PI-Hole on X96 mini - Tutorial


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I wrote a full guide for X96 Mini. It is available there.

 

https://github.com/kdrapel/x96mini_linux/blob/main/README.md

 

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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

 

Prerequisites

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/

 

Hardware

  • 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)

Software

  • Rufus 3.12
  • 7Z

 

Preparation

  • Download https://users.armbian.com/balbes150/arm-64/Armbian_20.10_Arm-64_focal_current_5.9.0.img.xz
  • 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
LABEL Armbian
LINUX /zImage
INITRD /uInitrd

# rk-3399
#FDT /dtb/rockchip/rk3399-rock-pi-4.dtb
#FDT /dtb/rockchip/rk3399-nanopc-t4.dtb
#FDT /dtb/rockchip/rk3399-roc-pc-mezzanine.dtb
#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

# rk-3328
#FDT /dtb/rockchip/rk3328-roc-pc.dtb
#FDT /dtb/rockchip/rk3328-box-trn9.dtb
#FDT /dtb/rockchip/rk3328-box.dtb
#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
#FDT /dtb/allwinner/sun50i-h6-tanix-tx6.dtb
#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
#FDT /dtb/amlogic/meson-gxbb-p200.dtb
FDT /dtb/amlogic/meson-gxl-s905x-p212.dtb
#FDT /dtb/amlogic/meson-gxm-q200.dtb
#FDT /dtb/amlogic/meson-g12a-x96-max.dtb
#FDT /dtb/amlogic/meson-g12b-odroid-n2.dtb
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

 

Launching

  • 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)

 

 

shell1.png

 

Installing Pi-Hole on the X96

 

Upgrading system

 

  • First upgrade your system with "apt-get upgrade"
  • About 50 packages or so are upgraded.

 

Install Pi-Hole

 

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

 

pihole1.png

 

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.

 

Smoke testing

  • Disable ad-blocking in your browser and navigate to some heavy websites 
  • Additional lists may be useful for Youtube adblocking, here is my configuration. 

 

pihole4.png

 

Known issues

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.

 

Troubleshootings

You can attach a keyboard and mouse to the USB ports. The Logitech receiver is also working such that I could use my keyboard.

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