Setting up a chroot for Android development

Let’s say you want to build Android. This is not an unreasonable thing to want to do; around here, the most common reason for doing this is to get easy access to debug symbols in system libraries.

However, Android only really supports building on a very specific distribution of Linux, and that is normally the LTS release of Ubuntu (currently 10.04 “Lucid”).

Luckily, it’s relatively easy to set up a chroot in Linux to build in, such that you don’t need to maintain a completely separate installation of Linux if you want to run, say, Ubuntu 11.10 instead.

First you need to install schroot and debootstrap:

sudo apt-get install schroot debootstrap

schroot is a tool to allow you to easily run a command or a login shell within a chroot that you have previously set up. debootstrap is a Debian tool to bootstrap a Debian (and by extension, Ubuntu) release inside a directory which can then be used as a chroot.

Once you have those installed, fire up your favourite text editor and append something similar to the following to your /etc/schroot/schroot.conf file:

description=Ubuntu Lucid

Now, you need to actually create the chroot. To do this, you need to use debootstrap. In this case, I’m going to create a Lucid chroot:

sudo debootstrap --arch amd64 lucid /var/chroot/lucid

The first argument here specifies the CPU architecture you want to install in the chroot (typically either i386 or amd64), the second is the distribution codename used in the repositories, the third is the directory in which to install the chroot and finally the last argument is the mirror you wish to use to download the Debian packages from for installing.

This will take a little while but once it’s done you can simply run the following:

schroot -c lucid

If all goes well, you’ll be greeted with a friendly and informative prompt thus:


You can then, inside this shell, follow the instructions for building and flashing Android yourself without any trouble.

As far as I can tell, there’s nothing here that should be Debian (or Debian derivative) specific, so hopefully if you’re running a different distribution, so long as you can get hold of debootstrap and schroot you should be fine.

(Update 2012/03/29 – correct the Lucid version number)

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