The Gig of Ham

One geek's contributions to the series of tubes

Nov 10, 2015 - 3 minute read - Android ARM Blog RK3368 sysadmin

Hacking the Uppel/Sunchip CX-R8

As part of my job at Chef, I’m responsible for getting Chef on strange platforms. At the 2015 Chef Seattle Community Summit, I discovered that the community has a lot of interest in getting Chef on strange platforms as well. I was helping a community member get Chef running on an ARMv8 (also known as AArch64 or ARM64 depending on your platform or compiler), but I needed an inexpensive platform to put in the forthcoming community builds CI. All of the options from the usual suspects (MSI, APM, etc) were in excess of $1200 at the minimum. So, I decided to get creative. The requirements are simply an ARMv8 processor with a minimum of 2GB of RAM, and USB for storage. Some well crafted DuckDuckGo searches later, and I found the Rikomagic MK68 which seems to fit the bill. They even have a Linux version (the MK68 LE) in the works, but the less waiting the better.

A couple of searches at AliExpress later, and two are on their way from China. Then, I started researching the chip used in this product: the Rockchip RK3368, and find (totally by accident) the Uppel CX-R8 on Amazon, and it’s available with 2-day delivery (where as the order from AliExpress is going to take 5-30 days). The Uppel arrived this afternoon.

I’ve been documenting the process of putting Debian on this device with copious photos and screenshots up on my DreamObjects public bucket. I’ve also been getting a lot of assistance from the fine folks in the #linux-rockchip channel on Freenode IRC. It turns out this is a pretty standard board made by Sunchip. No surprise there, I’m guessing it’s the same board in the MK68 also. We’ll find out in 10-20 days.

In the mean time, we’ve discovered that the USB port adjacent to the SD card reader is an OTG port. Using a USB3 A-A cable, I was able to get the firmware loader to drop back into slave mode for programming, and the Linux Rockchip folks have the tools to talk to that available via GitHub. The stock Android image is available, and it’s downloading via MEGA now so I can disassemble it and make a Debian 8 version. Then I should be able to flash the onboard storage with a Debian image and boot off the USB as a root device. I can install that using debootstrap from any system.

After I get that figured out, I’ll post more details on what hardware is used (ala iFixit style tear-down) and the images required to get Debian 8 on the device. Then I’ve got a nice ARMv8 “server” for compiles, and more coming for testing and even use as an Android media player.

Next will be getting this Cubieboard4 system up and running for ARMv6 and ARMv7 compiles. More on that once it arrives. In the mean time, the CX-R8 hacking continues..