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Pinebook Pro - Debian from Scratch

pinebook-pro-debian-installer is an unofficial Debian installer for the Pinebook Pro. It is not endorsed by either Debian or Pine Microsystems.

There is no downloadable image, instead it is a script that constructs a fresh image from scratch using debootstrap and then runs a few interactive commands to help you customize your install.

No default passwords, no bundled software, minimal tuning, and uses pure upstream Debian (albeit with the exception of the vendor bootloaders and a custom v5.4 kernel).

To install to the removable SD card slot, just run ./install-debian.

Quickstart

The installer runs on the Pinebook Pro itself using an already installed operating system. It should work from most Debian or Ubuntu images (including the default vendor image).

  1. Unmount any existing filesystems on the disk you want to install onto.
  2. Run ./install-debian. This will default to installing to the SD card, to change this try ./install-debian BLKDEV=/dev/mmcblk0, ./install-debian BLKDEV=/dev/mmcblk2 or ./install-debian BLKDEV=/dev/sda as appropriate.

Additional options

These options can be supplied on the command line or via the environment.

  • ARCH={armhf|arm64} - Choose the architecture to installed (default: arm64)
  • BLKDEV=<blkdev> - Install to the specified block device (e.g. /dev/mmcblk2)
  • BLKNAME=<name> - Name to describe the install media (e.g. eMMC, microSD, NVME). This is used for the filesystem and partition labels and some file managers will use these to help you identify which volume is which. If not supplied defaults to the basename of BLKDEV (e.g. mmcblk1).
  • CRYPT=y - Encrypt the filesystem (and swap space) using LUKS. This requires your kernel to support filesystem encryption. If zgrep CONFIG_DM_CRYPT /proc/config.gz returns CONFIG_DM_CRYPT=m, you are good to go. If not, you will need to update your kernel to version 4.4.210 or later. Alternatively, you can make a temporary unencrypted install with this installer and then use the temporary OS to perform a full encrypted install.
  • DRYRUN=y - Show the commands the installer would "like" to run but do not execute any of them.
  • MMCBLK=<blkdev> - (deprecated) alias for BLKDEV=
  • RELEASE={buster|bullseye} - Choose the Debian release (default: bullseye)

Support

  • For support and general discussion use the Pine64 forum.
  • Check out the Pine64 wiki for feature status, known issues and workarounds. Please contribute to the wiki and help keep it up to date! If you already have a forum login then this can also be used to update the wiki.
  • Please only use the github Issue tracker for bugs in the installer and the custom kernel. Problems that originate with upstream Debian packages should be reported to the upstream instead. If in doubt then ask on the forum!

Roadmap

None... sure there will be the occasional bug fix when needed but this installer is merely a stop gap. Once there are enough features in the upstream kernel and the Pinebook Pro has a fully functional u-boot ready to burn to SPI then one should expect the official Debian installer to run unmodified. At that point this installer will be obsolete... and good riddance!

Hacks

Mostly the installer tried to avoid hacks that cannot be replicated by a real distro installer (e.g. one that is not tailored specifically for Pinebook Pro). However some problems are so awkward for users the following temporary hacks have been tolerated.

  • The ALSA state cache is pre-configured. This ensured that audio will work out-of-the-box. This is temporary until upstream ALSA UCM support for Pinebook Pro is added.
  • The kernel is booted with maxcpus=4 to ensure that is does not use the Cortex A72 cores during initialization. This works around a bootloader problem that hands these cores to the kernel with clock speed set so slow that it compromises boot times. The disabled cores will be re-enabled later in the boot process. Warning: To make the maxcpus=4 hack work, some optional kernel hardening features must be disabled (ex: HARDEN_EL2_VECTORS)

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Unofficial Debian installer for Pinebook Pro

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