Manual Debian

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Debian on neo1973

For the latest information regarding running Debian on Neo FreeRunner please refer to

The following describes an earlier manual approach to installing Debian, which is left here for reasons of historical interest:

This page is to explain how to run Debian armel port on Openmoko devices. You can do this from scratch, or download a prebuilt file system. The former will take some time, perhaps 2 hours, depending on your internet connection


Prebuilt Filesystem

Download and extract to an ext2 formatted filesystem on your SD card:


Note that the above is just a bit too big to fit on a 512MB SD card. A smaller image will soon be provided.

Access via SSH is much the same as under other images using USB Networking, with the user accounts below:

  • root password: openmoko
  • First user and password: openmoko

Note: If you upgrade your your debian and your touchscreen doesn't work any more, you most likely have to adjust /etc/udev/rules.d/50-udev.rules by applying the settings described later in this document for /etc/udev/udev.rules

(Optional) Install Known Good Kernel

This kernel was build by Marcel_M and has some important patches in it such as removed sd debug symbols.

./dfu-util -d 0x1457:0x5119 -a kernel -R -D ./uImage-2.6.24+svnr4194-r4165-r3-neo1973.bin

This kernel doesn't work for gta02, but the kernel from Om 2008.9 works good.

(Optional) Recompiling Kernel to Add Drivers

(Based on

Steps to build the kernel standalone with the "moredrivers" config (to get additional drivers, such as the usb tether drivers that were moved out as kernel modules, compiled directly into the kernel).

 ~ - git clone git:// linux-2.6
 ~ - cd linux-2.6
 ~ - git checkout origin/stable
 ~ - edit ./build to point to your compiler path
 ~ - cp defconfig-2.6.24 .config
 ~ - ./build

That gets you a uImage.bin you can DFU or copy into your SD Card filesystem.

Configure booting from SD/SDHC

Do as proposed here: Booting_from_SD

Note that these instructions are in need a rewrite.

Build your own armel filesystem

Prepare SD card

ssh to your neo and format your sd card appropriately. I'm using an 8GB SDHC card here.

NOTE: On the Freerunner one also will need a vfat or ext2 (only vfat worked for me with the stock u-boot for the freerunner) partition on which to place the kernel to boot off. See the Booting_from_SD If you have not done so already.
fdisk /dev/mmcblk0
We will now create a 8 mb partition for our kernel and another one for the rootfs which will take up all the   
remaining space.
 Command (m for help): d
 Selected partition 1
 Command (m for help): n
 Command action
    e   extended
    p   primary partition (1-4)
 Partition number (1-4): 1
 First cylinder (1-983, default 1):
 Using default value 1
 Last cylinder or +size or +sizeM or +sizeK (1-983, default 983): +8M
 Command (m for help): n
 Command action
    e   extended
    p   primary partition (1-4)
 Partition number (1-4): 2
 First cylinder (18-983, default 18):
 Using default value 18
 Last cylinder or +size or +sizeM or +sizeK (18-983, default 983):
 Using default value 983
 Command (m for help): w
 The partition table has been altered!
 Calling ioctl() to re-read partition table.
 Syncing disks.

Consider a swap partition [1] [2]

mkfs.vfat /dev/mmcblk0p1

mkfs.ext2 /dev/mmcblk0p2
mount /dev/mmcblk0p2 /media/card

debootstrap on the neo

you can download and debootstrap natively on the neo by downloading cdebootstrap-static.

ar -x cdebootstrap-static_0.5.4_armel.deb data.tar.gz
tar -xz -C / -f data.tar.gz
rm data.tar.gz cdebootstrap-static_0.5.4_armel.deb
ar -x debian-archive-keyring_2009.01.31_all.deb data.tar.gz
tar -xz -C / -f data.tar.gz
rm data.tar.gz debian-archive-keyring_2009.01.31_all.deb
cdebootstrap-static --flavour=minimal --include=ifupdown,udev,procps,netbase,vim-tiny,module-init-tools,wget,openssh-server,screen,apmd stable /media/card/

There is a bug, and at this point it does not work. See [3] and fllowups.

justifying the included packages

  • ifupdown - contains ifup, ifdown
  • udev - necessary to fill /dev
  • procps - contains watch, ps, kill, free, top, uptime... (otherwise this is a openssh-server dependency)
  • netbase - /etc/init.d/networking
  • vim-tiny - we want to edit files
  • module-init-tools - modprobe, lsmod, rmmod, depmod (otherwise this is a apmd dependency)
  • curl - we want to download stuff
  • openssh-server - we want to connect to our device and we have enough power to not need to use dropbear
  • screen - we want to operate within screen sessions so that we can disconnect or detach without problems
  • apmd - suspending via apm -s

additionally interesting packages:

  • locale (use dpkg-reconfigure afterwards)
  • less (better than more)
  • man-db
  • rsyslog
  • psmisc (killall, fuser)
  • rsync
  • console-tools (chvt)
  • iputils-ping - ping
  • mtd-utils (flash_eraseall, nandwrite, mkfs.jffs2)

Complete debootstrap Process

execute the following commands (just copypaste everything below)

echo "neo1973-debian" > /media/card/etc/hostname
cat > /media/card/etc/network/interfaces <<__END__
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
auto usb0
iface usb0 inet static
    up echo nameserver >/etc/resolv.conf
cat > /media/card/etc/fstab << __END__
rootfs  /                ext2    defaults,errors=remount-ro,noatime 0 1
proc    /proc            proc    defaults                           0 0
tmpfs   /etc/network/run tmpfs   defaults,noatime                   0 0
tmpfs   /tmp             tmpfs   defaults,noatime                   0 0
tmpfs   /var/lock        tmpfs   defaults,noatime                   0 0
tmpfs   /var/run         tmpfs   defaults,noatime                   0 0
tmpfs   /var/tmp         tmpfs   defaults,noatime                   0 0
cat > /media/card/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/99no-install-recommends << __END__
APT::Install-Recommends "0";
sed -i 's/\(PermitEmptyPasswords\) no/\1 yes/' /media/card/etc/ssh/sshd_config
chroot /media/card /bin/sh -e <<__END_CHROOT__
echo root: | chpasswd
apt-get --yes --purge remove cdebootstrap-helper-rc.d

Get X Running

Now reboot and start Debian. Login with ssh and start configuring xorg:

apt-get install xorg

configure /etc/X11/xorg.conf so that it looks like this:

cat > /etc/X11/xorg.conf << __END__
Section "Device"
       Identifier      "Configured Video Device"
       Driver          "fbdev"

Start X in the first vt:

startx -- vt1

Get touchscreen working

Install the tslib driver from debian experimental:

echo "deb experimental main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
apt-get update
apt-get install xserver-xorg-input-tslib/experimental

and edit the InputDevice section in your xorg.conf

cat >> /etc/X11/xorg.conf << __END__
Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier      "Configured Touchscreen"
        Driver          "tslib"
        Option          "CorePointer"           "true"
        Option          "SendCoreEvents"        "true"
        Option          "Device"                "/dev/input/event1"
        Option          "Protocol"              "Auto"

calibrate your touchscreen

for gta01:

echo -67 36365 -2733100 -48253 -310 45219816 65536 > /etc/pointercal

for gta02:

echo  -67 38667 -4954632 -51172 121 46965312 65536 > /etc/pointercal

or calibrate it yourself until you are happy with the result:

apt-get install libts-bin
TSLIB_CALIBFILE=/etc/pointercal TSLIB_TSDEVICE=/dev/input/event1 TSLIB_CONSOLEDEVICE=none ts_calibrate

Start X and enjoy!

startx -- vt1

Install GDM and xfce4

apt-get install gdm xfce4 xvkbd

Configure gdm so xkvbd will allow you to put in your username and password. simply add this to the end of /etc/gdm/Init/Default before exit 0 so that the three last lines look like this:

sleep 20 && /usr/bin/xvkbd -xdm -compact -geometry 480x210+0+0 &
exit 0

Simply click on the focus button of xvkbd and then on the input box of GDM to input your user name and password there. On each boot gdm should start automatically now.

If you like you can also download a correctly sized Debian wallpaper I generated from the SVG source for 480x640:

wget -O /usr/share/images/desktop-base/desktop-background

Clean Up

apt-get clean

Load Additional Kernel Modules

These are for sound, bluetooth and USB. Use the modules archive that fits to your kernel.

tar -xf modules-2.6.24+svnr4194-r4165-r3-neo1973.tgz -C /
depmod -a
cat > /etc/modules << __END__

Note: On the FreeRunner, the sound module (on the last line) is called snd-soc-neo1973-gta02-wm8753

Sonata on neo1973

Enable Sound

Now we turn our Debian into a jukebox!

apt-get install alsa-base alsa-utils gstreamer0.10-alsa
cat > /etc/asound.conf << __END__
pcm.!default {
    type plug
    slave.pcm "dmixer"
pcm.dmixer  {
    type dmix
    ipc_key 1024
    slave {
        pcm "hw:0,0"
        period_time 0
        period_size 1024
        buffer_size 4096
        rate 44100
    bindings {
        0 0
        1 1
ctl.dmixer {
    type hw
    card 0
tar -xf alsa_state_files-working.tar.gz -C /etc
alsactl -f /etc/alsa_state_files-working/stereoout.state restore
addgroup openmoko audio

I currently use mpd+sonata - let me know if you know another nice lightweight gtk player. Unfortunately RhythmBox is way too much for the Neo to handle - the MP3 playing stops after 20secs.

Enable Modem

Here comes the phone functionality - just add this line into the "serial devices" section in your /etc/udev/rules.d/50-udev.rules

# serial devices
KERNEL=="s3c2410_serial[0-9]",  NAME="ttySAC%n"


Disable Framebuffer Blanking

the obfuscated way:

echo -e '\033[9;0]' > /dev/tty0

the sys-path way:

echo -n 0 > /sys/devices/platform/s3c2410-lcd/graphics\:fb0/blank

the debian way:

apt-get install console-tools
sed -i 's/\(BLANK_TIME\)=30/\1=0/' /etc/console-tools/config

Chroot installation

If you just want to run random debian programs without completely booting to debian you can use the following minimal steps:

On desktop:

sudo debootstrap --arch armel --foreign sid sid
sudo tar czf sid.tar.gz sid
nc -w 10 -l -p 1234 < sid.tar.gz

On neo:

cd /media/card
nc 1234 | tar xzf -
mount -t none -o bind /dev /media/card/sid/dev
mount -t none -o bind /proc /media/card/sid/proc
mount -t none -o bind /sys /media/card/sid/sys
mount -t none -o bind /tmp /media/card/sid/tmp
chroot /media/card/sid /deboostrap/debootstrap --second-stage
cp /etc/resolv.conf /media/card/sid/etc

On neo edit the file /media/card/sid/etc/apt/sources.list and add the following line:

deb sid main non-free contrib

On neo:

chroot /media/card/sid apt-get update
chroot /media/card/sid apt-get install mplayer
chroot /media/card/sid mplayer

To enter the debian chroot environment you could use the following script:

mount -t none -o bind /dev /media/card/sid/dev
mount -t none -o bind /proc /media/card/sid/proc
mount -t none -o bind /sys /media/card/sid/sys
mount -t none -o bind /tmp /media/card/sid/tmp
chroot /media/card/sid /bin/sh

Using Xglamo on the FreeRunner

Copy /usr/bin/Xglamo (and /usr/bin/Xfbdev) to /usr/bin in Debian from FSO/ASU/2007.2/2008.8.

Add this to your .bashrc (to tell tslib to use the correct input device):

export TSLIB_TSDEVICE=/dev/input/event1

The X server binaries are linked against version 1 of tslib, for some reason Debian calls its version 0, even though it actually is version 1. Symlink the library to the alternative name by running (as root):

ln -s /usr/lib/ /usr/lib/

We also need to change the symlink for the X server to either Xfbdev or Xglamo (this should better be handled by update-alternatives!):

cd /usr/bin && mv X X.orig && ln -s Xfbdev X

(replace Xfbdev by Xglamo if you want to use that, Xglamo is faster, but rotation still does not work correctly as of 2008-08-12).

Rotating screen to landscape

add the following to the /etc/X11/xorg.conf in both the Device and InputDevice sections to get landscape mode

Option          "Rotate"                "CCW"

Hiding the cursor

To make the cursor invisible create a file called empty.cursor with this content:

#define empty.cursor_width 16
#define empty.cursor_height 16
static unsigned char empty.cursor_bits[] = {
0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00,
0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00,
0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00};


xsetroot -cursor empty.cursor empty.cursor

to your ~/.xinitrc

Official Debian Port

An official Debian port based on the FSO image is being created. First information can be found at Early adopters are welcome.

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