How to Install Ubuntu ARM64 on Nexus 9 Tablet

HTC Nexus 9 is one of the first 64-bit ARM platform with powerful ARMv8 cores (e.g. not Cortex A53) that both commercially available, and relatively affordable at $399 to $599, at least significantly cheaper than the server boards such as Applied Micro X-C1. The tablet comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop, but for those of you who wish to have an ARM64 platform running Ubuntu or other 64-bit Linux operating systems, Ubuntu installation instructions provided by Ryan Houdek, Dolphin emulator developer, might come handy, especially it won’t affect your Android installation provided you have already unlocked your bootloader.

Google_Nexus_9_UbuntuThe instructions are fairly long so I won’t reproduce them all here, so I recommend you check the detailed instructions on XDA, but the short summary below may give an idea of the amount of work needed:

  1. Install dependencies such as Aarch64 toolchain:
  2. Build a initramfs with buildroot. You’ll need to enable Aarch64 Linaro toolchain, set consolle output to ttyFIQ0, and select cpio roots in menuconfig step:
  3. Build the Linux kernel. Again you’ll have to change a bunch of options in make menuconfig step related to watchdog, graphics supports, and overall system configuration:
  4. Extract a rootfs (e.g. ubuntu-core-14.04.1-core-arm64.tar.gz) to a USB flash drive formatted with EXT-2/3/4, make some minor modifications to the rootfs, and rebuil the kernel. Once everything is don and well, boot Ubuntu with fastboot as follow:

Beside the Nexus 9, a USB OTG cable, and a USB flash drive required for installing Ubuntu ARM64 with these instructions, you should really make a headphone UART debug cable as accessing the serial console with make it easier to spot potential issues during installation.

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5 Replies to “How to Install Ubuntu ARM64 on Nexus 9 Tablet”

  1. What apps are available with Ubuntu ARM64? Can you still install Google Play apps after switching to Ubuntu? What about u touch, what apps are available to install with u touch?

  2. @nipszx
    ARM64 is officially supported by Ubuntu. So I guess most packages will work.
    How it’s possible some bugs still need to be fixed to have all Nexus 9 features work.

    The instructions above are for booting from USB flash drive, and it does not affect your Android installation, and next time you boot normally, it will just go to Android.

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