Developing for Embedded Linux

Linux is often used as an embedded operating system, and yet many still regard it as something of a black art. This course sheds light and brings clarity by showing exactly how to deploy Linux on a typical embedded target board through a combination of theory and practice.

Starting with a board without an operating system, delegates will go through a simulated product cycle during which they will build and boot a Linux kernel, build a root file system, write a device driver and a multi-threaded application. Finally, they will review the performance of the resulting system and consider what changes could be made to improve its real-time performance.

5 days
pdf download


23 - 27 Jun 2014
22 - 26 Sep 2014
15 - 19 Dec 2014

Course Outline



  • Linux in an embedded context
  • The 4 basic elements: toolchain, bootloader, kernel, root file system

The Linux Kernel:

  • Virtual memory & processes
  • Configuration and cross-compiling

Booting Linux:

  • The Linux boot sequence
  • Boot-loaders: U-boot
  • Loading images using TFTP
  • The init process including systemd

The root file-system:

  • Creating a minimal root filesystem with Busybox
  • Choosing a C library
  • Creating a RAM disk image

Network configuration:

  • Static and dynamic IP addresses
  • Mounting the root file system over NFS

Device drivers:

  • Creation and manipulation of device drivers
  • Hotpluggable drivers
  • Kernel modules


  • Logging using , syslogd
  • Remote debugging using Eclipse and gdbserver.

POSIX programming:

  • Processes: fork and exit, scheduling
  • Signals and signal handlers
  • Time and timers
  • Pipes, message queues, semaphores, shared memory

POSIX Threads:

  • Threads vs processes
  • Synchronising threads using mutexes and condition variables.

Flash memory:

  • The Linux Memory Technology Devices Layer and eMMC

File systems:

  • File-system suitable for embedded applications
  • UBIFS, squashfs, tmpfs, jffs2 and more


Course Overview

A five day course showing how to implement Linux on a typical development board (ARM Cortex-A8).

Course Objectives:

  • Describe the four essential components of an embedded project: tool chain, kernel, bootloader and root file system
  • Demonstrate how to control hardware from a device driver (in outline, see EL-504 Developing Linux Device Drivers for a more in-depth treatment)
  • Provide an overview of application development, profiling and debugging
  • Show how to configure flash memory for robust code and data storage and a look at new developments in that space.
  • Look at user space development, process handling and the IPC faciilties provided by the Linux Kernel

Delegates will learn:

  • How to configure and build a customised Linux  kernel
  • How to construct a compact root file system from scratch
  • How to develop and debug code for the target board, using the Eclipse IDE
  • How to use Linux for product development and the benefits it brings
  • Gain an in-depth understanding of modern Linux for embedded and what that means for them

Who Should Attend:

Software engineers who are developing applications for embedded or real-time Linux. Engineers wishing to assess the suitability of Linux for their next application.


  • Good ‘C’ programming skills
  • General knowledge of an RTOS, or embedded operating systems
  • Experience of using Linux or a version of Unix is useful, but not essential


  • Five days.

Course Materials:

  • Student workbook.

Related Courses:

Course Workshop:

The target platform will be the BeagleBone Black which uses an ARM Cortex-A8 and will help delegates understand the issues encountered when writing for embedded platforms. The course presents embedded and real-time concepts applied to Linux using this target. The host development system is a standard PC running Linux. We use the target as an example of a simple embedded system which can control hardware via a simple digital I/O interface. Lab sessions follow a logical sequence, and result in a Linux-powered web-controlled rocket launcher