Ubuntu Core Laptop

I'm quite the fan of 'old' command line based systems. At college I learned to code on a DEC VT-100, and later, my very first PC had a green text-only display. I had to upgrade to hercules graphics card. Happy days.

I have also amassed a small collection of ThinkPads, which I tinker with in my spare time. Sometimes I'll nuke whatever is on an old ThinkPad and install something else for a bit of a play.

My latest project has allowed me to combine my love of middle-aged ThinkPads and a healthy nostalgia for command-line systems, while installing modern software. How? Ubuntu Core!

Ubuntu Core is a lightweight, small version of the Ubuntu I know and love, but with an interesting twist. It's built from the foundation of Debian packages in the archive, but once installed is comprised of snaps only. Software management is done via the snap command-line tool I'm familiar with on my 'classic' Ubuntu laptop.

Now, a word of warning, this isn't a comprehensive guide with step by step instructions. It's just a bit of a progress report of where I am with this little project.

dd is my installer

Ubuntu Core doesn't (currently) have an installer as such, so it's not as straightforward to install as a traditional Linux system. It's designed for system integrators to bake the image in at the factory, or for enthusiasts to 'dd' the baked image to an SD card for use in an Intel or ARM based board.

I consider myself an enthusiast, so we'll go down that route. However I'm not installing on an SD card system like a Raspberry Pi (although that is supported), I'm going to use one of my old ThinkPads, which boots of a typical hard drive.

Rather than dive right in and install Ubuntu Core onto the internal hard disk, I did a test run, by dd'ing the Ubuntu Core image to a USB key and booting the laptop from that. This all worked fine, so I went ahead to do the full 'install' on the internal drive.

Getting Ubuntu Core onto the hard drive wasn't actually too much of a challenge. Essentially all I did was boot the laptop from a traditional live Ubuntu desktop USB key. I then attached a second USB key which contained the compressed Ubuntu Core image and used the terminal in the live environment to issue the relavent 'dd' command to splat the image from USB key #2 to the hard disk.

http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-core/16/stable/current/ubuntu-core-16-amd64.img.xz

First boot setup

Getting online

Remote access

Installing more software

Adding classic

Tweaks

screen,

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