Full disk encryption on Samsung Chromebook with Arch Linux

Categories: arch linux

In this post I will explain the procedure I followed to have an Arch Linux install on a Samsung Chromebook 1 (XE303C12-A01US) with full disk encryption using kernel 3.8.

Kernel compilation and preparing SD card

Install dependencies

Install the necessary depdendencies (In my case I was running ubuntu). Mainly you need the tools for crosscompiling the kernel, configure u-boot and partition the SD card with a GPT partition table.

sudo apt-get install u-boot-tools gcc-arm-linux-gnueabihf \
    binutils-arm-linux-gnueabihf cgpt device-tree-compiler

Set up some directories and download arch and kernel sources

mkdir -p $TMP_PATH
mkdir -p root
mkdir -p mnt

Download my custom files

git clone https://github.com/Dhole/alarm_install.git .

Download Arch rootfs tarball

wget http://archlinuxarm.org/os/ArchLinuxARM-chromebook-latest.tar.gz

Download kernel 3.8 with ChromeOS patches

git clone https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromiumos/third_party/kernel.git \
    -b $KERNEL_BRANCH --depth 1 chromeos

Build the kernel

Set up the config for the chromebook

CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- ARCH=arm make mrproper
./chromeos/scripts/prepareconfig chromeos-exynos5

Configure the kernel as needed (Alternativelly, download my custom .config). In my case I enabled most of the cipher options to be able to use AES-XTS in LUKS. Be sure to disable “Treat compiler warnings as errors” in menuconfig

CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- ARCH=arm make menuconfig
# or
cp ../files/.config .

Compile the kernel

CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- ARCH=arm make uImage -j2
CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- ARCH=arm make modules -j2
CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf- ARCH=arm make dtbs -j2

rm -rf ../lib/modules/
    make modules_install

Take the kernel.its from my files and make a u-boot image

# wget http://linux-exynos.org/dist/chromebook/snow/kernel.its \
#    -O arch/arm/boot/kernel.its
cp ../files/kernel.its arch/arm/boot/.
mkimage -f arch/arm/boot/kernel.its $TMP_PATH/vmlinux.uimg

Prepare SD card

Set your SD card device

sudo umount $DISK*

Create a new disk label for GPT. Type y when prompted after running

sudo parted $DISK mklabel gpt

Partition the SD card

sudo cgpt create -z $DISK 
sudo cgpt create $DISK 
sudo cgpt add -i 1 -t kernel -b 8192 -s 32768 -l U-Boot -S 1 -T 5 -P 10 $DISK 
sudo cgpt add -i 2 -t data -b 40960 -s 32768 -l Kernel $DISK
sudo cgpt add -i 12 -t data -b 73728 -s 32768 -l Script $DISK

Create root partition

PART_SIZE=$(cgpt show $DISK | egrep '[0-9\ ]*Sec GPT table' | awk '{print $1}')
sudo cgpt add -i 3 -t data -b 106496 -s `expr $PART_SIZE - 106496` -l Root $DISK

Tell the system to refresh what it knows about the disk partitions

partprobe $DISK

Format partitions

sudo mkfs.ext2 "${DISK}2"
sudo mkfs.ext4 "${DISK}3"
sudo mkfs.vfat -F 16 "${DISK}12"

Install nv_uboot_fb

Download and install the nv_uboot bootloader with framebuffer support in the SD

wget -O - http://commondatastorage.googleapis.com/chromeos-localmirror/distfiles/nv_uboot-snow-simplefb.kpart.bz2 \
    | bunzip2 > nv_uboot.kpart
sudo dd if=nv_uboot.kpart of="${DISK}1"

Prepare the rootfs for encryption

Create key file. Store this file safely!

dd if=/dev/urandom of=rootfs.key bs=128 count=1

Create luks container with key file

sudo cryptsetup luksFormat "${DISK}3" rootfs.key -c aes-xts-plain64 -s 256 --hash sha512

Add password to luks container

sudo cryptsetup luksAddKey "${DISK}3" --key-file rootfs.key
sudo cryptsetup luksOpen "${DISK}3" alarm_rootfs -y --key-file rootfs.key
sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/mapper/alarm_rootfs
sudo cryptsetup close alarm_rootfs

Install Arch Linux, kernel and custom files

Mount LUKS and boot partition

sudo cryptsetup luksOpen "${DISK}3" alarm_rootfs -y --key-file rootfs.key
sudo mount /dev/mapper/alarm_rootfs root
sudo mount "${DISK}2" mnt

Extract Arch Linux rootfs tarball

tar -xf ArchLinuxARM-chromebook-latest.tar.gz -C root

Copy the kernel to the kernel partition

cp vmlinux.uimg mnt
rm -rf root/usr/lib/modules/3.8.11/
cp -R lib root/usr

Copy custom mkinitcpio.conf (with crypt hook enabled)

cp files/mkinitcpio.conf root/etc

Install initramfs from my files

cp files/uInitrd.img mnt

Alternatively, if you already have an Arch installation on your Chromebook you can create the initramfs yourself. From your Chromebook run as root.

pacman -S mkinitcpio uboot-mkimage
cp /root/files/mkinitcpio.conf /etc/mkinitcpio.conf
mkinitcpio -g ~/uInitrd.img
mount /dev/mmcblk1p2 /boot
mkimage -A arm -T ramdisk -C none -n initramfs -d ~/uInitrd.img /boot/uInitrd.uimg
umount /boot

Install custom u-boot script to boot with kernel+initramfs

sudo mount "${DISK}12" mnt
mkdir -p mnt/u-boot
#wget http://archlinuxarm.org/os/exynos/boot.scr.uimg
mkimage -A arm -T script -C none -n 'Chromebook Boot Script' \
    -d boot_custom2.scr boot.scr.uimg
cp boot.scr.uimg mnt/u-boot

Optional: Copy custom files for post-installation

cp files/arch_mkinitcpio.sh root/root/
cp files/postinstall.sh root/root/   
cp files/arch/private/mlan0-wrt54gl root/etc/netctl/
mkdir -p root/root/files/
cp -R files/arch/* root/root/files/

Umount LUKS and boot partition

sudo umount mnt
sudo umount root
sudo cryptsetup close alarm_rootfs

Arch configuration

Boot your Chromebook and press Ctrl-U to boot from external drive. After you see U-Boot start, press any kay to interrupt the boot process and type the following in the prompt to reset the environment and save it to flash

env default -f

You can now boot the Chromebook into Arch and configure the system. Login as root to continue.

Configure and connect wifi

wifi-menu mlan0

Configure locale, timezone and hostname


localectl set-locale LANG=en_US.UTF-8
timedatectl set-timezone Europe/Madrid
hostnamectl set-hostname $MYHOSTNAME

Add user

pacman -Sy
pacman -S sudo
useradd -m -G users -s /bin/bash $USERNAME
passwd $USERNAME
visudo # uncomment the wheel group
usermod -a -G wheel $USERNAME

Post install

At this point you should have a bootable full disk encryption Arch Install. In the following lines I will detail the post installation steps I follow to cover my needs in the laptop. Run all the following commands as root.

Install some packages (tune this to your needs)

pacman -S mesa-libgl xorg-server xorg-xinit xorg-server-utils mesa xf86-video-fbdev \
xf86-input-synaptics unzip dbus lightdm lightdm-gtk-greeter gnome-icon-theme xfce4 \
firefox midori gnome-keyring wget vim ttf-dejavu ttf-ubuntu-font-family htop strace \
lsof i3 xscreensaver git conky dmenu profont dina-font tamsyn-font alsa-utils ntp \
pm-utils p7zip xarchiver unrar zip python-pip tmux mpv mc make tmux iputils rtorrent \
youtube-dl macchanger tree acpid pulseaudio pulseaudio-alsa mupdf clang file gvim \
mosh nmap rxvt-unicode thunar adduser rsyslog wicd chromium xf86-video-armsoc-chromium \

Disable clearing of boot messages

mkdir -p /etc/systemd/system/getty@tty1.service.d/
echo -e "[Service]\nTTYVTDisallocate=no" > /etc/systemd/system/getty@tty1.service.d/noclear.conf
mkdir -p /etc/ld.conf/
echo "/usr/local/lib" >> /etc/ld.conf.d/local.conf

Install fonts http://linuxfonts.narod.ru/

cp /root/files/fonts.conf /etc/fonts/conf.d/99-my-fonts.conf
cd /usr/share
7z e /root/files/fonts.7z
cd /root

Enable suspend and xscreen lock on lid close: https://blog.omgmog.net/post/making-suspend-on-lid-close-work-with-arch-linux-on-the-hp-chromebook-11/

cp /root/files/handler.sh /etc/acpi/handler.sh
systemctl enable acpid

Install custom touchpad, keyboard, evdev

cp /root/files/xorg.conf.d/* /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d

Enable lightdm

systemctl enable lightdm

Set default brightness on power up and script to change it

cp /root/files/brightness.conf /etc/tmpfiles.d/brightness.conf
cp /root/files/chbr /usr/local/bin/chbr

Configure pulseaudio

echo "load-module module-alsa-sink device=sysdefault" >> /etc/pulse/default.pa

Enable rsyslog

systemctl enable rsyslog.service
systemctl start rsyslog.service

Change MAC at every connection

cp /root/files/mac_change /etc/wicd/scripts/preconnect/

Fix wicd-curses: https://github.com/voidlinux/void-packages/commit/220de599ad3ecba14423289209a3e4e031037edf

cp /root/files/netentry_curses.py /usr/share/wicd/curses/

Enable eduroam for wicd: http://chakraos.org/wiki/index.php?title=Wicd#Making_eduroam_work_with_wicd This setup is working for eduroam at Universitat Polit├Ęcnica de Catalunya

cp /root/files/ttls-80211 /etc/wicd/encryption/templates/
cd /etc/wicd/encryption/templates
echo ttls-80211 >> active
cd /root
mkdir -p /etc/ca-certificates/custom/
cp /root/files/AddTrustExternalCARoot.crt /etc/ca-certificates/custom/

Chromium defaults

cp /root/files/chromium_default /etc/chromium/default

Install wicd saved networks (This is only for my personal usage, this config is not in github)

cp /root/files/private/wireless-settings.conf /etc/wicd/
systemctl enable wicd

Install my custom configuration for the user from my dot_files github repo. This contains my vim settings, i3 window manager configuration for chromebook, bashrc, tmux.conf, etc. Login as your user to run the following commands.

cd ~
mkdir -p github
cd github
git clone https://github.com/Dhole/dot_files.git
cd dot_files
cp -R .* ~
cp ALARM/.* ~
sh vim_setup.sh


There are only two things which I find missing from my installation.

One is fixing an annoying issue with suspend: my chromebook wakes from sleep after 10 minutes or so when the lid is closed. I’ve tryed using both suspend from systemctl and from pm-suspend. I think this may be related to the kernel 3.8, since I didn’t have this issue on 3.4 (well, not really, my laptop would wake up some times, but it was not usual).

The other one is doing the installation on the internal eMMC. Unfortunately the SD card slot in the chromebook is placed very close to the end of the board, so half of the SD card sticks out; it doesn’t look nice and I fear for the SD card getting stuck somewhere when moving my chromebook around.


The installation process of Arch Linux on the Samsung Chromebook is taken from [1], [2] and [3]. The procedure to compile and install of kernel 3.8 is taken from [0]. The instructions to boot with initramfs to enable full disk encryotion are taken from [4], and a reference for doing an install with full disk encryption can be found at [5].

[0] https://elatov.github.io/2014/11/install-chromeos-kernel-38-on-samsung-chromebook/

[1] https://elatov.github.io/2014/02/install-arch-linux-samsung-chromebook/

[2] http://archlinuxarm.org/platforms/armv7/samsung/samsung-chromebook

[3] http://linux-exynos.org/wiki/Samsung_Chromebook_XE303C12/Installing_Linux

[4] http://archlinuxarm.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=7071

[5] https://dvikan.no/the-smallest-archlinux-install-guide

Written by Dhole