Install Debian on the Orange Pi Zero LTS

This howto is aimed at more experienced Linux users who want to install a Debian GNU/Linux operating system on an Orange Pi Zero LTS single-board computer. This is a good base for running a WordPress website on a cheap and low (solar?) powered server.

With the provided system images, it is rather easy to install, even without a connected display or keyboard. You will need some Linux command line skills, the Pi, a microSD card and adaptor, a power source (the user manual states that a 5V 2A power source is required), an Ethernet cable, and a router with DHCP.

Option 1: Download the system image from the Orange Pi download section. Make sure to find the correct model (Orange Pi Zero LTS). At the time of writing, there is just one image available: “Debian Desktop”. A server image would be better, as we will have to remove unneeded and memory consuming software from the desktop image.

Option 2 (recommended): Download the Buster image from Armbian. It’s based on Debian 10 (Buster), which gives you more up to date software than the original image, which currently is based on Debian 8 (Jessie).

Unpack the image (e.g. “tar xvf debian_desktop_For_OrangePizeroLTS_v0_8_0.tar.gz” or “7z x Armbian_5.91_Orangepizero_Debian_buster_next_4.19.59.7z”), which will give you the image and the md5sum or signature.

Copy the image to your microSD card using the dd util (e.g. “sudo dd if=Armbian_5.91_Orangepizero_Debian_buster_next_4.19.59.img of=/dev/mmcblk0 status=progress bs=1024”). Make sure to target the correct device file of the microSD card (“/dev/mmcblk0” in the example, you can look for the device in the output of “sudo dmesg” right after plugging in the microSD card), or you might loose data or worse. If unsure, consult the user manual of the Pi. Also check out Armbians documentation if you use it.

Put the microSD card in the Pi, connect it via the ethernet cable to your router, and finally plug in the power source. The Pi should boot the Linux, connect to your network using DHCP and start a SSH daemon. Find the IP of the Pi using your router’s admin interface, and SSH into the Pi using user “root” and the default password “orangepi” for the original image and “1234” for the Armbian image. That’s all!

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