Cubox / HummingBoard iMX6 : How to upgrade Debian?

Hi all,

I have iMX6 Cubox and Hummingboards, running very old Debian 8. I didn’t attempt any upgrade, because it breaks kernel, and the board does not boot anymore. The process I wrote years ago to compile and install a new kernel manually does not work anymore (broken links).

I need to upgrade those good old Debian 8 to Debian 11, and I need something that is future-proof, ie that can run “apt upgrade” or “apt dist-upgrade” without breaking the boot.

There are several options :

  1. In-place “apt dist-upgrade” (if possible) : What do I need to install in my /etc/apt/sources.list ? Will apt dist-upgrade break the boot ? If so, how can I solve this ? Where to get suitable kernels, and how to install them ?

  2. Fresh install of Debian (will involve huge work to migrate all the applications, but if it’s the only way, I’ll do that). It seems there are two sub-options :
    2.1. : SolidRun boot image (Documentation/ at bsp · SolidRun/Documentation · GitHub). But will this one be compatible with future “apt dist-upgrade” ?
    2.2. : Pure Debian (i.MX6 Debian - SolidRun) : not doable easily because it requires access to serial console.

Please note I don’t use advanced hardware capabilities such as video output, bluetooth or WiFi. The boards are used as headless servers, with just Ethernet port and mSata SSD.

Wjat’s the best option for me ? The #1 priority is to have a Debian system that is fully upgradable easily.

If not possible with those boards, do you have any suggestion of another board supporting Ethernet and mSata ?

Thank you in advance. Kind regards.


So to answer your questions:

Option 1 is a serious problem, because our images modified a lot of core functionality, such as how the kernel is loaded, which packages take priority, system services for firmware loading …
It is doable, but you would most definitely require the serial console for fixing all the problems, and still potentially end up with breakage.

So even though you don’t like it, a fresh install is likely the best choice. As of Debian 11, we are finally able to avoid the invasive modifications.

The “Pure Debian” document is a recipe how you can make the bootable disk image we provide.
We have the recipe on GitHub showing all the choices we make while generating it here.

Yes, imx6/ is the first release close enough to upstream that you can expect to live the Debian way - future dist-upgrade should definitely work! Unless of course something breaks in Debian … which can happen on major releases. But they have so far fixed all the regressions that I reported :slight_smile:

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