This document is intended to present the project's focus, philosophy and development best pratices.


Mobian's goals are to:

For these reasons, Mobian provides easy-to-use bootable images pre-configured to boot directly into the Phosh graphical environment. These images are pre-loaded with all the essential software needed on a mobile device: phone and messaging (SMS, XMPP) applications, e-mail client, Web browser, and several more!


Debian is an excellent and essential general-purpose Linux distribution, providing a high-quality system including tons of free and open-source software packages.

However, it can't be installed as-is on devices as specific as mobile phones and tablets, which all require significant customization due to the hardware they use. This is where Mobian will be useful: provide an overlay to Debian, as small as possible, to bring the full power of Debian to mobile devices.

Mobian is not intended to be a full-featured Linux distribution, but only to ease the installation and use of Debian on specific devices. As such, it is essential for us to:

Developing for Mobian

System images

Mobian images are build using debos, a simple yet powerful tool for generating custom Debian images.

The mobian-recipes repository contains the build system for generating device-specific images. It consists of:

Device families can be interpreted as groups of devices sharing a similar hardware architecture. Currently, this translates to "devices using the same SoC".

Generic recipes

mobian-recipes contains the following debos recipes, each of those using the artifacts generated by the previous recipe:

2 additional recipes are present for generating the on-device installer:

Build script

Weekly image builds

mobian-recipes has a CI pipeline setup for generating images for all supported devices. This pipeline runs automatically on a weekly basis (every Sunday at 00:00 UTC).

Generated images can be downloaded from<device>/weekly.

For the PinePhone and ?PineTab, this pipeline also generates installer images, found under<device>/installer/weekly.

Creating images for (yet) unsupported devices


Hardware support

Whenever that's possible, we'd like to use upstream Debian packages. However, most devices will need at least a custom kernel, and a custom bootloader too. These will be stored in the devices subgroup, as well as any other device-specific package.

Device-specific tweaks

For example, the PinePhone requires custom configuration for pulseaudio, udev rules and a few additional scripts. Such device-specific tweaks can be carried in one of the following source packages:

Note: as our goal is to be as close to Debian as possible, we're currently in the process of proposing the necessary changes upstream and/or in Debian so we can get rid of most of our tweaks and carry the remainder in Debian's mobile-tweaks.

Device-specific kernel packages

Most devices will require a number of patches on top of mainline to be able to run properly. For this reason, several device-specific kernel packages are present under the devices subgroup, preferably in the form of per-family repositories: the kernel repository for Allwinner A64-based devices (PinePhone and ?PineTab) is sunxi64-linux; sdm845-linux targets all supported devices using a Qualcomm SDM845 SoC.

The kernel repo contains branches named mobian-x.y, with x.y being the kernel branch version (5.15 at the time of this writing). Each of those branches contains the debian packaging for the kernel, the source package name being linux-x.y-<device>, generating the linux-image-x.y-<device> and linux-headers-x.y-<device> binary packages.

For the PinePhone:

Other device-specific packages

Other device-specific packages are:

Software packages

As a Debian-based project, all software distributed through Mobian is using the .deb packaging format.

Contributors with little experience with Debian packaging should read the Guide for Debian Maintainers, as well as the Debian Policy (the latter is a tedious read, but understanding it will help get your packages accepted into Debian). The New Maintainer's Guide still holds relevant information but newer tooling exists, and the Guide for Debian Maintainers is intended as its successor.

The use of git-buildpackage is recommended to manage the packages' source code. You should also create a Debian unstable VM or container for building and/or testing your packages.

Cross compilation with debuild should be achieved with the -a<arch> option pattern, as other patterns suffer bugs in the debuild flow; see Debian bug #898706 for details.

Mobian does not cater to the non-maintainer-upload paradigm that Debian enables. debian/changelog entries should forgo this feature; dch can be instructed so as such: dch --no-auto-nmu.

Packaging for Mobian

Some packages are not suitable for Debian or are otherwise targeted to Mobian. In such cases, the software must still be packaged per Debian's guidelines.

For the package to be accepted into Mobian, it must be reviewed/acked by at least one Mobian Maintainer and one of the following:

The maintainer of the package should also be willing to maintain the package in line with Debian's releases.

As Mobian aims to upstream all work into Debian, most packages should target Debian rather than the Mobian repositories.

The following page lists all packages currently in the Mobian archive as well as their version numbers. Version numbers of the Debian version