Enable Raspbian Images to Boot on Libre Computers Boards

Enable Raspbian Images to Boot on Libre Computers Boards Guide
Enable Raspbian Images to Boot on Libre Computers Boards Guide

Libre Computers is a company making single board computers that are much more open-sourced than the Raspberry Pi (especially when it comes to hardware). They are offering a USB 2.0 model (the “Le Potato”) for $40 and a USB 3.0 model (the “Renegade”) for $50. Those are not theoretical MSRP prices that are impossible to find either. Those are the listed prices available today!

When I first covered these boards the Libre reddit account let me know about a utility they had available that could enable most Raspberry Pi images to boot on Libre Computers boards such as the “Le Potato” and “Renegade”. I tried out the tool and it worked great! In this guide I will show you where to get the tool and how to use it.

Let’s begin!

Hardware Used

Libre Computers "Le Potato"
Libre Computers “Le Potato”

The “Le Potato” from Libre Computers is meant to be a fully open sourced alternative to the Raspberry Pi. It can run a huge number of flavors and has up to date images available for them. Contains a Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 CPU as well as a Mali-450 GPU as well as 2GB of RAM. Make sure you click the $5 off coupon if you are using Amazon!

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Libre Computers "Renegade"
Libre Computers “Renegade” ROC-RK3328-CC Firefly

The ROC-RK3328-CC Firefly “Renegade” from Libre Computers is a very powerful RockChip based single board computer. The “Renegade” features 2G of DDR4 RAM, USB 3.0, a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, a Mali-450 GPU and 1 USB 3.0 port!

Links: Amazon.com*, Amazon.ca*, Amazon.com.au*, Amazon.co.jp*, Amazon.co.uk*, Amazon.de*, Amazon.es*, Amazon.fr*, Amazon.it*, Amazon.sg*

Supported Versions

The list of all the supported versions of Raspbian is available on the official GitHub page for the tool and includes:

  • Raspbian 10 Buster Lite and Desktop armhf
  • Raspbian 11 Bullseye Lite and Desktop armhf
  • Raspbian 11 Bullseye Lite and Desktop arm64

You can use the tool on any of these versions and it will enable it to boot on the Libre Computers boards.

Booting the SD card with the Pi will still be retained (in other words it won’t take away your ability to boot that image on the Pi if you run the Libre utility).

Notable Caveats

Libre Computers gives two notable caveats to using this tool to boot Raspbian images:

  • GPIOs and Device Tree Overlays (dtoverlay) for I2C, SPI, UART, PWM need to be translated via our wiring tool.
  • Software designed around specific Raspberry Pi® hardware such as MIPI cameras, DPI displays, DSI panels are not supported.

Let’s explain what these mean. The first one about GPIO and device tree overlays means that if you are making extensive use of the GPIO pins or overlays you will need to use their wiring tool to translate the instructions to ones that will work with Libre boards. This is a pretty standard requirement for Pi competitor hardware and it’s actually a step above many competitors that Libre has a good working tool that lets you do this effectively.

The second point involves closed source components of the Raspberry Pi related to hardware. If you are using any hardware that makes use of these closed-source Raspberry Pi hardware features that isn’t supported. This is essentially true with every competing board to the Raspberry Pi due to the closed-source nature of these components on the Pi.

These caveats likely won’t apply to many (maybe even most) people reading this article (and if they apply to you then you will know it).

Instructions

The tool is quite simple to use. To start you are going to boot into the image you want to enable Libre board support with a Raspberry Pi first. First make sure you have git installed with:

sudo apt install git -y

Now clone the Libre Raspbian Portability Tool GitHub Repository:

git clone https://github.com/libre-computer-project/libretech-raspbian-portability.git lrp

Next let’s run a command to get the available board types:

pi@pi400:~ $ sudo lrp/oneshot.sh
No board selected. Supported boards:
all-h3-cc-h3
all-h3-cc-h5
aml-s805x-ac
aml-s905x-cc
roc-rk3328-cc
roc-rk3399-pc
sudo lrp/oneshot.sh BOARD

Finally we can complete the operation by running the same command we ran before but specifying the correct board type after oneshot.sh. For example for the “Le Potato” the identifier we should use is aml-s905x-cc. That would make the final correct command look like this:

sudo lrp/oneshot.sh aml-s905x-cc

It will ask you to type “continue”. Once you type this out it will begin to prepare the image.

Testing the Utility

To test the utility I took my nearly full Pi 400 image and prepared it to boot on the “Le Potato”. I booted the Pi 400 and ran the script:

Raspbian on Pi 400 running portability tool
Raspbian on Pi 400 running portability tool

Now I simply shut down the Pi 400 and moved the SD card to my “Le Potato” and connected the power:

Raspbian running on "Le Potato" after using portability tool
Raspbian running on “Le Potato” after using portability tool

Success!

Conclusion

Libre Computers does a great job supporting their boards. It’s one of the things that makes them one of my favorite single board computer companies of 2022. Their pricing is great and I’ve already had several interactions with their social media accounts (as have some of my readers, see my Twitter for that). I really like their commitment to having much more open source hardware than we previously had access to with the Pi.

This tool lets easily move from any Raspberry Pi above a Raspberry Pi 2 directly to a Libre Board. You don’t have to reinstall any of your software. You don’t have to reconfigure your images or transfer your data. You simply run a simple script to enable the necessary files for the Libre to boot (while leaving the original image able to still boot on a Raspberry Pi).

For anyone who has tried to move from a Raspberry Pi to an alternative device before this utility really stands out as a compelling reason to choose a Libre board over some of the competitors. I definitely recommend giving it a try!

Other Resources

I have a full review for the Libre Computers “Renegade” here and a SSD booting guide for the “Renegade” here

I have a full review for the Libre Computers “Le Potato” here and a SSD booting guide for the “Le Potato” here

Definitely see all of the rest of my single board computer reviews here

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christian
christian
10 days ago

Hi, thanks for the write-up! Would you know anything about 1080p playback? I suppose these boards don’t have that dedicated playback chip?

Christian
Christian
8 days ago

sounds good. thanks for the advice!