Developing for Embedded Linux

Course category
Training area
Course code
5 days
Additional information
Available for on-site delivery only. Can be delivered remotely or Face-to-Face.

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.



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

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.


  • 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 driver 
  • 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