Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pine64 — extra things

e64As with other low end ARM hardware the $50 I paid for the Pine64 isn’t enough for a fully working system. You will also need a serial port adapter, I recommend the CP2102 of which you’ll find millions on Amazon for under £10. Also, a micro SD card. And a USB to micro USB cable to power the board.

The total cost of this shouldn’t be more than another $40, taking the total cost of the hardware to about $90.


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Pine64 — delivered

A few weeks ago you will remember that I ordered a Pine64 aarch64 developer kit with the wifi daughter-card, in order to test how well it works with upstream Fedora. It arrived today. The ordering process was very efficient with Pine64 keeping me up to date at all steps along the way, and there were no customs delays or charges.

As I’m rather busy in the next few days, I may not have time to look at it right away.


March 14, 2017 · 6:31 pm

Tip: Run virt-inspector on a compressed disk (with nbdkit)

virt-inspector is a very convenient tool to examine a disk image and find out if it contains an operating system, what applications are installed and so on.

If you have an xz-compressed disk image, you can run virt-inspector on it without uncompressing it, using the magic of captive nbdkit. Here’s how:

nbdkit xz file=win7.img.xz \
    -U - \
    --run 'virt-inspector --format=raw -a nbd://?socket=$unixsocket'

What’s happening here is we run nbdkit with the xz plugin, and tell it to serve NBD over a randomly named Unix domain socket (-U -).

We then run virt-inspector as a sub-process. This is called “captive nbdkit”. (Nbdkit is “captive” here, because it will exit as soon as virt-inspector exits, so there’s no need to clean anything up.)

The $unixsocket variable expands to the name of the randomly generated Unix domain socket, forming a libguestfs NBD URL which allows virt-inspector to examine the raw uncompressed data exported by nbdkit.

The nbdkit xz plugin only uncompresses those blocks of the data which are actually accessed, so this is quite efficient.


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virt-rescue fixes

Although libguestfs gives you a nice structured library and tools for manipulating disk images, sometimes you just want to run a few Linux commands like mke2fs and fdisk against a disk image. For those times there is another tool called virt-rescue. It gives you a “rescue shell” connected to the disk image, and the usual set of command line Linux tools:

$ truncate -s 10G disk.img
$ virt-rescue -a disk.img
The virt-rescue escape key is ‘^]’.  Type ‘^] h’ for help.


Welcome to virt-rescue, the libguestfs rescue shell.

Note: The contents of / (root) are the rescue appliance.
You have to mount the guest's partitions under /sysroot
before you can examine them.
><rescue> fdisk /dev/sda
><rescue> mke2fs /dev/sda1
><rescue> sync

Virt-rescue was a bit clumsy to use before because it didn’t (for example) pass Ctrl-C through to the rescue shell, so using that or other control keys would kill, stop or do other drastic things to the whole program.

I spent a bit of time last week fixing all of this, to make a really great, usable rescue shell.

The first thing is that ^C now works right:

><rescue> cat > /tmp/foo

The second most requested feature is support for automatically mounting up the guest’s filesystems (rather than having to tediously type mount commands at the shell prompt). As with guestfish, the -i option now does the right thing:

$ virt-builder debian-7
$ virt-rescue -a debian-7.img -i
><rescue> chroot /sysroot
><rescue> cat /etc/debian_version

Finally virt-rescue now comes with an escape key which lets you suspend the shell and come back to it, and do some other interesting operations:

><rescue> ^]?
 ^] ? - print this message
 ^] h - print this message
 ^] i - print inspection data
 ^] q - quit virt-rescue
 ^] s - sync the filesystems
 ^] u - unmount filesystems
 ^] x - quit virt-rescue
 ^] z - suspend virt-rescue
to pass the escape key through to the rescue shell, type it twice
attempting to sync filesystems ...
[1]+  Stopped         virt-rescue -a debian-7.img -i

This is all available in libguestfs ≥ 1.37.1.

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Pine64 – ordered

I ordered the 2 GB Pine64 64 bit ARM board. It’s extremely constrained compared to the normal 64 bit ARM boards I use, but it’s good that there’s one which may be supported by upstream Linux in the near future.

Total cost for the board + the wifi accessory + postage to the UK is $50.98 (£42.36).

Let’s see how it goes …

They also have this strange SO-DIMM form-factor co-processor. I’m not sure what to make of it.


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Fabrice Bellard’s RISCVEMU supports Fedora/RISC-V

You can now boot Fedora 25 for RISC-V in Fabrice Bellard’s RISCVEMU RISC-V emulator. Here’s how in four simple steps:

  1. Download riscvemu-XXX.tar.gz and diskimage-linux-riscv64-XXX.tar.gz from Fabrice’s site.
  2. Download the latest stage 4 disk image for Fedora/RISC-V from here.
  3. Compile riscvemu. You should just need to do make.
  4. Run everything like this:
    ./riscvemu -b 64 ../diskimage-linux-riscv64-XXX/bbl.bin stage4-disk.img

If you’re going to do serious work inside the disk image then you’ll probably want to customize it with extra packages. See these instructions.

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Supernested on the QEMU Advent Calendar


I wrote supernested a few years ago to see if I could break nested KVM. It works by repeatedly nesting KVM guests until either something breaks or the whole thing grinds to a halt. Even on my very fastest machine I can only get to an L4 guest (L0 = host, L1 = normal guest).

Kashyap and Thomas Huth resurrected the QEMU Advent Calendar this year, and today (day 13) supernested is featured.

Please note that supernested should only be run on idle machines which aren’t doing anything else, and it can crash the machine.

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