The PinePhone and PinePhone Pro are smartphones designed to run mobile Linux distributions. While they ship with builds of Manjaro featuring the KDE Plasma Mobile user interface, there are a whole bunch of other operating systems designed to run on the phones.

For the past few years, developer megi has been offering Phinephone multi-boot disk images that allow users to quickly try out a range of operating systems with a single microSD card. Now megi has found a way to prepare a single microSD card so that it can be booted on both the original PinePhone and the PinePhone Pro. That means soon you may be able to test out a bunch of different mobile Linux distros on both phones using a single card.

While both phones feature roughly 6 inch, 1440 x 720 pixel IPS LCD displays, the PinePhone Pro has a faster processor, more memory and storge, and support for faster WiFi, among other upgrades.

But since the phones have different processors, software that works on one doesn’t automatically work on the other. And megi says that normally a device like the Pinephone with its Allwinner A64 processor wouldn’t be able to use the same bootloader as one with a Rockchip RK3399 processor like the PinePhone Pro.

So megi modified the multi-distro image with a new partition layout so that “each bootloader has its own partition now.”

The result is that users should be able to download a single disk image that not only has multiple mobile Linux distributions, but also multiple bootloaders in order to support both the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro.

Megi’s multi-distro image allows you to try out a bunch of different operating systems without taking the time to install them one by one or the need to swap out SD cards every time you boot. When you turn on the phone, you can just select the operating system you want to use.

Not all of the 23 mobile Linux distributions in the latest image are fully compatible with the PinePhone Pro yet. Megi says you can boot and test them, but some features may not work yet.

And it’s also worth keeping in mind that the way these multi-distro images work, all the different distributions share the same Linux kernel, which means they not perform exactly the same way they would if you downloaded and installed the official build of the same distro from its developers.

Megi hasn’t released the new multi-distro image, but it should be coming soon.

via Megi’s Log

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  1. Something that confuses me here is that, for example, pmOS and Mobian have switched to requiring tow-boot so how do they work with Megi’s p-boot?

  2. Hey that is awesome and creative thinking! Since Pi SBCs also uses a fat boot partition, could this technique be extended further, to say multiboot Linux x86 and ARM via a single USB stick. This is why open source is so great.

    1. The problems come when the boot manager requires a partition to be in a specific format and place that doesn’t match. You probably can have a Pi boot system with an EFI image, therefore a card that can boot either an X86 computer (assuming it will boot to an SD card) and a Pi, but that one may not be compatible with other ARM devices. In addition, you wouldn’t be able to boot the same kernel or run the same packages, so you’d have to have two separate OS images. Your combined card could have one copy of your home directory which can be used by either, but modifications to one OS would have to be manually translated to the others because simply copying every changed file would likely break things quickly.

    2. It would be awesome if this could be extended to RPi and other ARM-based SoCs but for now there’s PINN OS and BerryBoot.

      For x86 there’s GRML-Rescueboot and others I’m sure