Installing Soft-Float Debian Wheezy on Raspberry Pi

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Raspberry Pi, a small computer powered by ARM architecture is a very interesting board for learning embedded system. In this article we will discuss about how to install how to install Soft-Float Debian Wheezy on Raspberry Pi. For installing Hard-Float version, you can follow this article.

For this article I use following:

  1. Slackware64 14.0
  2. Windows 8
  3. Raspberry Pi model B
  4. Official Debian Wheezy

You can use either Linux (in this article, Slackware) or Windows (in this article Windows 8). Just pick one and follow the rest of article for your choice.

Hard-Float and Soft-Float?

Hard-Float (hardware floating point calculation) and Soft-Float (software floating point calculation) are refers to how floating point are calculated.

The difference of Hard-float and Soft-float lies on how and what method are used to calculated floating points. The hard-float means floating point calculations are processed by chip hardware whereas soft-float calculations are emulated. This impact on performance and theoretically hard-floats won the race in term of speed. But some application / software doesn’t support hard-float code so despite of the facts, it needs to be installed on soft-float system.

If you are familiar with Intel processor, you will find similarity between their (Intel and ARM) situation. Hard-float is pretty much comparable to floating point calculation using 80×87 maths co-processor. Hardware float-point calculation will win every time on speed but on some occasion (if processor cannot float or perform correctly, i.e. on Cyrix 486 or early Pentium) the software emulation will win for sure.

Obtain the Materials

The Operating System images I used are Debian Wheezy which use soft-float system ABI provided by Raspberry Pi on their download page. The version I use is latest version at time of writing this article (per March 10th, 2013). You can either direct download on this link, or download by torrent by this link.

Prepare the Disk (SD Card)

To boot the Raspberry Pi, an installation media and storage media is needed. All we need is a single SD card. On this article I use my 8GB SD card. You can use any SD card you want, but I recommend to use at least 4GB SD card. The image we download on previous section will be stored on this card and later installed. Make sure you have a way to write on SD card.

Windows-based Instruction

For Windows user, you can follow this section to “burn” the image. For this purpose you need additional software for writing to SD card, such as Win32DiskImager utility.

  1. Extract the image (in this case so you will get an .img file.
  2. Insert SD card into SD card reader and check what drive letter it assigned to. For example G:\
  3. If it is not new, format it. Or at least make sure there is only one partition (FAT32 is recommended).
  4. Run the Win32DiskImager with administrator privileges.
  5. Select the image we have extracted.
  6. Select the drive letter of the SD card on our machine. Make sure you have the correct drive, or you will destroy data on that drive.
  7. Click Write and wait. The process should be not long.
  8. Exit the imager and eject the SD card

Beside Win32DiskImager, you can also use other tool such as Flashnul.

  1. Follow step 1 to step 3 for Win32DiskImager’s solution
  2. Extract Flashnul from the archive
  3. Open command prompt with elevated privilege (administrator privilege).
  4. Go to your extracted directory and run flashnul with argument “-p”. For example: flashnul -p
  5. You will get list of physical drive attached on your machine, and list of drive. Make sure the drive is correct. At time of writing this article, the SD card is detected as device number 1 with and mounted to drive G:
  6. Load the image to flashnul: flashnul 1 -L 2012-08-08-wheezy-armel.img
  7. If you get an access denied error, try re-plugging the SD card and make sure to close all explorer windows or folders open for the device. If still get denial, try substitute the device number with its drive letter: flashnul G: -L 2012-08-08-wheezy-armel.img

At this point, you have successfully written image to your SD card. And I assume you are. You can proceed to next stage.

Linux-based Instruction

Writing image on Linux is easier, in my opinion. The utility we use is “dd” which is already bundled on most distro. Make sure you know the correct device file for your SD card. In my machine I use a built in card reader and detect my SD card as /dev/sdb. It might be different on your system so better check it. For this article I use /dev/sdb to refer to SD card.

  1. Extract the image (in this case so you will get an .img file.
  2. Insert SD card into SD card reader .
  3. If it is not new, format it. Or at least make sure there is only one partition (FAT32 is recommended).
  4. Unmount the SD card if it is mounted. We need the whole SD card so if you see partition such as /dev/sdb1, etc its better you unmount them all.
  5. Write the image to SD card. Make sure you replace the input file after if= argument with correct path to .img file and “/dev/sdb” in the output file of= argument with your device. Also make sure to use whole SD drive and not their partition (i.e. not use /dev/sdb1, /dev/sdb1, etc). The command: dd bs=4M if=2012-08-08-wheezy-armel.img of=/dev/sdb
  6. Run sync as root. This will ensure the write cache is flushed and safe to unmount SD card.
  7. Remove SD card from card reader.

If you hesitate to use terminal and prefer to use GUI method, here is the tutorial. Note that we

  1. Do step 1 to step 3 for previous tutorial. Make sure your directory or image file doesn’t contain any spaces.
  2. Install the ImageWriter tool from
  3. Launch the ImageWriter tool (needs administrative privileges)
  4. Select the image file (in this case 2012-08-08-wheezy-armel.img) to be written to the SD card (note: because you started ImageWriter as administrator the starting point when selecting the image file is the administrator’s home folder so you need to change to your own home folder to select the image file)
  5. Select the target device to write the image to. In my case, it’s /dev/sdb
  6. Click the “Write to device” button
  7. Wait for the process to finish and then insert the SD card in the Raspberry Pi

At this point, you have successfully written image to your SD card. And I assume you are. You can proceed to next stage.

Running the Pi

You have write image and at this point your raspberry pi is ready. Now set up raspberry pi to boot: insert your SD card back to raspberry pi, put on power, plug video output (either HDMI or RCA).

To resize the SD card after installation, you can follow this article.

To log in on your Raspberry pi you can use the default login, which is:

Username: pi
Password: raspberry

Have fun šŸ˜€


About Author

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A man who is obsessed to low level technology.

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