Hello Rocky Linux 8.4 (and belated Hello to Alma Linux too)

So according to LWN.net, Rocky Linux 8.4 reached General Available (GA). This is great as it means that there are two* 'community rebuild' to move CentOS 8 systems to if CentOS Stream is not a good match.

Alma is built by the same people who have built Cloud Linux for years. From their downloads they focusing on x86_64 which is the most common in the cloud. 

Rocky Linux was founded by a person who worked on the pre-CentOS project of ChaOS. The wikipedia article on Rocky covers in more detail than me regurgitating it. My main reason for looking at it, is that it has a ARM port which will eventually run nicely on a raspberry pi for people interested in it.

My other reason was to remind people that if they are using CentOS Linux, that the end of life for 8 is December 31, 2021. Before that time it would be good to look at switching to Alma, CentOS Stream 8, Oracle Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or Rocky.  These transitions take time, and there are only ~190 days before it needs to be done.


[*] There is a third rebuild which has been around for years called Springfield Linux made at Princeton University. However either due to the pandemic or other items, it does not seem to have had regular updates.


Working with Raspberry PI4 systems

While my current work is aimed at ARM-64 hardware, many of the boards are not Server Ready Hardware and thus do not have things like UEFI to boot, ACPI to query the hardware stack, or various other things which are added later as firmware updates. They also end up having ‘developer kit boards’ of US$6000.00+ systems which having one at home is hard to justify. {Sorry kid, no college this semester… Dad bought himself a board that the customer may dump next week.}

In looking for proxy systems, my team has been focusing first on the classic ARM for small projects: The Raspberry Pi. The raspberry pi4 with 4 GB of ram works out as a proxy for all kinds of ‘low-end’ systems where you may need to play with a small GPU and try to make it work with a Server Ready operating system like CentOS Stream.

Getting the hardware


There are several places to get the hardware, and while I used to get things from Adafruit, but they did not have an IOT kit set up for the 4 series. I ended up going with CanaKit from Amazon just so I could get a bundle of parts together. Going from past experience with MMC cards burning out after a couple of days, I bought 3 32 gig cards to put the OS on. So far the cards have lasted longer than I expected but that just means they will burn out any day now.

When getting a raspberry pi, I highly recommend making sure you get the correct power supply, a USB 2 serial connector for the GPIO, and if you are using an external drive, a seperately powered disk drive. I have found that while the Raspberry Pi4 uses a larger power supply than the 1,2, or 3 series… attaching a non-powered USB drive can be problematic on boot (the ssd one I had would cause me to just have the rainbow picture of doom).

Setting up the hardware


For the raspberry pi4 if you are using it to compile or build things, make sure you have correctly sized heat dispensors for the CPU and possibly a fan (and maybe a replacement fan for when the first one dies). Then attach a serial cable to pins 6 (ground),8 (txd),10 (txd). Make sure you do not attach anything to 1,2,3 as you could be looking for a new pi or computer. The serial is useful for when you attempt to boot a new kernel config and the HDMI connector was not functional afterwords.

On another computer attach the USB connector and you can use the screen or minicom commands to see output from the system on boot. On my test system, I was able to capture the following:

$ screen -c /dev/null -L /dev/ttyUSB0 115200
recover4.elf not found (6)
recovery.elf not found (6)
Read start4x.elf bytes  2983784 hnd 0x000013b1 hash '3f7b34a64191a848'
Read fixup4x.dat bytes     8453 hnd 0x00000d3b hash '59e66162bed1b815'
0x00c03112 0x00000000 0x000003ff
MEM GPU: 32 ARM: 992 TOTAL: 1024
Starting start4x.elf @ 0xfec00200 partition 0

MESS:00:00:05.434998:0: arasan: arasan_emmc_open

Initial setup


Like any hardware setup, it is important to make sure the shipped hardware has up to date firmware and configs. For this I took one of the MMC cards, and burned the Raspian OS with recommended software Once this booted up, the tools did a firmware upgrade on the system from whatever had been on the box when it was stored in a depot. This OS is a 32 bit operating system but is maintained by the ‘manufacturer’ so is a good test for ‘did it break in shipment’

{Pro-tip: Once you have finished updating, shutdown the system, take this card out, and put it in a box/bag for later use. At some point things are going to go badly in an install and you won’t know if its you, your hardware, or something else. Having a known bootable backup that is supposed to work is good.}

After this it is time to focus on getting ‘bootable’ systems using the base OS’s we want to target:

  1. Fedora Linux
  2. CentOS Stream

Fedora 34 Initial Install


Fedora 34 came out as I started working on the project, so I decided to aim for that as an initial OS. The ARM work that the Fedora team is doing is aimed primarily at 64-bit and with Server Ready hardware. As such, they do try to make a raspberry pi4 work, but it is listed as possibly problematic. That said, the following worked mostly fine:

  1. Download the raw workstation image
  2. On an existing Fedora 33 system, install arm-image-installer via sudo dnf install arm-image-installer
  3. Insert an mmc into the computer using the appropriate adaptor, and find the disk name.
  4. GNOME will probably be overly helpful and have mounted partitions on the card for you. You will need to unmount them. df -a | grep mmc ; sudo umount /dev/mmcblk0p1; sudo umount /dev/...
  5. write the image to the mmc disk with image-installer:
fedora-arm-image-installer --image=./Fedora-Server-34-1.2.aarch64.raw.xz --media=/dev/mmcblk0 --addkey=a_key.pub --resizefs --showboot --target=rpi4 --addconsole=ttyAMA0,115200
  1. Move the mmc card over to the powered off raspberry pi4, and prepare to boot up the hardware.
  2. On my Fedora system I started a screen to watch the fireworks: screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200
  3. Power on the raspberry pi and watch what happens. If you are lucky then you will get the system eventually booting into Fedora 34 graphical mode. If you aren’t, then it may stay in rainbow mode (like when I found that my SSD drive pulled too much power on boot.)
  4. Log into the system and play around a bit. This is a good time to do any updates and such. Getting an idea of how ‘fast’/‘slow’ the system with defaults is good here too.

Get serial working


At this point I wanted to make sure I could log into Fedora from the serial port. In order to do this, you need to edit the grub configs which is done in /etc/default/grub and then rebuilding the config. I moved the grub timeout to 10 seconds to give me a chance to choose different options, removed the rhgb and quiet, and added a console line.

$ sudo -i
# vi /etc/default/grub
GRUB_DISTRIBUTOR="$(sed 's, release .*$,,g' /etc/system-release)"
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="console=tty0 console=ttyAMA0,115200 "
# grub2-mkconfig -o /etc/grub2-efi.cfg

A test reboot is good here to make sure that when you boot you get past the

EFI stub: Booting Linux Kernel...
EFI stub: Using DTB from configuration table
EFI stub: Exiting boot services and installing virtual address map...

Fedora 34 with TianoCore


As stated before the Raspberry Pi systems are not System Ready and do not have a built in EFI or ACPI system for a kernel to boot from. Instead the default kernel boots usually with uboot mapping devices via device tree in order for hardware to be discovered. I am going to say that is about all I really know about the subject. There have been long threads in the Fedora ARM lists over the years on going over this versus ACPI, and I think it is better for an expert like Jon Masters or Peter Robinson to explain why APCI is preferred in Fedora Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) versus a novice like myself.

For the raspberry pi4, the current method to implement a UEFI interface is a port of the Tianocore by the Pi Firmware Task Force. TianoCore is an opensource implementation and extension of the Intel Extendable Firmware Interface which was written to replace the 16-bit BIOS used in personal computers since the 1980’s. A further extension was with the Open Virtual Machine Firmware which I believe was then used by the Pi Firmware Task Force for their version.

Easier than I thought


In reading various blogs and documentation on the status of the EFI support, I was prepared for a system that would only work via serial console or may not have networking or other utilities. Instead, I found the process to be fairly ‘painless’ and I only ended up with a non-booting system twice. The general steps were the following:

ssmoogen@fedora ~]$ mkdir RPi4
[ssmoogen@fedora ~]$ cd RPi4/
[ssmoogen@fedora RPi4]$ wget https://github.com/pftf/RPi4/releases/download/v1.27/RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.27.zip
--2021-06-16 17:36:31--  https://github.com/pftf/RPi4/releases/download/v1.27/RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.27.zip
Resolving github.com (github.com)...
Connecting to github.com (github.com)||:443... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 302 Found
RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.27.zip                    100%[=====================================================================================================>]   2.92M  14.4MB/s    in 0.2s    

2021-06-16 17:36:32 (14.4 MB/s) - ‘RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.27.zip’ saved [3064085/3064085]

$ wget https://github.com/pftf/RPi4/releases/download/v1.27/RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.27.zip
$ unzip RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.27.zip 
Archive:  RPi4_UEFI_Firmware_v1.27.zip
  inflating: RPI_EFI.fd              
  inflating: bcm2711-rpi-4-b.dtb     
  inflating: bcm2711-rpi-400.dtb     
  inflating: bcm2711-rpi-cm4.dtb     
  inflating: config.txt              
  inflating: fixup4.dat              
  inflating: start4.elf              
   creating: overlays/
  inflating: overlays/miniuart-bt.dtbo  
  inflating: Readme.md               
   creating: firmware/
  inflating: firmware/Readme.txt     
   creating: firmware/brcm/
  inflating: firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43455-sdio.clm_blob  
  inflating: firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43455-sdio.bin  
  inflating: firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43455-sdio.Raspberry  
  inflating: firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43455-sdio.txt  
  inflating: firmware/LICENCE.txt    

At this point, if you haven’t already, read the documentation. Our main tasks will be to setup the raspberry pi EFI boot partition to have the needed data in it. I had seen that this came with dtb files which I figured needed to be replaced. However as seen below, all of these are in a Fedora 34 and are of a similar timeframe. The only file we really need to work with is the RPI_EFI.fd and config.txt files.

[ssmoogen@fedora RPi4]$ sudo -i
[sudo] password for ssmoogen: 
[root@fedora ~]# cd /boot/efi/
[root@fedora efi]# cp config.txt config-orig.txt # always make a backup!
[root@fedora efi]# rpm -qf /boot/efi/bcm2711-rpi-4-b.dtb 
[root@fedora efi]# rpm -qf /boot/efi/overlays/miniuart-bt.dtbo 
[root@fedora efi]# cp ~ssmoogen/RPi4/RPI_EFI.fd /boot/efi/

At this point, it is time to replace the config.txt that came with the system with one which can be used for booting the UEFI program. This is where I caused my system to go into rainbow mode a couple of times. In the end, I put in the following file:


#boot in 64-bit mode
# boot into the RPI_EFI firmware
# turn on serial and keep it on in 2ndstage
# using this from upstream UEFI config.txt
# set up the miniuart and the vc4
# set up the GPU ram and HDMI

A couple of the commands in it are from a side trip on getting accelerated graphics working in CentOS Stream on Pi. I decided to document it for later as this is getting long. At this point I was able to get a booting system:

recover4.elf not found (6)
recovery.elf not found (6)
Read start4x.elf bytes  2983816 hnd 0x000032fe hash '210478ae179a91d0'
Read fixup4x.dat bytes     8451 hnd 0x00002c88 hash '7716af32619f0771'
0x00c03112 0x00000000 0x000003ff
MEM GPU: 256 ARM: 768 TOTAL: 1024
Starting start4x.elf @ 0xfec00200 partition 0

MESS:00:00:05.550101:0: arasan: arasan_emmc_open
MESS:00:00:05.698627:0: brfs: File read: /mfs/sd/config.txt
MESS:00:00:05.701548:0: brfs: File read: 342 bytes
MESS:00:00:05.821820:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 0
MESS:00:00:05.831336:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 1
MESS:00:00:05.840843:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 2
MESS:00:00:05.850357:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 3
MESS:00:00:05.859867:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 4
MESS:00:00:05.869382:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 5
MESS:00:00:05.878890:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 6
MESS:00:00:05.888404:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 7
MESS:00:00:05.897914:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 8
MESS:00:00:05.907428:0: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 9
MESS:00:00:05.911926:0: HDMI1:EDID giving up on reading EDID block 0
MESS:00:00:05.918043:0: brfs: File read: /mfs/sd/config.txt
MESS:00:00:06.995664:0: gpioman: gpioman_get_pin_num: pin DISPLAY_DSI_PORT not defined
MESS:00:00:07.002961:0: *** Restart logging
MESS:00:00:07.004382:0: brfs: File read: 342 bytes
MESS:00:00:07.072608:0: hdmi: HDMI1:EDID error reading EDID block 0 attempt 0
MESS:00:00:07.226856:0: dtb_file 'bcm2711-rpi-4-b.dtb'
MESS:00:00:07.235551:0: dtb_file 'bcm2711-rpi-4-b.dtb'
MESS:00:00:07.248011:0: brfs: File read: /mfs/sd/bcm2711-rpi-4-b.dtb
MESS:00:00:07.251301:0: Loading 'bcm2711-rpi-4-b.dtb' to 0x1f0000 size 0xc042
MESS:00:00:07.289344:0: brfs: File read: 49218 bytes
MESS:00:00:07.465024:0: brfs: File read: /mfs/sd/config.txt
MESS:00:00:07.467674:0: brfs: File read: 342 bytes
MESS:00:00:07.488759:0: brfs: File read: /mfs/sd/overlays/vc4-fkms-v3d.dtbo
MESS:00:00:07.535268:0: Loaded overlay 'vc4-fkms-v3d'
MESS:00:00:07.537248:0: dtparam: cma-256=true
MESS:00:00:07.541611:0: dtparam: miniuart-bt=true
MESS:00:00:07.552794:0: Unknown dtparam 'miniuart-bt' - ignored
MESS:00:00:07.654662:0: brfs: File read: 1446 bytes
MESS:00:00:07.658863:0: Failed to open command line file 'cmdline.txt'
MESS:00:00:08.953730:0: brfs: File read: /mfs/sd/RPI_EFI.fd
MESS:00:00:08.956193:0: Loading 'RPI_EFI.fd' to 0x0 size 0x1f0000
MESS:00:00:08.962019:0: No compatible kernel found
MESS:00:00:08.966520:0: Device tree loaded to 0x1f0000 (size 0xc622)
MESS:00:00:08.974158:0: uart: Set PL011 baud rate to 103448.300000 Hz
MESS:00:00:08.981676:0: uart: Baud rate change done...
MESS:00:00:08.983696:0:NOTICE:  BL31: v2.3():v2.3
NOTICE:  BL31: Built : 10:40:51, Apr 21 2020
UEFI firmware (version UEFI Firmware v1.27 built at 11:17:17 on May 25 2021)
3hESC (setup), F1 (shell), ENTER (boot)

On the HDMI monitor, you get a nice raspberry pi and a timeout to choose if you want to go into setup, shell or boot. If you hit ESC, you will get what looks like a fairly standard BIOS/EFI screen asking if you want to change various settings. At this point it is a good idea to make a change to allow for full memory usage (or you will be limited to 3GB and a slower system). Following the upstream README, Device ManagerRaspberry Pi ConfigurationAdvanced Configuration. At this point you select ‘Limit RAM to 3GB’ and disable it. Save the settings and escape up to the top menu. Choose the boot manager and you should be given the choices of the following operating systems:

UEFI Shell
SD/MMC on Arasan SDHCI


Choose Fedora and after a short pause, you will get the grub config file. You shouldn’t need to change any defaults, but it is good in case you did. Once the kernel has been selected, the system will begin booting and the scary black screen occurs. This is a point where for some seconds nothing seems to be happening and a couple of times I was ready to power off and go back to other configs. Then you will see something similar to start scrolling:

[    0.000000] Linux version 5.12.10-300.fc34.aarch64 (mockbuild@buildvm-a64-03.iad2.fedoraproject.org) (gcc (GCC) 11.1.1 20210531 (Red Hat 11.1.1-3), GNU ld version 2.35.1-41.fc34) #1 SMP T
hu Jun 10 13:49:00 UTC 2021
[    0.000000] efi: EFI v2.70 by https://github.com/pftf/RPi4
[    0.000000] efi: ACPI 2.0=0x30720018 SMBIOS=0x33e00000 SMBIOS 3.0=0x33de0000 MEMATTR=0x321c2418 RNG=0x33fdb798 MEMRESERVE=0x30375118 
[    0.000000] efi: seeding entropy pool
[    0.000000] ACPI: Early table checksum verification disabled
[    0.000000] ACPI: RSDP 0x0000000030720018 000024 (v02 RPIFDN)


My belief is that the pause is the kernel and initial ramdisk are getting gunzipped in memory for usage. Reading from the MMC is slow, and uncompressing the files is slow. A future project may be to see if there is a sizable speedup of just doing this on the filesystem beforehand. In any case, the system will boot and be usable as a workstation.

End of File

This post has gotten on in size, and there were several other side tasks I worked on while doing it. Those will need to be seperate posts in the near future.