Getting Started with Raxda Rock – How to Generate and Flash Ubuntu Saucy Server and Desktop Images

I’ve already written a guide showing how to build and install Android in Radxa Rock. Today I’m going to build the Linux kernel, generate a Ubuntu server images based latest Ubuntu Linaro server release, flash the image to the NAND flash, and show how to install LXDE or XFCE desktop environment. If you are just interested in installing one of the latest supported images, you can download Android, dual boot (Android/Ubuntu), Ubuntu ALIP, and Router images for Radxa Rock @ http://dl.radxa.com/rock/images/, and skip “build” and “generate” instructions, and just follow the flashing instructions below. All steps in this tutorial will be done in Ubuntu 13.10, and lots of the instructions below follow hwswbits blog and Ubuntu Radxa Wiki.

Build the Linux kernel

Let’s start by building the Linux kernel. I’m assuming you’ve already install development tools in Ubuntu (e.g. apt-get install build-essentials). You can refer to the list at the beginning of the Radxa Rock Android post for packages to install with apt-get.

Let’s create a working directory, get the code, and build the kernel.

mkdir radxa_ubuntu
cd radxa_ubuntu


At this stage, we’ve build the kernel. However, if we use it as is, DNS and some other network functions will not work because CONFIG_ANDROID_PARANOID is enabled in the default config file. Run make arch=ARM menuconfig, and go to Networking support -> Networking options to disable Only allow certain groups to create sockets. Run make again:


Let’s complete this section, by building the kernel modules:

Generate Initrd

The initrd is used at boot time to speed up boot among other things.

Generate Boot.img

In order to create boot.img which will be flashed in the boot partition, we need to download mkbootimg tool, and run the following commands:


That’s all good as we should now have a working boot.img. I’ll upload my boot.img soon. You  can download boot-radxa-20140127.img.xz.

Generate Ubuntu (Linaro) Server Rootfs

We will first create an empty 1GB file (rock_rootfs.img), format it to EXT-4, and mount it as a loop device:


I’ll download and extract the latest Ubuntu Saucy server image from Linaro available as today:


Now we need to copy the kernel modules and firmware to our rootfs:


I’d like Ethernet to work at boot time with DHCP so I edit the relevant file:


and add the two lines:


If you’ve already referred to Radxa Rock Ubuntu wiki, at this stage they use qemu and chroot to install extra package, I’ll skip that part, because it can be done inside the board instead, and I came across some error with qemu when accessing the network:


We still have one more step to create and enable a script to automatically detect the rootfs partition at boot time.


And copy the following to the file:


Make sure the script is executable and edit one of the startup script:


And add the line below before exit 0:


We are done, let’s umount the rootfs:


I’ll upload my Ubuntu Saucy Server rootfs soon.  Download link for Ubuntu Saucy server rootfs: radxa_rock_ubuntu_server_saucy_20140127.img.xz (95.4 MB)

Flashing Ubuntu to Radxa Rock

Now that we’ve got boot.img and rock_rootfs.img, we are ready to flash Ubuntu to the board. If you’ve haven’t installed it already, install RKFlashKit, press the recovery button on Radxa Rock, start RkFlashKit, and flash boot.img and rock_rootfs.img respectively to “boot” and “linuxroot” partitions.
Flash_rootfs_radxa_rockClick on Reboot device, and you should be able to access the console via HDMI or the serial console.

Ubuntu Saucy Server Available RAM and storage

SSH is not installed, but you can call install dropbear or ssh if you want to access the board remotely:


You can now SSH the board with linaro user using the password: linaro.

We’ve got plenty of available RAM:


But there’s only a 1GB flash partition usable with 409MB available.


However, there’s also a 4GB “user” partition:


We can mount it as follows:


And get some extra space:


But we’d still only get 5GB out of a 8GB NAND flash, and there’s not enough space on the rootfs to install a desktop environment.

Increasing Radxa Rock Ubuntu Rootfs Partition Size

Let’s see what can be done to get rid off useless Android partition, and get a 7GB rootfs.

First we need to modify the Android parameter file to change the MTD layout for linux (parameter-linux). Refer to the Android post to get the parameter files in rockdev directory.


Edit parameter-linux as follow with only 2 partitions for boot.img and rock_rootfs.img (linuxroot):

FIRMWARE_VER:4.2.2
MACHINE_MODEL:radxa_rock
MACHINE_ID:007
MANUFACTURER:RADXA
MAGIC: 0x5041524B
ATAG: 0x60000800
MACHINE: 3066
CHECK_MASK: 0x80
KERNEL_IMG: 0x60408000
#RECOVER_KEY: 1,1,0,20,0
CMDLINE:console=ttyFIQ0 console=tty0 root=/dev/block/mtd/by-name/linuxroot rw rootfstype=ext4 init=/sbin/init initrd=0x62000000,0x00800000 mtdparts=rk29xxnand:[email protected](boot),[email protected](linuxroot)

Now get the upgrade_tool (download link), enter recovery mode and flash the parameter file:


Start RkFlashKit again to flash boot.img and rock_rootfs.img again. This time, you should only see two partitions in the tools: boot and linuxroot.

However, the first time I tried to flash rock_rootfs.img, I got the following error message in RkFlashKit:


And after reboot, in the serial console, I got quite a few error message similar to:


A low level format, before using RkFlashKit, and flashing the parameter file fixed the issue:


You may want to run the command above first in any case, because flashing rock_rootfs.img takes nearly 30 minutes… If you do so, the low level format command must be done before flashing all other files in including the parameter, boot, and rootfs files.

After flashing is completed, reboot the board. You’ll notice the rootfs is still 1GB. Simply resize the EXT-4 partition:


Let’s check:

[email protected]:~# df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/mtdblock1  7.3G  546M  6.4G   8% /
udev            924M   84K  924M   1% /dev
none            4.0K     0  4.0K   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
none            186M  260K  185M   1% /run
none            5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /run/lock
none            927M     0  927M   0% /run/shm
none            100M     0  100M   0% /run/user

Yes! Success! The rootfs partition is 7.3 GB with 6.4GB available.

Installing LXDE or XFCE Desktop Environment

If you just plan to use Radxa Rock as a server, you are done, but if you want to run a desktop environment one more step is needed. Since there are no GPU Linux drivers in RK3188 based devices, installing Unity is probably a very bad idea and would lead to poor performance. Two other lightweight desktop environments are frequently used: LXDE in distributions such as Lubuntu or ALIP, or XFCE in distributions such as Xubuntu.

The good news is that installation is very easy, but it can take a few hours to download and install all required packages. So if you want to skip the part below, you can download the compressed rootfs with Xubuntu-Desktop to flash directly to your board.

Lubuntu (LXDE) requires 378 MB of archives and 1166 MB of additional disk space, and can be installed with the following command:


Xubuntu (XFCE) requires 452 MB of archives and 1370 MB of additional disk space, and can be installed with the following command :


I decided to install Xubuntu desktop, and it took 2 to 3 hours. I’ll upload my Ubuntu Saucy XFCE rootfs soon if you want to skip that part.

Once installation is complete we still have 4.5GB free, but somehow it used nearly 2GB additional space, instead of the 1370 MB promised.


At boot time, you get the the login screen (use “linaro” user with “linaro” password), and the system is very usable. I’ve opened several programs including Gimp, Firefox, Abiword, a terminal window, a game, a music player, and more (See screenshot below), and  everything runs pretty smoothly. Stability may need to be improved however, since I’ve got one random reboot as I accessed SAMBA shares. I could not reproduce the issue.

Xubuntu in Radxa Rock (Click for Original Size)
Xubuntu in Radxa Rock (Click for Original Size)
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