Building Ubuntu rootfs for ARM

Most embedded filesystems(rootfs) are build with debootstrap or Linaro. Let’s explore a third possibility with core-ubuntu filesystems.

Steps to perform on any Debian based distribution (preferably)

1) Create some directory of your choice and download the core rootfs from Ubuntu server

mkdir ~/ubuntu-rootfs && cd ubuntu-rootfs

2) Extract the downloaded image with ‘sudo’ to allow ‘mknod’ commands to work

sudo tar -xpf ubuntu-core-14.04-core-armhf.tar.gz

You may remove the ubuntu-core-14.04-core-armhf.tar.gz file now.
Change directory cd .. or cd -

3) Install qemu-user-static from your package manager

sudo cp /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static usr/bin/

4) Mount proc, sys, dev, dev/pts to new fileystem. We will use a simple bash script for mounting and un-mounting. Download to present directory.

sudo bash -m ubuntu-rootfs/

5) Once you are in chroot environment, edit /etc/apt/sources.list and un-comment all the repositories except the ones starting with deb-src. You may use vim.tiny text editor

6) To update repositories, copy your system’s(host machine’s) /etc/resolv.conf to ~/ubuntu-rootfs/etc/resolv.conf .Set proxies if required.

7) Now update the repositories

apt-get update

8) Now install minimal packages required for X server and some core utils

apt-get install language-pack-en-base sudo ssh net-tools ethtool wireless-tools lxde xfce4-power-manager xinit xorg network-manager iputils-ping rsyslog lightdm-gtk-greeter alsa-utils gnome-mplayer lightdm bash-completion lxtask htop python-gobject-2 python-gtk2 synaptic --no-install-recommends

9) Now add a user of your choice and include him in suitable groups

adduser student && addgroup student adm && addgroup student sudo && addgroup student audio

10) Add hostname to /etc/hostname

echo ‘netbook’ > /etc/hostname

10) Add host entry in /etc/hosts    localhost    netbook

11) Also on few ARM devices, if you are using source from Android kernel, then you may have to do the following too

groupadd -g 3003 android_inet && addgroup student android_inet

12) Make X used by ‘anyuser’

dpkg-reconfigure x11-common

13) To allow /etc/resolv.conf to update DNS automatically based on network connection (as we changed that file previously to make internet work)

dpkg-reconfigure resolvconf

(Select ‘Yes’ to the first dialog box, i.e allow dynamic updates)
14) Set ‘timezone’

dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

15) Create directories for ‘firmware’ and ‘modules’ in ‘/lib'(ofcourse inside chroot) and copy your hardware specific files from host

cp -r /opt/out/modules/3.4.5 ~/ubuntu-rootfs/lib/modules

16)Optional. To enable login at serial console, add following in /etc/init/ttyS0.conf file and run sudo start ttyS0

start on stopped rc or RUNLEVEL=[12345]
stop on runlevel [!12345]
exec /sbin/getty -L 115200 ttyS0 vt102

That’s all, you may customize even further if required.

  • Ashish Pal

    /usr/bin/groups: cannot find name for group ID 3003
    /usr/bin/groups: cannot find name for group ID 9997
    /usr/bin/groups: cannot find name for group ID 50183
    root@localhost:/# groupadd – 3003 android_inet
    Cannot open audit interface – aborting.

  • Ashish, to which command you got this output? Also, which Ubuntu version you are using as host?
    The step 11 is optional though.

  • Ashish Pal

    Android GnuRoot. Ubuntu 15.10 rootfs for arm. When I start this rootfs in Gnuroot, I’m getting those errors.

  • Android GNURoot, I believe download it’s own custom rootfs, which is adequate in most cases. Providing a self made rootfs may not be compatible. From your previous comment I can see it is expecting few groups which are not created by our tutorial, a simple fix would be looking into GNURoot’s scripts which create the rootfs and creating those nodes in /etc/groups.
    I hope this answer your query.
    This tutorial is mainly for creating a working ARM rootfs inside x86 host machine using qemu.

  • Ashish Pal

    Please guide me using ubuntu 15.10 rootfs in Android terminal using proot.

  • Sorry, I haven’t used proot. It looks promising though.

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  • Favas Ishaque

    will simply copying the modules and firmware directory to /lib autoload the modules at boot ? Or is there anything extra to do ?

  • Franco Grex

    Your title said “Building Ubuntu rootfs for ARM”, but in reality with what you have written above you’re not building anything, instead you’re downloading an already built image and making a few customization and updates. Not the same thing.

  • alex