Getting Started with the Openmoko FreeRunner: Installing Om 2008.12 in Ubuntu

Heather, my girlfriend fiancée, was kind enough to buy me an OpenMoko Freerunner in January. I went out to get a new SIM card (since there were known issues with my current one) and I experimented with it for a couple weeks, but had to leave it be lately as the past couple months have been very busy.

This morning I got back into the game.

One thing I wish I’d known from the outset is that there are a bunch of different distributions available. When I went into the IRC channel for help, I got several (polite) rtfms directing me to the Getting Started guide (which I was already looking at). Except, the Getting Started guide and FAQ provided a ton of contradictory information (which I’ve since tried to correct) about which distribution ships by default, nevermind a clear explanation that there are different distributions to begin with. Even worse, the FreeRunner ships with Om 2007.2, which is old, basic and not even supported anymore. (My mom asks, “so, would you say that it’s not quite ready for the average user yet?” Considering that the first order of business is to reflash it with a new distribution…) It took me a while to figure all that out. I hope to spend some more time soon trying to improve the documentation so that new users aren’t as confused as I was in the beginning.

I’ve decided to start with Om 2008.12 Update, the latest official distribution. I may consider FAT and Dirty Openmoko (FDOM) soon, which is just Om 2008.12 “updated with many ready-to-use applications.” Qt Extended is on my radar as the just-a-working-phone distribution (but where’s the fun in that?). Though, the next major step I think will be to dual-boot with Android, as that seems like it may be the best option in the long-run (though it’s very much a work in progress now).

Installing Om 2008.12 Update in Ubuntu

Installing Om 2008.12 was actually pretty easy in Ubuntu: download the kernel and rootfs, then follow the instructions to flash the NeoFreeRunner. (I didn’t worry about a backup since I had nothing of value on there.)

I choose to use dfu-util instead of the NeoTool GUI because dfu-util is already in the Ubuntu 8.10 repositories.

sudo apt-get install dfu-util

I only encountered one problem when following the instructions. When I tried to run the dfu-util command, it detected two devices, even though I had nothing else plugged into my laptop but a power cord. The second one was named “UNDEFINED”, which wasn’t particularly helpful either.

$ sudo dfu-util --llist
dfu-util - (C) 2007 by OpenMoko Inc.
This program is Free Software and has ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY
Found Runtime: [0x1d50:0x5119] devnum=4, cfg=0, intf=2, alt=0, name="USB Device Firmware Upgrade"
Found Runtime: [0x0a5c:0x2110] devnum=3, cfg=0, intf=3, alt=0, name="UNDEFINED"

According to the comments on this ticket, it’s actually expected behaviour for dfu-util, and it could very well be my bluetooth interface that was showing up. Instead of disabling it, I just used the -d flag as suggested in the comments to specify which device to update. (Also, under Ubuntu, don’t forget sudo…)

sudo dfu-util -a kernel -R -d 0x1d50:0x5119 -D Om2008.12-om-gta02.uImage.bin
sudo dfu-util -a rootfs -R -d 0x1d50:0x5119 -D ./Om2008.12-om-gta02.rootfs.jffs2

… where 0x1d50:0x5119 is vendor/product ID of the FreeRunner (found via `dfu-util –list`).

The FreeRunner can boot from flash memory or a microSD card. I plan to try Om 2008.12 (or a variant) in flash and I’ll probably dual-boot with Android on the microSD card at a later date. So far, I’ve just turned it on and sent Heather a message and added her as a contact, but I hope to finally be getting some real use out of it soon!

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