Portage-powered Android: Gentoo GSoC 2018 Final Report
The project is still under active development. Due to the over-optimistic estimation of the time needed to work on the Android build system, not all the objectives originally planned in the proposal have been finished. The project itself, however, is going on smoothly and the work is expected to continue despite the finish of the GSoC program.
Boot Gentoo system on Android hardware -- Preinit
This part is based on the work of the Gentoo ARM64 Project with modifications to the boot sequence to properly boot on Android hardware. Due to the nature of a fixed bootloader for Android, the project Preinit is created to handle early mount operations and launch Gentoo init with the embedded initramfs inside Android's in-house
boot.img format. Designed to adapt the difference between various Android hardware, the project is extensible and easy to add support for new devices. An eselect module is offered for users to switch between device profiles or use their custom initramfs.
Manage device kernel sources and headers with Portage
Android devices use kernel sources that are heavily patched to drive the vendor-specific hardware, and the patches may never be submitted to the upstream Linux kernel source tree. Consequently, it is crucial to use the kernel source tree dedicated to the device. Ebuilds have been created in category
sys-kernel in the proj/android.git overlay.
Due to differences between the Android bootloader and regular bootloaders for GNU/Linux systems, a plugin to the kernel build system, installkernel, which serves to correctly install the kernel automatically, has been created. Installkernel packs the kernel and preinit files into a
boot.img and flashes it to the correct partition.
Using the Android kernel headers matters when building Android components natively on the device. Ebuilds for kernel headers with the version corresponding to the kernel sources have been created in the
sys-kernel category as well, and users are recommended to use the correct version of kernel headers.
Start Android in a container for phone functionality
The Android system is started as a guest in LXC in Gentoo. As the Android filesystem structure differs from GNU/Linux greatly and some paths overlap, keeping the Android filesystem tree in a separate place is more suitable rather than mixing them together. The project SharkBait-setup has been created to automatically set up a vanilla Android device with Gentoo chroot available as a Portage-powered Android system.
Toolchain for Android system target
Toolchains that run on different host architectures is important for building the Android system natively on the device. GCC and LLVM cross-compile toolchains for Android
aarch64-linux-android target have been produced without Google's obscured scripts, which greatly helps in building Android on an AArch64 host--the Android device itself.
Development details on specific topics can be found in my blog articles. These articles form the weekly reports of progress. The user guide and porter's guide have been created on Gentoo Wiki to serve as official documentation for the project.
Regular discussion about the project takes place every Saturday at 2:00 AM UTC time in #shark-bait at Freenode IRC. Tyson Tan, the designer of the KDE mascot, have created a mascot and a logo for the project. A website shark-bait.org that serves as a portal and development blog has been created by fellow developers that helped me work on the project.
Work left to be done
The GSoC period is somewhat short to complete such a massive project to restructure Android, and many of the things that were originally planned are not finished yet. Hopefully they will eventually get implemented as the project evolves.
Binary artifacts in the toolchain
As a sensible way to build Bionic separately has not been worked out yet: the
libc components in the toolchains created are copied from a live Android system. Proper build method of Bionic is required to avoid copying object files when creating the toolchain.
Android Build system
The manually-created toolchains have to be integrated into the Android build system to enable native building on AArch64. Many parts of the Android build system currently do not distinguish host OS and architecture, assuming that the host to be an x86 system. Work is needed to refactor these parts and enable the use of system toolchains instead of prebuilt ones.
Dependency relationship between AOSP modules
The AOSP sources are modularized, and incremental, reproducible building of the modules is supported. However, the dependency relationship between modules are implicit and dynamically resolved by the build system during the build. To build the modules separately, the dependency relationship needs to be explicitly figured out so that the dependencies are not built multiple times.
Eclass for Android build system functions
The Android build systems expose functions to build modules. The functions should be wrapped in an eclass to provide a consistent interface for ebuilds for Android components.
Support for more devices
Currently, the Portage-powered Android project only supports two devices: Huawei Nexus 6P and ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra. Support for more and newer devices is expected to come in the future.
Projects created during GSoC 2018
Code and documentation merged upstream
- Commits in proj/gentoo.git
- Pages on Gentoo Wiki:
GSoC reports archive
I appreciate the guidance from my mentor Benda Xu very much. He shows great passion and enthusiasm in my project while still gives me great freedom to determine how the project would go when issues occur. His extreme patience and timely help ensured the success of my GSoC 2018 project.
Stephen Christie and Lucas Ramage actively participated in the weekly discussion that takes place in the #shark-bait channel. They maintain the project website and provide crucial insights when I run into tough issues. Stephen also contacted the artist, Tyson Tan, who created the KDE mascot, to create a logo and a mascot for the project. Thanks for their devotion to the project. Also, I would like to show my gratefulness for Tyson for creating the cute, lovely mascot Mako. She exactly represents what we imagined about her.
I would like to express my gratitude for Bingxing Wang and Icenowy for helping me with the Linux kernel. Bingxing Wang helped me understand how the hardware and low-level software work on embedded ARM devices, while Icenowy provided important insights to handle problems I had encountered with the Android
boot.img as well as knowledge with the GNU tools and ARM architecture.
I would also like to thank the Tsinghua University TUNA Association and its energetic members for providing me with a high-quality environment for technical discussions. Many times was I stuck an issue we heatedly discuss, and it gets resolved easily.
Finally, I would like to thank all the people who have encouraged, commented on, or criticized my project and everyone that worked on the project with me. Hope that our effort can make Android and Gentoo better platforms, and even better, the world a better place.