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Last active Sep 28, 2017

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Making a Librem5 Prototype out of an Ubuntu Phone

Making a Librem5 Prototype out of an Ubuntu Phone using Nheko

Starting point: one old BQ Aquaris E5 ubuntu phone, running some old version of Ubuntu Touch which had got completely stuck (UI only unfreezing for 2-3 seconds every 2-3 minutes).

Step one: flash to latest UBPorts image:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-sdk-team/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-device-flash
sudo apt-get install phablet-tools
  • Grab an adb-compatible recovery image (yes, seems like the right place is somsone's personal webspace...)
  • If your Ubuntu desktop is running in a VM, make sure you have USB 2.0 or 3.0 support enabled (in Virtualbox this needs the extension pack installed). USB 1 is too slow and the flash will timeout, semi-bricking the phone.
  • Press volume-up and power on the phone during boot to get at the bootloader. Make sure it's not plugged into USB
  • Select fastboot
  • Plug into USB
  • Flash the recovery image and latest UBPorts OS:
sudo ubuntu-device-flash --server= touch --device=vegetahd \
                         --channel=15.04/stable --bootstrap --recovery-image=recovery-vegetahd.img \
                         --developer-mode --password=secret
  • Ensure the system OS is writable. (Ubuntu Touch runs the OS partition read-only by default to protect users. In this case, you can always re-flash it if all goes wrong.)
sudo phablet-config writable-image
  • Get an SSH server running on the phone before you go insane
adb shell
sudo /etc/init.d/ssh start # password is as set when flashing.

Step two: cross-compile latest Qt 5.9 for the phone.

Ubuntu 15.04 shipped with 5.4, which is pretty old now, and too old for nheko. Based on

# grab the source for Qt5
git clone git://
cd qt5

# grab the right dev headers (as qtubuntu needs dbus & atspi support)
ssh phablet@phone "sudo apt-get install libdbus-1-dev libatspi2.0-dev libssl-dev"

# grab a copy of the root filesystem on the phone for the cross-compile to run against.
# you could also sshfs mount or something if you could be bothered.
mkdir ~/phone
rsync -avz --exclude /proc --exclude /run --exclude /sys --exclude /dev \
           --exclude /android --exclude /var/lib/lxc phablet@phone:/ ~/phone/system
export ROOTFS=~/phone

# install the crosscompiler.
# We probably have to use GCC 4.9 so that it can link ok against the older system libraries
# (libstdc++ etc) on Ubuntu Touch 15.04
sudo apt-get install arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++-4.9

# fix up the absolute symlinks (important!)
cd ~
git clone
./cross-compile-tools/fixQualifiedLibraryPaths $ROOTFS /usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++-4.9

# define a mkspec target for armhf
cd ~/qt5
cp -a qtbase/mkspecs/linux-arm-gnueabi-g++ qtbase/mkspecs/linux-arm-gnueabihf-g++
cat > qtbase/mkspecs/linux-arm-gnueabihf-g++/qmake.conf <<EOT
# qmake configuration for building with arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++

CONFIG                 += incremental


# modifications to g++.conf
QMAKE_CC                = arm-linux-gnueabihf-gcc-4.9
QMAKE_CXX               = arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++-4.9
QMAKE_LINK              = arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++-4.9
QMAKE_LINK_SHLIB        = arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++-4.9

# modifications to linux.conf
QMAKE_AR                = arm-linux-gnueabihf-ar cqs
QMAKE_OBJCOPY           = arm-linux-gnueabihf-objcopy
QMAKE_NM                = arm-linux-gnueabihf-nm -P
QMAKE_STRIP             = arm-linux-gnueabihf-strip

!host_build {
        QMAKE_INCDIR_OPENGL     = $ROOTFS/usr/include/GL
        QMAKE_LIBDIR_OPENGL     = $ROOTFS/usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf
        # GCC 4.9 apparently doesn't know where its own libstdc++ headers are when cross-compiling...
        QMAKE_INCDIR            = /usr/arm-linux-gnueabihf/include/c++/4.9.3 \


# build it!
./configure \
    -v \
    -confirm-license \
    -prefix /opt/qt5-arm \
    -sysroot $ROOTFS \
    -opensource \
    -nomake examples \
    -nomake tests \
    -opengl es2 \
    -qpa ubuntumirclient \
    -xplatform linux-arm-gnueabihf-g++ \
    -platform linux-g++ \
    -feature-accessibility \
    -feature-accessibility-atspi-bridge \
    -feature-webrtc \
    -feature-proprietary-codecs \

make -j8

# go to lunch

make install

If anything goes wrong, a good bet (having backed up your new mkspec target) is to git clean everything:

git submodule foreach --recursive "git clean -dfx"
git clean -dfx

Step 3: compile qtubuntu for Ubuntu-specific Qt stuff like the integration with the Mir display server (hey, at this point it feels like we're building our very own zombie Ubuntu Touch 17.04... :/)

# grab dev package deps
ssh phablet@phone "sudo apt-get install libubuntu-application-api-dev libudev-dev"
rsync -avz --exclude /proc --exclude /run --exclude /sys --exclude /dev \
           --exclude /android --exclude /var/lib/lxc phablet@phone:/ ~/phone/system
~/cross-compile-tools/fixQualifiedLibraryPaths $ROOTFS /usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++-4.9

# grab the qtubuntu source
bzr branch lp:qtubuntu

# find an version old enough that it builds against the old mir in 15.04
bzr revert -r 345

# cherrypick patches so it builds against qt 5.9...
# ...we probably need others too.

/mnt/build/qt5/qtbase/bin/qmake -spec /mnt/build/qt5/qtbase/mkspecs/linux-arm-gnueabihf-g++

# we probably should have told Qt about more pkgconfig libraries when we built it, so as to not have to do it manually here...
export PKG_CONFIG_LIBDIR=$ROOTFS/usr/lib/pkgconfig:$ROOTFS/usr/share/pkgconfig:\

# might need to manually explicitify the --sysroot definitions in qt's qconfig.pri
# as otherwise QT_SYSROOT seems not to be getting picked up for reasons unknown

make -j4
cp src/ubuntumirclient/ $ROOTFS/opt/qt5-arm/plugins/platforms/

# Need to build our own for onscreen keyboard, as
# you can't mix Qt platform plugins between versions - see
bzr branch lp:ubuntu/vivid/maliit-framework
cd maliit-framework
# add QMAKE_LFLAGS+='-lQt5Network -lGLESv2' to config.pri

# technically don't need to build all of maliit - only the platform inputcontext plugin is required
export QMAKEMODULES=/mnt/build/qt5/qtdeclarative/mkspecs/modules 
/mnt/build/qt5/qtbase/bin/qmake -spec /mnt/build/qt5/qtbase/mkspecs/linux-arm-gnueabihf-g++
make -j4

# build the input-context plugin
cd input-context
# change the version of the plugin in main.cpp so that it's picked up by Qt 5.9 (the API hasn't changed;
# it's just the difference between an explicit and implicit version):
# Q_PLUGIN_METADATA(IID "org.qt-project.Qt.QPlatformInputContextFactoryInterface.5.1" FILE "maliit.json")
/mnt/build/qt5/qtbase/bin/qmake -spec /mnt/build/qt5/qtbase/mkspecs/linux-arm-gnueabihf-g++

make -j4
make install

# rsync our beautiful new Qt5.9 over to the phone, including the qtubuntu plugin
rsync -avz $ROOTFS/opt/qt5-arm root@phone:/opt/

Step 4: cross-compile nheko as an experiment

# check it out
git clone --recursive git+ssh://
cd nheko

# define a cross-compile toolchain (
cat > Toolchain-arm-linux-gnueabihf.cmake <<EOT
# this one is important
# this one not so much
# needed to get the right flavour of ARM

# specify the cross compiler
SET(CMAKE_C_COMPILER   /usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf-gcc-4.9)
SET(CMAKE_CXX_COMPILER /usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++-4.9)

# where is the target environment

# sort out our includes...
    -I$ROOTFS/usr/include/c++/4.9 \
    -I$ROOTFS/usr/include/arm-linux-gnueabihf \

  $ROOTFS/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/ \
  $ROOTFS/usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/ \

# search for programs in the build host directories
# for libraries and headers in the target directories


# grab its dependencies on the phone and sync them over to your local phone FS copy
ssh phablet@phone 'sudo apt-get install liblmdb-dev'
rsync -avz --exclude /proc --exclude /run --exclude /sys --exclude /dev \
           --exclude /android --exclude /var/lib/lxc phablet@phone:/ ~/phone/system
~/cross-compile-tools/fixQualifiedLibraryPaths $ROOTFS /usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf-g++-4.9

# gen the makefile
sudo apt-get install cmake
cmake -DLMDB_LIBRARY=$ROOTFS/usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/ \
      -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE=`pwd`/Toolchain-arm-linux-gnueabihf.cmake \
      -H. -Bbuild -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release
# remove -march=native from CMakeLists.txt

# build it
VERBOSE=1 make -C build -j4

# XXX: you might need to touch the Toolchain file and then run again to pick up
# the CXX_FLAGS correctly for some reason.

# run it!
rsync -avz $ROOTFS/home/phablet/nheko phablet@phone:/home/phablet
ssh phablet@phone "export MIR_SOCKET=/run/user/32011/mir_socket;
                   ./build/nheko --desktop_file_hint=unity8"

# N.B. if debugging under gdb, use `handle SIGILL nostop`

Step 5: Package nheko

# make sure you have a manifest.json, nheko.png, nheko.apparmor and nheko.desktop.
# If you don't have an icon, the app won't show up.
# you can grab it from the matthew/mobile branch of
click build ./
scp phablet@phone:

# install it
ssh phablet@phone pkcon install-local --allow-untrusted

# ...and then swipe down on the app listing to hopefully see the app there.
# if that doesn't work, you can manually launch it with:
ssh phablet@phone ubuntu-app-launch im.vector.nheko_nheko_0.1
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