For anyone who would like to add a bit of extra flavor to their Toshiba Thrive tablet, I have the perfect solution. If you like the Android platform but sometimes wish you could get more from your tablet, you can actually install Ubuntu Linux as a virtual instance (thanks to chrooting). It’s not an ideal solution — and to many, it’s more proof of concept than anything — but it will give you an idea as to the power some of the new tablets have and the flexibility that Linux offers.

This process requires a rooted Thrive. If you haven’t done so, you’ll need to check out my previous article, “How to root a Toshiba Thrive tablet.” Once rooted, the process on the Thrive can begin.

What you will need

  • A rooted Thrive
  • The Arm Port of Ubuntu
  • A PC with working adb installed (this should already be done on the machine you used to root the Thrive)
  • A basic understanding of Linux

Step 1: Extract and copy the file to the tablet

The downloaded .zip file contains the directory “ubuntu.” After decompression, this directory must be copied (or moved) to the Thrive. The location this directory is moved to is critical. This folder MUST be placed in the root directory of the tablet’s storage, NOT the /sdcard-disk0 folder.

Note: If your device does not show up on your computer (after plugging it in), turn on wireless and connect to a network. This action should cause the device to show up.

Step 2: Fire up the adb shell

The adb shell is how you will access the newly rooted shell on the Thrive. To do this, you must open up a terminal window (on the machine you rooted the device with, unless you have adb working properly on multiple machines). Once the terminal window is open, issue the command:

adb shell

and you will now see the adb command prompt, which looks like:


You are now at the root shell of your tablet device. Ready to rock? Let’s go.

Step 3: Set permissions

The first step in the installation process is to set the permissions for the Ubuntu image to run. Fortunately, there’s a handy script for this process. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Change into the directory containing the script with the command
    cd /sdcard/ubuntu/
  2. Then, issue the command

There will be errors as this script runs. That’s fine. When the script is complete, issue the command


and you will see something like:


net.ipv4.ip_forward = 1

Setting /etc/resolv.conf to Google Open DNS and

Setting localhost on /etc/hosts


Brought to you by and the open source community!

Ubuntu is now running on your tablet. But you don’t see anything different, right? Well, that’s because it’s only a virtual machine running. You still need to take care of a few things.

Step 4: Update Ubuntu

You should still be at the command prompt, which is actually now a Linux command prompt. Issue the following (familiar) command:

apt-get update

That will upgrade the Ubuntu installation. After the upgrade is complete, change the root password with the following command:

passwd root

Enter and verify the new root password. Once this is done, we need to locate the virtual machine’s IP address with the command:


The address should be listed as “inet addr” under the wlan0 interface. Make note of that address, because it will be needed in a moment.

Step 5: Install SSH server and tightvncserver

We need to install the openssh server so we can SSH to the virtual machine (if needed). You can install it by entering the following command:

apt-get install openssh-server

Now, install the VNC server, which will allow you to connect to the virtual machine. Simply enter this command:

apt-get install tightvncserver

After the install is complete, issue the following commands to configure the tightvncserver:

export USER=root


vncserver -geometry 1280×720

Step 6: Install a VNC viewer

Next, install a VNC viewer on your tablet. There are plenty available — just do a search for “vnc” in the Android Market, and install the viewer of your choice. Once this is installed, all you have to do is set up a connection to the virtual machine using the IP address of the Ubuntu virtual machine. When you’re connected, you will see a standard (pre-Unity) Ubuntu GNOME desktop.

That’s it! You now have the ability to use a full-blown Linux installation, via virtual machine, on your Toshiba Thrive tablet. However, when you reboot your tablet, you might need to either use adb (from the PC) to boot Ubuntu (using the bootubuntu command) or SSH (from the tablet) to restart the VNC server.