exFAT/NTFS support for the Cosmo Communicator

Cosmo with exfat formatted micro sd card
Cosmo Communicator with exfat formatted micro sd card

Unfortunately the Cosmo Communicator, like many other Android phones, does not support the exFAT filesystem. Most vendors do so due to exFAT being covered by software patents in the USA, which is a problem for companies selling to the USA. exFAT might not be the most sophisticated filesystem available, but is needed for interoperability with other devices and to get rid of the 4GB file size limit of fat32. This article shows how to enable exFAT support for the Cosmo. Since it is not much effort to also get NTFS support this is done by the way.

Setup the kernel sources

To get exfat support, first of all we need a kernel module providing exfat support. Fortunately some time ago Samsung has released their exfat driver under the GPL license. The derivate of this driver can be found on github¹ This module has to be built against the kernel used on the device. The kernel source for the Cosmo has also been made available on github². The two source trees can be combined, as described in the documentation for the exfat module by editing the relevant Makefile an Kconfig. Furthermore CONFIG_EXFAT_FS for exFAT support CONFIG_NTFS_FS for NTFS have to be enabled as modules in kernel configuration. The resulting kernel source tree with the included exfat submodule has been placed on github.

Setup the build environment

To build the kernel modules on better uses a compiler that is as near as possible to the one that has been originally for building the kernel. We can easily find this out via procfs on the target device.

clang version used for the Cosmos kernel build

When compiling on an arm64 system the build environment can easily be installed. I.e. by executing apt install llvm clang on an Ubuntu arm64 system. When using a different architecture for compiling, the appropriate cross toolchain has to be installed.

Build the kernel modules

Once all is set up the kernel modules can be built.

make O=../KERNEL_OUT -C cosmo-linux-kernel-4.4 ARCH=arm64 k71v1_64_bsp_defconfig

make -j4 O=../KERNEL_OUT ARCH=arm64  CC=clang  CLANG_TRIPLE=aarch64-linux-gnu- CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- modules

As result we get the two kernel modules ntfs.ko and exfat.ko

Creating a magisk module

The resulted kernel modules have to get loaded on Android startup. Starting with Android Pie it is not possible any more to mount the system partition for writing. One possibility would be to create an own system image containing the kernel modules and necessary scripts. Since Magisk is the recommended way for rooting the Cosmo Communicator anyways, we can take a different approach. Fortunately Magisk gives the possibility to create on overlay filesystem which gets injected into the android system partition, so we can get the same result with less effort.

To create the Magisk module containing the filesystem support we start with the Magisk Module Template4 and copy the two kernel modules to system/lib/modules/. Furthermore we need some additional binaries for filesystem checking and mounting. So we add the filesystem support binaries and volume daemon built for the Pixel 2 from fsbinaries.zip and Magisk-v18.1-extrafs.zip³. Next we need a service.sh script which loads the kernel modules on startup an restarts vold once the user is present. With an earlier restart the volumes do not get added.

#!/system/bin/sh

# load kernel modules
insmod /system/lib/modules/exfat.ko

# kernel ntfs support is ro
# comment this line to use fuse ntfs (rw)
insmod /system/lib/modules/ntfs.ko

_SLEEP_INTERVAL=2

# wait for startup
while [ "$(getprop sys.boot_completed)" != "1" ]; do
    sleep ${_SLEEP_INTERVAL}
done

# wait user to unlock
while dumpsys trust | grep -c "deviceLocked=1"; do
    sleep ${_SLEEP_INTERVAL}
    echo "device locked"
    echo $(dumpsys trust | grep -c "deviceLocked=1")
done

#kill vold to restart
killall vold
echo "vold restarted"

One can comment the line loading the ntfs module to decide whether ntfs kernel support, which is read only or fuse ntfs, which is read/write shall be used. For this a simple wrapper script replacing mount.ntfs has been added.

#!/system/bin/sh
# call mount for in kernel ntfs and mount.ntfs3g without
if cat /proc/filesystems | grep "ntfs" &> /dev/null ; then
  echo "using kernel ntfs (ro)"
  params=$(echo "$@" | sed 's/,shortname=mixed//')
  params=$(echo "$params" | sed 's/,dirsync//')
  mount $params
  echo no ntfs.ko
  mount.ntfs3g $@
else
  echo "using fuse ntfs (rw)"
  mount.ntfs3g $@
fi

Finally LATESTARTSERVICE=true has to be set config.sh to execute the service.sh script on startup and some Selinux policies have to be added to avoid the need of running in permissive mode.

The final result can be found on github. For those who do not want to perform the procedure or parts of it themselves, the installable Magisk module can be downloaded from here:

cosmo-fs.zip (537 downloads)

It can be installed using the Magisk Manager App. Best for all users would be if Planet Computes could include this in the stock ROM. This would give exFAT/NTFS support also for non-rooted devices. Assuming they are fearing software patents, they might consider joining the Open Invention Network to get access to the relevant Microsoft patents in the future.

Jürgen

References:
1. exfat kernel module
2. cosmo communicator kernel source
3. filesystem support binaries
4. Magisk Module Template
5. Magisk module developers guide

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Unboxing the Cosmo Communicator

Like I did when receiving the Gemini PDA, I want to share the first impressions while unboxing the brand new Cosmo Communicator, I have received today. About one year ago I have backed Planet Computers Cosmo Communicator Indiegogo campaign. Planet Computers has promised a device that is different from anything else, that is available for purchase. The Cosmo Communicator is a clamp-shell class device with a fully integrated keyboard and touchscreen and full phone usability that is designed for Android, but will also be capable of running Linux or Sailfish OS. Major improvements compared to the Gemini PDA, beside better specs, are the outside cover display and the backlit keyboard. No need to go through the full specs here, everything interesting regarding these can be read on Planet Computers web page. Yesterday, after a long time of waiting the parcel with the Cosmo finally arrived.

Cosmo Parcel
Parcel containing the Cosmo Communicator

Inside the parcel has been a single box

cosmo box
Box containing the Cosmo Communicator

Before opening the box has to be fold out.

cosmo box fold out
Fold out Cosmo box

After Opening the box one can see the well packed Cosmo in there.

csomo box opened
Opened Cosmo box

The full content of the box can be seen below. One can see the Cosmo wrapped well in foil as well as an envelope containing a quick start manual and the Sim card tool. Still in the box are two smaller boxes containing the charger and the USB cable.

cosmo content
Cosmo box content

After removing the foil we can see the Cosmos full beauty.

cosmo
The Cosmo Communicator

With the opened device we can see the display and the German QWERTZ keyboard. Keyboard and hinge even feel more solid as with the Gemini PDA.

cosmo booting
Opened Cosmo booting Android

After booting the Cosmo shows the initial welcome screen. With a press to the start button one could start the initial setup process.

cosmo welcome
Cosmo welcome screen

The outer cover touch display, which shows the caller id and allows to accept calls can be seen below.

outer display
Cosmo Communicators outer touchscreen showing date and time

For the Cosmo Communicator I also ordered a third party belt case which can be seen below with the Cosmo inside and a Adonit Dash2 stylus attached.

cosmo belt case
Third party belt case with the Cosmo

I am hoping you have enjoyed the photo series and some first impressions of the Cosmo. Further articles regarding testing some aspects of the device, and hopefully some solutions will follow. Stay tuned for updates.

Jürgen

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Modular kernel for the Gemini PDA available from the gemian repository

Recently Adam Boardman and I have managed to integrate the modular kernel for the Gemini PDA into the gemian kernel repository. So, from now on, whenever the kernel gets improved, the modular kernel gets built and the update is available for Debian via apt.

Installing the modular kernel

From now on, the modular kernel for the Gemini PDA can be installed easily using apt:

sudo apt install gemian-modular-kernel

When using the new bootloader the kernel gets flashed to the boot partition automatically. This works because the new bootloader passes the current boot partition’s name to the kernel using the kernel cmdline. The cmdline can be examined with:

cat /proc/cmdline

When using the old bootloader with the Gemini PDA this information is not available to the kernel and consecutively to the operating system, thus one still has to flash the kernel image manually after installing or updating the kernel package. For this one has to carefully decide which boot partition the Linux system is being booted from. Using the wrong partition name can render other installed operating systems unbootable. To recover, flashing the wrongly overwritten boot partition using the flash tool might be necessary. When knowing the boot partition the new kernel can be flashed using dd (the X in bootX has to be replaced with the number of the boot partition) as shown below.

sudo dd if=/usr/share/kernel/linux-boot.img of=/dev/disk/by-partlabel/bootX

After flashing the kernel the either or the other way a reboot is necessary. The boot partition number can be determined from the scatter file that has been used initially to flash the Gemini. Alternatively it can be found out from the key combination that has been used to boot the Gemini. Detailed information on this can be found in the Gemini bootloader documentation.

Building out of tree modules

For building out of tree modules with the Gemini (in example for using USB devices that are not supported with the kernel), in addition to the kernel, the kernel-headers package has to be installed:

sudo apt install gemian-modular-kernel-headers

With the kernel headers and the appropriate build toolchain (gcc, etc.) additional kernel modules can be compiled on the Gemini. Instructions on how to do this can usually be found with the module source.

Some prebuilt modules (iptables mirror target, frandom, 88XXau) for the kernel can be downloaded below:

gemini-modules-extra-3.18.41.tar.gz (539 downloads)

To use the modules, the downloaded archive has be extracted to the root directory. Afterwards depmod has to be executed:

cd /; sudo tar -xzf /path/to/gemini-modules-extra-3.18.41.tar.gz; sudo depmod

With high probability these modules should still be usable after upgrading the modular kernel to a newer build.

regards
Jürgen

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Modular Linux kernel for the Gemini PDA with cut+paste fix

Using Debian with the Gemini PDA one can use cut and paste, for example in QTerminal, using the key combinations [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[c] and [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[v]. Unfortunately this did not work using the left Shift key. There is no need to fiddle with the keyboard configuration to fix this, since it is a kernel issue.

Again Adam Boardman has fixed one of the most annoying issues within the Gemini’s Linux kernel. His fix priorizes the mentioned useful keyboard combinations over the ghosted¹ versions. Again this fix is worth another kernel build. As usual, I want to share my kernel build below:

The kernel configuration is unchanged (with respect to the previous article), but included for completeness: gemini-3.18.41+-config.gz (507 downloads)

For the build, again the updated kernel source the from https://github.com/gemian/gemini-linux-kernel-3.18 has been used.

Again the kernel modules for the iptables MIRROR target (will not be usable with the default iptables version on the Gemini) and frandom are included. This time also the module for the awus1900 and similar usb wifi dongles (88XXau.ko) has been added.

Those who do not want to go through the build themselves can download my prebuild kernel from here:

Kernel Image: linux_boot-gemini-3.18.41+.img (528 downloads)
Modules: modules_firmware-gemini-3.18.41+.tar.gz (605 downloads)
(the kernel modules in the previous article should still work, however, the new build is included for completeness)

Instructions for flashing the image can be found on: support.planetcom.co.uk. Make sure to use a proper scatter file, in example the one that has been used for the initial flashing. Using the Download only mode of the flash tool is sufficient. Uncheck all partitions but boot (or boot1 or boot2, depending on your boot order). For the boot partition respectively the boot1 or boot2 partition select the downloaded kernel image.

Alternatively you can flash the kernel using dd:

dd if=linux_boot-gemini-3.18.41+.img of=/dev/block/disk/by-partlabel/boot

If Linux is not your primary operating system on the Gemini use boot1 or boot2 instead, depending on your partition layout.

After flashing, copy the modules archive onto your Gemini and extract it in your root directory:

cd /
tar -xzf /path_to/modules_firmware-gemini-3.18.41+.tar.gz

After rebooting the device, cut and paste using the keyboard combinations should work in QTerminal. Currently I am working on getting the modular kernel configuration into the main Gemini kernel. Hopefully we manage to get this done soon. If so, this might have been the last Gemini modular kernel post.

Jürgen

References:
1. oesf.org: keyboard ghosting

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Building a kernel module for the awus1900 Wifi stick and the Gemini PDA

A few days ago I have been asked if it is possible to build a driver for the awus1900 Wifi stick for the Gemini PDA. To be honest, I did not know, so I gave it a try.

The awus1900 uses Realtek’s rtl8814au chipset. The Linux driver for this chipset is available at many locations around the net. Most ones, I have tried, have not been compilable against the Gemini’s kernel. The driver at https://github.com/aircrack-ng/rtl8812au has been compilable with some minor modifications against the kernel source used for the kernel in Modular Linux kernel for the Gemini PDA with lid close fix.

First of all some parameters in the Makefile had to be changed to match the Gemini:

  • CONFIG_PLATFORM_I386_PC = n (disable x86 build)
  • CONFIG_PLATFORM_ARM64_RPI = y (enable arm64 build)

Some more parameters have been enabled for features in the hope that these do not cause problems:

  • CONFIG_POWER_SAVING = y
  • CONFIG_USB_AUTOSUSPEND = y
  • CONFIG_80211W = y

With all these changes the build fails complaining about STATION_INFO_SIGNAL and many more being undeclared. The module’s source expects these defines to be present in the kernel source for kernels below version 4.0. Most probably the Gemini kernel tree is different than other 3.x trees. So the line 23

#if (CFG80211_API_LEVEL >= KERNEL_VERSION(4, 0, 0))

in os_dep/linux/ioctl_cfg80211.c has been replaced with

#ifndef STATION_INFO_SIGNAL

to get the module source build against the Gemini’s kernel. Afterwards it has been possible to cross compile the kernel module by running make:

make ARCH=arm64 KSRC=/path_to_lib_modules_dir/3.18.41+/build

After building the module it can be copied to /lib/modules/3.18.41+/extra/ (or any other proper directory) on the Gemini and used afterwards. For those who do not want to build the module themselves, the binary modules for the kernel shared in the article Modular Linux kernel for the Gemini PDA with lid close fix can be downloaded from here: rtl88XX.zip (398 downloads)

Regards
Jürgen

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Modular Linux kernel for the Gemini PDA with lid close fix

Sometimes, well, quite often, maybe one out of twenty times when closing the lid, the Gemini PDA running Debian did not turn off the screen and go to sleep, because of keys being pressed by the closing screen before the keyboard gets turned off. When one recognized the Gemini getting hot in the pocket already a quarter to a half of the battery juice was lost.

Recently Adam Boardman has fixed this annoying issue within the Gemini’s Linux kernel. His fix disables the keyboard directly upon lid close, rather than waiting for screen blanking via userspace control. Within a few days after the fix I have not noticed the issue anymore. This fix is more than worth another kernel build. Again, I want to share my kernel build below:

The kernel configuration is unchanged (with respect to the previous article), but included for completeness: gemini-3.18.41+-config.gz (281 downloads)

For the build, again the updated kernel source the from https://github.com/gemian/gemini-linux-kernel-3.18 has been used.

Again the kernel modules for the iptables MIRROR target (will not be usable with the default iptables version on the Gemini) and frandom are included.

Those who do not want to go through the build themselves can download my prebuild kernel from here:

Kernel Image: linux_boot-gemini-3.18.41+.img (336 downloads)
Modules: modules_firmware-gemini-3.18.41+.tar.gz (391 downloads)
(the kernel modules in the previous article should still work, however, the new build is included for completeness)

Instructions for flashing the image can be found on: support.planetcom.co.uk. Make sure to use a proper scatter file, in example the one that has been used for the initial flashing. Using the Download only mode of the flash tool is sufficient. Uncheck all partitions but boot (or boot1 or boot2, depending on your boot order). For the boot partition respectively the boot1 or boot2 partition select the downloaded kernel image.

Alternatively you can flash the kernel using dd:

dd if=linux_boot-gemini-3.18.41+.img of=/dev/block/disk/by-partlabel/boot

If Linux is not your primary operating system on the Gemini use boot1 or boot2 instead, depending on your partition layout.

After flashing, copy the modules archive onto your Gemini and extract it in your root directory:

cd /
tar -xzf /path_to/modules_firmware-gemini-3.18.41+.tar.gz

After rebooting the device, it should go to sleep reliably after closing the lid.


Jürgen

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Modular Linux kernel for the Gemini PDA with FOTA5 fixes

Recently the fixes in Planet Computers over the air update found their way into the Gemini Linux kernel sources. Thus the Linux kernel binaries I have shared before are a bit outdated now. So I have decided to build another kernel from the newer kernel sources with the following configuration changes with respect to the previous version:

•Enabled CONFIG_TOUCHSCREEN_MTK_SSL_SSD20XX (touchscreen driver for newer Gemini revisions)
•Added aeon_ssd2092_fhd_dsi_solomon to CONFIG_CUSTOM_KERNEL_LCM (use the touchscreen driver)
•Enabled CONFIG_USER_NS (for lxc and snapd)
•Enabled CONFIG_OVERLAY_FS (for lxc and snapd)
•Enabled CONFIG_SQUASHFS (for lxc and snapd)
•Enabled CONFIG_SQUASHFS_XATTR (for lxc and snapd)
•Enabled CONFIG_SQUASHFS_ZLIB (for lxc and snapd)
•Enabled CONFIG_SQUASHFS_XZ (for lxc and snapd)
•Enabled CONFIG_SQUASHFS_LZO (for lxc and snapd)
•Enabled CONFIG_SQUASHFS_LZ4 (for lxc and snapd)
•Enabled CONFIG_CRYPTO_LZ4HC (for lxc and snapd)

The changes and dependencies result in this kernel configuration: gemini-3.18.41+-config.gz (300 downloads)

For the build, again the updated kernel source the from https://github.com/gemian/gemini-linux-kernel-3.18 has been used.

Again the kernel modules for the iptables MIRROR target (will not be usable with the default iptables version on the Gemini) and frandom have been added.

Those who do not want to go through the build themselves can download my prebuild kernel from here:

Kernel Image: modules_firmware-gemini-3.18.41+.tar.gz (516 downloads)
Modules: linux_boot-gemini-3.18.41+.img (298 downloads)

Instructions for flashing the image can be found on: support.planetcom.co.uk. Make sure to use a proper scatter file, in example the one that has been used for the initial flashing. Using the Download only mode of the flash tool is sufficient. Uncheck all partitions but boot (or boot1 or boot2, depending on your boot order). For the boot partition respectively the boot1 or boot2 partition select the downloaded kernel image.

Alternatively you can flash the kernel using dd:

dd if=linux_boot-gemini-3.18.41+.img of=/dev/block/disk/by-partlabel/boot

If Linux is not your primary operating system on the Gemini use boot1 or boot2 instead, depending on your partition layout.

After flashing, copy the modules archive onto your Gemini and extract it in your root directory:

cd /
tar -xzf /path_to/modules_firmware-gemini-3.18.41+.tar.gz

After rebooting the device, it should behave somewhat more stable than it did before.

Regards
Jürgen

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