Use case

Building a kernel aside Replicant is faster to setup and faster to build since you do not need to fetch and use the huge Android build system.

Users wanting to add a driver to their kernel, or developers that want to work on kernel related areas can do that to speed up the development process, however if the changes are integrated back into Replicant, they will automatically be built by the Android build system, when building images.


Since you are not compiling any userspace applications, you don't need the Android build system. The Linux Kenrel, and Bootloaders such as uboot can be built without the Android build system.

The Trisquel ARM version of gcc seem to work well. To install it run:

$ apt-get install gcc-arm-none-eabi

If you use distributions such as Parabola, this will probably not work because the arm-none-eabi-gcc is too recent for many devices kernels.

To workaround that you can install Trisquel in a container.
This way it will have very few CPU and memory overhead compared to a virtual machine.
It will also save disk space since you can just store the Trisquel rootfs in any directory.

Example with crespo under Trisquel

Getting the right parameters

First download the following example image and its signatures:

As usual, verify the signature:

$ gpg --import 4A80EB23.asc
$ gpg --verify

It should then say something like:
$ gpg --verify 
gpg: assuming signed data in ''
gpg: Signature made Tue 01 Sep 2015 01:31:47 PM CEST using RSA key ID 4A80EB23
gpg: Good signature from "Replicant project release key <>" [unknown]
gpg: WARNING: This key is not certified with a trusted signature!
gpg:          There is no indication that the signature belongs to the owner.
Primary key fingerprint: E776 092B 052A DC91 FDD1  FD80 16D1 FEEE 4A80 EB23

Then unpack the zip file:

$ mkdir replicant-4.2-crespo && cd replicant-4.2-crespo && unzip ../

That should have extracted a boot.img. We then should not forget to look at what format the boot.img is in:
$ file boot.img
boot.img: Android bootimg, kernel (0x30008000), ramdisk (0x31000000), page size: 4096, cmdline (console=ttyFIQ0 no_console_suspend)

Here it says it's an "Android bootimg", so we need the following tools:
  • mkbootimg to pack an image
  • unbootimg to unpack an image
Ways to get such tools: Some android tools were converted to build on GNU/Linux without requiring the Android build system.
  • In git:// you have adb in android/adb, mkbootimg and unbootimg in android/image-utils

Some GNU/Linux distributions also have packages for some of the tools.

Extract the ramdisk and the kernel image and parameters from the original boot.img:

$ unbootimg --kernel kernel.img --ramdisk ramdisk.img -i boot.img 
total image size:   3100672
kernel size:        2903532
kernel load addr:   0x30008000
ramdisk size:       189142
ramdisk load addr:  0x31000000
2nd boot size:      0
2nd boot load addr: 0x30f00000
kernel tags addr:   0x30000100
page size:          4096
board:              `'
cmdline:            `console=ttyFIQ0 no_console_suspend'
id:                 bd59d387bf083b0946e25a8f17f1aaef4bcc7412000

We also check the kernel image format, since we will build that:

$ file kernel.img 
kernel.img: Linux kernel ARM boot executable zImage (little-endian)


If you want to be able to run "make menuconfig", install libncurses5-dev:

# apt-get install libncurses5-dev

Download the sources:

$ git clone

Then in each console you build from, do:

export ARCH=arm
export CROSS_COMPILE=arm-none-eabi-

Configure it for crespo:

$ make crespo_defconfig

If you want to configure it furthurer:

$ make menuconfig

Then build a zImage:

$ make -j4 zImage

If the compilation succedded, the image is at:


Building Failures

Many devices specific kernels often contains not very clean code. This is very common with high volume devices due to time to market constraints. Upstream Linux has way higher code quality standards, but having your patches merged there requires more time.

As a result, variations in the default kernel configuration for your device can result in build errors.

Compilation failures can also happen when you use another gcc version, like we do in this guide.
This happens frequently if you use a gcc that is more recent than your kernel.
The "not very clean code" also increase the probability of it.


We now create a new boot.img from the parameters and ramdisk.img we extracted from the default boot.img

$ mkbootimg --kernel /path/to/arch/arm/boot/zImage --ramdisk ramdisk.img --cmdline "console=ttyFIQ0 no_console_suspend" --base 0x30000000 --pagesize 4096 -o new-boot.img

Then we verify that it matches the default boot.img parameters:

$ unbootimg -i new-boot.img 
total image size:   3096576
kernel size:        2899584
kernel load addr:   0x30008000
ramdisk size:       189142
ramdisk load addr:  0x31000000
2nd boot size:      0
2nd boot load addr: 0x30f00000
kernel tags addr:   0x30000100
page size:          4096
board:              `'
cmdline:            `console=ttyFIQ0 no_console_suspend'
id:                 f33faefb7b1eca7d1d1d6dc7603aed2bd82d65c000

Here we check if the following parameters match:
  • kernel load addr
  • ramdisk load addr
  • Kernel tag addr
  • page size
  • cmdline if you don't plan to change it.


Reboot the device to the bootloader, and run:

$ fastboot boot new-boot.img
< waiting for device >
downloading 'boot.img'...
OKAY [  0.435s]
OKAY [  0.288s]
finished. total time: 0.723s

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