PicUntu 4.5 installer loads Ubuntu onto Rockchip RK3188 devices

PicUntu is a custom version of Ubuntu Linux designed to run on TV boxes and other devices with Rockchip’s ARM-based processors. Now it’s easier to install than ever, offering a way to turn a cheap Android TV box into a full-fledged Linux computer.

The developer has released a new build called PicUntu 4.5, along with a GUI installer that lets you load Ubuntu onto an MK802 IV or similar device with an RK3188 processor. I took it for a spin on an T518 Android TV stick, and aside from having trouble getting WiFi to work, the process was pretty quick and painless.

t518 picuntu 4.5

PicUntu 4.5 is based on Ubuntu 13.04 and uses the light-weight Xfce desktop environment. It has some basic apps including a web browser, text editor, and terminal app pre-loaded, but the default installation is pretty sparse. That’s good, since it means the software doesn’t take up a lot of storage space. You can always install GIMP, LibreOffice, or other apps yourself using the Synaptic Package Manager.

At this point there’s no support for hardware-accelerated video or Bluetooth. But the RK3188 quad-core processor is zippy enough to handle 720p HD video playback on CPU-power alone.

Without a working internet connection I haven’t been able to thoroughly test PicUntu 4.5 on the T518 stick, but it seems to load apps pretty quickly, have no problem with multitasking, and boots pretty quickly. It probably doesn’t hurt that this particular stick has 2GB of RAM as well as a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor.

Overall, running PicUntu on this devices feels a lot like running Ubuntu on a machine with an Intel or AMD processors. The biggest difference is that the T518 sells for just $78, and some RK3188 boxes are available for even lower prices.

The installer is designed to run on a Windows PC, and it will wipe the data on your device and install Ubuntu on the internal storage. If you think you might want to go back to Android, make sure you have a factory image or custom ROM handy.

Step-by-step instructions for using the installer are available at the PicUntu website and the FreakTab forum.

PicUntu installer

Note that those instructions will be useless if you don’t know how to boot into the bootloader on your device.

On the T518 you do this by holding the Fn button while plugging in a microUSB cable to power up the device. I believe this only works if you connect to the microUSB port on the end of the device. If you use the one on the side you’re likely to boot to recovery, not the bootloader.

With an MK802 IV I believe you do something similar, but instead of holding a button you need to poke a pin or paperclip at the reset button hidden inside the air vent while you plug in the device.

  • trendless

    Any mention of rk3066 devices like the MK 802 III S ?

  • freed

    I serious think that those who design such software, hacks and tricks etc are programming geniuses but social retards! I have read the so called step by step installation process and I still have no clue what to do! The dumbest instructions I have ever seen in my life, helpful and the socially inept nerds! The regular 99% of the people including those who have phds, will have no clue what this guy is talking about!

    In the forum, in step 2, he says “Click on rk_flash_1.37–> RKAndroidtool.exe” …. UNDERSTOOD
    Then boom, jumps to this => “At this time you need to get the device in bootloader mode.”

    bootloader mode??? What??? I know what a bootloader mode, but how am I supposed to get it into the bootloader mode??? Even so, aren’t those two machines supposed to be connected one to the other? I mean, aren’t I supposed to connect this Android thingy to the PC? In a bootloader mode? Through HDMI? When both running, Android connected to the monitor??? What the heck, man???

    Is that even supposed to be user friendly? Just god damn pure frustrating????

    • eebrah

      Each of this RK3188 devices has a different way of getting into “bootloader” mode, there is no one generic way, you need to determine the way to do this for your particular device. I believe the article talks about how to do so for the T518 and potentially the MK802 IV.

      These are not devices that are sold running desktop GNU/Linux or with picUntu pre-installed, even though there are plans to do so [ http://liliputing.com/2013/07/rikomagic-uk-to-offer-minix-linux-arm-pcs-mk802-iii-le-mk802-iv-le.html ]

      I would suggest that you get yourself one of those if you want to avoid frustration, this is hacking an OS onto a device that the manufacturers [ again, different devices, different modes ] had no intention of it running, the level of user-friendliness you seek is probably not possible as yet

    • Linuxium

      A simple thanks is okay, no need to proffer your psychiatric assessment. Perhaps you’re now ready for leading edge development, such as multi-boot Android and Linux (see https://plus.google.com/109451178006683865932/posts/7pqtjxZus5p ) using Debian, Lubuntu, Xubuntu or Ubuntu etc?

      • onebir

        LOL – thanks from me anyway ;)

        Is there a list of compatible devices anywhere? ‘Bout time I took a serious look into getting one! (http://ubuntu.g8.net seems to be down…)

        Is there any way to run the setup script on Linux tho? I guess i could set up a VM if not… :s

      • mohnish82

        All sticks with Rickomagic chips RK3066 & RK3188.

    • Tyrell John

      I feel your pain. Often there are big gaps between steps and open ended explanations.

    • paperclip

      I had the same issue, with my T518. Managed to get it done after some serious tinkering. Results of my experiences you can find on: http://www.wili.nl/T518/Installation_T518_with_ubuntu.htm.
      Hope this will help you.

  • Alex

    Synaptic takes a while to index the packages when run the first time, that’s why it seemed frozen in the video. Probably it would help using a faster microSD card to run Picuntu from, booting seemed slow too compared to my home:io set-up on rk3066, so I would bet a faster microSD card would help.

  • epinoa

    Work on a Minix X7? That has a ethernet port so you won’t have the WiFi issues.

  • Anon

    LXDE uses far less resources than XFCE. XFCE is not the choice to go lighter weight with the OS.
    I investigated this a while ago, and hands down for running a GUI on a Linux Terminal Server box, you would use LXDE (vs any other official Ubuntu) because it’s faster and uses far less memory at boot.

    • mohnish82

      I have this setup. This stick has very good specs. I can confirm that there are no issues with the XFCE desktop environment

  • Anon

    There are some really cheap unsold older original versions of Archos 80 G9 units (not the turbo) out there and anyone who figures out how to put Lubuntu on that, really has a very interesting device.
    Of course, Archos Orphaned the product with no upgrade to newer Android…. so, what else to do with it but figure how to replace Android with a light and fast linux (LXDE of course).

  • freed

    What I didn’t particularly understand about the so called step by step instructions, is that we are supposed to run the installer on a windows machine, while simultaneously getting the android stick into the bootloader. Ok, fine, that is doable. The DUMB thing there is this… Ok, I am running two machines, each connected to different monitors, one windows, one android at bootloader mode, but those two machines are not connected in any way. Well, I will run the windows installer, ….., for what??? What is it going to do? Install the software in windows? Of course not, it’s supposed to install in the Android Stick. How is it gonna do that? The two machines are not connected to each other. The android is just stupidly waiting in the bootloader mode. Is the windows pc supposed to magically communicate with the android bootloader through wireless. What??? This is why these guys (or should I say, the Linux Geek Crowd in General) have no clue for the real world out there.

    I really truly unbelivably wish Linux to be the dominant desktop OS but with those guys, it never will be. They just don’t have the slightest clue about real life and real world. They always remind of Dustin Hoffman in Rain man. Just Sociopath Genius Idiots.

    • onebir

      Did you try connecting the devices by USB? That’s how it works for scripts to root Android devices, & just the kind of detail that can get left out when someone’s trying to document a process with quite a few steps…

      As a mere demigeek I see where you’re coming from, but try to remember this is ‘Fringe Linux’ at the moment ;). If we can calmly report these kinds of difficulty to the uber-geeks, they’re likely to respond better… :)

      (That said, mainstream distros cant have un/poorly documented gotchas of various magnititudes. Try assigning an icon to a quicklauncher in XFCE; they’re scattered all over the shop. & stopping F1 from bringing up help in XFCE terminal involves delving into config files & making an edit I still don’t understand…)

      • Linuxium

        My bad, he’s not ready yet … maybe for the Darwin Awards though?

      • onebir

        I rather hope they don’t take prehumous nominations :p

        BTW, there was the progress on the RTL8188EU driver mentioned in the Freaktab thread; device compatibility is already improving :)

    • Hargs

      Your level of understanding of how these systems works is too low. If you can’t work out what to do don’t complain, go back do more research (like learn what “boot loader mode” means) and come back another day. Don’t complain on here that the instructions are bad, you just make yourself look silly. I’m no genuis but from my time flashing roms on tablets, I’ve been able to work out what all the terminologies mean – once you’re at that level THEN you’ll be right to start using these guides. Remember, these guides aren’t meant for the laymen people like you, they’re meant for people with quite an understanding of what is going on.

    • mohnish82

      @freed Connection – USB. Windows installer would recognize the device when its in bootloader mode and connected via the USB cable. Infact, they have provided step by step instructions on how to do this. Research suggested.

  • strauzo

    I love Linux. But unfortunally the name of the new Linux is Android.
    Why a guy should run picuntu if he can do all with Android and better.
    As experimental stuff ? Well, but will remain only an experiment.

    I think that Android for many years will remain insuperable, because all that you can do with Linux now you can do with Android and all that you will do with Android, is not sure that you will do with old Linux os in future.

    Android = Linux for All. This was the real intention of Google. And this today is a reality.

    • beomagi

      Android also means ads for all ;)

      Android is OK for tablet purposes. I’d hate to make it a full desktop/PC replacement. Linux however IS a desktop. True multitasking, content creation, free apps that don’t spam you with ads, full access to innards without looking for root hacks, a usable terminal that properly interacts with the OS (ps y u no list my processes!) and shell scripts that just work. Multitasking that works well (my nexus 7 is irritating me nao!).

      Linux = Linux for all. Mint and Ubuntu make it easy enough.
      Android is “linux” for media consumption.

    • ChaosUs

      You would run Linux distro because Android has so many apps there don’t work properly your devise so you have to either have to buy a new devise or find some other way to get it to work, and there is where the linux distro comes into play. Most stream services work in a browser outside Android and that makes linux more viable.

    • mohnish82

      @strauzo:disqus There are a lot of ways in which Android is limited as compared to a full fledged Linux setup. Try loading NFS partitions in Android or doing DTS audio pass through in Android, for example.

  • Debashis De

    Is there any way I can save/backup the state of the stick before installing PicUntu on it? So that I can always go back to android when I like? Note that I do not have the ROM installed in the stick. I want to save/create it from the installed OS.

    • mohnish82

      @Debashis Picuntu goes on the recovery partition. So, you get a dual boot setup with both Android and Picuntu. Even if you mess us, you can get the factory firmware from geekbuying website or install the Bob’s Finless ROM.

  • ajejejeje

    Great job. Anyone was able to use built-in (no adapter) Bluetooth with any device such as mouse?

  • triathlon

    Inside information, the factory will revise the hw to solve the T518 wifi problem.

  • paperclip

    Great article, I configured two machines this way using the T518 module with Ubuntu. I use them as headless servers. Low energy consumption, completely silent and quite powerfull with these quad core RK3188 chips and 2GB of RAM.

    I found it not completely clear in the instructions how to get into flash mode for this device and which drivers to use. The results of my tinkering around you can find on http://www.wili.nl/T518/Installation_T518_with_ubuntu.htm. Hope this will help people to get this done more quickly.

  • Karlos

    Hello
    i have one of these MK802IV whit AP6210 rk3188 cortex A9 CPU…

    I had Android preloaded and changed the System in to Picuntu trought picuntu basic GUI installer from here.

    Wifi is preloaded in picuntu and working as well, the install process was super easy. Thanks for the lot of instruktions.
    Once i had a problem: nand erase failure, THE CABLE WAS WRONG (old cable) (i recommend to check the cable before install)

    How to install:
    installing procedure is good described in the posts
    1: download picuntu installer pack (kernel, boot, system, flashtool is there)
    2: connect the device
    3: run flashtool and erase nand
    4: put the new boot, system, kernel and loader from picuntu packet onto flashtool and click flash rom
    5: in 4 min. its done
    6: connect dongle to TV, and boot
    7: user: picuntu, password: 12qwaszx and enjoy

    Do not forget!!! if you connect the mini pc to TV HDMI and the desktop of picuntu is bigger than the TV screen, check the screen option of the television by clicking screen buttom on the remote control. (auto, 16:9, normal … etc.)
    I forget it and was thinking about a half day what to do… stupid remote control :)

    If its doesnt help, run screen resolution processes

    cvt you should check the monitor screen resolution what you need
    xrandr –newmode ……………………………
    xrandr –addmode
    Xrandr –output

    is shown on youtube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHZ5n9pHohI

    Sorry guys for my English, i am so a beginner … i would like only to help you

  • Angel

    ok so i probably make a mistake an install the version 5.1. Now i have a problem i dont know how to flash it back. My PC cant see the device any more. Can some one help me?