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


15 - 19 Dec 2014

Course Outline


  • What defines embedded Linux
  • 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-systems for embedded Linux
  • 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: toolchain, 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 facilities 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 write single and multi-threaded programs using POSIX functions
  • 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 or attendance on course EL-205 Linux Core Skills


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 modern embedded system which can control and interact with many available interfaces including USB. Lab sessions follow a logical sequence, and result in a Linux-powered web-controlled rocket launcher