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Editor: PaulWise
Comment: better default
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  export SDCARD=/mnt/sdcard   export SDCARD=/sdcard

Translation(s): none


Installing a Debian chroot on Android

This is an account of installing vanilla Debian in a chroot on Android.

This was tested on a Vodafone 845 (a re-branded HuaWei u8120 / Joy / Ascend).

  • First, the phone was rooted by side-loading z4root

  • CyanogenMod 7.2.0-RC0 22b was flashed. This might not be necessary though

  • Set CPU to 710 MHz with the interactiveX governor. YMMV

  • Side-loaded SSHDroid
  • The SD card was formatted with the MBR scheme and a single ext3 partition was created. 15 sectors were left over

Then, on a workstation (any architecture), insert the µSD card, and:

  sudo debootstrap --arch=armhf --variant=minbase --foreign  wheezy  /media/PHONE\ CARD/debian  http://http.debian.net/debian

You will need to use --arch=armel if your phone is too old to support ARMv7.

If you have a local mirror, replace the URL above with your local mirror.

Then remove the µSD card and replace it in the phone, start SSHDroid (which provides chroot command). Then SSH to the phone, then:

  export SDCARD=/sdcard
  export ROOT=$SDCARD/debian
  export PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:$PATH
  mount -o remount,exec,dev,suid $SDCARD
  chroot $ROOT /bin/bash -l
  debootstrap/debootstrap --second-stage

Then build up the Debian system as you normally would a minimal installation.

Many thanks to all the people whose hard work made it so trivial for me to install the environment I know and love on my phone.

If you need to run binaries from inside the chroot outside the chroot, you can use ld.so:

export SDCARD=/mnt/sdcard
export ROOT=$SDCARD/debian
export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$ROOT/lib:$ROOT/lib/arm-linux-gnueabi:$ROOT/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf:$ROOT/usr/lib:$ROOT/usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabi:$ROOT/usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf
cd $ROOT
./lib/ld-linux-*.so* bin/ls

Available memory

Android pre-loads applications (in some case that the user has never started) when there is free memory. This reduces the memory available to applications in a chroot.

It looks like the *_MEM properties in /init.rc along with the /sys/module/lowmemorykiller/parameters/minfree could help.

Zygote starts SystemServer and SystemServer restarts zygote, so simply killing one of them won't work. The Android-native way of getting rid of zygote and all that descends from it is to just use the 'stop' command (in a script or through a remote (root) shell), to restart the whole Android environment you'd use the 'start' command:

stop # to stop zygote
# now do whatever you want without Android getting in the way. Once you're ready just use:
start # to start zygote

The display is now blank and ready for SDL. The input devices only partly work with SDL on the 8120 (write your own code to read /dev/input/event*) but graphics work well.

AF_INET privelages

On android, you will need to add at least one group 3003 aid_inet for those processes which require access to creating sockets (other security guarded systems particular to Android may need addressing for other applications, search for 3003 aid_inet on the web for more detail).

exim4 and mailman chroot on Android

As well as altering inet access, the Debian-exim user will have to be added to group 3003. Further, if you experience trouble in the exim mainlog for creating sockets during DNS, try dropping privelages by adding "deliver_drop_privilege=true" to the exim4.conf.template file. For mailman, the standard setup is required, as per the README.Debian file in /usr/share/doc. However the user list must also be added to the group 3003 to allow it to send mail.