At Linux Plumbers, I ended up with a Le Potato SBC. I hadn’t really had time to actually boot it up until now. They support a couple of distributions which seem to work fine if you flash them on. I mostly like SBCs for having actual hardware to test on so my interest tends to be how easily can I get my own kernel running.

Most of the support is not upstream right now but it’s headed there. The good folks at BayLibre have been working on getting the kernel support upstream and have a tree available for use until then.

The bootloader situation is less than ideal currently. All the images run with the vendor provided u-Boot which is a few years out of date and runs with a bunch of out of tree patches. This is unfortunately common for many boards. There wasn’t much information about u-Boot so I asked on the forums. I got a very prompt and helpful response that u-Boot upstreaming is also in progress. The first series looks like it’s been reviewed and also comes with a very detailed README on how to actually build and install. This is important because you have to do some work to actually pick up the vendor firmware (‘libre’).

So here’s roughly what I did to get my own code running. I’ll note that this is just for something to output on serial. Make sure you have an SD card handy:

  • Download mainline u-Boot
  • Apply the base series
  • Follow the instructions in the README for compiling the base u-Boot (“u-boot compilation” section). I should note that I didn’t feel like grabbing a bare metal toolchain so I just used the package Fedora provides for cross compilation. (CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu-) YMMV.

The “Image creation” steps have a few gotchas, which I’ll summarize:

  • wget the 4.8 toolchains. Before I asked on the forums about u-boot, I experimented with compiling the u-boot from the BSP with a newer toolchain. This was a bit of a nightmare so I just went ahead and used their suggested toolchain.
  • The toolchains are 32-bit binaries so you need to install 32-bit libs (dnf install glibc.i686 libstd++.i686 zlib.i686)
  • The vendor u-boot expects the toolchains to be in your path so set them accordingly.
  • Clone the vendor u-boot
  • Compile the ‘vendor u-boot’ (make gxl_p212_v1_defconfig && make)
  • Go back to your mainline u-Boot.
  • Run all the commands up to the dd commands (I put them in a shell script). Note that the line with acs_tool.pyc needs to be prefixed with python.
  • Run the dd command, setting the dev as appropriate.

You now have an SD card with u-boot and firmware on it. Of course you still need a kernel.

  • Clone the tree
  • make ARCH=arm64 defconfig
  • For a rootfs, I set CONFIG_INITRAMFS_SOURCE to point to my buildroot environment I use with QEMU.
  • make ARCH=arm64 CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu
  • Based on comments on the forums, I coverted the kernel to a uImage which u-boot understands:

    path/to/u-boot/tools/mkimage -A arm64 -O linux -C none -T kernel -a 0x01080000 -e 0x01080000 -d path/to/kernel/arch/arm64/boot/Image uImage

Fedora does provide mkimage in the uboot-tools package but given we’re compiling u-boot, I went ahead and used the binary from that.

  • Insert the sdcard with u-boot to your computer and mount it (first partition should be FAT16)
  • Copy the uImage and arch/arm64/boot/dts/amlogic/meson-gxl-s905x-libretech-cc.dtb to the SD card

Your SD card should now have the kernel and devicetree on it. If all has gone well, you should be able to insert it and get to the u-boot prompt. Based on the comments on the forums, I did

  • loadaddr=1080000
  • fdt_high=0x20000000
  • fatload mmc 1:1 ${loadaddr} uImage
  • fatload mmc 1:1 ${fdt_high} meson-gxl-s905x-libretech-cc.dtb
  • bootm ${loadaddr} - ${fdt_high};

And it worked. Obviously this is a pretty simple setup but it shows that you can get something custom going if you want). I might try and throw in a version of Fedora on there to experiment with the multimedia hardware. I doubt this board will get official support unless the u-boot firmware situation improves.