Android on Freerunner

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NOTE: The Android for FreeRunner development now takes place here.

See Android usage for brief overview.

NOTE: This wiki-Article is outdated. Use the new wiki

This page is dedicated to the installation of Android (an Open Handset Alliance Project) on the Neo 1973 and Neo FreeRunner handsets.

You can find other information, such as porting, development and day to day usage here : Android

The easiest way to install Android on the Freerunner at the moment is with Koolu images, because you just need to copy the installation files on an FAT formatted SD card and boot from SD card (see information below). This

Before you start

Using this guide

  • 1

If you see a command like this, you must run it as root


If you see one like this, you can run it as a regular user


To work as a root, issue a command

sudo -s

To exit the root mode, type

  • 2

When you see these commands


It is assumed that you have them installed on your system and inside your /usr/bin.

To install dfu-util, type as a root

apt-get install dfu-util

To install adb, type as a root

cd /usr/bin
chmod +x adb

  • 3

adb connects to Android but you need to set up Android on FreeRunner first, otherwise you may skip this step. This will not work on other distributions. Make sure your FreeRunner was booted while being plugged in to a USB port. If you have flashed a Uboot, run the following commands in Terminal:

# ifconfig usb0 netmask
# adb kill-server
# ADBHOST= adb devices

If you have installed Qi loader, find on which eth device the FreeRunner is located (for me, it is eth2).

# ifconfig -a

Then, issue the following (if you have Qi, and whether you found your eth for FreeRunner. For me it is eth2):

# ifconfig eth2 netmask
# adb kill-server
# ADBHOST= adb devices

You may want to ping the device to make sure it is communicating with the computer

# ping 

To enter the shell prompt on FreeRunner, enter:

# ADBHOST= adb shell

To exist the shell prompt, enter:

# exit

To install a program to a FreeRunner (lets say SomeProgram.apk file), enter the computer's directory with the apk file and enter:

# adb install SomeProgram.apk

You should now have no trouble using adb.

Registering with the GSM network

Before you install Android on your FreeRunner you should check, using the operating system it came with, that your sim card will register with your network.

The version of internal GSM firmware that comes preloaded on the FreeRunner has compatibility issues with a feature on newer sim cards. This effects 3G, o2 sims and possibly others. if you have one of those you will probably need to upgrade your GSM firmware to get the sim to register with the network. Doing that first means you know it's working before you install Android.

To flash your GSM firmware you will need to have USB networking setup between your desktop and the OM distribution installed on your FreeRunner. However, your FreeRunner does not need internet access as you can download the GSM firmware files on your desktop PC and transfer them to your FreeRunner using scp

Configuring the Bootloader

There are two bootloaders you can use to boot Android; Qi and Uboot. Uboot comes installed on the FreeRunner, Qi is a replacement and is thought to be superior. However there have been, and probably still are, problems when using Qi and Android so Uboot is recommended at this point.

NOTE: If you are installing the latest Koolu images to flash, Koolu provides an automatic installation that includes the Qi bootloader. You can safely ignore the rest of this section, as your bootloader will be configured automatically.

You can download images for them both here:

Andy Tracking Images (For Qi on the FreeRunner grab the image starting qi-s3c2442)

Latest Uboot

The Android kernel image can be more than 2MB in size. The UBoot environment that comes with your FreeRunner is only able to boot a kernel 2MB in size or less. To use a kernel larger than 2MB you have two option:

  • change to Qi as bootloader
  • modify uboot to be able boot a Kernel that has more than 2MB in size

In detail the options will be described as follows:

Use Qi as Bootloader

Change to the Qi Bootloader. It supports 2MB kernels out of the box. For GTA02, you want bootloader:

and you install the Qi with dfu-util and that you take for example the following kernel: 

Because Qi tries to boot from the first three partitions of SD Card. If Qi finds a kernel there it start the kernel if there is any ext2 / 3 partition on there in the folder /boot e.g.


Qi will try to boot it and use that partition as the rootfs. If none of the first three SD partitions have the kernel file, it will boot from the NAND kernel partition as usual.

Modify Uboot as Bootloader for more than 2MB

Adjust your Uboot environment to support a Kernel of more than 2 MB

Access your Boot-prompt e.g. with screen from your Linux Desktop-PC with U-Boot consol to USB in U-Boot:

screen /dev/ttyACM0 

In your Boot-prompt type:

setenv bootcmd setenv bootargs \${bootargs_base} \${mtdparts}\; nand read.e 0x32000000 kernel 0x300000\; bootm 0x32000000

Problem: After copy and pasting the commands mentioned above to modify the UBoot environment the prompt hangs up after the first backslash "\". Work around: install the kernel-image and Android-image with 1.9MB from Michael Trimarchi.

The above Problem: appears to be an issue with pasting too quickly. Trying copying and pasting one thing at a time.

Installing Android on the Internal Flash

Method 1: Automatic Installation

see Android usage or

Method 2: Manual Installation

Preparing the SD Card with two primary partitions is necessary for manually installing Android.

Preparing the SD Card

The Micro SD Card in your FreeRunner needs to be configured with two 2 primary partitions before Android will boot. First a VFAT/MSDOS (16 or 32) which acts as the '/sdcard' storage area (for pictures, movies, music, etc). Second an ext3 primary partition which Android uses as '/data' with in which it stores settings, caches, etc.

On Linux

Insert the Micro SD Card from your FreeRunner into your Linux desktop then bring up a Terminal and type

   $ dmesg | grep sd

You will get an output like this, in this instance we can see that the SD Card has been assigned the device name 'sde'

   sd 9:0:0:0: [sde] Attached SCSI removable disk

Now, as root, use 'fdisk' to partition the device.

  # fdisk /dev/sde 

Pressing 'p' will show you the current partitions on the SD Card 'd' will delete them and 'n' will create a new one. Create a primary partition for your media. Then another primary partition for Android to store its data on.

On a 1Gig card I used 768MB for the first partition ('+768MB' in fdisk) and the remainder for Android data. Here is fdisk's partition output:

      Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
   /dev/sde1               1         769      750513+  83  Linux
   /dev/sde2             770        1016      241072   83  Linux

Now all that's left to do is format the partitions with the appropriate filesystem But first hit 'w' in fdisk to write the changes to the SD Card.

Then format like this:

   # mkfs.vfat -v -n and-media -F 32 /dev/sde1
   # mkfs.ext3 -v -L and-data /dev/sde2

That's it, you can now remove the SD card from your desktop. If you re-insert it you will have two new usb disk devices.

NOTE: After Android has booted you will only be able to access the 'data' partition as root.

There is no need to populate the ext3 partition at all. The VFAT partition can be populated with media content (ring tones etc.) if you so desire.

NOTE: It can be worth reformatting the data partition when you upgrade the Android OS on your phone. Old settings can result in problems, wifi for example. But remember that formatting the Data partition will result in your preferences, text messages and contacts etc. being erased.

On FreeRunner (2008.x)

The SD card can be formatted from within an existing 2008.x installation on your FreeRunner. SSH as root into the FreeRunner and use 'fdisk' to partition the device.

  # fdisk /dev/mmcblk0

After this create the partitions as described in the step above.

To format the new vfat partition you will need dosfstools which can be downloaded from


Use any SCP client to copy this file to your FreeRunner and install using

   opkg install dosfstools_2.11-r0_armv4t.ipk

Once the installation is complete format the partitions:

   # mkfs.vfat -v -n and-media /dev/mmcblk0p1
   # mkfs.ext3 -v -L and-data /dev/mmcblk0p2

NOTE: In case you are unable to format the partitions because they are already mounted for some reason you can get a list of process IDs that are using it by running:

   # fuser -m /media/card

Then kill all the processes that were using the card and try formatting again.

On other OS's

There are no open source or free partition editors on Windows or Mac that can manage an ext3 partition. If you do not have Linux installed you can use the GParted bootable CD. This CD will boot into a graphical environment with which you can partition your SD Card. You may have to boot with the SD Card inserted for GParted to recognize it as a drive.

Downloading Android Images

See Android on Freerunner at or Android usage

Installing Android on an SD card


There are currently a few prebuilt images: Radek Polak's SD card images (install on ext3, first partition on SD must be FAT16)

--matzehuber 12:58, 22 July 2009 (UTC) for u-boot seems to have a ext2 partition, image seems to need to be named uImage.bin

Using jffs2 images

You can also boot from the SD Card using the pre built images like so :-

  • Mount the image using this script like so
  sudo ./ freerunner-v5.jffs2 image/
  • Then copy (cp -R) the files in directory image/ to any of the first three partitions on the SD Card (if using Qi) eg cp -R /your-path/image/* /media/android/
  • cd /media/android.
  • wget .
  • mkdir boot
  • copy the kernel here and name it uImage-GTA02.bin

Some notes about booting android from sdcard :


  • Build android from source. See koolu website for directions.
  • Use the first script in this mail (adapt to your filesystem) to stage your android install.
  • copy the contents of this directory on a ext3 partition on your sdcard.
  • add a /boot directory on your sdcard.
  • copy the uImage-android kernel (see above) and copy it inside your /boot with the exact name uImage-GTA02.bin
  • I changed the init.rc (in your root on the sd) to remove mounts that could be problematic (/data for example) :
--- filesystem/root/init.rc	2008-12-15 17:51:14.000000000 +0100
+++ phyce.init.rc	2008-12-19 15:56:25.000000000 +0100
@@ -24,7 +24,7 @@
     mkdir /sqlite_stmt_journals 01777 root root
     mount tmpfs tmpfs /sqlite_stmt_journals size=4m
-    mount rootfs rootfs / ro remount
+    mount rootfs rootfs / rw remount
     write /proc/sys/kernel/panic_on_oops 1
     write /proc/sys/kernel/hung_task_timeout_secs 0
@@ -38,14 +38,14 @@
 #    mount yaffs2 mtd@system /system ro remount
     # We chown/chmod /data again so because mount is run as root + defaults
-    mount ext3 /dev/block/mmcblk0p2 /data nosuid nodev
-    chown system system /data
-    chmod 0771 /data
+#    mount ext3 /dev/block/mmcblk0p2 /data nosuid nodev
+#    chown system system /data
+#    chmod 0771 /data
     # Same reason as /data above
-    mount yaffs2 mtd@cache /cache nosuid nodev
-    chown system cache /cache
-    chmod 0770 /cache
+#    mount yaffs2 mtd@cache /cache nosuid nodev
+#    chown system cache /cache
+#    chmod 0770 /cache
  • Install Qi on you NAND flash. You can still boot whatever distro you've got on internal flash using the NOR bootloader. You should try the magic file in /boot to show kernel messages.
  • boot the GTA02, and pray.

Remote access to Android (adb)

Although this is not technically part of installing Android it is very useful to have set up. Android Debug Bridge (adb) is a versatile tool that lets you manage the state of a device, in this case, your FreeRunner.

Some ways you can use adb include:

  • Run shell commands on the phone.
  • Copy files from your desktop to the phone and Vice-versa.

You can find out about it on the Android developers page and a page on this wiki Android debug bridge

However if you would just like a very quick getting started guide, read on. You can download a binary from here. Then if you like copy it to /usr/bin (and don't forget to make it executable).

First you must boot Android while it is plugged in to a USB port, you can unplug it and re-plug it all you like after that but for the USB connection to work it must be connected at boot time.

Next issue this command to set up USB networking...

# ifconfig usb0 netmask

Then this one because it helps make sure everything works nicely...

# adb kill-server

Followed by this to find your phone...

ADBHOST= adb devices
NOTE: Remember that if you didn't copy adb to /usr/bin you will need to run these commands from the directory you downloaded it too and put ./ in front of adb.

Now you are free to remotely connect to your Android phone, here are a couple of commands you might find useful

  • Copy a file to your SD card:
# adb push YOUR_FILE /sdcard/
  • Copy a log file from your phone to your computer:
 # adb logcat -d > android.log
  • If you just want to log in to the Android shell:
# adb shell

Remote access to Android (telnet)

After you set up adb and installed busybox you can use telnet to get remote shell access to your Freerunner. The big advantage is, that you get a "real" shell access with all features like tab-completion or the expected behaviour when hitting the backspace or cursor keys. All you have to do is

> adb shell
# export PATH=/data/local:$PATH
# telnetd -l sh
# exit
> telnet

Setting up Google Stuff

Since AoF is not an official Android system there is no native access to the Market and no Calendar/Contact sync. If you got an android device with the same Android version (e.g. 2.2.1 froyo) it's possible to get the needed APKs from this device. All you need to do is grab the following APKs and copy them into your freerunner's /system/app/ directory: Vending.apk, GoogleServiceFramework.apk, GoogleCalendarSyncAdapter.apk, GoogleContactSyncAdapter.apk

But note, that you will only get access to a very little part of the Market's content. The majority of apps is unfortunately missing. But you can also install other market apps like AndroidPIT Appcenter for example.


SD card won't mount

There should be a /sdcard directory on your FreeRunner, for some reason this does not always get created (the command is in the 'init.rc' but does not always work). To create the correct dir on your FreeRunner and so enable your SD card, do the following.

  • Plug your FreeRunner into a USB port, boot Android and then enter these commands:
# ifconfig usb0 netmask
# adb kill-server
# ADBHOST= adb devices
# adb shell mount -o remount,rw /dev/root /
# adb shell
# mkdir /sdcard
# exit
  • Then reboot your FreeRunner



Download it from here: Or alternatively download this one [1] (compiled for ARMv4 == Freerunner) Some attempts for compiling it, but without success: [2]. Than push it to your Freerunner and install it:

./adb push busybox /data/local/busybox
./adb shell
cd /data/local/
chmod 0777 busybox
# You can try to install it the usual way "./busybox --install" but it's likely
# to not work, so use the following line to create the softlinks manually.
./busybox | ./busybox sed -n '/^\W.*,/s/,/\n/gp' | ./busybox sed -n '/[^\W]/s/\W//p' | ./busybox xargs -n1 ln -s busybox
export PATH=$PATH:/data/local/

See also

Personal tools