This is a guide for booting RockPro64 computer (https://www.pine64.org/rockpro64/) without using any proprietary blobs. RockPro64 is based on Rockchip’s rk3399 SoC, so if you have some other rk3399 board, you might still find this guide useful.

I’m using Gentoo GNU/Linux in this guide but steps should be quite similar on other distributions.

Overview of boot sequence

Before we proceed with detailed instructions, let us briefly describe how rk3399 boots.

rk3399 chip has two types of internal memory that is inside the chip itself:

  • 32 KiB BootROM which is read only.
  • 200 KiB SRAM (Static RAM).

When rk3399 is powered on, CPU loads BootROM code into SRAM (at this stage main system RAM is not yet initialized). BootROM is a fairly small program baked into hardware that is responsible for loading initial bootloader. It supports booting from SPI, eMMC, SD and supports downloading next bootloader over USB OTG interface. Since it is quite small and baked onto the chip itself, for the purposes of this guide we will consider it as hardware, not software.

So, BootROM loads U-Boot TPL into SRAM. Since SRAM is quite small, we cannot load the full U-Boot bootloader into it, so only a small part called TPL is loaded. Its main job is to initialize main system RAM (RockPro64 has up to 4 GiB of LPDDR4 based RAM).

Then U-Boot TPL hands control back to BootROM which then loads a slightly bigger part of U-Boot called U-Boot SPL. At this stage SPL loads ATF (Arm Trusted Firmware: https://github.com/ARM-software/arm-trusted-firmware) and U-Boot Proper into memory. Then ATF starts and finally runs U-Boot.

U-Boot can boot payloads from a variety of sources including, eMMC, SD, USB as well as do network boot. Also, U-Boot has support for UEFI booting specification, so it can boot EFI binaries located on ESP partitions. Even though U-Boot can load Linux kernel directly, I personally find it more convenient to first load Grub2 and then load Linux kernel.

Compiling required components

Toolchain

First of all you need to install required toolchain. If you are following this guide on RockPro64 itself or other ARM64 system, you can just use gcc. If you are not on ARM64, you can use crossdev (https://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Cross_build_environment) to install ARM64 cross-compiler (other distributions often ship cross compiler binaries too, e.g. on Debian GNU/Linux you can use https://packages.debian.org/sid/gcc-aarch64-linux-gnu).

In addition to ARM64 compiler, you also need ARM32 cross-compiler:

crossdev --target arm-none-eabi -s4

At the moment on my system I have cross-arm-none-eabi/gcc-8.3.0-r1 with USE="cxx graphite jit multilib pgo".

Arm Trusted Firmware

As mentioned before, source code for ATF can be downloaded from https://github.com/ARM-software/arm-trusted-firmware.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a small binary blob responsible for DisplayPort DRM (plat/rockchip/rk3399/drivers/dp/hdcp.bin 864 bytes) in rk3399 folder in ATF but it is not important for booting.

I have removed it in my fork of ATF (actually replaced it with a file of 0 size). My fork contains another patch which increases baud rate of serial console to 1,500,000 so that it matches the rate used by U-Boot and the Linux kernel.

https://git.stikonas.eu/andrius/arm-trusted-firmware

Building ATF is quite easy

make PLAT=rk3399

This should produce build/rk3399/release/bl31/bl31.elf. Now, we can make the path to bl31.elf binary known to U-Boot build process

export BL31=path/to/arm-trusted-firmware/build/rk3399/release/bl31/bl31.elf

U-Boot

U-Boot only gained support for training LPDDR4 memory in v2019.10 which is not released yet, so for now we will get U-Boot from git:

git clone https://gitlab.denx.de/u-boot/u-boot.git/

Let’s use default configuration. I also tried tweaking configuration a bit to enable HDMI display inside U-Boot but so far I was not successful.

cd u-boot
make rockpro64-rk3399_defconfig
make

This should produce idbloader.img which contains U-Boot TPL and SPL and u-boot.itb which contains U-Boot Proper. We can install those with the following script

#!/bin/sh

cd u-boot
sudo dd if=idbloader.img of=/dev/mmcblk1 seek=64
sudo dd if=u-boot.itb of=/dev/mmcblk1 seek=16384

Optionally you might want to create two 4 MiB partitions that start at sectprs 64 and 16384 and use those with dd without seek. Befpre running commands above, make sure that your eMMC or SD card is represented by /dev/mmcblk1 block device. I have only tested booting from eMMC and did not try SD card myself.

At this stage you can use any of the boot methods supported by U-Boot. In this guide I’ll be using UEFI boot to load GNU GRUB.

GNU GRUB

Let’s get GRUB2 from package manager:

emerge sys-boot/grub

On my eMMC card I have created EFI System Partition (which should be FAT32 formatted). Then add moutpoint /boot/efi to /etc/fstab. GRUB should then be installed to ESP:

#!/bin/sh

# mount /boot/efi # you might needs this if /boot/efi is not mounted
grub-install /dev/mmcblk1 --removable
grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

The script above should have created /boot/efi/EFI/BOOT/BOOTAA64.EFI

Compiling kernel

In this guide I’ll use mainline kernel with a few patches. Support for RockPro64 is not yet complete in the mainline kernel, so it is essential to use the latest kernel. At the time of writing this is 5.3.

Configuring kernel is out of scope for this blog post, there are other guides online. You can use my configuration from https://stikonas.eu/files/gentoo-sources/. Copy config file into your kernel source directory and rename it to .config. However, for UEFI boot as described in this blog, you need to enable CONFIG_EFI_STUB=y in your kernel config.

Let’s download kernel sources. First of al, we’ll apply a few patches. Download the patches from https://stikonas.eu/files/gentoo-sources/ and put them to /etc/portage/patches/gentoo-sources/. Note that the last patch 0003-arm64-dts-rockchip-Add-PWM-fan-for-RockPro64.patch will be included in Linux 5.4. The other two patches fix booting from eMMC and terrible IPv6 performance.

emerge gentoo-sources

To achieve fully blobless boot we can deblob the kernel:

cd /usr/src/linux # assuming that is where you unpacked your kernel
wget https://linux-libre.fsfla.org/pub/linux-libre/releases/5.3-gnu/deblob-5.3
wget https://linux-libre.fsfla.org/pub/linux-libre/releases/5.3-gnu/deblob-check
wget https://linux-libre.fsfla.org/pub/linux-libre/releases/5.3-gnu/deblob-main
chmod +x deblob-5.3 deblob-Pcheck
PYTHON=python2.7 ./deblob-5.3

To compile the kernel, simply run

make -j$(cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep processor | wc -l)

Then kernel can be installed with

make zinstall
make modules_install
make dtbs_install

The last command will install device tree files to /boot/dtbs/kernel_version/rockchip. In particular this directory should contain rk3399-rockpro64.dtb. Copy this file to ESP partition, so that it is available to U-Boot when it is loading Grub.

Copying this dtb file is in principle optional. If it is missing, then kernel will simply use dtb from U-Boot which is mostly good enough, but kernel usually has slightly more up to date device tree file. At the moment I was not able to get HDMI working if I skip this step. This is possibly related to my failure of getting screen to work in U-Boot itself

kernel_version=5.3.0-gentoo-gnu
mkdir -p /boot/efi/dtb/rockchip
cp /boot/dtbs/${kernel_version}/rockchip/rk3399-rockpro64.dtb /boot/efi/dtb/rockchip

Don’t forget to generate initramfs, for example you can use dracut

dracut --xz -H /boot/initramfs-${kernel_version}.img $kernel_version
grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

At this stage your can reboot and if everything goes fine, you’ll hopefully boot into fully free system.

If you grab latest mesa package with panfrost driver you can even use accelerated KDE Plasma desktop or play some 3D games.

Configuring fan with fancontrol

The last patch we applied to the kernel exposes fan interface to the kernel. At the moment this makes fan spin at full speed. You can control it with e.g. fancontrol from sys-apps/lm-sensors package. I use the following /etc/fancontrol configuration file:

INTERVAL=10
DEVPATH=hwmon0=devices/platform/pwm-fan
DEVNAME=hwmon0=pwmfan
FCTEMPS=hwmon0/device/pwm1=../thermal/thermal_zone0/temp
MINTEMP=hwmon0/device/pwm1=35
MAXTEMP=hwmon0/device/pwm1=60
MINSTART=hwmon0/device/pwm1=100
MINSTOP=hwmon0/device/pwm1=70

fancontrol can be started with systemctl enable fancontrol; systemctl start fancontrol

Caveats

Unfortunately, on my system booting is not reliable yet. I’m not yet sure why. Sometimes U-Boot Proper fails to initialize eMMC card (typing boot until it succeeds usually fixes the problem), occasionally boot fails in other U-Boot stages.

Update: This seems to be specific to some eMMC cards. Maybe related to command queue support (see kernel patch that I applied to my kernel that was also disabling command queueing on eMMC cards).

Binaries

If you prefer to run binaries of free software but do not want to compile them yourself, you can get them from https://stikonas.eu/files/gentoo-sources/u-boot/

Become a patron Donate using Liberapay Bitcoin: bc1qe2dfqjwgse5v6cl6rhtk352ru90t0hnve45f2c

Last November I reported that running KDE Partition Manager as non-root user is slowly shaping up. Instead of running the whole application as root, KAuth lets us run GUI parts as unprivileged user and some non-GUI helper running as root.

After another 4 months of development, KAuth support is mostly done. There are still a few things that need to be finished, some cleaning up, fixing bugs but major refactoring is complete. Unlike other KDE Applications, KDE Partition Manager uses root for almost any operation, so the way it uses KAuth is quite different from e.g. Kate where the only task the helper has to do is to copy the file to its destination. KDE Partition Manager might need to execute a lot of different commands to do some task (e.g. move/resize partition) and we don’t want user to authenticate 20 times during partitioning operation.

How it works?

  • When user launches KDE Partition Manager, KAuth helper is immediately started.
  • The Helper opens DBus system bus interface and listens for requests from KDE Partition Manager.
  • When KDE Partition Manager needs to run some command, or copy some data on the disks it sends a requests to KAuth helper over DBus system bus.
  • Only requests from KDE Partition Manager instance that started the helper are accepted. Everything else is ignored.
  • When KDE Partition Manager exits, it sends requests to KAuth helper to exit. Otherwise (e.g. if KDE Partition Manager crashes), the helper would exit after a short amount of time.

What was done

  • KDE Partition Manager had a lot of library calls that required root. In particular libparted was used to manipulate disks. I wrote a new sfdisk (part of util-linux) based backend which called sfdisk executable to manipulate partition table. util-linux is obviously GNU/Linux only but so was libparted. Nevertheless, this backend would be much easier to adapt to e.g. FreeBSD. util-linux 2.32 which was just released is required to have a fully functioning sfdisk backend.
  • While writing a new backend, I redesigned backend, so that its API would not be libparted specific. Since Calamares installer was using some of those calls (and it was not supposed to use them), I worked on porting Calamares away from those and as a result Calamares gained support for manipulating LVM logical volumes. Now Calamares can install into preexisting LVM volume groups.
  • As part of Season of KDE  program Caio J. Carvalho ported away from unmaintained libatasmart to smartmontools. We will require smartmontools 6.7 which is not yet released at the time of this post. This again improves FreeBSD support, as it has smartctl. libatasmart was GUN/Linux only.
  • Each call to external executables (e.g. fsck, btrfs, sfdisk, etc.) was then sent to KAuth helper. So at this stage we had a new KAuth call each time we wanted to run application. This allowed KDE Partition Manager to run without root but with two severe drawbacks:
    • When partitions were moved, coppied, all disk data had to be transefered from KAuth helper to the main application and back via DBus. But DBus is not suitable for transfering big amount of data.
    • Polkit authorization is kept for 5 minutes. So after 5 minutes a new authorization dialog would be shown. It could happen in the middle of operation.
  • In his Season of KDE project, Huzaifa Faruqui moved the data copying code from KPMcore library to KAuth helper. Thus we no longer had to move disk data over DBus. Initially we had some performance issues but those were solved when we switched from using dd to QFile.
  • For the second issue, instead of running a new KAuth helper each time we need to execute command as root, I started KAuth helper as a daemon that listens to requests from the main application. Since helper does not quit and is running all the time, Polkit 5 minute timeout does not apply.

What can be improved

  • All command calls now go through KAuth helper. Some of the commands (such as lsblk) could still be run as unprivileged user.
  • We can delay starting KAuth helper until it is needed. Then in some cases we might be able to postpone authentication until applying operations.
  • Caio J. Carvalho and I are still working on improving helper behaviour in case main application crashes (or is killed).
  • Needs more testing. Feel free to try kauth branches of kpmcore and partitionmanager repositories. I’ll probably release another version before merging this work to master.

While KDE Partition Manager worked on Wayland before, it now works better. If you want to run it via XWayland you no longer need to allow other users to use XWayland server (with xhost +) which is a big security improvement. Previously KDE Partition Manager only ran as a native Wayland client (so you needed QT_QPA_PLATFORM=wayland which Gnome session doesn’t have).

If you think that my work is useful, consider supporting me on

Become a patron Donate using Liberapay Bitcoin: bc1qe2dfqjwgse5v6cl6rhtk352ru90t0hnve45f2c

KDE Partition Manager 3.3 is now ready. It includes some improvements for Btrfs, F2FS, NTFS file systems. I even landed the first bits of new LUKS2 on-disk format support, now KDE Partition Manager can display LUKS2 labels. More LUKS2 work will follow in KPM 3.4. There were changes in how LVM devices are detected. So now Calamares installer should be able to see LVM logical volumes. Once my pull request lands, Calamares should also support partitioning operations on LVM logical volumes (although Calamares would need more work before installation and booting from root file system on LVM works. I tested Calamares with KPMcore 3.3 and it successfully installed rootfs in LVM volume and successfully booted). KPMcore library now only depends on Tier 1 Frameworks instead of Tier 3 (although, we will later require Tier 2).

Most of the work is now done in sfdisk branch.  Currently, the only functional KDE Partition Manager backend uses libparted but sfdisk backend is now fully working (I would say RC quality). I would have merged in already but it requires util-linux 2.32 which is not yet released.

Yet another branch on top of sfdisk is KAuth branch which allows KPM to run as unprivileged user and uses Polkit when necessary to gain root rights. Everything except SMART support is working. To get SMART working too we would have to port away from (unmaintained) libatasmart to calling smartctl. Feel free to help! It should be fairly easy task but somebody has to do the work. Other than that you can already perform all partitioning operations using KAuth with one caveat. Right now KPM calls KAuth helper many times while performing partitioning operations. It can happen that KAuth authorization will expire in the meantime (KAuth remembers it for about 5 minutes) and KAuth will request a user to enter root password. If the user enters correct password, operation would finish. However, if authorization is not granted we may end up with half completed operation. And of course we don’t want to leave partition half moved, the data will almost surely be lost (half-resized partition is probably okay…). I suppose we can fix this by refactoring KPM operation runner, so that it calls KAuth helper just once with a list of all commands that have to be run. Unfortunately, this KPM Operation Runner refactoring might be bigger than what I would like, as significant changes would be necessary in partition data copying code. Maybe GSoC project then… Or ar there any better ideas on how to prevent KAuth authorization dialog in the middle of partitioning operations?

You can grab tarballs from standard locations on download.kde.org server.

Today I finally managed to get large part (maybe 90%) of KDE Partition Manager to work from GUI running as unprivileged user. This means better security, better Wayland integration, better theming support, etc. It will still take some time to polish everything and make it ready for release but nevertheless KDE Partition Manager has reached a significant milestone. Unlike most programs that use KAuth, KDE Partition Manager requires root for practically any operation, so it took some time to properly refactor the code and make it ready for KAuth/Polkit.

KDE Partition Manager has also gained another backend that you can see in the video bellow. Previously, libparted backend was used for some of the partitioning operations which for a long time was the only functional backend. Now, KDE Partition Manager can use util-linux tools (mostly sfdisk) to manipulate partitions. In the future sfdisk backend will be the default backend since it supports running without root.

At the moment the code is published in my scratch repository. Eventually this code should reach git master but probably after KPMcore 3.3 is released. Getting Calamares to run root free should now be a bit easier too…

 

As an acting release manager I would like to announce KTorrent 5.1.

https://download.kde.org/stable/ktorrent/5.1/ktorrent-5.1.0.tar.xz.mirrorlist
https://download.kde.org/stable/ktorrent/5.1/ktorrent-5.1.0.tar.xz.sig.mirrorlist
https://download.kde.org/stable/ktorrent/5.1/libktorrent-2.1.tar.xz.mirrorlist
https://download.kde.org/stable/ktorrent/5.1/libktorrent-2.1.tar.xz.sig.mirrorlist

KF5 port is now more complete than in KTorrent 5.0:
Multimedia, search, scanfolder, ipfilter, stats, scripting, syndication (rss) plugins
are now ported to Qt5. The only missing bits are webinterface plugin and plasmoid.

Also thanks to Luigi Toscano who released took over KTorrent 5.1 RC release
after my laptop screen broke.

Note to libktorrent crashes if both qca is built with botan support and botan is built
with gmp support. Make sure at least one of these of these is not enabled. In fact botan 2
already has gmp support completely removed but most distributions come with botan 1.

Also, libktorrent apparently requires Qt 5.7 even though CMakeLists.txt only requires 5.2.
There is a patch to lower Qt requirement in 2.1 branch
https://phabricator.kde.org/R472:bcb17b62ff492a7bc7d65c59a5b0a3513199c65d if you need it
although, right now KTorrent requires Qt 5.7 anyway.

KDE Partition Manager and KPMcore 3.0.0 have been released. Here are some of the new features:

  • Both LVM on LUKS and LUKS on LVM configurations are now supported.
  • Creating new LVM Volume Groups, adding or removing LVM Physical Volumes from LVM VG.
  • Resizing LVM Logical Volumes.
  • Resizing LVM Physical Volumes even if they belong to LVM Volume Group (used extents will be moved out somewhere else)
  • Added support for online resize. Not all filesystems support this, e.g. ext4 can only be grown online while btrfs supports both growing and shrinking.
  • Fixed some crashes, Qt 5.7.1 is also recommended to fix crash (in Qt) on exit.
  • Better support for sudo. Now KDE Partition Manager declares required environmental variables when kdesu uses sudo (e.g. in Kubuntu or Neon), so the theming is no longer broken. Environmental variables for Wayland are also fixed.

Here is a video demonstrating some of these new LVM capabilities. Note this is done directly from my main system, I’m resizing my encrypted rootfs without using any Live CD.

 

 

KDE Partition Manager and KPMcore 2.2.0 are now released with a proper LUKS support! This is a fairly big feature release but it also got tested more than usual, so a lot of bugs were fixed (including some crashes). Unfortunately there is still one more reproducible crash (bug 363294) on exit when file open/save dialogs are used (and very similar crashes actually exist in some other KDE programs, e.g. kdebugdialog or Marble). If anybody has any idea how to fix it I would be grateful.

Changes in this release:

  • Much improved LUKS support. We used to just detect LUKS container.
    • Now KDE Partition Manager can create LUKS volumes and format inner file system. Since default options are used (except for the key size which was increased) we recommend cryptsetup 1.6 or later. At the moment we restrict the choice of new inner file systems to ext234, Btrfs, swap, ReiserFS, Reiser4, XFS, JFS, ZFS and LVM physical volumes  when formatting new encrypted partitions but if you create other file systems manually using command line tools they will still work in KDE Partition Manager (other than detection support for LVM PV, the support for LVM is not implemented but this might change soon as a result of GSoC project, there is already some LVM PV resize support in git master). If you think it makes sense to whitelist other file systems and there is a valid use case please leave a comment.
    • LUKS volumes can be opened/closed.
    • Resize support for filesystems encrypted with LUKS (obviously you can’t do this while LUKS volume is closed, you have to decrypt it first). To the best of my knowledge, no other partition manager can do this.
    • To prevent data loss, you can only move LUKS partitions that are closed. A few bugs were fixed in KDE Partition Manager to properly support unmovable but resizeable partitions (i.e. LUKS when it is closed).
    • Filesystems inside LUKS can be checked for errors, mounted, labels can be set, etc. All other stuff like free space reporting also works (and space taken up by LUKS metadata is taken into the account).
    • Opened LUKS partitions now cannot be removed, you have to close them first.
    • Copying LUKS partition works but only when they are closed.
  • More widespread use of C++11 features.
  • Fixed a couple of bugs present from KF5 porting. Also new Qt5 signal/slot syntax is used, so moc is used much less often
  • Clobbering (deleting file system signature) deleted partitions was fixed.
  • Some other bugs were fixed, e.g. NILFS2 resizing support was fixed.
  • ntfslabel from ntfs-3g is now used for setting NTFS labels.
  • A crash when partitions were deleted (mainly extended but not only) was fixed.
  • Compilation with Clang was fixed.

There is also a slightly older (e.g. now we use KPasswordDialog to unlock LUKS partitions) video demonstrating LUKS support.

Note for packagers: Calamares 2.2.2 will most likely work with KPMcore 2.2.0 after recompilation but Calamares 2.3 will be recommended as soon as it is released. Older versions of KDE Partition Manager are not compatible with KPMcore 2.2.0, so you need to update KPMcore and KDE Partition Manager at the same time. Qt 5.6.1 also fixes one minor NTFS bug in KPMcore but unfortunately it is not released yet.

Download links:

KPMcore 2.2.0

KDE Partition Manager 2.2.0

There are already packages for Arch and Gentoo, hopefully other distros will package it too.

KDE Partition Manager was able to detect encrypted LUKS partitions for some time. I’m glad to report that now support for LUKS volumes is much more complete. Unless I’m mistaken, KDE Partition Manager is the first GUI tool that supports creating and resizing LUKS partitions (provided that file system inside LUKS container supports resizing). This is still work in progress and we still need to implement some checks (e.g. it should not be possible to set labels when LUKS volume is closed). Here is a short video demonstrating current state:

 

I am happy to announce that upcoming release of KDE Partition Manager is split into library (KPMcore) and GUI parts to allow other projects reuse partitioning code. KPMcore is already used by the development versions of distribution independent installer Calamares whose maintainer Teo Mrnjavac contributed a lot to help get this release of KDE Partition Manager out.

In the meantime you can download and test alpha versions of KPMcore and KDE Partition Manager.

KPMcore library is also licensed under GNU GPLv3+ (it links to parted which is GPLv3+).