Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and errata

In this page you can find the Frequently Asked Questions and the pending errata on the image creation scripts.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can you add package foo to the image? I think it’s quite important!

    Most likely, my answer will be no. I am trying for the images to be as minimal and close to a base Debian install as possible; while most of us do use console-tools and bash-completion (two of the most common requests), it is not always required. Keep in mind the generated images should work for the most minimal Raspberry Pi model 1A (128MB RAM). And, all in all, it’s just an apt install away for you anyway!

    If there is anything you really need and cannot easily get done from the provided images, do contact me. But I don’t want to change the images offered to everybody just because a feature is missing!

  2. How do I get wireless networking working?

    Given we are shipping a minimal installation, I don’t want to carry all the burden of network-manager, wicd or the like. The easiest way is to create a /etc/network/interfaces.d/wlan0 file with the settings for your network. You will find an example one in place – All lines are commented out, as naturally, I don’t have the settings for your wireless network.

    Of course, there might be other options you need — If that’s the case, I suggest you look at the different options mentioned in the WiFi/HowToUse page of the Debian Wiki.

  3. When I try to run apt update, it fails complaining that E: Release file for is not valid yet (invalid for another <many many days>). Updates for this repository will not be applied. (or something similar)

    Contrary to what’s usual in the PCs, the Raspberry Pi computers do not ship with a battery-backed clock. This means that, when you first connect to the network, it will take some minutes for ntp to get the current time. I don’t think there is much that can be done about it.

    Our images ship with systemd-timesyncd, which will automatically synchronize the clock soon after getting a network connection. systemd-timesyncd also remembers the time of its last synchronization, and will set the clock to just after that timestamp at boot time. This means, you will only get this odd message if you are very quick issuing apt update after setting up the network connection for the first time! (thanks to Paul Sokolovsky for this Q&A)

  4. How can I log in to my Raspberry remotely? Not every user installs HDMI and a keyboard…

    Use SSH key-based authentication. Once you have created your key pair in your desktop system, edit your Raspberry’s /boot/firmware/sysconf.txt (or just /sysconf.txt on the created image’s first partition, that is, the one formatted with vfat), copy the contents of your user’s .ssh/ (or whatever name you specified for it) as the value for the root_authorized_key, like this (of course, this specific line would allow me to log in to your system)

     root_authorized_key=ssh-rsa	AAAA3NbzayC1Ec2AAAAdBAQAAAaBCQAnNYJkyqbir+KvP8GFWKoH8+aabb6ZxugDqarVhkU9vXga2z57zLSHHR7NK+a+ZuBc3ZzaD9oOwnA9FVTas3LybEM0r+BL0z / aVbgm0zhcoy4c6fq5ymkuecpyLf5jhjohft7sNh5pldaplt9lWdm0taowFzjRBin8rRrrz+uxO1n5W/vc90vsKA2/alecXS03YSk1pKDaXIEMIHL8ehQElepnPJ1J7u1071j2MgwlzSu0kM0OM5RJav5QnrFoMyr0AoJzeqFbJ4MBuCc2YXkANXXjr8NneGJiFQ4AdzgrwvRUVJ3diTNgVWEfBbxq+l93hWIoA45S0yvn5Ed7Hx
  5. My Raspberry’s LEDs are off!

    Yes, they are off by default, but are very easy to turn on via the /sys pseudo-filesystem. So, if you want to turn on the red (power) LED, do as root echo 1 > /sys/class/leds/PWR/brightness (and echo 0 > /sys/class/leds/PWR/brightness to turn it off). Likewise, you can control the green (activity) LED using /sys/class/leds/ACT/brightness in the same way.

    Besides simply turn the LEDs on or off, you can also let the LEDs correspond to events. What those events are may differ from model to model and possibly also differ per kernel version. On my RPi 3B+ with arm64 kernel version 5.10.9-1 I have these:

     # cat /sys/class/leds/PWR/trigger 
    [none] kbd-scrolllock kbd-numlock kbd-capslock kbd-kanalock kbd-shiftlock kbd-altgrlock kbd-ctrllock
    kbd-altlock kbd-shiftllock kbd-shiftrlock kbd-ctrlllock kbd-ctrlrlock disk-activity disk-read
    disk-write ide-disk mtd nand-disk cpu cpu0 cpu1 cpu2 cpu3 panic usb-gadget usb-host mmc0 mmc1
    rfkill-any rfkill-none usb-001:005:01:link usb-001:005:01:1Gbps usb-001:005:01:100Mbps
    usb-001:005:01:10Mbps rfkill0 bluetooth-power hci0-power rfkill1

    The ones for the ACT LED are the same (for me at least).
    If you want the PWR LED off, but on when a kernel panic happens, do as root: echo "panic" > /sys/class/leds/PWR/trigger.
    The active trigger is shown with [] around it.

  6. Are the images 32 or 64 bits?

    The architecture chosen for each of the builds is the best suited for its hardware. This is one of the main differences with Raspberry Pi OS: They redefined some technical bits for the 32-bit armhf architecture, allowing it to run on their least powerful systems (families 0 and 1), where we must run with the much slower (and also, 32-bit) armel architecture (with emulated floating point). And they ship 32 bit for the higher-end machines (3, 4) for greater consistency. Thus,

    Family Debian Raspberry Pi OS
    0 / 1 armel, 32 bit armhf, 32 bit
    2 armhf, 32 bit armhf, 32 bit
    3 arm64, 64 bit armhf, 32 bit
    4 arm64, 64 bit armhf, 32 bit
  7. Bluetooth does not work correctly

    It seems the bluetooth hardware address in the Raspberry Pi is not correctly identified. This is, when querying hcitool:

    # hcitool dev
            hci0    AA:AA:AA:AA:AA:AA

    The bluetooth device’s address can be configured using hcitool, so that:

    # hcitool cmd 0x04 0x009
    # hcitool cmd 0x3f 0x001 0x03 0x02 0x01 0xa7 0xb1 0xde
    # hciconfig hci0 down
    # hciconfig hci0 up

    After this, your Raspberry will operate with the desired address:

    # hcitool dev
            hci0	DE:B1:A7:01:02:03

    Do note that the address specified with the 0x3f 0x001 command is written from the last to the first byte. The content of the address itself is meaningless, you only should make sure no two Bluetooth devices working in the same area.

  8. How to avoid the image from being resized to the whole available device

    Now this is trickier than what we’d like to, and we have to find a better way :-(

    The image resize script happens in the initrd, and that’s a hard point to get our hands in. The images we distribute are compressed, and decompress to 2.5GB — that’s almost surely smaller than your SD cards, and that’s why we automatically resize the second partition to cover all of the available space upon the first boot!

    But if you want to use a really large SD card, or want to handle space your way, you will have to do a small ugly hack against our logic. Currently, the check is done in the /etc/initramfs-tools/scripts/local-bottom/rpi-resizerootfs file (inside the intramfs), with the following logic:

     # Check if there's free space at the end of the device
     free_space="$(parted -m -s "$rootdev" print free | tail -n1 | grep free)"
     if test -z "$free_space"; then
         # Great, we already resized; nothing left to do!
         exit 0

    So, if just after writing the image to your media (the xzcat ... | dd ... step) you modify its partition table, and create a third partition that reaches the end of the device (check this with parted, not with fsdisk or gparted); this will inhibit rpi-resizerootfs from running.

    We are aware it’s ugly and possible flaky. Please help us find a better way! ☺


  1. As of late February, 2021, I fixed (mostly!) the serial console names specified in /boot/firmware/cmdline.txt. Thing is, the device naming for the console is not consistent across the Raspberry family range.

    We are now building our images using ttyAMA0 for the images targeting families 1 and 2, and ttyS1 for families 3 and 4. However, for a reason I cannot understand, my Raspberry Pi 0W (that uses the same images as the 1 family) has its console at ttyS1, so it won’t have a usable serial console when it’s first booted.

    Not to worry, though! At first boot time, we reconfigure the raspi-firmware package, triggering a rewrite of cmdline.txt with actual observed values. So, your RPi 0W will enable the serial console after its first full boot.