Mainline Debian Buster on RockPro64 ?
#1
Question 
I have a RockPro64 board, that I plan to setup as a home server using an M.2 SSD for storage. My preferred Linux distro is Debian, and as this will be an internet facing server, it needs to be fully patched.

I downloaded and installed Mrfixit2001's Debian desktop release. The level of polish on the desktop environment is very impressive, but I am concerned that it is running an older Debian release that will go out of support soon, a 4 year old kernel, and does not appear to be updatable. (I tried changing /etc/apt/sources.list to point to buster, but the upgrade failed).

Can anyone give me some pointers on how to install Debian buster with a mainline Debian built kernel? I did find an install guide on the Debian wiki for the Pine A64, but I don't think that would be much help as the Pine A64 uses an Allwinner A64 SOC, so the bootable image is unlikely to work.

Alternatively, are there any guides on how these bootable images are put together, so I can have a go at creating a minimal text mode Debian one that can be upgraded?

Thanks.
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#2
it is probable that danielt's pbp debian installer will work for rockpro64 with minimal changes.
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#3
(03-05-2020, 11:05 AM)xmixahlx Wrote: it is probable that danielt's pbp debian installer will work for rockpro64 with minimal changes.
Thanks, I had considered that.

However, I have found the Armbian images for RockPro64, and they look to be closer to mainline Debian and upgradeable.

https://www.armbian.com/rockpro64/#kernels-archive-all
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#4
You can use Kamil's Mainline -> https://github.com/ayufan-rock64/linux-m.../releases/
Sorry for any mistakes. English is not my native language

1. RP64 v2.1 / PCIe SATA Marvell 88SE9230 Chipsatz / sd-card / 2 * 3,5 Zoll 4TB HDD (raid1) / using as NAS / Kernel 4.4.202-1237-rockchip-ayufan-gfd4492386213 / Booting from an USB3 SSD

2. RP64 v2.1 / testing.....testing....testing 

https://forum.frank-mankel.org/category/14/rockpro64
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#5
In theory, you could bootstrap your Debian manually as described here for Devuan (the process is basically the same):

https://www.kulesz.me/post/120-devuan-arm/

The major difference between installing Debian on the well-supported platforms (like the A64) and the RockPro64 are the kernel and the bootloader. Debian unstable meanwhile ships Kernel 5.5, so I guess it should work fine for most server needs on the RockPro64. But I will have to try that myself first. The second thing is the bootloader - but imho you should be fine with building it yourself once and then flashing it once and keeping it there (unpackaged) until the board gets official support in Debian 11.

Another approach for installing is installing it on a different but supported board of the same architecture (e.g. on a Pine64 or in qemu), then making the desired changes to support your board (e.g. installing kernel from unstable) and then just copying over the boot and root partitions to a device that already contains the boot loader for your rockpro64.

Armbian is an interesting option if you want something "almost debian" with the least effort. However, it ships custom kernels in an own repository that often have several unofficial patches (for the Rockpro64 it's even kernel 4.4). Also, I don't like some of the changes they make to the userland as I prefer having a "pure" Debian experience. On the other side, these unofficial patches often greatly enhance hardware support so it remains a matter of what is more important to you.

My goal would be to run the Rockpro64 with a pure stable Debian buster release and just an official unstable kernel (prefered) or one from a third-party source.
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#6
Update: I now have the following combo running:
  • Official Debian Buster
  • Official kernel from unstable
  • Self-compiled mainline u-boot (2020.03)
=> not a single, unofficial patch.

The machine boots up fine and seems stable. I tried attaching a NVMe storage (without cooling) both over USB3 as well as via MiniPCIe. It worked in both cases, but performance was far lower than expected.

Update: Performance with SATA and NVMe is tolerable but it can be enhanced significantly by using a different DTB that enables PCIe gen2 mode (instead of gen1). However, older versions of the board probably require a hardware modification for this to work reliably as discussed here: https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=8374
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#7
(04-17-2020, 07:21 PM)kuleszdl Wrote: the board gets official support in Debian 11.

Am I reading that correctly? Is the RockPro64 getting official mainline Debian support in the next Debian release (bullseye)?

Where can I find more info about this?
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#8
@foresto Sorry, I have not put this correct. I am not aware of an announcement about official support in Debian regarding this.

What I meant was: Many boards for which Debian does not provide "official" support are supported well by its Kernel and generally work fine with the official, unmodified Debian. The only difference is that there is no packaged Bootloader for Debian, so you have to self-compile and flash it once.

For me, this level of official support is almost sufficient and would be a great improvement over the current situation. Currently, the RockPro64 does not work at all in Debian 10 as its kernel does not even have the proper DTB files. For a list of boards for which Debian 10 ships dtb files see here:

https://packages.debian.org/buster/arm64...4/filelist

(of course not all features work on these boards but basic support can be expected)
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#9
Thanks for clarifying. How disappointing. This board seems like a good candidate for mainline debian support. I wonder why Pine64 hasn't done it.
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#10
Well, since Pine64 is focusing on the hardware someone from the community will have to step forward and do it.

The mainline support for the rockpro64 is not there yet I would say. I observed the following issues so far:
  • USB 3 does not work (seems to run at USB 2 speeds)
  • USB-C does not work (maybe because it's switched to OTG mode by default?)
  • reboot does not work (hangs after shutdown)
Perssonally, I can live with these issues in the meantime while enjoying running a mainline kernel. However, I will have to try more things before I declare this useable.
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