Running Gentoo Linux (as a chroot) on the Motorola Xoom


  • a rooted xoom
  • busybox installed
  • a terminal emulator (Better Terminal Pro works perfectly)
  • a large enough & preferably fast  microsd card. I used an 8Gigs class 6.
  • check if you have nothing important to backup on the card before starting
  • optional : a bluetooth keyboard

First step : prepare an sdcard

Plug your card with a reader / adapter on a standard linux.
It should appear like a /dev/mmcblk0

Wipe out the partition table and create one big linux fs:

fdisk /dev/mmcblk0

remove all partitions: d d d
re-add one, primary with the default linux type with the default size (all disk)
n then p then enter enter

Create an ext4 file system:
mkfs.ext4 /dev/mmcblk0p1

Mount the fs somewhere
mkdir -p /mnt/gentoo
mount /dev/mmcblk0p1 /mnt/gentoo
cd /mnt/gentoo

Second step : copy over the stage3 and portage

Browse to http://www.gentoo.org/main/en/mirrors2.xml and find a good mirror for you or if you have already a gentoo machine do :
emerge mirrorselect
mirrorselect -s 1 -o

You need to find a stage3 of armv7 arch with hardfp and undecompress it where you have mounted your sdcard :
cd /mnt/gentoo
wget http://mirror.ovh.net/gentoo-distfiles/releases/arm/autobuilds/current-stage3-armv7a_hardfp/stage3-armv7a_hardfp-20110503.tar.bz2
tar xjvf stage3*.tar.bz2
rm stage3*.tar.bz2

Then you need a portage snapshot and uncompress it in the right directory:
cd /mnt/gentoo/usr
wget http://mirror.ovh.net/gentoo-distfiles/releases/snapshots/current/portage-latest.tar.bz2
tar xjvf portage-latest.tar.bz2
rm portage-latest.tar.bz2

Third step : adjust some settings
in /mnt/gentoo/etc/make.conf adjust your mirrors and, very important disable the userfetch feature:

FEATURES="-userfetch" # on android non-priviledged users like portage has no right to open a socket due to CONFIG_ANDROID_PARANOID_NETWORK in the kernel config
Note : you can also add MAKEOPTS="-j2" for parallel building

create /mnt/gentoo/root/.profile like this :

export TERM=xterm

Unmount your card, put it in your Xoom and restart it.

Chroot in your gentoo
Here is a little script that you can put for example in /sdcard/gg.sh :

mkdir -p /sdcard/gentoo
mountpoint -q /sdcard/gentoo || mount -t ext4 -o noatime /dev/block/mmcblk0p1 /sdcard/gentoo
echo "nameserver `getprop dhcp.wlan0.dns1`" > /sdcard/gentoo/etc/resolv.conf
mountpoint -q /sdcard/gentoo/dev || mount -o bind /dev /sdcard/gentoo/dev
mountpoint -q /sdcard/gentoo/dev/pts || mount -o bind /dev/pts /sdcard/gentoo/dev/pts
mountpoint -q /sdcard/gentoo/sys || mount -o bind /sys /sdcard/gentoo/sys
mountpoint -q /sdcard/gentoo/proc || mount -t proc proc /sdcard/gentoo/proc
export HOME=/root
export TERMINFO=/etc/terminfo
chroot /sdcard/gentoo /bin/bash -l

then do from adb shell or your favorite terminal on the device :
source /sdcard/gg.sh

Enjoy your new gentoo environment !

- added a check to avoid remounts when you reexecute the script
- overrided the shell variable better terminal was putting

Edit2 2011-05-28: With the 3.1 update, the sdcard is mounted directly under /sdcard/external:
/dev/block/mmcblk0p1 /mnt/sdcard/external ext4 rw,relatime,barrier=1,data=ordered 0 0

So you can safely reuse it directly, here is the alternative script.

echo "nameserver `getprop dhcp.wlan0.dns1`" > /sdcard/external/etc/resolv.conf
mountpoint -q /sdcard/external/dev || mount -o bind /dev /sdcard/external/dev
mountpoint -q /sdcard/external/dev/pts || mount -o bind /dev/pts /sdcard/external/dev/pts
mountpoint -q /sdcard/external/sys || mount -o bind /sys /sdcard/external/sys
mountpoint -q /sdcard/external/proc || mount -t proc proc /sdcard/external/proc
export HOME=/root
export TERMINFO=/etc/terminfo
chroot /sdcard/external /bin/bash -l


  1. Caveat : in order to install overlay using subversions, it seems that the sandbox fails with dev-libs/apr.

    So before emerging subversion you can do :
    FEATURES="-sandbox" emerge -1 dev-libs/apr

  2. Thanks a lot an Greetings from Berlin!

  3. When I try and emerge something, screen for example, it doesn't like the local file:
    ('Filesize does not match recorded size', 352L, 840602)

    and of course it fails when it tries to fetch. While it would be nice to fix the checksum errors, it would be even nicer to allow it to actually be able to open up sockets. Is there any way to enable this functionality?

  4. You have set the FEATURES="-userfetch"?
    Do you have tried it with a real sd?

  5. Added an (slightly) alternative script for the 3.1 version.

  6. Thank you :) now compiling xfce+tightvnc and after that I try texlive ;) funny thing.

  7. I do have -userfetch, haven't tried on a real SD card.

  8. try to remove the leftover from /usr/portage/distfiles/ and retry ?

  9. Interesting... I was considering crossdev and trying to build a lightweight version of gentoo for the Xoom... It seems that the xoom can handle the load, and this is promising that there might just be an option to do it! Thanks

  10. I don't mean to troll your blog, but I was curious if you had any additional development on gentoo on the Xoom besides the chroot, and are you familiar with the Tegra kernel at git://nv-tegra.nvidia.com/linux-2.6.git?

  11. Funny that you asked that, I was preparing a tutorial for adding hardware support to the xoom !
    I just published it :

    Possibilities are just ... tantalizing !

  12. @william for your previous comment about crossdev, have checked out my crossdev with distcc setup on this other post : http://klaig.blogspot.com/2011/05/speedup-compilation-with-distcc-cross.html ?
    You can compile from your Xoom and offload it while crosscompiling to your PC.

  13. Well... I feel that I might be going about this the wrong way.... I might have to take a different approach. http://www.thebytes.net/projects/gentoo-arm-for-the-motorola-xoom/ My goals were: build arm-gentoo on my x86_64 and then test it in qemu(not sure how yet), then push. The biggest problem though was not being able to test the actual boot process and if the kernel loaded the right.
    Now, chrooting gentoo ON the xoom sounds... just easy... i am going to give this a shot tonight.

  14. Do you need to do anything special for the 8GB sdcard, because for some reason, mine is not being detected... but the 2GB is working fine.