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an simple installer app for Debian on top of Android (click below to download an apk, the bottom is the newest)

use HTTPS url for git submodules so they work for everyone

In order to use the ssh URL (i.e. the user must have a
github account setup.  It is possible to anonymously access HTTPS github
URLs, and all submodules should use URLs that can be accessed by anyone
without special setup.

closes #160
latest commit 58c0a14912
Hans-Christoph Steiner eighthave authored
Failed to load latest commit information.
.tx transifex: map sl_SI to sl and pt_BR to pt
assets support mounts2sd mountpoint in Debian (closes #151)
etc added resolv.conf with known public nameservers
external do not fail if `make clean` cannot run in external/gnupg/
javadoc do not include javadoc jars in apk when built using ant
libs include license and properties for android-support-v4.jar
res change icon to use Ada Lovelace and be actually free as in speech
src start using libsuperuser to do SU tasks
supporting_files change icon to use Ada Lovelace and be actually free as in speech
tests add test script to check syntax of all sh scripts in assets/
.classpath do not include commons-io-2.2-javadoc.jar in APK
.gitignore build gpgv v1.4.18 from source, statically to get around PIE vs non-PIE
.gitmodules use HTTPS url for git submodules so they work for everyone
.project first stab at an Eclipse project
AndroidManifest.xml bump to version code 5400 name 0.5.5
ChangeLog update changelog for v0.5.4 release
LICENSE.txt added GPLv3 as license
LilDebi.iml first stab at an Eclipse project build gpgv v1.4.18 from source, statically to get around PIE vs non-PIE
compare-to-official-release compare-to-official-release: more useful usage message
custom_rules.xml remove "-release" from release APK file name to keep it short and simple
feature-graphic.jpg include feature graphic of Lil' Debi in action
jenkins-build remove .sh from script so shebang can be easily changed
make-release-build make-release-build: build on non-release commits, and mark the APK fi… bump targetSdkVersion to 21 now that it should work
setup-ant do not include non-word characters in project/APK name

Lil' Debi

This is an app to setup and manage a Debian install in parallel on an Android phone. It can build a Debian install from scratch or use an existing image. It manages the starting and stopping of the Debian install.

It uses cdebootstrap to build up the disk image as a chroot, and then provides start and stop methods for handling mounting, fsck, starting/stopping sshd, etc.

It is 100% free software. Ultimately, our aim is to have the whole process for every bit of this app documented so that it can be freely inspected, modified, ported, etc. We want this app to build a trusted Debian install on the phone, so free software is the only way to get there. This is currently functional alpha software, so do not rely on it to produce a trusted Debian install. Please do try it out, use it, and report criticisms, bugs, improvements, etc.

Installing Debian

The process of installing Debian with Lil' Debi is self-explanatory, just run the app and click the Install... button. But it doesn't yet work on all phones. If the install process fails on your phone, you can still use Lil' Debi by downloading a pre-built Debian image. It should work with any Debian/Ubuntu/Mint armel image file. Here is a Debian image file that was built by Lil' Debi:

Download the file, uncompress it and rename it 'debian.img' and copy it to your SD Card. Launch Lil' Debi, and you should now see the button says "Start Debian". Click the button to start your new Debian install.

Build Setup

On Debian/Ubuntu/Mint/etc.:

  sudo apt-get install autoconf automake libtool transfig wget patch \
       texinfo ant make openjdk-7-jdk faketime

On Mac OS X, you will need Fink, MacPorts, or Brew to install some of these dependencies. For example, GNU tar is required, OS X's tar will not work. Also, faketime is needed to make repeatable builds of busybox.

Both the Android SDK and the Android NDK are needed:



Building Lil' Debi is a multi-step process including clone the sources, getting busybox code as a submodule, building the native utilities, and then finally building the Android app. Here are all those steps in a form to run in the terminal:

  git clone
  cd lildebi
  git submodule init
  git submodule update
  make NDK_BASE=/path/to/your/android-ndk -C external assets
  ant debug

Once that has completed, you can install it however you would normally install an .apk file. You will find the .apk in the bin/ folder. An easy way to install it via the terminal is to run:

  adb install bin/LilDebi-debug.apk

Deterministic Release

Having a deterministic, repeatable build process that produces the exact same APK wherever it is run has a lot of benefits:

  • makes it easy for anyone to verify that the official APKs are indeed generated only from the sources in git

  • makes it possible for FDroid to distribute APKs with the upstream developer's signature instead of the FDroid's signature

To increase the likelyhood of producing a deterministic build of LilDebi, run the java build with faketime. The rest is already included in the Makefiles. This is also included in the ./ script. Running a program with faketime causes that program to recent a fixed time based on the timestamp provided to faketime. This ensures that the timestamps in the files are always the same.

  faketime "`git log -n1 --format=format:%ai`" \
  ant clean debug

The actual process that is used for making the release builds is the included ./make-release-build script. To reproduce the official releases, run this script. But be aware, it will delete all changes in the git repo that it is run in, so it is probably best to run it in a clean clone. Then you can compare your release build to the official release using the included ./compare-to-official-release script. It requires a few utilities to work. All of them are Debian/Ubuntu packages except for apktool. Here's what to install:

  apt-get install unzip meld bsdmainutils

Or on OSX with brew:

  brew install apktool unzip

If you want to reproduce a build and the cdebootstrap-static package is no longer available, you can download it from For example:

NDK build options

The following options can be set from the make command line to tailor the NDK build to your setup:

  • NDK_BASE (/path/to/your/android-ndk)
  • NDK_PLATFORM_LEVEL (7-17 as in android-17)
  • NDK_ABI (arm, mips, x86)
  • NDK_COMPILER_VERSION (4.4.3, 4.6, 4.7, clang3.1, clang3.2)
  • HOST (arm-linux-androideabi, mipsel-linux-android, x86)

Original Sources


cdebootstrap is downloaded directly from Debian, extracted, and then tar'ed into the included tarball assets/cdebootstrap.tar. See external/cdebootstrap/Makefile for details.



busybox is included as a git submodule and built from source by externals/Makefile using a custom config file.



Only gpgv is needed, so it is built from GnuPG v1.4.x. It is built statically to get around PIE vs non-PIE. If an executable is built fully statically, with no dynamic linking at all, then the same binary will work on both PIE systems (android-21 and above), and systems where PIE does not work (older than android-16).

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