PBP won't boot from eMMC or SD card: a saga
#1
Hey folks, noob here. I've done as much as I can to solve this on my own because I don't want to be the user whose question is answered with "uh, there's already a comprehensive guide for that, search the forum next time", but I'm really at a loss now. I have the US layout Pinebook Pro running Manjaro with Plasma KDE pretty much exactly how it came to me. Since I'm new to Linux (currently posting from a Windows 10 desktop) and I don't have a good idea of what's causing my problem, I'm going to describe everything here as thoroughly as possible, so this post will be long.

The current problem: when I try to turn on my PBP the power LED lights up red, then turns green, and then, if I'm trying to boot normally from the eMMC, the boot logo comes up with its little progress wheel, but after about two revolutions it hangs there indefinitely. Once it freezes, everything but the power button is unresponsive. If I try to boot from my bootable SD card, I get a red LED, then a green LED, but a black screen that just stays that way.

If I boot from eMMC and I hit the keyboard shortcut before the boot logo freezes, I can switch to a virtual console, and tty2-6 work as expected - I can even switch back to tty1, where my GUI should be, but the screen stays black, sometimes with a cursor (which can move, somehow, but there's nothing to click) and sometimes without. Once or twice the frozen logo has appeared on tty1 with a movable cursor - which still can't interact with anything - but I can't figure out why it only does that sometimes, or even whether that's important.

I had my PBP for a few months as my first Linux machine, and everything was great. Then I went without using it for several weeks (just coincidentally, nothing was wrong with it), during which I mostly left it plugged in, but I had the thought that that might be bad for the battery, so I unplugged it for a while. This cycle recurred several times, so over that period, I probably left it in both states for too long, overcharging and then dying entirely. Yes, I am an idiot, thank you for asking. When I finally opened it up to use again, it froze at the boot logo like I described above.

I went through as many wiki articles, forum posts, and Reddit threads as I could stomach and found some things to try, none of which fixed the problem. Unfortunately this happened a couple weeks ago so I don't remember all the details, but they included:

-fixing my locale (which had been wrong due to my own error)
-installing updates (someone had a similar issue caused by the battery dying mid-update) including refreshing mirrors
-rolling back drivers (apparently there were issues with a recent Nvidia driver causing black screen)
-opening up the case to check eMMC switch position (it was fine) and ribbon cables (they were also fine)
-troubleshooting X11, because $xinit and $startx had returned errors, but all I could parse was something about font folders - I think I ended up reinstalling X
-updating Plasma KDE packages specifically (I had this written down but I don't recall which packages or why)

I finally decided to just do a clean install of Manjaro. This was tricky since my PBP is the only device I have with an SD card reader, but I backed up my user data (so, for the record, there's nothing on it now that I need to save, so all solutions are viable) and then made a bootable SD card via virtual console (which, for me, was an achievement).

Everything seemed fine after a successful clean Manjaro installation - it powered on normally, the GUI functioned as expected, I got my settings dialed back in without issue.

I tried to run a system update but got an error about files that already existed. Unfortunately I can't remember what program was causing the issue, but the recommendation I found was to force an update as superuser, which I did, and things seemed resolved. But I had the bright idea to restart after the update, so I did, but instead of coming back on normally, it froze at the boot logo again. I tried more internet searching and fiddled with some things, trying to remember exactly what I'd done before. However, I was by then righteously pissed, so I decided, fuck it, I'll just re-re-install, but now it won't even boot from the SD card, which I haven't touched since the first reinstall.

The virtual consoles still work, but I still haven't been able to boot either from the SD or normally into the GUI and I can't find any advice I haven't already tried to follow. I tried $xinit and $startx again, which yields the same errors as before, and I tried powering on with the eMMC switched off and then switching it back on when the LED comes on, which also did not resolve anything.

To summarize, the timeline was, to the best of my recollection:

-Normal use
-Probably plugged in too long followed by allowing battery to die several times
-Freeze on boot
-Attempt software troubleshooting
  -Locale
  -Updates
  -Driver check
  -Try to address X11 issues in particular after $xinit and $startx fail
-Attempt hardware troubleshooting
  -All switches and cables in place
-Reinstall OS, boots normally
-Run software updates
  -One error, resolved by installing via CLI as superuser
-Restart after updates out of habit
-Freeze on boot again
-Try $xinit and $startx, same errors as before
-Try to clean install again but won't boot from SD at all, just green LED and black screen
-Try booting with SD and hotswitching eMMC (this struck me as odd but I found it at https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?...6#pid62426)
-Despair, weep openly, rage at unjust god, walk the dog for emotional cooldown
-Post on pine64 forum

So, do I need to resign myself to a virtual console-only PBP experience? Am I just taking something for granted that I shouldn't? Did I do this to myself? Is there any good in this world at all? I need to pare down some of my hobbies anyway, so let me know if it's a lost cause and I'll delete my account and go back to doing resin castings. Anyway, I tend to be a quick learner and I like digging into new things, but my Linux experience - and CLI knowledge - is limited to my time with my PBP and Manjaro, so responses on the level of "Baby's First Linux" would be entirely warranted. Thanks, everyone.
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#2
Frankly, I hate to say this because I'm not a guy with a "modern gaming computer" or whatever it is that most people have. (I'm still an Amiga guy). But you really need another computer to support your PBP. Kudos for getting this far without one, but sooner or later you're going to need it. Even if it's a Raspberry Pi or one of the Pine64 SBCs with an external micro-SD slot.

Here's what I recommend: go to the wiki, and download the Debian Desktop image, and ditch Manjaro, at least for now. All of the kinds of problems you are describing seem to be reported by other users of Manjaro. The Debian install that you'll end up with isn't quite as polished, but it's much more stable and less likely to put you in a bind.

At least, put it on a micro SD, and keep it for emergencies. But really, I recommend putting it on the eMMC and if you want to use Manjaro, use that from an SD card.
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#3
Or at least the mrfixit debian uboot, a bsp uboot
And, BTW there are no nvidia drivers (or hardware), that was a blind alley
And yes, I agree that the mrfixit distro is a very good recovery, be sure to do the mrfixit_update
(/usr/bin/mrfixit_update.sh)
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#4
The issue with broken installations on the PBP is that its boot priority is hardcoded in hardware the way that it tries to boot off eMMC first before it tries to boot from sdcard (it tries SPI before that, but that's empty by default). By default, the u-boot installed from eMMC is configured in a way that it boots from SDCard if it detects one. However, if you break u-boot in your eMMC or flash a different version that does not boot from SDCard first, you will have to recover from that. There are a few ways to do it:

- connect a serial console and try to change the boot order in u-boot directly
- deactivate eMMC booting via the jumper on the board, see the Wiki for how to do this: https://wiki.pine64.org/index.php?title=...nal_Layout
- use the maskrom mode to reflash the eMMC externally. See the wiki as well.
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#5
(01-10-2021, 08:08 PM)KC9UDX Wrote: Frankly, I hate to say this because I'm not a guy with a "modern gaming computer" or whatever it is that most people have.  (I'm still an Amiga guy).  But you really need another computer to support your PBP.  Kudos for getting this far without one, but sooner or later you're going to need it.  Even if it's a Raspberry Pi or one of the Pine64 SBCs with an external micro-SD slot.

Here's what I recommend: go to the wiki, and download the Debian Desktop image, and ditch Manjaro, at least for now.  All of the kinds of problems you are describing seem to be reported by other users of Manjaro.  The Debian install that you'll end up with isn't quite as polished, but it's much more stable and less likely to put you in a bind.

At least, put it on a micro SD, and keep it for emergencies.  But really, I recommend putting it on the eMMC and if you want to use Manjaro, use that from an SD card.

My usual MO when something doesn't work is to just steamroll towards it until I make it work in order to understand why it didn't at first, even if I do change gears later. But if this stuff is just a symptom of the current state of Manjaro, it seems like my best bet is to take your advice and go for a different distro. I had only resisted up until now because of the official support of Manjaro (and my ol' steamrolling habit).

Seems like Debian is always recommended over pretty much anything else - any particular reason for this? Is it just very popular or is it more reliable on the PBP hardware specifically? Are derivative distros like Ubuntu equally recommended? It also seems common to describe it as "unpolished" but I'm not really clear on what that implies. As long as the screen, trackpad, keyboard, and wifi work as expected, everything else seems surmountable.

As far as another computer, I am technically still a young 'un by many standards, so I do have a MODERN GAMING COMPUTER™ desktop running win10, which is what I'm posting from. It just has no SD card slots. This is almost certainly a dumb question, but I assume getting a card reader for it is adequate rather than getting another Linux device specifically?

@wdt - would this be the correct thread on how to do the MrFixIt update you're talking about?

Thank you both!
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#6
I don't think this is a U-boot problem, at least not at this point. It's booting, but the OS isn't fully working.
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#7
@archaicmeander
Yes, that is the thread,,, the reason why mrfix's distro is considered "old"
is that it is based on debian stable, it has 64bit kernel and 32 bit userland,, armhf
The cups version is too old to do driverless, so you will likely not be able to print
IIRR, s3 sleep does not work either, that is the other reason I am not using it (but it is still on emmc)
I boot from SD, use s3,, wakes in ~10 seconds, when sleeping ~7%/day
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#8
Don't know why I couldn't see your post earlier, but yes Debian has proven more stable on the PBP. You *can* print; I do, and didn't do anything that I didn't have to do on Manjaro, but this may be printer specific.

You should be able to get an SD card reader (and Pine64 eMMC reader) for your computer, they're a dime a dozen. All you need is an available USB port, which you should have.
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#9
(01-11-2021, 12:59 PM)KC9UDX Wrote: I don't think this is a U-boot problem, at least not at this point.  It's booting, but the OS isn't fully working.

The OS not fully booting is (probably) not a U-boot problem, but the U-boot that ships with Manjaro is faulty (from a user perspective).

I'm just wondering, can you do CTRL + ALT + DEL when the boot freezes and see if it boots from SD after that?
Not sure if you have to use the Fn key.
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#10
Does Ctrl-Alt-Del do anything on the PBP? I had the impression it didn't, but maybe some U-Boots or some operating systems recognise it.
  Reply


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