Advanced Debian "jessie" and "stretch" bootstrap script for RPi2/3



rpi23-gen-image.sh is an advanced Debian Linux bootstrapping shell script for generating Debian OS images for Raspberry Pi 2 (RPi2) and Raspberry Pi 3 (RPi3) computers. The script at this time supports the bootstrapping of the Debian (armhf) releases jessie and stretch. Raspberry Pi 3 images are currently generated for 32-bit mode only.

Build dependencies

The following list of Debian packages must be installed on the build system because they are essentially required for the bootstrapping process. The script will check if all required packages are installed and missing packages will be installed automatically if confirmed by the user.

debootstrap debian-archive-keyring qemu-user-static binfmt-support dosfstools rsync bmap-tools whois git bc psmisc dbus sudo

It is recommended to configure the rpi23-gen-image.sh script to build and install the latest Raspberry Pi Linux kernel. For the RPi3 this is mandetory. Kernel compilation and linking will be performed on the build system using an ARM (armhf) cross-compiler toolchain.

The script has been tested using the default crossbuild-essential-armhf toolchain meta package on Debian Linux jessie and stretch build systems. Please check the Debian CrossToolchains Wiki for further information.

If a Debian Linux jessie build system is used it will be required to add the Debian Cross-toolchains repository first:

echo "deb http://emdebian.org/tools/debian/ jessie main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/crosstools.list
sudo -u nobody wget -O - http://emdebian.org/tools/debian/emdebian-toolchain-archive.key | apt-key add -
dpkg --add-architecture armhf
apt-get update

Command-line parameters

The script accepts certain command-line parameters to enable or disable specific OS features, services and configuration settings. These parameters are passed to the rpi23-gen-image.sh script via (simple) shell-variables. Unlike environment shell-variables (simple) shell-variables are defined at the beginning of the command-line call of the rpi23-gen-image.sh script.

Command-line examples:
ENABLE_UBOOT=true ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
ENABLE_CONSOLE=false ENABLE_IPV6=false ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
ENABLE_WM=xfce4 ENABLE_FBTURBO=true ENABLE_MINBASE=true ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
ENABLE_HARDNET=true ENABLE_IPTABLES=true /rpi23-gen-image.sh
APT_SERVER=ftp.de.debian.org APT_PROXY="" ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
ENABLE_MINBASE=true ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
BUILD_KERNEL=true ENABLE_MINBASE=true ENABLE_IPV6=false ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
BUILD_KERNEL=true KERNELSRC_DIR=/tmp/linux ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
ENABLE_MINBASE=true ENABLE_REDUCE=true ENABLE_MINGPU=true BUILD_KERNEL=true ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
RELEASE=stretch BUILD_KERNEL=true ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
RELEASE=stretch RPI_MODEL=3 ENABLE_WIRELESS=true ENABLE_MINBASE=true BUILD_KERNEL=true ./rpi23-gen-image.sh

Configuration template files

To avoid long lists of command-line parameters and to help to store the favourite parameter configurations the rpi23-gen-image.sh script supports so called configuration template files (CONFIG_TEMPLATE=template). These are simple text files located in the ./templates directory that contain the list of configuration parameters that will be used. New configuration template files can be added to the ./templates directory.

Command-line examples:
CONFIG_TEMPLATE=rpi3stretch ./rpi23-gen-image.sh
CONFIG_TEMPLATE=rpi2stretch ./rpi23-gen-image.sh

Supported parameters and settings

APT settings:


Set Debian packages server address. Choose a server from the list of Debian worldwide mirror sites. Using a nearby server will probably speed-up all required downloads within the bootstrapping process.


Set Proxy server address. Using a local Proxy-Cache like apt-cacher-ng will speed-up the bootstrapping process because all required Debian packages will only be downloaded from the Debian mirror site once.


A comma separated list of additional packages to be installed during bootstrapping.

General system settings:


Specifiy the target Raspberry Pi hardware model. The script at this time supports the Raspberry Pi models 2 and 3. BUILD_KERNEL=true will automatically be set if the Raspberry Pi model 3 is used.


Set the desired Debian release name. The script at this time supports the bootstrapping of the Debian releases "jessie" and "stretch". BUILD_KERNEL=true will automatically be set if the Debian release stretch is used.


Set system host name. It's recommended that the host name is unique in the corresponding subnet.


Set system root password. It's STRONGLY recommended that you choose a custom password.


Set password for the created non-root user USER_NAME=pi. Ignored if ENABLE_USER=false. It's STRONGLY recommended that you choose a custom password.


Set default system locale. This setting can also be changed inside the running OS using the dpkg-reconfigure locales command. Please note that on using this parameter the script will automatically install the required packages locales, keyboard-configuration and console-setup.


Set default system timezone. All available timezones can be found in the /usr/share/zoneinfo/ directory. This setting can also be changed inside the running OS using the dpkg-reconfigure tzdata command.


Expand the root partition and filesystem automatically on first boot.

 Keyboard settings:

These options are used to configure keyboard layout in /etc/default/keyboard for console and Xorg. These settings can also be changed inside the running OS using the dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration command.


Set the name of the model of your keyboard type.


Set the supported keyboard layout(s).


Set the supported variant(s) of the keyboard layout(s).


Set extra xkb configuration options.

Networking settings (DHCP):

This parameter is used to set up networking auto configuration in /etc/systemd/network/eth.network. The default location of network configuration files in the Debian stretch release was changed to /lib/systemd/network.`


Set the system to use DHCP. This requires an DHCP server.

Networking settings (static):

These parameters are used to set up a static networking configuration in /etc/systemd/network/eth.network. The following static networking parameters are only supported if ENABLE_DHCP was set to false. The default location of network configuration files in the Debian stretch release was changed to /lib/systemd/network.


Set a static IPv4 or IPv6 address and its prefix, separated by "/", eg. "".


Set the IP address for the default gateway.


Set the IP address for the first DNS server.


Set the IP address for the second DNS server.


Set the default DNS search domains to use for non fully qualified host names.


Set the IP address for the first NTP server.


Set the IP address for the second NTP server.

Basic system features:


Enable serial console interface. Recommended if no monitor or keyboard is connected to the RPi2/3. In case of problems fe. if the network (auto) configuration failed - the serial console can be used to access the system.


Enable I2C interface on the RPi2/3. Please check the RPi2/3 pinout diagrams to connect the right GPIO pins.


Enable SPI interface on the RPi2/3. Please check the RPi2/3 pinout diagrams to connect the right GPIO pins.


Enable IPv6 support. The network interface configuration is managed via systemd-networkd.


Install and enable OpenSSH service. The default configuration of the service doesn't allow root to login. Please use the user pi instead and su - or sudo to execute commands as root.


Allow the installation of non-free Debian packages that do not comply with the DFSG. This is required to install closed-source firmware binary blobs.


Download and install the closed-source firmware binary blob that is required to run the internal wireless interface of the Raspberry Pi model 3. This parameter is ignored if the specified RPI_MODEL is not 3.


If set to false, disable and uninstall rsyslog (so logs will be available only in journal files)


Enable sound hardware and install Advanced Linux Sound Architecture.


Enable Hardware Random Number Generator. Strong random numbers are important for most network based communications that use encryption. It's recommended to be enabled.


Minimize the amount of shared memory reserved for the GPU. It doesn't seem to be possible to fully disable the GPU.


Install and enable D-Bus message bus. Please note that systemd should work without D-bus but it's recommended to be enabled.


Install Xorg open-source X Window System.


Install a user defined window manager for the X Window System. To make sure all X related package dependencies are getting installed ENABLE_XORG will automatically get enabled if ENABLE_WM is used. The rpi23-gen-image.sh script has been tested with the following list of window managers: blackbox, openbox, fluxbox, jwm, dwm, xfce4, awesome.

Advanced system features:


Use debootstrap script variant minbase which only includes essential packages and apt. This will reduce the disk usage by about 65 MB.


Reduce the disk space usage by deleting packages and files. See REDUCE_* parameters for detailed information.


Replace the default RPi2/3 second stage bootloader (bootcode.bin) with U-Boot bootloader. U-Boot can boot images via the network using the BOOTP/TFTP protocol.


Path to a directory (u-boot) of U-Boot bootloader sources that will be copied, configured, build and installed inside the chroot.


Install and enable the hardware accelerated Xorg video driver fbturbo. Please note that this driver is currently limited to hardware accelerated window moving and scrolling.


Path to a directory (xf86-video-fbturbo) of hardware accelerated Xorg video driver sources that will be copied, configured, build and installed inside the chroot.


Enable iptables IPv4/IPv6 firewall. Simplified ruleset: Allow all outgoing connections. Block all incoming connections except to OpenSSH service.


Create non-root user with password USER_PASSWORD=raspberry. Unless overridden with USER_NAME=user, username will be pi.


Non-root user to create. Ignored if ENABLE_USER=false


Set root user password so root login will be enabled


Enable IPv4/IPv6 network stack hardening settings.


Enable having root partition on an USB drive by creating two image files: one for the /boot/firmware mount point, and another for /.


Path to a directory with scripts that should be run in the chroot before the image is finally built. Every executable file in this directory is run in lexicographical order.


Create an initramfs that that will be loaded during the Linux startup process. ENABLE_INITRAMFS will automatically get enabled if ENABLE_CRYPTFS=true. This parameter will be ignored if BUILD_KERNEL=false.


Enable automatic assignment of predictable, stable network interface names for all local Ethernet, WLAN interfaces. This might create complex and long interface names. This parameter is only supported if the Debian release stretch is used.


Disable RPi2/3 under-voltage warnings and overlays. Setting the parameter to 1 will disable the warning overlay. Setting it to 2 will additionally allow RPi2/3 turbo mode when low-voltage is present.

SSH settings:


Enable password root login via SSH. This may be a security risk with default password, use only in trusted environments. ENABLE_ROOT must be set to true.


Disable password based SSH authentication. Only public key based SSH (v2) authentication will be supported.


Limit the users that are allowed to login via SSH. Only allow user USER_NAME=pi and root if SSH_ENABLE_ROOT=true to login. This parameter will be ignored if dropbear SSH is used (REDUCE_SSHD=true).


Add SSH (v2) public key(s) from specified file to authorized_keys file to enable public key based SSH (v2) authentication of user root. The specified file can also contain multiple SSH (v2) public keys. SSH protocol version 1 is not supported. ENABLE_ROOT and SSH_ENABLE_ROOT must be set to true.


Add SSH (v2) public key(s) from specified file to authorized_keys file to enable public key based SSH (v2) authentication of user USER_NAME=pi. The specified file can also contain multiple SSH (v2) public keys. SSH protocol version 1 is not supported.

Kernel compilation:


Build and install the latest RPi2/3 Linux kernel. Currently only the default RPi2/3 kernel configuration is used. BUILD_KERNEL=true will automatically be set if the Raspberry Pi model 3 is used.


Reduce the size of the generated kernel by removing unwanted device, network and filesystem drivers (experimental).


Number of parallel kernel building threads. If the parameter is left untouched the script will automatically determine the number of CPU cores to set the number of parallel threads to speed the kernel compilation.


Install kernel headers with built kernel.


Start make menuconfig interactive menu-driven kernel configuration. The script will continue after make menuconfig was terminated.


Remove all kernel sources from the generated OS image after it was built and installed.


Path to a directory (linux) of RaspberryPi Linux kernel sources that will be copied, configured, build and installed inside the chroot.


Clean the existing kernel sources directory KERNELSRC_DIR (using make mrproper) after it was copied to the chroot and before the compilation of the kernel has started. This parameter will be ignored if no KERNELSRC_DIR was specified or if KERNELSRC_PREBUILT=true.


Run make bcm2709_defconfig (and optional make menuconfig) to configure the kernel sources before building. This parameter is automatically set to true if no existing kernel sources directory was specified using KERNELSRC_DIR. This parameter is ignored if KERNELSRC_PREBUILT=true.


Copy own config file to kernel .config. If KERNEL_MENUCONFIG=true then running after copy.


With this parameter set to true the script expects the existing kernel sources directory to be already successfully cross-compiled. The parameters KERNELSRC_CLEAN, KERNELSRC_CONFIG, KERNELSRC_USRCONFIG and KERNEL_MENUCONFIG are ignored and no kernel compilation tasks are performed.


The directory (firmware) containing a local copy of the firmware from the RaspberryPi firmware project. Default is to download the latest firmware directly from the project.

Reduce disk usage:

The following list of parameters is ignored if ENABLE_REDUCE=false.


Configure APT to use compressed package repository lists and no package caching files.


Remove all doc files (harsh). Configure APT to not include doc files on future apt-get package installations.


Remove all man pages and info files (harsh). Configure APT to not include man pages on future apt-get package installations.


Replace vim-tiny package by levee a tiny vim clone.


Remove bash package and switch to dash shell (experimental).


Remove PCI related hwdb files (experimental).


Replace openssh-server with dropbear.


Remove all locale translation files.

Encrypted root partition:


Enable full system encryption with dm-crypt. Setup a fully LUKS encrypted root partition (aes-xts-plain64:sha512) and generate required initramfs. The /boot directory will not be encrypted. This parameter will be ignored if BUILD_KERNEL=false. ENABLE_CRYPTFS is experimental. SSH-to-initramfs is currently not supported but will be soon - feel free to help.


Set password of the encrypted root partition. This parameter is mandatory if ENABLE_CRYPTFS=true.


Set name of dm-crypt managed device-mapper mapping.


Set cipher specification string. aes-xts* ciphers are strongly recommended.


Sets key size in bits. The argument has to be a multiple of 8.

Build settings:


Set a path to a working directory used by the script to generate an image.


Set a filename for the output file(s). Note: the script will create $IMAGE_NAME.img if ENABLE_SPLITFS=false or $IMAGE_NAME-frmw.img and $IMAGE_NAME-root.img if ENABLE_SPLITFS=true.

Understanding the script

The functions of this script that are required for the different stages of the bootstrapping are split up into single files located inside the bootstrap.d directory. During the bootstrapping every script in this directory gets executed in lexicographical order:

Script Description
10-bootstrap.sh Debootstrap basic system
11-apt.sh Setup APT repositories
12-locale.sh Setup Locales and keyboard settings
13-kernel.sh Build and install RPi2/3 Kernel
14-fstab.sh Setup fstab and initramfs
15-rpi-config.sh Setup RPi2/3 config and cmdline
20-networking.sh Setup Networking
21-firewall.sh Setup Firewall
30-security.sh Setup Users and Security settings
31-logging.sh Setup Logging
32-sshd.sh Setup SSH and public keys
41-uboot.sh Build and Setup U-Boot
42-fbturbo.sh Build and Setup fbturbo Xorg driver
50-firstboot.sh First boot actions
99-reduce.sh Reduce the disk space usage

All the required configuration files that will be copied to the generated OS image are located inside the files directory. It is not recommended to modify these configuration files manually.

Directory Description
apt APT management configuration files
boot Boot and RPi2/3 configuration files
dpkg Package Manager configuration
etc Configuration files and rc scripts
firstboot Scripts that get executed on first boot
initramfs Initramfs scripts
iptables Firewall configuration files
locales Locales configuration
modules Kernel Modules configuration
mount Fstab configuration
network Networking configuration files
sysctl.d Swapping and Network Hardening configuration
xorg fbturbo Xorg driver configuration

Custom packages and scripts

Debian custom packages, i.e. those not in the debian repositories, can be installed by placing them in the packages directory. They are installed immediately after packages from the repositories are installed. Any dependencies listed in the custom packages will be downloaded automatically from the repositories. Do not list these custom packages in APT_INCLUDES.

Scripts in the custom.d directory will be executed after all other installation is complete but before the image is created.

Logging of the bootstrapping process

All information related to the bootstrapping process and the commands executed by the rpi23-gen-image.sh script can easily be saved into a logfile. The common shell command script can be used for this purpose:

script -c 'APT_SERVER=ftp.de.debian.org ./rpi23-gen-image.sh' ./build.log

Flashing the image file

After the image file was successfully created by the rpi23-gen-image.sh script it can be copied to the microSD card that will be used by the RPi2/3 computer. This can be performed by using the tools bmaptool or dd. Using bmaptool will probably speed-up the copy process because bmaptool copies more wisely than dd.

Flashing examples:
bmaptool copy ./images/jessie/2017-01-23-rpi3-jessie.img /dev/mmcblk0
dd bs=4M if=./images/jessie/2017-01-23-rpi3-jessie.img of=/dev/mmcblk0

If you have set ENABLE_SPLITFS, copy the -frmw image on the microSD card, then the -root one on the USB drive:

bmaptool copy ./images/jessie/2017-01-23-rpi3-jessie-frmw.img /dev/mmcblk0
bmaptool copy ./images/jessie/2017-01-23-rpi3-jessie-root.img /dev/sdc

External links and references