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I'm trying to boot a Linux Live USB for installation on my old Microsoft Surface 2, a tablet equipped with a Nvidia Tegra 4 SoC. Obviously, it needs the SoC drivers to run the GPU. I have a couple of Live USB distros I could try at booting. The first I’m attempting is the Debian 10 ARM HF. Right now, I’m concerned about the bootloader & it seems it would need the package:

https://packages.debian.org/buster/armhf/u-boot-tegra/

Of course, this is a chicken & egg problem, as I need to have the distro installed first, before it can utilize this package. So, how do I modify the Live USB’s bootloader to utilize these binaries inside said package:

/usr/lib/u-boot/jetson-tk1/u-boot-tegra.bin

/usr/lib/u-boot/jetson-tk1/uboot.elf

If at all possible, by simply swapping files in the Live USB’s root directory?

Come on, everybody’s just itching to give me a distraction. Here’s your chance.

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  • Or, else, I swear I’m gonna buy another tablet.
    – Dehbop
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 11:09

1 Answer 1

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I understand Surface 2 is a 32-bit UEFI system with an ARM architecture, so when commanded to boot from a removable media, the firmware will just look for \EFI\boot\bootarm.efi on any filesystem type it understands (at least FAT32, but a Microsoft firmware just might be able to read NTFS too, I guess?). If it finds that file on your live media, then it should consider that media bootable, load the file and execute it.

rEFInd would be a nice UEFI bootloader, but apparently it supports 32-bit hardware only on the x86 platform, so there is not a 32-bit ARM version of it in existence. But GRUB and systemd-boot apparently have 32-bit ARM versions available.

For UEFI, it can indeed be as simple as creating the appropriate directories in the Live USB's root directory and placing a copy of the bootloader in the specified directory using a specified filename (for 32-bit ARM, \EFI\boot\bootarm.efi). The rest depends on what that bootloader is actually going to be: if you use an ARM version of GRUB, you will need to write at least a minimal GRUB configuration file that will tell GRUB where the kernel and initramfs files can be found on the live media. I'm not too familiar with systemd-boot, but generally you would have to place the things it expects to find to their expected locations on the live media.

U-boot, on the other hand, would be relevant if you were developing an embedded system from bare metal, to use U-Boot as part of your own custom firmware. But it sounds like you are not doing that.

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