back to article Linux-on-an-SBC project Armbian releases version 22.02

The latest update to Armbian brings a mainline-kernel based Ubuntu- and Debian-compatible environment to dozens of small single-board computers. This includes both Arm and x86-based hardware UEFI booting – and 64-bit builds for Raspberry Pi hardware. Armbian supports over 60 different single-board computers, including various …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    I used to use it with a pcduino2 (A10) and the Jetson Nano (Tegra). It was good and offered a fairly vanilla experience compared to their extremely heavy (and broken) vendor supplied images.

    Ultimately I realized it was a bit cleaner to do it myself, Armbian also tended to deprecate hardware too quickly (due to limited manpower I suppose). The steps I take now are:

    1) boot the terrible vendor image

    2) create a Debian chroot via debootstrap and tarball it

    3) delete everything from the vendor image apart from /boot, /lib/modules, /lib/firmware

    4) expand the Debian chroot you prepared earlier onto the root /

    5) Optional for Jetson Nano, expand the NVidia drivers from the L4T SDK (don't bother with the debs, they drag in crazy things like custom wpa_supplicant files and dbus schemas)

    This tends to work with everything and gets you a clean, bootable Debian install.

    1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

      >Armbian isn't exactly a Linux distro, but you could confuse it for one if you squint a bit. Armbian is a framework that lets you build enough of a Linux system – a kernel, plus tools to get that kernel into memory...

      Stop typing there and you've just described Gentoo ( and I believe Arch ).

      1. UCAP Silver badge

        ... and the Yocto project.

        1. karlkarl Silver badge

          OpenWrt too I suppose.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            And buildroot

            Though buildroot is perhaps more industrial. Settop boxes and car infotainment systems tend to be buildroot unless they're Android.

    2. TRS-80

      The process you outline will result in what we call a legacy / BSP image.

      While Armbian is targeting mainline (as much as possible).

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        legacy / BSP image even though the very latest (i.e) Debian userland is used?

        It is very much a mainline userland, though yes, it is using the vendors kernel and firmware but unless you want to get involved in compiling vendor kernels (which I don't think Armbian does), it is the best you can do.

        1. TRS-80

          The /raison d'être/ for Armbian is to build kernels and low level stuff. User space is almost completely vanilla upstream. Depending on the board, there may be mainline and/or legacy builds available. But we do take a 'mainline first' approach as much as possible.

          From near the bottom of the release announcement [0]:

          > Build Automation Improvements

          > We have been improving our build automation with extensive use of Github actions that are driving our internally maintained build hardware with around 500 fast x86, 40 arm64 vCPU cores, and 1 terabyte of memory.

          > While to some this may sound like a lot, our build jobs are quite extensive. We still need hours to build all the various kernels manually or at upstream change, as well as a small selection of rolling release images. Once built, the software is also deployed to real hardware and run through a battery of basic smoke tests.


    3. igorp

      > Armbian also tended to deprecate hardware too quickly

      You are never left in a worse position as Debian or Ubuntu upstream. You still will be receiving all updates, just nobody specifically (a person or a team) will be fixing bugs outside the Just like vanilla Debian or Ubuntu. But due to the much larger and dense specific community around Armbian, device will still get a lot more fixing and maintaining, just by random community member, un-officially, no warranty. We also maintain several thousands of kernel patches that will probably never be send & received upstream. And we still keep on eye if upgrades works ... That Armbian deprecation means.

      Whenever you use build framework you can build a fresh image with any user land that smells on Ubuntu and Debian in no time. No trickery, hacking, deboostraping and fixing bugs of this process ... there is always something, while build framework is well maintained.

      I use Yocto on a daily basis and I am a co-designer of this framework. This would be a very short top level overview / comparison:


  2. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Thanks to the great work of the people at Armbian and particularly forum member balbes150, I was able to boot a cheap Chinese Android TV box to a full desktop Linux which even had hardware accelerated 3D and video decoding. Considering these boxes go for about £20 new on Ebay or Aliexpress it works out cheaper than even second hand Raspberry Pi at the moment so something to tinker around with until the chip shortage means Raspberry Pi supplies and prices get back to normal.

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Gemini rising

    So the sidebar explains "There's no commercial incentive for MediaTek to do the considerable work involved in porting newer versions of Android to an SoC it hasn't sold since 2018"

    But then people that have been burned by this will shy away from projects like Gemini in the future, knowing they'll be orphan products from the get-go, so MediaTek loses market.

    In the future, I'll just get "mainstream" Pis and to hell with the one-off crap.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Gemini rising

      My response would be somewhat different, namely that either they need to work on making it easier to update Android or they need to have a regulatory incentive not to have such a short planned obsolescence time.

      Google has been talking about lowering barriers to updating Android for years. And, as useless as many of those attempts have turned out to be, they do appear to have made some improvements. Still, it's annoying that they have a situation like this at all--after all, nobody needs to ask whether the new version of Linux (kernel or distro) will support a particular old laptop. If the laptop had drivers already, it probably still has them and you can go get them. If it didn't, you may have network, sound, or graphics issues, but the problem will be the peripheral hardware, not that Intel or AMD no longer support the chip from 2009.

      And I do tend to blame the manufacturers of the devices to some extent. There are projects that manage to update Android past the typical cutoff point. They don't need to wait for the SoC manufacturer to do everything for them, and if for some reason there is one where they do, then they should know not to use that one. There's a simple way to check which one Planet has turned out to be: how were their security patch level updates? They don't need SoC assistance for those, and if they stopped releasing them, it's clear they moved on and let their product's Android version die.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. martinusher Silver badge

    Linux is as small as you need it to be

    I've probably got stuck in a box somewhere a Linux distro that came on a single floppy disk. Obviously you don't get a full GUI with audio and video support for that but for what this was aimed at -- embedded devices -- it was more than adequate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @martinusher - Re: Linux is as small as you need it to be

      The problem is not Linux, it is the proprietary crap that comes with those SBC.

    2. bigtreeman

      linux is small

      Tiny Core Linux gives you gui with 21MB, bit more than a floppy, but hey when was the last time you saw an actual floppy drive or connector on a motherboard ?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux is as small as you need it to be

      Yep, 20 odd years ago I used to run a Linux based firewall for the small company I worked at that ran on a single write protected floppy.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. IGotOut Silver badge

    I love IT acronyms...

    I thought.... Eh? Linux has run Session Border Controllers for years....

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: I love IT acronyms...

      There are loads of reused acronyms which makes it confusing.

      I.e. talking about IP which is either Internet Protocol (for network engineers) or Intellectual Property if you are a lawyer

      There are a lot more of them but my brain isn’t working well enough to think of more examples.

  8. bigtreeman

    it is exactly a distro

    It uses uboot, dtb, linux kernel, linux firmware, systemd, debian packages,.....

    What exactly makes it not Linux ?

    I've used Armbian on a number of SBCs because it has great dtb and uboot support.

    Other distros are based on Armbian - Dietpi

    1. TRS-80

      Re: it is exactly a distro

      Technically, the core software that is developed is the build tool.[0]

      The images that are produced, are the result of said tool, and are provided as a convenience.

      But don't worry, you are certainly not alone in thinking this. I am pretty involved in the project, and I did not really understand that for a long time, either. :) So this is something we have been trying to get better at clarifying.


    2. oiseau

      Re: it is exactly a distro

      It uses uboot, dtb, linux kernel, linux firmware ...

      What exactly makes it not Linux?

      Hmm ...

      The registry class systemd virus?


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