[Arm-netbook] running Debian on a Cubieboard

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton lkcl at lkcl.net
Sun May 5 10:18:38 BST 2013

On Sun, May 5, 2013 at 7:49 AM, Jean-Marc <jean-marc at 6jf.be> wrote:
> Hi guys,
> I bought a Cubieboard some days ago (http://cubieboard.org).
> I would like to install a Debian Testing on it and some useful services (webserver, wiki, xmpp server, mail server, ...).
> I took a look at the doc' and found some interesting things here:
> http://linux-sunxi.org/Cubieboard/
> http://linux-sunxi.org/Cubieboard/Installing_on_NAND
> Did somebody already try this ?

 there are dozens of people, if not hundreds, who have installed
debian on A10 devices.  they're all pretty much the same.

 start from here:

 then you go here:

 or here:

 and here:

 and yes you've found this one already:

 and you might also like to get one of the bootable images from here:

 but if you like, you should be able to use this and adapt it, if you
prefer not to do any kind of cross-compiling, you can use chroot
bootstrapping instead - just adapt the sdcard partition setup
arrangements using bits of the instructions above:

that report is pretty similar in procedure to the Installing_on_NAND
one except that it shows how to compile a native kernel and also
doesn't mean you download a ridiculous 4gb or 8gb image, you use
debootstrap and save a ton of network bandwidth in the process.

 the only thing to watch out for is that many people are not aware of
the changes to fdisk of the past 18 or so months, where fdisk used to
default to using cylinders or something but now uses different
defaults, so many people have been reporting instructions that work on
e.g. ubuntu but if you use debian/testing those exact same
instructions completely fail.  if i recall correctly you'll need
"fdisk -u" i.e. use sectors instead of cylinder as a default unit.

> Did youo do it the same way ?

 i strongly advise you not to deviate from any of the build
instructions, at least not initially.  bear in mind the following

 * there is no BIOS.  AT ALL on ARM devices.  you're operating at
low-level, and you are on your own.  deviate one tiny bit and you
could f*** things up or waste 3 weeks trying to work outside the box.

 * luckily with allwinner a10 devices, they're "unbrickable".  even if
you f*** them up there's a way to put them into a mode which allows
low-level recovery.

> And I have a question: as the Debian installer takes the arch armhf in charge, do you think a standard install' from a netboot image will work ?

 this has been on my list for a loooong time.  as with *all* debian
installer images however you are hampered by the fact that there is no
BIOS - at all - on ARM devices - and therefore it is impossible to
have a "one size fits all" debian installer.

 in other words you need to customise the debian installer by putting
in very very specific boot procedures, kernel and initrd that is
*specifically* tailored to understand that hardware.

 nobody has yet tackled this for any allwinner 10 devices, and as this
is your first a10 device i would advise you not to try messing about
with debian installer until you have at least prepared a
debootstrapped image and got a first independent boot.

 once you've done that and have an SD Card that you can always go back
to, *then* you will be in a strong position to explore creating a
customised version of debian installer.

 if you try to create a customised version of debian installer first
without having ever successfully booted this system up you risk
getting in *way* over your head and giving up.

 small steps first - trust and follow other peoples' instructions first.


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