Full desktop environment in CoreELEC and porting vanilla Debian

Just as a couple of other members of the CoreELEC forum, I wondered whether it was possible to use a conventional desktop environment with repositories on CoreELEC. Earlier answers by CoreELEC devs and users were categorical that it wasn’t possible, yet user “beta” of the Radxa forum has shown that it is in fact possible by using a changeroot.

This is seriously cool and certainly to be applauded. I hope it helps CoreELEC users looking for this kind of functionality get what they want from their hardware. Particularly given how excited some users were by the news that there is finally an internet browser ported to CE.

CoreELEC has partnered with BuzzTV to provide CE support for some of BuzzTV’s hardware so now you could use that hardware and enjoy a conventional DE with beta’s technique - but you would lose access to the eMMC.

So I couldn’t help thinking that since CoreELEC supports the Radxa Zero and that there are multiple Debian-, OpenSUSE- and Arch-based distros ported to the Radxa Zero, it must be possible to port one/some of those images to other S905Y2-based devices, such as BuzzTV’s VidStick Max ST-4000.

Part of the attraction of BuzzTV VidSticks, especially the Max, is their low power, 4Gb RAM, USB3, microSD, eMMC and a CPU supported by Debian-, OpenSUSE- and Arch-based distros, which would make for a neat, pocketable general purpose Linux box.

Are there any members of the community willing to help me work through the process?

I imagine it might be necessary to change the kernel and dtb files used in those images, use TWRP (Team Win Recovery Project) and U-Boot?

To be fair: the point of CoreELEC is to run Kodi on Amlogic hw. Which means running conventional desktop environment is not something we would even look. And there are other distributions for this purpose.

And btw: You missed this post? [HOWTO] Install Ubuntu, VDR and X11 within CE environment

Thank you for your reply, vpeter.

Yes and don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate CoreELEC and all the work they do but equally one of the main points of Linux is that of choice and clearly I’m not the only member of the CoreELEC forum who’s looked to use CoreELEC as both a media player and general purpose OS. When you consider that for many households, the only big screen (bigger than a mobile phone) is their TV screen, the idea that people could use that screen to both enjoy AV entertainment and actually get work done by plugging a very conveniently pocketable, decently specced PC stick into one of its HDMI ports is quite an attractive one. Particularly if they can very easily and comfortably take this hardware with them to use elsewhere.

Perhaps I didn’t explain well enough in my post but the point you appear to have missed is that, at the moment, there aren’t any other distributions for the particularly attractive hardware that is the BuzzTV VidStick Max ST-4000. Yet there are other distributions for the Radxa Zero, which runs on the same SOC and is supported by CoreELEC, who also happen to have partnered with the provider of VidSticks to support CoreELEC on some of their hardware.

It is this nexus that I am hoping will mean it’s possible, with help, to port some of those other distributions to the BuzzTV VidStick Max ST-4000.

I think it would be great to be able to get more from this quite capable hardware than just a media centre on its own.

Haha I didn’t miss beta’s post - I literally linked to it in the next sentence after the part you selectively quoted…amongst other things, I even described it as “seriously cool and certainly to be applauded”!
Even if CoreELEC’s partnership with BuzzTV extends to supporting CoreELEC on the VidSticks, using beta’s method would mean that you wouldn’t have access to the eMMC and the other consideration is that it runs as root.

Not sure if it is OK to discuss, but back in 2020 I managed to install Manjaro on my X96 MP+(S905X3), boots ok, package manager OK, desktop UI OK, but no hardware accelerated browser–kernel not supported, so performance for Chromium is very poor, to say the least.
So for the part without UI we can say it worked fine, but I doubt there are much difference/value compared to CE, since you can run most things on docker and with entware, at least that is my scenario.
No idea if support for Amlogic have improved or not since then.

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Thank you very much for your reply avin; it’s certainly relevant because the S905X3 appears in the BuzzTV XRS4500+, on which it’s possible to put CoreELEC (as described/linked to in this thread), as well as on both the Banana Pi M5 and Hardkernel Odroid C4, which CoreELEC supports and have mutliple Debian- and Arch-based images available for them.

So, I know it was ~three years ago for you, but would you mind elaborating here on the steps you took to get Manjaro working on the X96 MP+ ? I’ll be honest, Manjaro wouldn’t be my first choice, but I imagine the process should be somewhat similar for vanilla Debian? I have managed to successfully follow the process for building vanilla Debian 11 to run on a Raspberry Pi 3B+ so I hope I’d be able to follow along.

Link here

I forgot if this is the exact steps I followed 3 years back but most steps should be the same for dealing with these amlogic boxes: find a suitable dtb, boot from SD and hope that at least wired network works. I believe at least it can work under 100M out of the box, and there is a fix for bringing it up to

Note I also recall someone from here said the boot mechanism of CE and armbian/Manjaro is different, so if you want to boot CE again after trying Manjaro u might need USB burning tool and Android flashed to emmc.

That is true. But with small modification of booting scripts it is possible to boot other distributions from USB/SD the same way as it’s done for CE (no Android re-installation needed). I was testing this in some other thread with Batocera Linux distribution.

Thank you both for your helpful replies, which definitely add pieces to the puzzle!

RE USB burning tool and Android flashed to eMMC, IIUC that is what we would need TWRP for (which would actually also enable us to backup the pre-existing image on the eMMC for recovery later on, before even attempting to put other images on the hardware).
So in the case of your box, avin, that would be TWRP S905X3 (I don’t know if that exists, or if it does, where that should be found) and in the case of the VidSticks, it would be TWRP S905Y2 (which I also don’t know whether it exists or where it should be found if it does).
I do know that TWRP S905X2 exists - as per a tutorial here - but I don’t know whether it would also work on a S905Y2 box (which is supposed to be just a slightly stripped down version of S905X2, according to this spec and this thread)

vpeter, I imagine the thread to which you’re referring is this one, in which you also link to this one ?

Yes, best on both threads (at the end is final solution).

TWRP is sprout of Android, custom recovery, no idea if CE or other genuine Linux distros need it. And if it is part of Android, when u have sth. like CE installed, is it possible to ever boot to Android recovery?

For emmc backup I believe command dd will suffice.
We ARE using Linux! We are geek!! No GUI needed!! shell command forever :rofl::rofl::rofl:

And playing videos as ascii art :upside_down_face:

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