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Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:46 pm
by code_exec
This thread is about porting vanilla Debian (not Raspbian) to the Raspberry Pi. My goal is to provide an armel image that boots on all Pi models, an armhf image that boots on the Pi 2 and 3, and an arm64 image that boots on the Pi 3.

Debian has always been able to run on the Pi. Before Raspbian was released, the recommended OS image for the Pi was an Debian Squeeze armel image. This came with the disadvantages of software emulation for floating point tasks which was slower than using hardware for these tasks. When Debian Wheezy was released and had an armhf port (which requires an ARMv7 processor or newer), the RPF started compiling packages for the ARMv6 architecture of the original Pi.

With the release of the Pi 2 which had a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7, it was now possible to run vanilla Debian armhf on the Pi. There are a few blog posts around the internet about getting Debian armhf running on the Pi 2.

With the release of the Pi 3, which had a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53, Debian arm64 can also run on the Pi. A script is available for use with the generic arm64 kernel called raspi3-firmware which copies the kernel and initrd to the boot partition and configures the config.txt to boot from them, but the generic kernel is not yet ready for daily use on the Pi 3.

You can also compile the RPF kernel for ARM64 for use with Debian arm64. For Debian armhf, you can install Raspbian's kernel. For Debian armel, you have to compile the RPF kernel with support for running old ARM EABI binaries.

I provide images on GitHub based on Debian Stretch using the MATE and XFCE desktop and a 64-bit version of the RPF kernel. I haven't updated these images for a while, but I do plan on refreshing them at some point. For those interested, the GitHub page for these images is found here.

I plan on creating Debian armhf and armel images at some point, but don't expect images for each desktop environment for these architectures. I'll probably just create minimal images for Debian armhf and armel and update them every few point releases and every major release.

I'm excited to start creating Debian images for the Pi. Debian tends to have better software support than Raspbian. In Raspbian, Chromium is stuck at v65, whereas in Debian it's at v71.

Re: Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 11:49 pm
by DougieLawson
What's the point? It seems like a complete waste of time, when Raspbian has already done that DebIan to Raspberry stuff for you. Pick any other distro (that isn't on a Raspberry) and port that, if you have to. Don't bother with DebIan.

Re: Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:53 am
by cjan
move to Buster, want LXQT-armhf-rpi2.

Re: Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:20 am
by Gavinmc42
Sounds a bit like reinventing the wheel and not just once, but three times.

Sakaki is looking for someone to maintain this version.
https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/view ... 7&start=25

Re: Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:32 am
by jojopi
code_exec wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:46 pm
This thread is about porting vanilla Debian (not Raspbian) to the Raspberry Pi. My goal is to provide an armel image that boots on all Pi models, an armhf image that boots on the Pi 2 and 3, and an arm64 image that boots on the Pi 3.
I would not call that porting Debian to the Raspberry Pi. I would call it installing Debian and then distributing the images.
Debian tends to have better software support than Raspbian. In Raspbian, Chromium is stuck at v65, whereas in Debian it's at v71.
The vast majority of packages in Raspbian track the Debian versions automatically. (Sometimes the RPF repos provide newer versions, backported as part of their desktop mods.) You have picked one problem package that is notoriously difficult to build.

In Debian stretch, chromium v71 is currently available only in the i386 and amd64 ports. armhf and arm64 have v70. armel and every other port has no working package at all.

Re: Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:30 am
by code_exec
Future Debian64Pi releases will be based on Debian Buster and will have graphics acceleration available. The following desktop environments will be used in images:

*LXDE
*LXQT
*XFCE
*MATE
*KDE Plasma

Re: Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:07 am
by ShiftPlusOne
Although there are plenty of other distros, some people just want plain ol' Debian, but with support for the hardware features of the pi. It should also provide a good apples to apples performance comparison. Currently, if I want to check whether a bug exists in Debian or compare behaviour of packages, it's a bit of a hassle. Being able to flash an image and run a quick test would be a time saver.

If we ever want to branch out and offer more images (no plans for that, just speaking hypothetically), it would mean some of the heavy lifting would already be done or at least highlight the work remaining to do. We find a lot of the patches we apply on top of Raspbian end up in Debian, and I think it's likely that the work done on these images will end up improving Debian as well.

I think it's a good idea, keep up the great work.

Re: Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 10:54 pm
by gilius
The XFCE has KVM enabled, but not MATE. However, when I installed libvirt-daemon-system on XFCE it crashed the system and wouldn't start up again.

Re: Porting Debian ARM to the Raspberry Pi

Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:42 pm
by k-pi
I'd like to see a non systemd Debian version as an alternative download - just a basic GUI system running Fluxbox, a terminal, & web browser. 8-)