The Music in Noise

Install ArchARM on the eMMC of the ASUS C201 - 2020-06-19

As I had mentioned in a previous post about ARM boards, I have recently acquired an ASUS C201P chromebook which I have started to use more on a daily basis. The advantages of this laptop is that it can be run with completely free/libre software, firmware, and drivers - although you will need a wifi adapter to avoid the proprietary wifi card, which is kind of crap anyways. You can find the information on how to libreboot it here (I had a hard time finding this, so you're welcome). It's actually quite a simple process, and unlike other laptops where you require all kinds of hardware flashes to install libreboot, on this the only hardware manipulation you need is to take out a screw... literally.

Then, once you have libreboot installed, you just have to install the Linux distro. I personally prefer Arch-based distros, so that's what I tried to install. Luckily ArchLinuxARM exists. Now one option you have is to install the distro on an external SD card, which is what the installation guide shows you how to do. However, what I wanted to do - and what I've done - is to install it on the internal eMMC.

So, why would you want to install your OS onto the internal eMMC? Firstly, so you don't have to manually tell the laptop to boot into the external SD slot every time you boot up, for fear of accidentally booting into the horror that is ChromeOS. But secondly because the internal eMMC is much faster than your external SD, so startup speeds are very nice.

One option you have in order to install a Linux distro onto the eMMC is to use something like PrawnOS which is built specifically for the ASUS C201. However, this is debian based. However, simply using the ArchLinuxARM instructions verbatim that are meant for an external SD on the eMMC is not going to work either - trust me, I've tried. So I was considering what the rest of my laptop's life was gonna be like, having to always be ready to press the right key combination on startup for fear of booting into an OS so bad, it's only slightly better than Windows. That was, until I remembered that I had a friend who had installed PrawnOS on his ASUS C201's eMMC. Why was this important? It meant that I could see how PrawnOS partitions the eMMC, and simply copy that.

Therefore, if you want to install ArchLinuxARM on the eMMC, you've got to use the following partition setup:

Disk /dev/mmcblk2: 14.7 GiB, 15762194432 bytes, 30785536 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: gpt
Disk identifier: 5CD647E1-DAD1-4E4A-B9D5-F87D00D1DCAE

Device Start End Sectors Size Type
/dev/mmcblk2p1 20480 86015 65536 32M ChromeOS kernel
/dev/mmcblk2p2 86016 30785501 30699486 14.7G Microsoft basic data

The main thing you gotta pay attention to here are the sectors.

Anyways, you're almost done. The only thing that's left is... to compile a custom kernel. Yup, wasn't gonna be that easy. Luckily, there's a guy who setup a PKGBUILD that builds everything for you more or less automatically. Although I will warn you that it has a lot of drivers disabled, such as the Atheros ones. So if you want those enabled you'll have to uncomment a line in the PKGBUILD file that says make menuconfig so that during the build process you can enable the needed drivers or modules. And trust me, there are a lot of them you may want to enable.

After this, if I haven't forgotten anything, it should work... I hope. At least it works for me.

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