Debian installer on bben MN17A

Help with issues regarding installation of Debian

Debian installer on bben MN17A

Postby ljones0 » 2017-06-17 22:34

Hello all!

I've been looking into trying to install debian onto one of these devices.

For those who don't know a 'bben mn17a' is a small x86 mini PC (fortunatly not bay trail based!). The specs are:

- Apollo lake intel N3450 CPU
- 4GB Ram
- Intel graphics 500 for video display
- Intel stone peak 3165 (wifi)

There's also I think 32GB of eMMC storage.

Unfortunatly I've not yet managed to install debian on this device. But I have made some progress. Unfortunatly if I try to just simply use the normal x86-64 debian installer it won't work.

I did try to do that but every time I tried to boot from the debian installer via a usb stick the computer would simply seemingly not do anything (just nothing on the screen, no messages). This mini PC uses a UFEI bios and I did disable secure boot too though no luck, I could not get it to boot at all.

However after poking around a bit online I found a build of openelec which can boot off an apollo lake CPU.

There is a link to an image on that website and I was able to write that image onto a normal USB stick. I could then boot off the usb stick with no problem and mamanged to install openelec onto this mini PC (the file was called "LibreELEC-Intel.x86_64-8.0-devel-20170130110609-r25167-gd210441.img").

Although I have no idea how it was created that libreelec image uses a different efi image to boot with than the debian installer. And the libreelec image seems to somehow use syslinux too (after examining the image above) though I'm not sure how. But by changing its kernel image and adding initrd.gz from debian and adding a line in its syslinux.cfg for the initrd.gz file I was able to boot the installer -- though it didn't work as the installer complained about something being wrong with the image.

So sort of made a little bit of progress in a way. Although I don't know how to create/modify a debian installer image (and that libreelec image seemes to somehow use syslinux) and I am guessing here - here's my thought:

- Create a couple of partitions on the internal eMMC of the mini PC - one to boot, the other ext4.
- Copy the needed files using the "borrowed" UFEI boot files from openelec and a debian kernel image onto the boot partiton.
- Make a debian install someplace else on a usb stick and copy it across onto the ext4 partition.
- Try to boot and hope it works!

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Re: Debian installer on bben MN17A

Postby stevepusser » 2017-06-17 23:29

Since that CPU was released in the latter part of 2016, I assume you have been trying to install Stretch on it?
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Re: Debian installer on bben MN17A

Postby ljones0 » 2017-06-18 10:55

*nods, yes I was trying to install stretch and I used the latest version of the installer. Prehaps I should write up and/or upload the files someplace -- maybe it'll give someone who knows more than me about these things a bit more of a flying start when it comes to making the installer?

Isn't UFEI annoying? x.x

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Re: Debian installer on bben MN17A

Postby ljones0 » 2017-06-18 13:09

I gave my idea a try - to install elsewhere (I ended up using another x86 machine and just used qemu-x86_64). I installed debian onto a usb stick.

I then tried booting using the "borrowed" UFEI boot file and it appears to have worked although I'm currently only running off the USB stick. I haven't really tried very much but the wifi wasn't detected though the built-in ethernet device did work. And I was able to install X and xfce4 onto the usb stick and run it. It seems to be relatively responsive though it is early days yet! Have not yet tried anything to do with audio.

Tried firefox-esr as well -- on (say) a rasberry pi 3 it is torture especially trying out (just as an example) the bbc news web page. I tried firefox-esr and the bbc news webpage on this device (bben MN17A) and it again itseems pretty usable, not laggy and slow.

Will have to upload/document eventually! :-)

Update : although I haven't tested it extensively, wifi is now working -- I just needed the firmware-iwlwifi package.

Update 2 : KDE seems to be running without problems. Even the 3d "wobbly windows" work though the MN17A isn't a gaming machine -- torcs is around ~10fps.

Update 3 : This device also has built-in bluetooth and it seems to be working (in the sense I tried it quickly and it detected a pair of bluetooth headphones).

Update 4 : Made some files avaliable along with some *very* preliminary instructions.

Apart from not being to able to use the installer the only issue I've encountered so far is with reboot -- if I reboot the MN17A it forgets the usb stick I'm trying to boot from (means I have to power off and on).

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Re: Debian installer on bben MN17A

Postby ljones0 » 2017-08-06 21:40

A Little bit more information here btw. The results alas have been ..... mixed. There are some problems (some of which I can't fix) but overall it looks like this device (and another one, more later) might be usable with debian.

First of all I think I must have made one mistake in the above posts. From memory I used an openelec kernel (as opposed to a debian one) though presumably I was just lucky with the version (kernel) number, 4.9.0.3-amd64. Been trying all this again and unfortunatly an 'ordinary' debian kernel dosen't seem to work - it seems to forget the USB device it was booted from, so it can't find the root to mount and never completes boot.

That's what I mean about not being to fix -- from what I've read openelec just uses the linux kernel but I guess they must have used some options in building that kernel though I have no idea on which ones they would have used - !

I can also confirm that this works for a tablet with a very similar chipset - -a Chuwi H13 tablet. This has the same apollo lake chipset as the bben. Almost everything works on the tablet (though I have to use that borrowed openelec kernel) -- Video works, sound works, battery, bluetooth is detected (haven't tried it yet), wifi works. Even the mouse pointer works by using a finger on the tablet's screen.

Both these devices btw have a USB C port, though I have no idea if that is working in debian as I have no USB C devices!

Only two things did not work on the tablet - the camera and the detection of the internal flash. That (the internal flash not being seen) might just be down to a slightly too old (openelec) kernel;

Code: Select all
[    1.908539] mmc0: SDHCI controller on PCI [0000:00:1b.0] using ADMA 64-bit
[    1.908633] sdhci-pci 0000:00:1c.0: SDHCI controller found [8086:5acc] (rev b)
[    1.913429] mmc1: SDHCI controller on PCI [0000:00:1c.0] using ADMA 64-bit


but then later

Code: Select all
[    2.089630] mmc1: mmc_select_hs200 failed, error -84
[    2.089677] mmc1: error -84 whilst initialising MMC card
[    2.244505] ata1: SATA link down (SStatus 4 SControl 300)
[    2.248664] ata2: SATA link down (SStatus 4 SControl 300)
[    2.270248] mmc1: mmc_select_hs200 failed, error -84
[    2.273823] mmc1: error -84 whilst initialising MMC card
[    2.465004] mmc1: mmc_select_hs200 failed, error -84
[    2.468439] mmc1: error -84 whilst initialising MMC card


It is my guess that the internal flash should show up on mmc0 (not sure) but it dosen't.

I am booting debian in this case from a USB stick on the tablet. I can get access to the internal flash on the bben.

I apologise if this post seems a little bit scrambled though it is early days. If debian does work properly then maybe they might prove to be useful devices

You can see a picture of the tablet here.

Another not very good picture - bben computer. (Small box under the xerox monitor sat on top of a C2N tape drive - used for a Commodore 64; No, I don't think the Commodore 64 can run debian .... :-) ).

....if only there was a way to boot the older ('openelec') 4.9.0.3-amd64 kernel but once debian has started tell it to use a newer one !

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Re: Debian installer on bben MN17A

Postby ljones0 » 2017-08-09 19:10

Small update here - maybe quite intresting!

After a lot of poking around I came across this thread (this is an external forum nothing to do with debian specifically).

On that website someone had managed to boot a ubuntu iso image on their tablet. I tried doing the same and managed to boot an xubuntu image (actually an xubuntu-17.04-desktop-amd64.iso). It was very slow off a not-very-good usb stick but its kernel reported 4.10.0.19-generic. And this did see the internal flash ok as I could read the preinstalled window$ install.

How does this apply to debian? Random guess but I'm guessing in order to proceed I'll need at least that kernel version there. That website btw also had a different ufei boot ("bootx64.efi") than the one I was using previously. And again it uses a grub.cfg to set it up as well (the way in which it works is that it uses that bootx64.efi bootloader to load a .iso and treat it as a loopback file). I have no idea on how to build the neccecary kernel at this point let alone replace the debian installers' version!

For anyone who is intrested here's what the grub.cfg looks like (presumably used by bootx64.efi; note that 'boot.iso' is the xubuntu iso image);

/efi/boot/grub.cfg
/efi/boot/bootx64.efi
Code: Select all
set timeout=3
set color_highlight=black/light-magenta

menuentry 'Boot Ubuntu 16.04.2 LTS from ISO' {
        set isofile="/efi/boot/boot.iso"
        loopback loop $isofile
        linux (loop)/casper/vmlinuz.efi boot=casper iso-scan/filename=$isofile noprompt noeject quiet splash persistent --
        initrd (loop)/casper/initrd.lz


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Re: Debian installer on bben MN17A

Postby ljones0 » 2017-08-14 19:48

Possible slight bit of progress. Sort of.

I tried using the unofficial/daily debian installer (stretch)+firmware install cd and intrestingly this could see the internal flash (in the sense I had entries in the installer if I dropped to a command line) in /dev/mmc, e.g. /dev/mmcblk1 .

Dropping to a command line in the installer I could also read and write to the usb memory stick that I booted the installer from.

Though I've come across one problem. First of all here is how I'm loading in the installer cd;

Code: Select all
set timeout=3
set color_highlight=black/light-magenta

menuentry 'Boot Ubuntu 16.04.2 LTS from ISO' {
        set isofile="/efi/boot/boot.iso"
        loopback loop $isofile
        linux (loop)/install.amd/vmlinuz iso-scan/filename=$isofile noprompt noeject quiet splash persistent --
        initrd (loop)/install.amd/initrd.gz
}


(Ignore the menuentry section there!).

But what happens is when the debian installer running from a USB stick goes to detect the "cd-rom", it dosen't ever see it. Dropping to a command line and manually mounting the iso image from the usb stick at the command line on the debian installer cd just stops and does nothing. I can get it to stop with ctrl-c but nothing happens, it just hangs and never gets anywhere.

There are no error messages I can see in dmesg .

Does anyone know if its possible to get more information or debug info as to find out why a mount command would just hang?

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