I wrote a full guide for X96 Mini. It is available there.
Installing Linux on X96 Mini
Goal is to install a Linux on a X96 Mini that I did not use anymore as a TV box and wanted to recycle as a DNS server for ads-blocking (https://pi-hole.net/) and other experiments.
Important: I will not give any support or answer questions related to issues happening with your own X96
Instructions are covering steps on a Windows machine. Should be similar for Linux. Based upon (messy) instructions found at https://forum.armbian.com/topic/12162-single-armbian-image-for-rk-aml-aw-aarch64-armv8/
X96 Mini 2GB CPU is S905X. Label behind say "X96 mini RAM 2GB, ROM 16 GB".
SD card, 16 GB. Smaller will be ok too (needs at least 8GB)
Toothpick or small stick (reset button inside AV jack)
Unzip this file to get Armbian_20.10_Arm-64_focal_current_5.9.0.img
Launch Rufus, select the img. Click on 'Start'. SD card will be formatted and content will be written.
Configuration of u-boot
In Windows Explorer, navigate to your SD card. You should see a structure a 'extlinux' folder, 'dtb', etc.
Rename the file 'u-boot-s905x-s912' to 'u-boot.ext'
Configuration of device tree block
A Device Tree Block (DTB) is a file that contains important information about the target hardware (more info http://junyelee.blogspot.com/2015/07/a-tutorial-on-device-tree.html). So it is necessary to use the proper one. This is a tricky part and if an improper DTB is used, your target system will fail loading or the kernel will panic.
Edit the file /extlinux/extlinux.conf
Comment out all lines starting with FDT and APPEND (we don't want RK or AW configuration, we are only interested in AML s9xxx section).
Uncomment 'FDT /dtb/amlogic/meson-gxl-s905x-p212.dtb' and 'APPEND ....'. See example below
#APPEND root=LABEL=ROOTFS rootflags=data=writeback rw console=uart8250,mmio32,0xff1a0000 console=tty0 no_console_suspend consoleblank=0 fsck.fix=yes fsck.repair=yes net.ifnames=0
#APPEND root=LABEL=ROOTFS rootflags=data=writeback rw console=uart8250,mmio32,0xff130000 console=tty0 no_console_suspend consoleblank=0 fsck.fix=yes fsck.repair=yes net.ifnames=0
# aw h6
#APPEND root=LABEL=ROOTFS rootflags=data=writeback rw console=ttyS0,115200 console=tty0 no_console_suspend consoleblank=0 fsck.fix=yes fsck.repair=yes net.ifnames=0 video=HDMI-A-1:e
#APPEND root=LABEL=ROOTFS rootflags=data=writeback rw console=ttyS0,115200 console=tty0 no_console_suspend consoleblank=0 fsck.fix=yes fsck.repair=yes net.ifnames=0 mem=2048M video=HDMI-A-1:e
# aml s9xxx
APPEND root=LABEL=ROOTFS rootflags=data=writeback rw console=ttyAML0,115200n8 console=tty0 no_console_suspend consoleblank=0 fsck.fix=yes fsck.repair=yes net.ifnames=0
Unplug the X96 Mini
Insert the SD card
Using a toothpick, small stick or whatever suitable, press on the 'reset' switch which is located inside the AV jack. You don't need to press too hard.
While the reset switch is maintained pressed, plug the power. The X96 Mini screen will appear and normally after a few seconds, it should switch to the Linux boot.
You can release the reset switch. Linux should run if everything is properly configured.
I access it through SSH on port 22. It is of course recommended to change the default root password (root / 1234)
Installing Pi-Hole on the X96
First upgrade your system with "apt-get upgrade"
About 50 packages or so are upgraded.
It may fail by saying that your OS is not supported, just follow the instructions they provide in the error message in this case. I will not detail the complete installation, I used the default configuration step without doing any tweaking except giving the target IP address of my X96 on my network.
curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | PIHOLE_SKIP_OS_CHECK=true sudo -E bash
Configuration of router
Assign a static IP to the MAC address of your X96. This must match what you defined in the PI-hole configuration.
Switch the router to your new DNS server (as the primary). I left the secondary DNS server to my ISP default, just in case the X96 crashes or fails for whatever reason.
Disable ad-blocking in your browser and navigate to some heavy websites
Additional lists may be useful for Youtube adblocking, here is my configuration.
Wifi is not working. I did not investigate more as I don't need it right now. Probably some (proprietary) Realtek drivers are needed from what I have read on the web.
You can attach a keyboard and mouse to the USB ports. The Logitech receiver is also working such that I could use my keyboard.