How to install GNU+Linux on a libreboot system

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This section relates to preparing, booting and installing a GNU+Linux distribution on your libreboot system, using nothing more than a USB flash drive (and dd).

This section is only for the GRUB payload. For depthcharge (used on CrOS devices in libreboot), instructions have yet to be written in the libreboot documentation.

Prepare the USB drive (in GNU+Linux)

If you downloaded your ISO on an existing GNU+Linux system, here is how to create the bootable GNU+Linux USB drive:

Connect the USB drive. Check dmesg:

$ dmesg

Check lsblk to confirm which drive it is:

$ lsblk

Check that it wasn’t automatically mounted. If it was, unmount it. For example:

$ sudo umount /dev/sdX\*
# umount /dev/sdX\*

dmesg told you what device it is. Overwrite the drive, writing your distro ISO to it with dd. For example:

$ sudo dd if=gnulinux.iso of=/dev/sdX bs=8M; sync
# dd if=gnulinux.iso of=/dev/sdX bs=8M; sync

You should now be able to boot the installer from your USB drive. Continue reading, for information about how to do that.

Prepare the USB drive (in NetBSD)

This page on the NetBSD website shows how to create a NetBSD bootable USB drive from within NetBSD itself. You should use the dd method documented there. This will also work with any GNU+Linux ISO image.

Prepare the USB drive (in FreeBSD)

This page on the FreeBSD website shows how to create a bootable USB drive for installing FreeBSD. Use the dd on that page. You can also use the same instructions with any GNU+Linux ISO image..

Prepare the USB drive (in LibertyBSD or OpenBSD)

If you downloaded your ISO on a LibertyBSD or OpenBSD system, here is how to create the bootable GNU+Linux USB drive:

Connect the USB drive. Check dmesg:

$ dmesg | tail

Check to confirm which drive it is, for example, if you think its sd3:

$ disklabel sd3

Check that it wasn’t automatically mounted. If it was, unmount it. For example:

$ doas umount /dev/sd3i

dmesg told you what device it is. Overwrite the drive, writing the OpenBSD installer to it with dd. For example:

$ doas dd if=gnulinux.iso of=/dev/rsdXc bs=1M; sync

You should now be able to boot the installer from your USB drive. Continue reading, for information about how to do that.

Installing GNU+Linux with full disk encryption

Debian or Devuan net install?

Download the Debian or Devuan net installer. You can download the ISO from the homepage on debian.org, or the Devuan homepage for Devuan. Use this on the GRUB terminal to boot it from USB (for 64-bit Intel or AMD):
set root=‘usb0’
linux /install.amd/vmlinuz
initrd /install.amd/initrd.gz
boot
If you are on a 32-bit system (e.g. X60):
set root=‘usb0’
linux /install.386/vmlinuz
initrd /install.386/initrd.gz
boot

We recommend using the MATE desktop.

Booting ISOLINUX images (automatic method)

Boot it in GRUB using the Parse ISOLINUX config (USB) option. A new menu should appear in GRUB, showing the boot options for that distro; this is a GRUB menu, converted from the usual ISOLINUX menu provided by that distro.

Booting ISOLINUX images (manual method)

These are generic instructions. They may or may not be correct for your distribution. You must adapt them appropriately, for whatever GNU+Linux distribution it is that you are trying to install.

If the ISOLINUX parser or Search for GRUB configuration options won’t work, then press C in GRUB to access the command line.
grub> ls Get the device from above output, eg (usb0). Example:
grub> cat (usb0)/isolinux/isolinux.cfg
Either this will show the ISOLINUX menuentries for that ISO, or link to other .cfg files, for example /isolinux/foo.cfg.
If it did that, then you do:
grub> cat (usb0)/isolinux/foo.cfg And so on, until you find the correct menuentries for ISOLINUX. The file /isolinux/foo.cfg is a fictional example. Do not actually use this example, unless you actually have that file, if it is appropriate.

For Debian or Devuan (and other debian-based distros), there are typically menuentries listed in /isolinux/txt.cfg or /isolinux/gtk.cfg. For dual-architecture ISO images (i686 and x86_64), there may be separate files/directories for each architecture. Just keep searching through the image, until you find the correct ISOLINUX configuration file. NOTE: Debian 8.6 ISO only lists 32-bit boot options in txt.cfg. This is important if you want 64-bit booting on your system. Devuan versions based on Debian 8.x may also have the same issue.

Now look at the ISOLINUX menuentry. It’ll look like:
kernel /path/to/kernel
append PARAMETERS initrd=/path/to/initrd MAYBE_MORE_PARAMETERS
GRUB works the same way, but in it’s own way. Example GRUB commands:
grub> set root=‘usb0’
grub> linux /path/to/kernel PARAMETERS MAYBE_MORE_PARAMETERS grub> initrd /path/to/initrd grub> boot Note: usb0 may be incorrect. Check the output of the ls command in GRUB, to see a list of USB devices/partitions. Of course this will vary from distro to distro. If you did all of that correctly, then it should now be booting your USB drive in the way that you specified.

Troubleshooting

Most of these issues occur when using libreboot with coreboot’s ‘text mode’ instead of the coreboot framebuffer. This mode is useful for booting payloads like memtest86+ which expect text-mode, but for GNU+Linux distributions it can be problematic when they are trying to switch to a framebuffer because it doesn’t exist.

In most cases, you should use the vesafb ROM images. Example filename: libreboot_ukdvorak_vesafb.rom.

parabola won’t boot in text-mode

Use one of the ROM images with vesafb in the filename (uses coreboot framebuffer instead of text-mode).

debian-installer graphical corruption in text-mode (Debian and Devuan)

When using the ROM images that use coreboot’s “text mode” instead of the coreboot framebuffer, booting the Debian or Devuan net installer results in graphical corruption because it is trying to switch to a framebuffer which doesn’t exist. Use that kernel parameter on the ‘linux’ line when booting it:
vga=normal fb=false

This forces debian-installer to start in text-mode, instead of trying to switch to a framebuffer.

If selecting text-mode from a GRUB menu created using the ISOLINUX parser, you can press E on the menu entry to add this. Or, if you are booting manually (from GRUB terminal) then just add the parameters.

This workaround was found on the page: https://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/ch05s04.html. It should also work for Debian, Devuan and any other apt-get distro that provides debian-installer (text mode) net install method.

Copyright © 2014, 2015, 2016 Leah Rowe info@minifree.org
Copyright © 2016 Scott Bonds scott@ggr.com
This page is available under the CC BY SA 4.0

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