

Since it took a while to get 10.10 to a stable state on my BeagleBoard-xM, I wasn't in a hurry to upgrade again since the system has been running smoothly for a while now. However, being the geek that I am, I couldn't resist the urge for too long...

First stop: the Ubuntu OMAP wiki page where I downloaded the headless OMAP3 image and checked out the release notes. No show stoppers raised in the release notes, so I proceeded to follow the installation instructions which resulted in no surprises. One thing that was different from the 10.10 experience is that, unlike the 10.10 image, the 11.04 image was not fully preconfigured which means that you need to connect to the serial port to answer the usual locale, keyboard, and networking questions to finish the installation.

After completing the installation and rebooting, I proceeded to install the various packages I needed and had no problems finding and getting everything installed. Everything was working... but it seemed quite a bit slower than before. The release notes mentioned the CPU speed limit which wasn't a surprise, this was also a known issue in 10.10, but they also mentioned the possibility of the rate not being set correctly. After looking in the logs I found the problem: the /boot/boot.script was passing mpurate=1000 which was being rejected and the system was falling back to 600MHz on boot. Changing the entry to mpurate=800, executing 'sudo flash-kernel', and rebooting fixed that part of the problem.

While 11.04 has been rock solid, it feels a bit more sluggish than 10.10 did. Overall performance seems about the same, but interactive performance has taken a bit of a hit. I'll be keeping an eye out for ways to improve the responsiveness but it's still quite usable despite this and I'll be sticking with 11.04. That's pretty much all I have to report for now which itself is a new development. Thanks to the hard work of all those maintaining and packaging Linux for ARM devices, it is getting much simpler each release to just start using these devices. It's also great to see support for ARM-based hardware like the BeagleBoard becoming a bit more mainstream in the form of an official Ubuntu release and I look forward to seeing future releases from Canonical.

Update: just started seeing the dreaded 'kevent 2 may have been dropped' The default value for vm.min_free_kbytes has been increased to 8192 in 11.04 but apparently it still needs to be higher.

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