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 * [[https://blog.fossencdi.org/nonfree-firmware-android.html|firmwares_nonfree]]: script to download and install proprietary firmware for Android devices

Debian on mobile devices

This page is about tracking every initiative to fully or partially install the system on mobile platforms:


Debian is the universal operating system. Thus, it needs to run on mobile devices. This wiki page is a tool to help bring Debian to mobile platforms.

It would be great if Debian could run on many kinds of mobile devices: iPhones, Android capable HW, Windows Mobile HW, tablets, etc.

The software should allow dual booting, into both Debian and any software that came with the hardware.

Debian on mobile devices should have GUI capabilities, appropriate to the hardware capabilities.

It would also be great if Debian could run applications written to be native to the original OS for the hardware. This will enable Debian to serve the many people in society who want to easily use those applications.

Debian might benefit from having its own User Interface, or UIs, based on progression from the desktop Debian UIs - ex, GNOME or KDE. It would be great if the GNOME, KDE and other GUI communities could come to agreement on a common UI for Debian, to save unnecessary duplication of development effort, both of the Debian UI, and application software for Debian. Also to save the users from having to learn unnecessary extra UIs.

Origin and Purpose

To get this wiki page started, see the original message I sent suggesting this project. It includes some reference URLs, to help seed thinking on Debian on smartphones development.


Many people made useful replies to that email, and it would be great if they would add their suggestions of software components, foundations, and URLs thereof to this page. If we all take a few minutes to make contributions to this page when we have something valuable to add, this page will grow to be a great resource for us all. So, please take a moment to add something valuable to this page right now, or when you have the opportunity. :)

This page could use contributions like: Links to component software (embeded debian, GRUB, UIs, etc).

Software developers can write software for the many parts of this system and put links on this page to those components.

Writers can produce articles about Debian on smartphones in emails to the relevant Debian mailing lists, blogs, web pages and for the general media.

Artists can create the graphics and multimedia for Debian on smartphones.

Packagers can put it all together so people can download and install it on their smartphones.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for thinking. Thanks for all contributions you make. Let's all work together to enable Debian to fulfil its promise as "The Universal Operating System". :)


If you want to chat about Debian mobile user interfaces, please join the #debian-mobile IRC channel on irc.debian.org or subscribe to the debian-mobile mailing list. If you are interested in kernel, bootloader or middleware related issues you might want to join the #debian-arm IRC channel instead. Other discussions will be appropriate to have on these lists instead: debian-embedded debian-arm debian-kernel debian-cd debian-devel android-tools-devel


Here are some people interested in running Debian on mobile devices.


IRC nick

Hardware owned

Willing to


Paul Wise


probably-dead Openmoko FreeRunner

Offer advice

Linux mainline support for the Neo900

Didier Raboud


Openmoko FreeRunner

Get paid to work towards Debian on Mobile devices :-p

Sicelo Mhlongo


Nokia N900

Help with testing

Working Debian on N900 with UMTS/GPRS access

Alishams Hassam


Openmoko FreeRunner, Google Nexus One

Help maintain wiki, file bugs, test new things

Mainline FR support, QtMoko in Debian, Debian on the Nexus One, SHR on a Debian base

Timo Jyrinki


GTA04, Nokia N9, Nokia N950, LG Nexus 4, Jolla

Maintain some of the FR stuff, maybe do something to put Debian on N9, etc.

More productized stuff via FSO, oFono etc. packaging to support more phones



Openmoko FreeRunner * 2, Nokia N900, GeeksPhone One, Samsung Galaxy S3

Improve ways to bootstrap, test

more stuff packaged in mainline Debian - with sensible defaults

Jonathan Michalon


Samsung Galaxy Note 1

test, learn stuff, help

Have Debian in dualboot with Android and be able to do all basic tasks from it.

Philipp Hug


Nokia N900, N9, various Android devices

Maintain mobile-related packages, test

Debian on Android



N900, GTA04


Debian being Pocket Computer (aka Smart Phone) friendly

Lukas Maerdian


GTA04, GTA02, Palm Pre

Develop FSO, bootstrap Debian for new devices

Nice UI based on FSO and Debian for GTA04.

Tomas Caram


Moto A1200r, Samsung Galaxy S (I9000b)

test, learn stuff, help, compile, make scripts


Eva Ramon


Nokia N9, Nokia N900, Galaxy Note 10.1

Package mobile software, test, help with the installer

chroot Debian on Android, dual boot

David Derby


Nokia N900, Nokia N950, HP TouchPad and soon Neo900 (pre-ordered)

Continue to improve DebiaN900 scripts

To be able to fully replace Maemo with Debian as my everyday mobile OS



Learn software development. Port low-level stuff to a device. Package some middleware. Package a user experience. Package applications that can deal with small screens and touch input. Build images for users to flash onto the device. Get hardware to developers.



At various stages you will need to learn some of the following. This can be done at the same time as working on Debian for smartphones.

  • Languages:
    • ARM assembly: Linux, bootloaders
    • C: Linux, bootloaders, UIs
    • make: build systems
    • Python: middleware, applications
    • Vala: middleware, applications
  • Tools:
    • Version control:
      • git: Linux, middleware, applications
      • svn: UI, applications
      • bzr: applications
    • Compilers: GCC, LLVM, GCC cross-compilers
    • Build systems:
      • make: almost everything
      • autotools: middleware, UI, applications
      • cmake: some things
      • other: Linux and bootloaders might have custom build systems based on make


Pick a specific device. Get support for it into a bootloader (u-boot/etc), mainline Linux. Ask relevant teams to build linux/bootloader packages that work on your device. Port the debian installer to the device.

This is most of the work. It is important to get your changes into Linux/u-boot mainline otherwise Debian will not be able to support your device since the Linux kernel team for Debian will not add non-mainline drivers/patches to Debian kernels and therefore you won't be able to support Debian on the phone you care about. It will be made easier since the Android drivers probably already exist and can be ported to mainline Linux. Some hardware vendors will be violating the GPL and not releasing drivers/patches. You might be able to get the code by contacting them or getting the Software Freedom Conservancy or gpl-violations.org involved.


Pick some middleware, join the packaging group for it or package it for Debian and look for some sponsors.


Pick a UI or create a new one, create a team, start packaging it for Debian and look for sponsors.

There are numerous existing FLOSS UXen for mobile devices. As the universal OS, Debian should aim to support several of these.


Package some touch-friendly applications.


Talk to the Debian installer, live and CDs teams about building daily, weekly and release images that people can flash onto their phones. This could significantly change the way Debian images are built so it will require a fair bit of discussion first.

Other tips

If you can get hardware into the hands of kernel developers that would help a lot. You might find some hardware manufacturers who are willing to give out some free samples to developers.

Install howtos


Jailbreaking, Rooting, Unlocking, Exploits


  • Lil Debi: Debian chroot manager for Android

  • Debian Kit by Sven-Ola, an easy chroot kit (uses Android kernel to run a Debian from a loop sdcard disc image).

Flashers and USB booting

  • 0xFFFF: flasher for Nokia Internet Tablets based on the NOLO bootloader

  • dfu-util: flasher for devices supporting the DFU 1.0 protocol. In practice this means the ?OpenMoko gta01 and gta02 and maybe other devices like the iPhone.

  • Fastboot: flasher and memory booter for devices based on Android

  • Heimdall: flasher for some Samsung phones


  • OsmocomBB: free software for GSM baseband devices, currently only for the baseband on the Openmoko FreeRunner and related devices

  • firmwares_nonfree: script to download and install proprietary firmware for Android devices




  • GPU drivers:
  • Other:
    • glshim: video acceleration for OpenGL 1.x software on mobile devices that use OpenGL ES. /!\ note that this isn't needed for GPUs with Free Software drivers because mesa supports both OpenGL 1.x and OpenGL ES on the same hardware.

    • TinyGLES: a software OpenGL ES driver, intended for use with glshim


User interface



  • F-Droid: repository of FOSS Android-based applications

  • OpenMoko: applications from the OpenMoko development community

  • Ubuntu: core applications from Ubuntu Touch

  • Empathy supports voice calls and short messages via telepathy-ring


  • Debian

  • Emdebian: discontinued cut down version of Debian for small and embedded devices

  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu for touchscreen based mobile devices

  • SHR: distribution for smartphones based on OpenEmbedded and FSO software

  • QtMoko: distribution based on Debian

  • PyNeo: distribution based on Debian

  • DeforaOS: releases Debian packages

  • Qalee

  • QuantumSTEP

  • Maemo: mobile distribution based on Debian

  • Tizen: mobile distribution based on EFL, Debian/Ubuntu, backed by Samsung and others

  • Android

  • Replicant: aiming to remove all the blobs and non-free stuff from Android

  • OmniROM: a community Android derivative

  • CyanogenMod: a commercial Android derivative

  • LineageOS: renamed version of ?CyanogenMod community

  • AsteroidOS: open-source operating system for smartwatches

  • MaruOS: containers on Android

  • webOS: mobile distribution based on HTML/JS, OpenEmbedded, backed by HP

  • LuneOS: open source successor for webOS

  • FirefoxOS: Mozilla project to create an web-based OS

  • Gentoo on Android: Gentoo project to run Gentoo in a prefix on Android

  • Mer: distribution aimed at re-use by device manufacturers

  • Nemo: mobile distribution based on Mer (RPM), MeeGo Handset UX, Qt

  • Cordia: discontinued mobile distribution based on Mer (RPM), Maemo Hildon stack ported to newer GTK+/etc

  • Seadot: mobile distribution based on Mer, successor for the WeTab OS

  • SailfishOS: commercial distro based on Mer


General hardware support pages for various groups/distros: FSO oFono SHR Replicant (targets) OmniROM (unofficial ports) CyanogenMod (unofficial ports) Mer webOS Ubuntu Touch Firefox OS Gentoo

Porting guides for various groups/distros: oFono SHR (Android devices) Replicant (1, 2, 3) OmniROM CyanogenMod Mer webOS Tizen SailfishOS Ubuntu Touch FirefoxOS (2).





Operating systems


Openmoko Neo 1973


Debian more

Openmoko Neo FreeRunner


qi or forked u-boot

Needs upstreaming

Debian QtMoko SHR Android-on-FreeRunner more

blobs in WiFi, GPS, GSM. GSM isolated, semi-supported by OsmocomBB. Emulated by forked qemu.

Golden Delicious Letux 2804


u-boot branch

being upstreamed

Debian SHR Replicant

blob sent to WiFi



u-boot branch

Being upstreamed 1 2

Debian SHR Replicant Maemo

Samsung Galaxy S


proprietary, locked


Debian Replicant CyanogenMod

blobs sent to WiFi, BT. modem not isolated. XDA info

Samsung Nexus S


proprietary, locked


Replicant Ubuntu

blobs sent to WiFi, BT. modem not isolated.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1



Debian CyanogenMod Ubuntu

Samsung Galaxy S5

aboot (Samsung eMMC unlock

Nokia 770

Debian Inferno

Nokia N800/N810

Debian Mer

Nokia N900


u-boot upstream

Being upstreamed

Debian Maemo SHR NITDroid Mer DeforaOS (NetBSD)

Nokia N9


Ubiboot N9 Easy Boot

N9 Kernel update project

Debian MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan Mer Sailfish OS

Nokia N950


Ubiboot N9 Easy Boot

Being upstreamed

Debian MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan Mer Sailfish OS

HTC Nexus One


Motorola Droid


Motorola Moto X (2nd generation)

aboot (unlock

Android kernel + GNU userland


ASUS Nexus 7

Ubuntu Mer Replicant

LG Nexus 4


Sailfish OS CyanogenMod Ubuntu

Geeksphone Peak





Android kernel + GNU userland

Sailfish OS


being upstreamed



See Also

* http://lists.debian.org/debian-user/2011/03/msg01554.html - "Lets start Debian for Android hw phones"

Let's start the "Debian distro for Android capable hardware phones".

What are the first steps we can easily take, to get started on this?

1) Talk about how to do it on this email list.
2) Put something on www.debian.org web page about beginning to work on
this project.
3) Create a mailing list for "Debian for Android Hw".
4) Send some thoughts in reply to this email, & to the new mailing list.
5) Make a wiki page for "Debian distro for Android capable hardware
    - http://wiki.debian.org/DebianOnHandhelds

My motivation:  
I got an Android capable smartphone/computer a few months ago. - Samsung
Intercept, Virgin Mobil, $200, $25/month includes unlimited internet.

Of course, I'd like to get a GNU(Linux) distro on it.  So, rather than
have to piece together something using CyanogenMod & piece a bunch of
aps together, I'd just like to have a KUbuntu version to put on there. 
- Download the ISO, start, 15 minutes later it's all there with all my
familiar desktop aps in smartphone version.

So, I figure, first step (before getting my KUbuntu), is there needs to
be the Debian for Android Hw smartphones distro, for KUbuntu to build on
top of.

Ok, well, there you are, folks.  I've done my initial part for the
project - suggest it get started.  So, can some interested Debian
individuals please now step it another step forward?

Thanks for all the great Debian stuff!  :)

=====  References:

How can open source survive in a post-PC World?
How can open source survive in a post-PC World? (h-online.com) 


Open Source iPhone Apps List – Real App Store Code Examples!



Permanent root for the Samsung Intercept 

[HOWTO] Rooting your Samsung Intercept the Easy Way
Samsung Intercept > Intercept Android Development