Posts Tagged ‘tutorial’

How to Build and Run Android L 64-bit ARM in QEMU

August 23rd, 2014 6 comments

Most people can’t afford Juno Cortex A57/A53 development board, and mobile processors based on the latest 64-bit ARM cores are only expected by early 2015. But thanks to a small team at Linaro, you can now build and run Android L 64-bit ARM in the latest version of QEMU that supports Aarch64. Alex Bennée, an engineer working for Linaro, wrote a blog post in Linaro’s Core Dump blog explaining the Android emulator is actually based on QEMU,  the differences compared to mainline QEMU, the work they’ve done on Android L at Linaro, and most importantly, provided the basic steps showing how to build and try Android L 64-bit ARM (ARMv8) in QEMU. I’ve just done that, but unfortunately, albeit the builds complete, I could not manage to start Android L in QEMU yet. If you still want to give it a try, you’ll need a Linux PC, and patience, as it may take about one day to retrieve the source code, and build everything from source.


I’ve done all this in a computer running Ubuntu 14.04 with an AMD FX8350 processor and 16 GB RAM.

First, you’ll need to install an ARM 64-bit toolchain, some dependencies, and tools:

sudo apt-get install gcc-aarch64-linux-gnu build-essentials git bison zlib1g-dev \
libglib2.0-dev libpixman-1-dev gperf android-tools-adb

The next step is to cross-compile a Linux 3.10 kernel for Android:

mkdir -p ~/edev/linaro
git clone
cd linux-android
git checkout ranchu-linaro-beta1

There’s a bug include the current version of the toolchain in Ubuntu 14.04 ( which prevents the build to complete. You can either remove CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO=Y in arch/arm64/configs/ranchu_defconfig (I did that), or update your toolchain. Let’s complete the build:

ARCH=arm64 make ranchu_defconfig
ARCH=arm64 make CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- -j8

Now you need to build the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). If you haven’t done so, you’ll have to install the repo tool:

mkdir ~/bin
curl > ~/bin/repo
chmod a+x ~/bin/repo

Then get AOSP source code (master as below, or l-preview branch):

cd ..
mkdir AOSP
repo init -u
repo sync

The last step can take a few hours depending on your internet connection to Google servers.
Now download and apply a patch made by Linaro:

tar -xvf linaro-devices.tar.gz

Possibly configure git:

git config --global "[email protected]"
git config --global "Your Name"

And build Android L for ARMv8:

source build/
lunch ranchu-userdebug
m -j8

The last step will again take a while. It took my machine 2 or 3 hours, and the total time was actually a bit more than than as my PC suffered two thermal shutdowns during the build, and I had to restart the build twice. The last time, I decided to underclock my CPU to 3.4 GHz, and the build went through.

The last step before running Android L is to build QEMU:

cd ..
git clone
cd qemu-arm

git checkout ranchu-linaro-beta1
make -j8

Builds should now all be successfully complete. We just need to create some symlinks helping to shorten qemu command line, and run QEMU:

cd ..
ln -s linux-android/arch/arm64/boot/ ranchu-kernel
ln -s AOSP/out/target/product/ranchu/ ranchu-build
./qemu-arm/aarch64-softmmu/qemu-system-aarch64 -cpu cortex-a57 -machine type=ranchu -m 4096 \
-kernel ./ranchu-kernel/Image -append 'console=ttyAMA0,38400 keep_bootcon' -monitor stdio \
-initrd ranchu-build/ramdisk.img -drive index=2,id=userdata,file=ranchu-build/userdata.img \
-device virtio-blk-device,drive=userdata -device virtio-blk-device,drive=cache \
-drive index=1,id=cache,file=ranchu-build/cache.img -device virtio-blk-device,drive=system \
-drive index=0,id=system,file=ranchu-build/system.img -netdev user,id=mynet \
-device virtio-net-device,netdev=mynet -show-cursor

That’s the output I get:

QEMU 2.0.50 monitor - type 'help' for more information
(qemu) adb_server_notify: Failed to establish connection to ADB server
console on port 5554, ADB on port 5555
VNC server running on `'

So it’s quite possible there’s a problem with adb, but Google did not help, and I failed to go further. More detailed instructions will soon be posted in Linaro Wiki, so I may be able to find out where I made a mistake once it’s posted.

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How to Upgrade Firmware in Rockchip RK3288 Android TV Boxes

August 12th, 2014 4 comments

For some reasons, Rockchip is extremely fond of Windows based firmware tools, and instead of providing a simple SD card method, they’ve continued to use these awful tools to upgrade firmware for Rockchip RK3288 devices. I don’t mean to say these are useless, but they should not be used by end users, unless their device is bricked. Nevertheless, Rockchip has now release version 2.3 of their Android tools for Windows, and GeekBuying has published a guide showing how to do, which I’ll summarize below. Rockchip will most probably also release an updated version for the Linux Upgrade Tool (upgrade_tool) soon, as part of their SDK, that also supports RK3288.

  1. The first thing to do is to make sure you’ve got the latest Rockchip USB drivers installed, the same as for RK3288 root method.
  2. Download and extract which contains both AndroidTool for firmware flashing, and some development tools such as AFPTool.exe and RKImageMaker.exe
  3. Enter AndroidTool_Release_v2.3/AndroidTool_Release_v2.3 directory, and click on AndroidTool.exe to start the program.
  4. Connect the USB OTG port of your RK3288 device to your Windows computer, making USB debug is enabled in Android
  5. AndroidTool now merges the functionalities of RkBatchTool (single file firmware) and RkAndroidTool (flash the NAND flash with an image corresponding to a particular partition such as kernel, system,. boot, etc..), and hence supports the two methods:
    • Single file (firmware.img) – Select Upgrade Firmware, load your device firmware, and click on Upgrade

      Click to Enlarge

      Click to Enlarge

    • If you’ve got several images for the kernel, recovery, boot, parameter, etc.., you need to click on Download Image, and load the images for the partitions would want to flash, before clicking on Run to complete the firmware upgrade.

      Click to Enlarge

      Click to Enlarge

  6. Be patient, and the firmware update should be done after a while.

I haven’t tried it myself since I don’t currently own any products powered by Rockchip RK3288. There’s also an Advanced Function menu, that will extract kernel.img, recovery.img, boot.img, system.img, etc.. from a single “firmware.img” firmware file, read the Flash ID, get Flash info, read the IDB, and so on.

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DIY Power Measurement Board

July 23rd, 2014 6 comments

When I review media player or development boards, I’m often asked about power consumption figures. One way to measure power consumption is to use a Kill-a-Watt, but for low power devices it’s not always accurate enough, and it also includes the heat dissipation from the power adapter, which may or may not be useful depending on what you want to measure. For USB powered devices or boards, an easy way to measure power consumption is to use CHARGER Doctor, a small $5 USB dongle that displays both voltage and current alternatively. Unfortunately, most products I’ve received lately use barrel type connectors, so this little tool has not been as useful as I hoped. The only solution is then to measure voltage and current with a multimeter. Voltage is measured in parallel, so you just need to point the multimeter’s leads where you want to perform the measurements. However, the current is measure in series, so you need to insert the multimeter in the circuit somehow. A few possibilities:

  1. Unsoldering a component on the board to place the multimeter in series.
  2. Cut one wire of the power cable to insert the multimeter.
  3. Get and make a board to insert the multimeter.

Solutions 1 and 2 are not really desirable, so I decided to look into solution 1, and since I could not find any board that could match my requirements, I decided to work out a solution by myself allowing various power inputs and outputs.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The board can take power adapter using micro USB, mini USB or 5.5/2.1mm barrel connectors, 32 different output connectors thanks to two cables, and header pins are used to connect the multimeter’s leads.

Here’s the different components required for this solution:

  • 1x perfboard or veroboard
  • Some 2.54mm pin headers (straight and right angle)
  • micro USB breakout board – $1.50 on Adafruit, but shipping + insurance was $12, so instead I purchased 5x micro USB charging board for $4.24 on Ebay (asp_ezone)
  • mini USB breakout board – $1.95 on Sparkfun, but shipping killed it again, so I purchase 2x mini USB charging boards for $2.75 on asp_ezone shop.
  • 5.5/2.1mm DC power socket -  $4.18 for 10 pieces
  • USB Female DIP Socket Connector – $1.73 for 10 pieces
  • 6-in-1 Universal USB charging cable – $3.41
  • Universal 28-in-1 DC power socket / plug converter for laptop – $11.30

If you purchase everything from scratch the cost would be around $35.

In case the introduction is not clear, the board description below may help.


Iv’e also included the back of the board with the soldering for reference.

Power_Measurement_Board_BackAfter double checking I had made mistake inverting GND and VCC, which could be fatal, I tried it out by making some power measurements with Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite.

Tronsmart_Vega_S89_Elite_Power_Off_Power_ConsumptionIn power off mode, I get 115 mA (~ 575 mW @ 5V), so I’m confident it’s working just fine… Unfortunately, I quickly realized something is wrong as the boot does not complete most of the time, as it reaches 1A, the boot just simply stops, or I just get a blue screen. Only once or twice did I managed to get to the home screen (about 0.52A after most background tasks are done), but starting an app will hang the system most of the time. So  I’ve tried to replace the multimeter by a breadboard female to female cable, and everything works normally. So I suspect the contact surface with the leads is not large enough, or the multimeter introduces some noise that disturbs the device…. I’ll get some crocodile clips to see if things work out better…

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Categories: Hardware Tags: how-to, power, tutorial

How to Use an Android TV Box as a Wi-Fi Access Point

July 3rd, 2014 3 comments

Today, I’ve come across another potential use case for Android TV boxes with Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Let’s say you are in a room with Ethernet, but there’s no Wi-Fi signal or the signal is too weak, and want to use your smartphone to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. If you don’t have one of these small (openWRT) Wi-Fi router with you, but instead brought an Android mini PC, you can configure the “Portable Hotspot” function to transform it into a secure Wi-Fi access point.

Assuming you’ve connect an Ethernet cable, and powered the device, first make sure Ethernet is enabled\, and Wi-Fi is disabled in the Settings menu. To click on Settings->More.. in the Wireless & Networks section, and select “Tethering & portable hotspot” or simply “Portable hotspot” depending on your firmware. In the next menu, click on Portable Wi-Fi hotspot to enabled it, then “Set up Wi-Fi Hospot” to optionally change the Network SSID and Security protocol, and enter a password. Click on Save, and you’re done. Now you can connect with your smartphone to you Android mini PC SSID, by default “AndroidAP”. I’ve tested it with Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite, and it worked nicely.

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How to Try Android L Developer Preview in Ubuntu 14.04

June 27th, 2014 No comments

As mentioned yesterday, Android L Developer Preview was about to be released, and this is now done with images for Nexus 5 “Hammerhead” and Nexus 7 “razor” available right now. However, if you don’t have either of these devices, or you’d rather not install a beta version on the phone you use everyday, you can still give a try in the SDK emulator.

I’ve tried Android L myself in Ubuntu 14.04. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Install Android Studio IDE in Ubuntu, and Create a new Project  or open an existing project (Android Studio Version is now 0.61)
  2. Click on Tools->Android->SDK Manager in the top menu, and select the Android L (API 20, L Preview) packages as shown below, and click on “Install xx Packages” button.
    Accept the license as required, and click Install. This step can take countless hours…
  3. Now we’ll need to create a Virtual Device for the emulator. Go to Tools->Android->AVD Manager, select “Device Definitions” tab, and you’ll see some new types of devices like Android TV and Android Wear Round and Square.
    But I just scrolled down and selected “Nexus 7″ and clicked on “Create AVD” button…
    …and configured the system to use “Android L (Preview) with the Intel Atom (x86) CPU/ABI, and WXGA720 skin, and clicked OK.
  4. Your Nexus 7 with an Intel Atom processor :), running Android L should now show in the list of devices. Make sure it is selected, click on the Start button, and then Launch.
  5. After a little while, you should be able to access Android L!

    Android L Screenshots (Click to Enlarge)

    Android L Screenshots (Click to Enlarge)

The screenshot on the right, is the blue and red rectangles animation that starts when you click 7 times on the Android version… There’s no Google Play in the emulator, so you’ll need to sideload the apps, or install a third party market such as Amazon Market to try out apps.

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How to Upgrade Firmware for Rockchip RK3066/RK3188 Devices with the Command Line in Linux

May 25th, 2014 7 comments

Previously I wrote an article entitled “How to Flash Rockchip RK3066 / RK3188 Firmware in Linux” explaining how to use a graphical tool called RkFlashKit to upgrade firmware on Rockchip devices using a Linux computer. This tool had some limitations, and it would just have a subset of features of RkAndroidTool (Windows), and it was not possible to flash “update.img” type of firmware which are often provided and flashed with RkBatchTool in Windows.

Luckily there’s now a command line tool called upgrade_tool that allows you to flash the “update.img” firmware files directly from Linux. I’ve already shown how to use it with Radxa Rock, but it’s buried with other instructions, so I’ve decided to make a separate post. This has been tested in Ubuntu 14.04 with Radxa Rock (RK3188) and Measy U2C (RK3066).

Ready? Let’s start by installing upgrade_tool in a terminal:


Installation is now complete. You could also choose to add it to your PATH.

Now download the firmware for your device, let’s call it “android-5.0_rk3xxx.img”, and enter recovery more in your device. This is usually done by connecting a USB to micro USB cable between the OTG port of your device and your PC, and press a “recovery” or “reset” button on your device with a sharp object (e.g. toothpick) and turning on the device.

Now complete the firmware upgrade with the two command below:

sudo ./upgrade_tool lf
sudo ./upgrade_tool uf android-5.0_rk3xxx.img

Done. It’s that easy. Now just restart your device to boot the new firmware.

The full output during the firmware update procedure should look like:

$ sudo ./upgrade_tool lf
 Lower Format Device,total(2048),current(2044)
 Lower Format Device OK.
 $ sudo ./upgrade_tool uf android-5.0_rk3xxx.img
 Loading firmware...
 Support Type:RK30 FW Ver:5.0.02 FW Time:2014-11-27 17:19:47
 Loader ver:3.23 Loader Time:2014-10-03 18:08:37
 Upgrade firmware ok.

You can also flash individual files (parameter, boot.img, system.img, etc…) with upgrade_tool utility, as well as do some checks with the NAND flash. More details can be found in linux_upgrade_tool_v1.16_help(Chinese).pdf in the zip file used for installation.

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How to Boot a Headless Linux Image on Amlogic S802 TV Boxes (Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite)

May 15th, 2014 33 comments

As some of you already know, I’ve been playing around with Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite, an Android TV Box powered by Amlogic S802 quad core ARM Cortex A9r4 processor at 2 GHz. Today, I’ll show how to boot a headless Linux image on any Amlogic based S802 TV Box from the network. The instructions can mainly be used as a starting point for developers, as it requires access to a serial terminal via  UART, but if you’ve never done it before, the instructions should be easy enough to follow. Everything is loaded from the network, the kernel (via boot.img) is loaded via TFTP, and the rootfs (Linaro ALIP image) is mounted via NFS, so it’s nearly impossible to brick your device using the method provided. Linaro ALIP rootfs comes with LXDE, but at this stage the desktop environment is not showing, even through my HDMI TV is properly detected by the drivers. However, Ethernet, USB mass storage, and the micro SD seem to be working just fine.


If you want to skip the kernel compilation part, ramdisk modification, and just boot your Vega S89 Elite from network you can download vegas89eboot.img (compressed with bzip2), and skip steps 4 to 9 included. Please don’t just flash this image or use it without reading the post, as even if it should not brick your device, Android won’t boot at all if you don’t follow the right instructions.

Let’s get started

  1. Make sure you’ve connected a USB to serial board to your S802 based device.
  2. If not done already, you’ll need to install TFTP and NFS servers, and the get basic development tools in a Linux computer. All instructions here have been performed in a PC running Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit.
    • For the TFTP server, I installed and ran aftfpd as follows:
      sudo apt-get install atftpd
      sudo tftpd --daemon
    • Instructions to install an NFS server on Ubuntu/Debian.
    • You’ll need to install the build-essentials and other tools to successfully build Linux, something like:

      sudo apt-get install git-core build-essential zip curl g++-multilib cpio gcc-arm-linux-gnueabihf gcc-arm-linux-gnueabi

  3. Download a rootfs, and extract it to your NFS directory. For example:
    mkdir -p /srv/nfs/alip 
    pushd /srv/nfs/alip
    sudo tar xzvf linaro-image-alip-genericarmv7a-20140417-248.rootfs.tar.gz
  4. Get the device tree file (DTD) for your device from its firmware image or, if not available, directly from the NAND flash.
  5. Follow the instructions to get S802 kernel source and setup the source tree until after the step where you do
    make ARCH=arm meson8_defconfig
  6. Run “make ARCH=arm menuconfig” to enable NFS client support as shown below.
    Linux_3.10_NFSThen exit and save
  7. You’ll need to edit script for your device using the correct DTD file, which you need to copy to ./arch/arm/boot/dts/amlogic/ directory.  I’ve renamed the script to, and edited it as follows:
    # Modify these four lines for your board
    make uImage -j8
    #make modules
    make ${DTDFILE}.dtd
    make ${DTDFILE}.dtb
    ./mkbootimg --kernel ./arch/arm/boot/uImage --ramdisk ./${ROOTFS} --second ${DTDFILE_PATH}/${DTDFILE}.dtb --output ./${BOOTIMG}
    ls -l ./${BOOTIMG}
    echo "${BOOTIMG} done"
  8. We also need to create and init to switch the root to NFS. Normally, we should be able to do  in the bootloader with “bootargs” but this did not work for me, probably because I missed some steps.
    1. Extract the ramdisk provided with the source code
      mkdir rootfs
      cd rootfs
      sudo cpio -i -F ../rootfs.cpio
    2. Delete sbin/init symlink to busybox, and create a new init file. Be very careful at this stage as if you inadvertently add a leading slash, you’ll mess up with your PC system.
      rm sbin/init
      sudo vi sbin/init
    3. Here’s the content of sbin/init. Replace by the IP address of your PC / NFS server, and /srv/nfs/alip by the path where you extracted your rootfs in the NFS directory.
      #!/bin/busybox sh
      echo "CNXSoft init script entered"
      echo "DHCP..."
      udhcpc eth0
      echo "Mounting NFS rootfs..."
      mount -t nfs -o proto=tcp -o nolock /mnt
      echo "Switching root..."
      exec switch_root /mnt /sbin/init
    4. Recreate the ramdisk
      find .| sudo cpio -o -H newc > ../rootfs.cpio
      cd ..
  9. Now we can finally build the kernel, and boot.img:
    chmod +x
  10. It should take between a minute to a few minutes depending on your machine, and if everything works as planned you could get your boot.img, in my case vegas89eboot.img. Copy it to your tftp server directory
    sudo cp vegas89eboot.img /srv/tftp/boot.img
  11. Now start minicom connected to ttyUSB0 (115200 8N1), and power the TV box. Press the space bar, or any other key, during boot up to access U-boot command line. Let’s define IP addresses for the board, the TFTP server, and gateway (router), and save these to the U-boot environment:
    m8_k200_v1# setenv ipaddr
    m8_k200_v1# setenv serverip
    m8_k200_v1# setenv gatewayip
    m8_k200_v1# saveenv
  12. Setup the boot arguments for NFS. I know I should really have used fixed IP instead of dhcp, for consistency, and to shave off two or three seconds to boot time, but…

    m8_k200_v1# setenv bootargs 'root=/dev/nfs rootfstype=nfs nfsroot=,rw,nolock ip=dhcp rootwait init=/sbin/init no_console_suspend storage=4 logo=osd1,loaded,0x15100000,576cvbs,full hdmimode=720p cvbsmode=576cvbs androidboot.firstboot=0 hdmitx=cec0 console=ttyS0,115200n8'

    You could also use saveenv to save these, but then Android won’t boot anymore next time your start the board. Alternatively, you could create a bootargs2 and copy this to bootargs before running Linux.

  13. Load boot.img from the TFTP server
  14. Start the system

    Once you make sure boot.img loads properly from TFTP server, you could also combine both commands with “bootp; bootm

  15. You should now have access to the command line as root, no password required. An sshd daemon is already running so you can access it via ssh if you want. The board temperature will be outputted every second or so. There must be a way to disable that in the code, but in the meantime you can do:
    echo "3 3 3 3" > /proc/sys/kernel/printk

Let’s have a look at free memory, storage devices and more.

root@genericarmv7a:~# uname -a                                                  
Linux genericarmv7a 3.10.10 #2 SMP PREEMPT Tue May 13 17:14:29 ICT 2014 armv7l x
root@genericarmv7a:~# free -m                                                   
             total         used         free       shared      buffers          
Mem:          1578           91         1487            0            3          
-/+ buffers:                 87         1490                                    
Swap:            0            0            0                                    
root@genericarmv7a:~# df -h                                                     
Filesystem                Size      Used Available Use% Mounted on                                                          
                        901.0G    656.3G    199.0G  77% /                       
tmpfs                    40.0K         0     40.0K   0% /mnt/.psplash           
tmpfs                   789.3M    176.0K    789.1M   0% /run                    
tmpfs                   789.3M    128.0K    789.1M   0% /var/volatile           
none                    775.2M      4.0K    775.2M   0% /dev                    
/dev/sda1                 3.4G      2.7G    678.8M  80% /media/sda1             

There’s about 1.5GB ram free, I’ve got a lot of storage in the root as it is the 1TB hardware in my PC, and my 4GB USB flash drive was almost mounted automatically.

I’ll also through the CPU information for reference:

root@genericarmv7a:~# cat /proc/cpuinfo                                         
Processor       : ARMv7 Processor rev 1 (v7l)                                   
processor       : 0                                                             
BogoMIPS        : 12.65                                                         
processor       : 1                                                             
BogoMIPS        : 12.65                                                         
processor       : 2                                                             
BogoMIPS        : 12.65                                                         
processor       : 3                                                             
BogoMIPS        : 12.65                                                         
Features        : swp half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls               
CPU implementer : 0x41                                                          
CPU architecture: 7                                                             
CPU variant     : 0x4                                                           
CPU part        : 0xc09                                                         
CPU revision    : 1                                                             
Hardware        : Amlogic Meson8 platform                                       
Revision        : 000b                                                          
Serial          : 1900000000000000

You should easily be able to adapt these instructions to boot from flash, by inserting boot.img into one of the available firmware update packages, and switching root to a USB flash or hard drive with the rootfs. I’m not sure how to access the flash partitions right now, as only the bootloader shows up in the MTD partition, but it;s the same thing in Android.

root@genericarmv7a:~# cat /proc/mtd                                             
dev:    size   erasesize  name                                                  
mtd0: 00060000 00001000 "bootloader"                                            
mtd1: 00010000 00001000 "ubootenv"                                              
root@genericarmv7a:~# ls /dev/block/ -l                                         
total 0                                                                         
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 254:0 -> ../zram0      
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root            12 Apr 17 15:21 31:0 -> ../mtdblock0   
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root            12 Apr 17 15:21 31:1 -> ../mtdblock1   
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 7:0 -> ../loop0        
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 7:1 -> ../loop1        
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 7:2 -> ../loop2        
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 7:3 -> ../loop3        
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 7:4 -> ../loop4        
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 7:5 -> ../loop5        
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 7:6 -> ../loop6        
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             8 Apr 17 15:21 7:7 -> ../loop7        
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             6 Apr 17 15:21 8:0 -> ../sda          
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root     root             7 Apr 17 15:21 8:1 -> ../sda1

I’m not sure I’ll go much further myself, but hopefully some people will pick up on this, and we’ll get a fully working easily installable Linux server and desktop images for Amlogic S802 based platforms.

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