Guix System on the Pinebook Pro

February 15, 2020

pinebook pro with exwm

The new Pinebook Pro is a very lovable machine. For only $200 excluding shipping (and possibly taxes, I paid $68) the keyboard feels different but comparable to a flat Dell XPS 13 9350. The screen is beautiful and the machine is remarkably silent. So much that at times you can hear the display almost like in the old days.

I have been waiting for an affordable ARM with more than 2GiB of memory to help out with the ARM port of GNU Mes. Although the Qemu-service in Guix works neat, having the actual hardware helps a lot.

It does feel slow---even although it has 6 cores---so it may take some time before we can really leave proprietary MEs and BIOSes behind. Also, the Hurd does not run on ARM/AArch64 yet. Bogomips are at 48 per CPU compared to 4400 for an i7, but it is certainly not two orders slower. Is it? Compiling seems to be about 4x slower than the i7.

I got some inspiration from the lovely post on Guix on an ARM board by Julien Lepiller and had lots of help from Danny Milosavljevic during the Guix Days at Fosdem20.

In a previous post I described how I hacked to boot into a GNU Guix root on a Pinebook Pro, using the default kernel provided with the Debian image.

For the Guix System, I have packaged and deblobbed the Manjaro kernel, which seems to be where development of mainlining the Pinebook Pro kernel has moved.

We now have a recipe to install a true Guix System with Linux Libre. Also, I have added a u-boot package variants: we no longer depend on 3rd party binary images.

We start by infecting our beautiful Debian system with the Guix package manager

sudo apt install gpg
wget -qO - | gpg --import -
sudo bash

First, insert the microSD, tail -f /var/log/messages should say something like

Feb 15 14:33:01 armzalig kernel: [ 4150.344615] mmc0: new ultra high speed SDR104 SDXC card at address 0001
Feb 15 14:33:01 armzalig kernel: [ 4150.345537] mmcblk0: mmc0:0001 SD16G 58.9 GiB 
Feb 15 14:33:01 armzalig kernel: [ 4150.346755]  mmcblk0:

Then, add a bootable partition and create a file system (please verify the correctness of /dev/mmc* for your device!)

sudo parted -- /dev/mmcblk0 mkpart p 0% -1
sudo parted -- /dev/mmcblk0 set 1 boot on
sudo mkfs.ext4 -F /dev/mmcblk0p1

We need to upgrade Guix to a more recent version. At the time of writing we need to avoid bug #39352 and pull to c7dd15596ffd09ab40629c89e7014e51a4d7e95e

guix pull --commit=c7dd15596ffd09ab40629c89e7014e51a4d7e95e

After running that, it told me to do

export PATH="/home/janneke/.config/guix/current/bin${PATH:+:}$PATH"
hash guix

which I did, that may be a bit different for you.

guix environment guix --ad-hoc git
#git clone  # not yet
git clone
cd guix
git checkout wip-pinebook-pro
./configure --localstatedir=/var GUILE=$(type -p guile) GUILD=$(type -p guild)

I copied pine-book-pro.tmpl@savannah/pine-book-pro.tmpl@gitlab into arm-baar.scm

;; This is an operating system configuration template
;; for a "bare bones" pinebook pro

;; The default image's kernel 4.4.190 has
;;    microSD: /dev/mmcblk0
;;    eMMC: /dev/mmcblk1
;; Note that after booting the Guix System with linux-libre
;; 5.5-pinebook-pro this changes to
;;    microSD: /dev/mmcblk1
;;    eMMC: /dev/mmcblk2

;; Assuming wip-pinebook-pro
;; has been built in .
;; cp gnu/system/examples/pinebook-pro.tmpl arm-baar.scm
;; sudo -E ./pre-inst-env guix system init arm-baar.scm /mnt --fallback

(use-modules (gnu) (gnu bootloader u-boot))
(use-service-modules avahi networking ssh)
(use-package-modules admin bootloaders certs linux ssh)

  (host-name "armzalig")
  (timezone "Europe/Amsterdam")
  (locale "en_US.utf8")

  ;; Assuming not using a typewriter that needs qwerty slowdown
  (keyboard-layout (keyboard-layout "us" "dvorak"
                                    #:options '("ctrl:nocaps" "compose:menu")))

  ;; Assuming /dev/mmcblk0 is the microSD...
  (bootloader (bootloader-configuration
               (target "/dev/mmcblk0")
               (bootloader u-boot-pinebook-pro-rk3399-bootloader)))
  ;; ...and after booting, /dev/mmcblk1p1 is the root file system
  (file-systems (cons* (file-system (device "/dev/mmcblk1p1")
                                    (mount-point "/")
                                    (type "ext4"))

  (kernel linux-libre-pinebook-pro)
  (kernel-arguments '("ethaddr=${ethaddr}" "eth1addr=${eth1addr}" "serial=${serial#}"
                      "video=HDMI-A-1:1920x1080@60" "video=eDP-1:1920x1080@60"
  (initrd-modules '())

  (users (cons* (user-account (name "guix")
                              (group "users")
                              (supplementary-groups '("wheel")))
  (name-service-switch %mdns-host-lookup-nss)
  (packages (cons* nss-certs openssh wpa-supplicant-minimal %base-packages))
  (services (cons* (service dhcp-client-service-type)
                   (service openssh-service-type
                             (port-number 2222)))

Save it as arm-baar.scm, choose your hostname, timezone, locale and keyboard layout. After mounting the root file system

sudo mount /dev/mmcblk0p1 /mnt

install Guix onto it, doing

sudo -E ./pre-inst-env guix system init arm-baar.scm /mnt --fallback

says something like

The following derivations will be built:
building /gnu/store/md0p8hcnfq2pf43wa51ajsapky53a1jm-provenance.drv...
building /gnu/store/g5awvk155l1nygd7mbg947pgcxx3cp3c-etc.drv...
building /gnu/store/w1qchgxmvrsysd7q1r8h7izxb18r33g6-activate-service.scm.drv...
building /gnu/store/vrfajn06i669wh27c2zia9wah7k1j3ws-activate.scm.drv...
building /gnu/store/0rkjcqhkb30cban0291mqbv2yfi02n0f-boot.drv...
building /gnu/store/7pad9i05ay9kmayh8l8i8r6wpir88f5g-system.drv...
building /gnu/store/l2g009sdbm3x5qajnfgjfn4rj04p4l58-extlinux.conf.drv...

initializing operating system under '/mnt'...
copying to '/mnt'...
populating '/mnt'...
substitute: updating substitutes from ''... 100.0%
substitute: updating substitutes from ''... 100.0%
substitute: updating substitutes from ''... 100.0%
substitute: updating substitutes from ''... 100.0%
downloading from
 u-boot-2020.01-pinebook-pro-1.365495a-checkout            1.8MiB/s 00:11 | 20.4MiB transferred
building /gnu/store/djgdaps803zizw77y9jgsg4m0dl06aik-u-boot-pinebook-pro-rk3399-2020.01-pinebook-pro-1.365495a.drv...
substitute: updating substitutes from ''... 100.0%
building /gnu/store/p97hj16a738kg64f5b87s2g54d5qmc3s-module-import-compiled.drv...
building /gnu/store/6r1xrpk1d17scaxpv7fzv1dxany9fafz-install-bootloader.scm.drv...
guix system: bootloader successfully installed on '/dev/mmcblk0'

Weirdly, we need to fixup extlinux.conf. Although the default

$ grep DEFAULT_FDT /gnu/store/zxb488q5l9c6j5pnazvp5s30z1p18gnm-u-boot-pinebook-pro-rk3399-2020.01-pinebook-pro-1.365495a/libexec/.config 

seems to be correct, upon boot u-boot wants to load rockchip-evb_rk3399.dtb

** File not found /gnu/store/4zsyqb40r34hp8q83fs5q3kpw4djs046-linux-libre-pinebook-pro-5.5.0/lib/dtbs/rockchip-evb_rk3399.dtb **

Oh, well

sudo sed 's,FDTDIR \([^ ]*\),FDT \1/rockchip/rk3399-pinebook-pro.dtb,' /mnt/boot/extlinux/extlinux.conf

And that's it, good luck!

sudo umount /mnt
sudo reboot

And there you have it

pinebook pro with guix

no WIFI or accelerated X yet; but you gotta love This is the GNU system. Welcome.

What really got me going here was a serial console. The trick is to get a working cable, remove the backcover

pinebook pro with exwm

and flip the switch #9 Audio/UART upward pinebook pro with exwm

I first got one that did not work. When you plug-in a working cable in the client, /var/log/messages should show something like

Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.608514] usb 1-1: new full-speed USB device number 8 using xhci_hcd
Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.762159] usb 1-1: New USB device found, idVendor=0403, idProduct=6001, bcdDevice= 6.00
Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.762161] usb 1-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.762162] usb 1-1: Product: FT232R USB UART
Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.762163] usb 1-1: Manufacturer: FTDI
Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.762164] usb 1-1: SerialNumber: AC01OG7W
Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.765223] ftdi_sio 1-1:1.0: FTDI USB Serial Device converter detected
Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.765246] usb 1-1: Detected FT232RL
Feb 15 15:03:55 localhost vmunix: [113105.765527] usb 1-1: FTDI USB Serial Device converter now attached to ttyUSB0

telling you that ttyUSB0 is now available. Then you can connect using screen

screen /dev/ttyUSB0 1500000

that even works before plugging it into the Pinebook. After plugging in the earphone jack and rebooting the Pinebook, you can follow, interact and debug the boot process.

About GNU Guix

GNU Guix is a transactional package manager and an advanced distribution of the GNU system that respects user freedom. Guix can be used on top of any system running the kernel Linux, or it can be used as a standalone operating system distribution for i686, x86_64, ARMv7, and AArch64 machines.

In addition to standard package management features, Guix supports transactional upgrades and roll-backs, unprivileged package management, per-user profiles, and garbage collection. When used as a standalone GNU/Linux distribution, Guix offers a declarative, stateless approach to operating system configuration management. Guix is highly customizable and hackable through Guile programming interfaces and extensions to the Scheme language.

About Pinebook Pro


A Powerful, Metal and Open Source ARM 64-Bit Laptop for Work, School or Fun The Pinebook Pro is meant to deliver solid day-to-day Linux or *BSD experience and to be a compelling alternative to mid-ranged Chromebooks that people convert into Linux laptops. In contrast to most mid-ranged Chromebooks however, the Pinebook Pro comes with an IPS 1080p 14″ LCD panel, a premium magnesium alloy shell, 64/128GB of eMMC storage, a 10,000 mAh capacity battery and the modularity / hackability that only an open source project can deliver – such as the unpopulated PCIe m.2 NVMe slot (an optional feature which requires an optional adapter). The USB-C port on the Pinebook Pro, apart from being able to transmit data and charge the unit, is also capable of digital video output up-to 4K at 60hz.

[0]: A difficulty here is that the Pinebook Pro currently does not want to show a U-Boot prompt, command line or debug output. If you consider to buy one, you may want to also order a serial cable that might help debugging the boot sequence.