Talpadk’s Blog

June 21, 2009

Debian and the Freerunner

Filed under: Uncategorized — talpadk @ 11:04 am

Some time ago I bought a Freerunner as an upgrade for my Neo 1973, I was going to wait for the GTA03 but as you all know it got delayed indefinitely.

Why Debian.
Q) Why Debian?
A) Well I like the fact that it comes with a ton of pre compiled software. Also it behaves just like my regular desktop computer: Development environment, just apt-get install a gcc compiler on the phone and you are set.

Q) Why not a Debian base distro like Neovento?
A) Yet another Debian distro, not again… Also it seems to be geared towards installation onto the internal flash, and I like to install large silly things like emacs, compilers, pcb, gschem, kicad. Also it uses LXDE and I just happen to like Matchbox for embedded devices.

Some historic events
Of course I had bought two Kingston SD-C02G 2GB microSD cards for the Neo 1973 which fails with I/O errors on the Freerunner typically me…
However there is a fix which works for me, well except that the Debian installer at that exact point in time was broken.
Quick fix: Just copy my Neo 1973 install using dd. Install the config for gta02. Works like a charm.

The actual “review”
I bought a Kingston SDC4/8GB as I would like to run the SD controller at full speed, I have not tested this yet but:
The Debian install went smoothly…

The Good

  • Comes pre installed with matchbox, my favorite  window manager
  • Trayer is installed and works just fine
  • openmoko-panel-plugin is installed as default

The not quite so good

  • No way of launching additional applications (no panel app with a start menu installed)
  • I just can not seem to get the WLAN GUIs to work (they anr not installed by default either), command line WLAN works just fine.
  • The default is still running the phone as root. Can not blame Debian as this is still the up stream/FSO way,  I just do not like it that is all.

The Debian install had included some extra features as default since my last install.
How ever I would like some way of launching additional programs as default, if I just wanted to use zhone I could have installed a number of other distributions.
This can easily be fixed by installing additional software, I guess it is a matter of minimalism to allow the freedom of choice.
Debian still provides a good minimal install for customising your phone, also I like the apt-get upgrade option instead of the eternal complete  re-flash cycle I know from my Nokia N770



  1. Thanks for good review :-).

    If you are interested to get move involved, or for others reading your post:
    General user discussion of the Debian on the FreeRunner happens at this mailing list: http://lists.linuxtogo.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/smartphones-userland
    While packaging-only discussions take place here: http://lists.alioth.debian.org/mailman/listinfo/pkg-fso-maint

    Comment by Joachim Breitner — June 21, 2009 @ 9:35 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, I am quite a fan of running Debian on everything than can handle it.

      Thanks for the links, I am already subscribed to those two mailing lists (among others)…
      I really need to cut back on my caffeine intake and mailing list subscriptions ;o)

      Comment by talpadk — June 22, 2009 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  2. Nice,

    BTW what image you use as ‘base’ (any link?) to install debian?
    I tried to use some FSO console-images (on sd) but they fail to boot (they just display a kernel panic).
    I also managed to boot with the FSO-console (4.1 iirc) but there is no way to logon to the freerunner in order to install the debian….


    Comment by Chris — June 22, 2009 @ 3:20 pm | Reply

    • I must admit that I have forgotten which FSO version I used… There is a good chance that it may be a:


      At least I have those in a folder on my desktop, and I am sure that it was a grapical FSO.

      Comment by talpadk — June 22, 2009 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

      • Hi,
        Thanx, as I see you installed the debian on the device and not on uSD?
        (as these are jjfs2 images).

        Comment by Chris — June 22, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

      • The images are just the FSO images that I (probably) used to launch the installer script
        (See the instalation guide at: http://wiki.debian.org/DebianOnFreeRunner )

        The Debian install uses the uSD card as root fs

        Comment by talpadk — June 22, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

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