Debian on the Raspberryscape: Great news!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 02/15/2019 - 22:25

I already mentioned here having adopted and updated the Raspberry Pi 3 Debian Buster Unofficial Preview image generation project. As you might know, the hardware differences between the three families are quite deep — The original Raspberry Pi (models A and B), as well as the Zero and Zero W, are ARMv6 (which, in Debian-speak, belong to the armel architecture, a.k.a. EABI / Embedded ABI). Raspberry Pi 2 is an ARMv7 (so, we call it armhf or ARM hard-float, as it does support floating point instructions). Finally, the Raspberry Pi 3 is an ARMv8-A (in Debian it corresponds to the ARM64 architecture).

The machines are quite different, but being the CPUs provided by Broadcom, they all share a strange bootloader requirement, as the GPU must be initialized to kickstart the CPU (and only then can Linux be started), hence, they require non-free firmware

Anyway, the image project was targetted at model 3 Raspberries. However...

Thanks (again!) to Romain Perier, I got word that the "lesser" Raspberries can be made to boot from Debian proper, after they are initialized with this dirty, ugly firmware!

I rebuilt the project, targeting armhf instead of arm64. Dropped an extra devicetree blob on the image, to help Linux understand what is connected to the RPI2. Flashed it to my so-far-trusty SD. And... Behold! On the photo above, you can appreciate the Raspberry Pi 2 booting straight Debian, no Raspbian required!

As for the little guy, the Zero that sits atop them, I only have to upload a new version of raspberry3-firmware built also for armel. I will add to it the needed devicetree files. I have to check with the release-team members if it would be possible to rename the package to simply raspberry-firmware (as it's no longer v3-specific).

Why is this relevant? Well, the Raspberry Pi is by far the most popular ARM machine ever. It is a board people love playing with. It is the base for many, many, many projects. And now, finally, it can run with straight Debian! And, of course, if you don't trust me providing clean images, you can prepare them by yourself, trusting the same distribution you have come to trust and love over the years.


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Paul Schaub's picture

That's truly great news!

That's truly great news! Being able to run vanilla debian on a raspberry pi would be great!

Chiwy's picture


Gracias por tu gran trabajo Gunnar, ahora el RBP de mi casa tiene instalado Debian en ves de Raspbian gracias a ti :)

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