The PinePhone and PinePhone Pro smartphones are designed to make it easy to choose your own operating system. While the phones ship with a version of Manjaro Linux featuring the KDE Plasma Mobile user interface, you can boot an alternate operating system just by flashing it onto a bootable microSD card and inserting it in the phone.

Don’t have a microSD card? A new utility lets you flash an operating system directly to a PinePhone Pro without using one. You can also use it to flash an OS to a microSD card if you have a card but no card reader for your PC.

PinePhone Pro

The new PinePhone Pro USB Recovery tool basically lets you plug a PinePhone Pro into a computer with a USB cable in a way that allows your PC to treat it as a USB storage device. And that allows you to do things like:

  • Install an operating system to the phone’s eMMC storage or microSD card.
  • Backup of all the data on your PinePhone Pro’s eMMC or microSD card storage and save it to your PC.
  • Mount any file system from the phone on your PC for troubleshooting purposes such as resetting passwords, fixing configuration files or broken kernel updates, or other purposes.

While this isn’t the only tool that allows you to treat a PinePhone Pro as a USB storage device, it’s the first that I’m aware of that does it without first requiring you to write data to a microSD card. JumpDrive also has this functionality, but needs to be written to a microSD card, and the Tow-Boot bootloader does as well, but since the PinePhone Pro ships with U-Boot, it’s not much use if you don’t have a way to install it first.

PinePhone Pro USB Recovery was developed by Megi, a prominent Linux kernel hacker who’s made a number of custom kernels for the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro over the years, as well as the default firmware for the PinePhone Pro and useful utiltiies including multi-distro demo images that allow you to install multiple PinePhone operating systems on a single microSD card so you can try out a bunch of different options quickly.

You can download the tool and find usage instructions and other notes on Megi’s server. And you can find a list of community-supported operating systesm available for the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro at the PinePhone Wiki.

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  1. I’ve turned off uBlock Origin for this page, but I just saw a commercial for Comfort Dental depicting two men urinating into (or on the shores of) a mountain lake here — the notebook-fondling videos are bad enough; got to draw the line somewhere!