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On a Samsung ARM Chromebook, could nv-uboot easily boot to stock linux k

From: Subharo Bhikkhu
Subject: On a Samsung ARM Chromebook, could nv-uboot easily boot to stock linux kernels, by way of ARM-GRUB?
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2014 09:48:41 -0500


Firstly, huge props to the Debian ARM gods who have done so much wonderful work so far, especially Marcin Juszkiewicz, Olof Johansson, Andrew Wafaa, and Jay Lee.

I have a Samsung ARM Cromebook.  I'm running Chrubuntu 13.04 in the internal 16GB eMMC.  The security updates are about to run out (damned 9-month support period!).  A simple "do-release-upgrade" will lead to a non-functioning

I'm not excited to freshly install Chrubuntu 13.10 either, as the security updates will run out too quickly as well.  I want something that will last at least a couple of years!

So I'm interested in a fresh install of Debian, to get (among other things) a much longer period of security updates.  The best page I've found on this so far is:  "InstallingDebianOn Samsung ARMChromebook":
...but the current problem is that one cannot boot from a stock linux kernel.  One currently must "borrow" the ChromeOS kernel, and "sign" it.  I would prefer to have no ongoing dependency on ChromeOS if I can help it, and have a Chromebook completely free of ChromeOS altogether.

The Debian folks are currently stuck on how to boot a stock linux kernel from nv-u-boot:

  "Three partitions are created on the disk. In time, the intention is that these be used for:
   - a copy of nv-uboot that is chainloaded by the standard firmware,
   - a /boot filesystem containing the standard (non-ChromeOS) kernel, read by nv-uboot,
   - the root filesystem.

  Currently nv-uboot is *not* used, and so the arrangement is:
   - a copy of the ChromeOS kernel that is loaded by the standard firmware,
   - a /boot filesystem that is used only to contain the ChromeOS kernel (which is not used during booting, just during the preparation of the previous partition),
   - the root filesystem."

Also helpful: "Appendix A: Using nv-U-Boot on the Samsung ARM Chromebook":
...but nv-U-Boot has several disadvantages listed there (as compared to, say, the much more mature and familiar GRUB).

There is a version of GRUB for ARM:
Can anybody comment on the feasibility of the following idea? 

What if nv-u-boot was used simply to boot to ARM-GRUB, and then GRUB in turn was used to boot from a "normal-looking" selection of stock linux kernels (along with rescue modes, etc.)?  For example, GRUB stage 1 (and/or stage 1.5) could be installed to a small GPT partition (instead of the MBR, as is done on pre-UEFI PC's).  Then GRUB stage 1 (or 1.5) could in turn boot from a GRUB stage 2, located in a small dedicated /boot ext2 partition (stored along with stock linux kernels, in the way that is familiar to us on PC's).  Or maybe GRUB stage 1 (or 1.5) could boot directly to stock linux kernels on an ext4 root partition (with no dedicated /boot partition). 

It might sound cumbersome to effectively have 2 boot-loaders, but it might make this whole situation much simpler, as there's *a lot* more GRUB expertise out there (than there is around nv-u-boot).  I'm thinking about potentially saving lots of time and manpower, and not caring about squandering a few tens of MB and an unused GPT partition in my internal 16GB eMMC.

Remember the joke "Internet Explorer is a good Web Browser, for installing a better Web Browser"?  Well, perhaps a corollary joke might become "nv-uboot is a good boot-loader, for booting to a better bootloader".  ;)

Note: I'm aware of the this tutorial, to install Debian Jesse:
"Replacing Chrome OS with Debian Jessie on the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook":
...however there are a lot of custom-compiled packages packaged by the author ("Karl L.") that one would need to place a great deal of trust on (both now, and in the future, especially considering the ongoing need for timely security updates).  I'd like to rely on something much more "official"-looking (as posted on, whereby all ongoing security updates would ideally "just work" like any regular Debian install.

Any constructive feedback would be most appreciated (especially comments on the maturity of ARM-GRUB, or any "magical" GRUB options and configurations that might help on the Samsung ARM Chromebook).


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