Installing Debian on a Banana Pi M5
I recently bought a Banana Pi BPI-M5, which uses the Amlogic S905X3 SoC: these are my notes about installing Debian on it.
While this SoC is supported by the upstream U-Boot it is not supported by the Debian U-Boot package, so debian-installer does not work. Do not be fooled by seeing the DTB file for this exact board being distributed with debian-installer: all DTB files are, and it does not mean that the board is supposed to work.
As I documented in #1033504, the Debian kernels are currently missing some patches needed to support the SD card reader.
I started by downloading an Armbian Banana Pi image and booted it from an SD card. From there I partitioned the eMMC, which always appears as
parted /dev/mmcblk1 (parted) mklabel msdos (parted) mkpart primary ext4 4194304B -1 (parted) align-check optimal 1 mkfs.ext4 /dev/mmcblk1p1
Make sure to leave enough space before the first partition, or else U-Boot will overwrite it: as it is common for many ARM SoCs, U-Boot lives somewhere in the gap between the MBR and the first partition.
I looked at Armbian's
/usr/lib/u-boot/platform_install.sh and installed U-Boot by manually copying it to the eMMC:
dd if=/usr/lib/linux-u-boot-edge-bananapim5_22.08.6_arm64/u-boot.bin of=/dev/mmcblk1 bs=1 count=442 dd if=/usr/lib/linux-u-boot-edge-bananapim5_22.08.6_arm64/u-boot.bin of=/dev/mmcblk1 bs=512 skip=1 seek=1
Beware: Armbian's U-Boot 2022.10 is buggy, so I had to use an older image.
I did not want to install a new system, so I copied over my old Cubieboard install:
mount /dev/mmcblk1p1 /mnt/ rsync -xaHSAX --delete --numeric-ids root@old-server:/ /mnt/ --exclude='/tmp/*' --exclude='/var/tmp/*'
Since the Cubieboard has a 32 bit CPU and the Banana Pi requires an arm64 kernel I enabled the architecture and installed a new kernel:
dpkg --add-architecture arm64 apt update apt install linux-image-arm64 apt purge linux-image-6.1.0-6-armmp linux-image-armmp
At some point I will cross-grade the entire system.
Even if ttyS0 exists it is not the serial console, which appears as ttyAML0 instead. Nowadays systemd automatically start a getty if the serial console is enabled on the kernel command line, so I just had to disable the old manually-configured getty:
systemctl disable serial-getty@ttyS0.service
I wanted to have a fully working flash-kernel, so I used Armbian's
boot.scr as a template to create
/etc/flash-kernel/bootscript/bootscr.meson and then added a custom entry for the Banana Pi to
Machine: Banana Pi BPI-M5 Kernel-Flavors: arm64 DTB-Id: amlogic/meson-sm1-bananapi-m5.dtb U-Boot-Initrd-Address: 0x0 Boot-Initrd-Path: /boot/uInitrd Boot-Initrd-Path-Version: yes Boot-Script-Path: /boot/boot.scr U-Boot-Script-Name: bootscr.meson Required-Packages: u-boot-tools
All things considered I do not think that I would recommend to Debian users to buy Amlogic-based boards since there are many other better supported SoCs.