Using Buildroot to flash and boot the beta version of BeagleV Starlight

Bootlin recently received a beta prototype of the BeagleV Starlight featuring a RISC-V 64 bit CPU capable of running Linux, designed by StarFive This early version is not available to the general public, but several of us at Bootlin volunteered to join the beta developer program to assist with upstream software development. BeagleBoard.org has a public BeagleV forum that everyone can join for future updates on the project.

Two days after my colleague Thomas Petazzoni received his board, he managed to submit a patch for the mainline version of Buildroot to add support for this new board. Actually, compiling an image with Buildroot and preparing an SD card is easier than downloading and flashing the initial Fedora image offered for this beta board.

If you are just interested in testing the software on your board, you may directly get our binaries from our Build results paragraph.

The following instructions are derived from the board/beaglev/readme.txt file in Thomas’ proposed patch.

How to build

First, clone Buildroot’s git repository if you haven’t done it yet:

$ git clone git://git.buildroot.net/buildroot

Then add a remote branch corresponding to Thomas Petazzoni’s own tree, as his changes haven’t made their way into the mainline yet, and checkout a local copy of his beaglev branch:

$ git remote add tpetazzoni https://github.com/tpetazzoni/buildroot.git
$ git fetch tpetazzoni
$ git checkout -b tpetazzoni-beaglev tpetazzoni/beaglev

Now you can build the binaries for the board:

$ make beaglev_defconfig
$ make

Build results

After building, output/images should contain the following files:

  • Image
  • fw_payload.bin
  • fw_payload.bin.out
  • fw_payload.elf
  • rootfs.ext2
  • rootfs.ext4
  • sdcard.img
  • u-boot.bin

The two important files are:

  • fw_payload.bin.out, which is the bootloader image, containing both OpenSBI (the Open Supervisor Binary Interface, allowing to switch from Machine mode to Supervisor mode) and U-Boot.
  • sdcard.img, the SD card image, which contains the root filesystem, kernel image and Device Tree.

Tested versions of these generated files are available on our website.

Flashing the SD card image

You just need to insert your micro SD card into a card reader (assuming the /dev/sdX device file is used), and type the below command:

$ sudo dd if=output/images/sdcard.img of=/dev/sdX

Preparing the board

To prevent the experimental board from overheating, connect the BeagleV fan to the 5V supply (pin 2 or 4 of the GPIO connector) and GND (pin 6 of the GPIO connector).

To access a serial console, connect a TTL UART cable to pins 6 (GND), 8 (TX) and 10 (RX):
Beagle V - How to connect the serial port

Insert your SD card and power-up the board using a USB-C cable.

Flashing the bootloader

The bootloader pre-flashed on the BeagleV has a non-working fdt_addr_r environment variable value, so it won’t work as-is. Reflashing the existing bootloader with the bootloader image produced by Buildroot is therefore necessary.

When the board starts up, a pre-loader shows a count down of 2 seconds. Interrupt it by pressing any key. You should then reach a menu like
this:

bootloader version:210209-4547a8d
ddr 0x00000000, 1M test
ddr 0x00100000, 2M test
DDR clk 2133M,Version: 210302-5aea32f
0
***************************************************
*************** FLASH PROGRAMMING *****************
***************************************************

0:update uboot
1:quit
select the function:

Press 0 and Enter. You will now see C characters being displayed. Ask your serial port communication program to send the fw_payload.bin.out file using the Xmodem protocol (with the sx command). For example, here’s how to do it with picocom

picocom should be started as:

$ picocom -b 115200 -s "sx -vv" /dev/ttyUSB0

When you see the C characters on the serial line, press [Ctrl][a] [Ctrl][s]. Picocom will then ask for a file name, and you should type fw_payload.bin.out.

After a few minutes, reflashing should be complete. Then, restart the board. It will automatically start the system from the SD card, and reach the login prompt:

Welcome to Buildroot
buildroot login: root
# uname -a
Linux buildroot 5.10.6 #2 SMP Sun May 2 17:23:56 CEST 2021 riscv64 GNU/Linux

Useful resources

Here are useful resources for people who already have the Beagle V board:

We will keep updating this page according to progress in the upstream projects:

  • Support for the board in mainline Buildroot
  • Later, support for the board in mainline U-Boot and Linux

ELBE: automated building of Ubuntu images for a Raspberry Pi 3B

Building embedded Linux systems

ELBETypical embedded Linux systems include a wide number of software components, which all need to be compiled and integrated together. Two main approaches are used in the industry to integrate such embedded Linux systems: build systems such as Yocto/OpenEmbedded, Buildroot or OpenWrt, and binary distributions such as Debian, Ubuntu or Fedora. Of course, both options have their own advantages and drawbacks.

One of the benefits of using standard binary distributions such as Debian or Ubuntu is their widespread use, their serious and long-term security maintenance and their large number of packages. However, they often lack appropriate tools to automate the process of creating a complete Linux system image that combines existing binary packages and custom packages.

In this blog post, we introduce ELBE (Embedded Linux Build Environment), which is a build system designed to build Debian distributions and images for the embedded world. While ELBE was initially focused on Debian only, Bootlin contributed support for building Ubuntu images with ELBE, and this blog post will show as an example how to build an Ubuntu image with ELBE for a Raspberry Pi 3B.

ELBE base principle

When you first run ELBE, it creates a Virtual Machine (VM) for building root filesystems. This VM is called initvm. The process of building the root filesystem for your image is to submit and XML file to the initvm, which triggers the building of an image.

The ELBE XML file can contain an archive, which can contain configuration files, and additional software. It uses pre-built software in the form of Debian/Ubuntu packages (.deb). It is also possible to use custom repositories to get special packages into the root filesystem. The resulting root file system (a customized Debian or Ubuntu distribution) can still be upgraded and maintained through Debian’s tools such as APT (Advanced Package Tool). This is the biggest difference between ELBE and other build systems like the Yocto Project and Buildroot.

Bootlin contributions

As mentioned in this blog post introduction, Bootlin contributed support for building Ubuntu images to ELBE, which led to the following upstream commits:

Build an Ubuntu image for the Raspberry Pi 3B

We are now going to illustrate how to use ELBE by showing how to build an image for the popular RaspberryPi 3B platform.

Add required packages

This was tested on Ubuntu 20.04. Install the below packages if needed, and make sure you are in the libvirt, libvirt-qemu and kvm groups:

$ sudo apt install python3 python3-debian python3-mako \
  python3-lxml python3-apt python3-gpg python3-suds \
  python3-libvirt qemu-utils qemu-kvm p7zip-full \
  make libvirt-daemon libvirt-daemon-system \
  libvirt-clients python3-urwid
$ sudo adduser youruser libvirt 
$ sudo adduser youruser libvirt-qemu
$ sudo adduser youruser kvm
$ newgrp libvirt
$ newgrp libvirt-qemu
$ newgrp kvm

Prepare ELBE initvm

First, you need to clone ELBE’s git reposority:

git clone https://github.com/Linutronix/elbe.git

We need to use the v13.2 version because our latest contributions for Ubuntu support made it to 13.2:

$ cd elbe
$ git checkout v13.2

To create the initvm:

$ PATH=$PATH:$(pwd)
$ elbe initvm create --devel

The --devel parameter allows to use ELBE from the current working directory into the initvm.

If the command fails with the Signature with unknown key: message you need to add these keys to apt. Use the following command where XXX is the key to be added:

$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys XXX

Creating your initvm should take at least 10 to 20 minutes.

In case you rebooted your computer or stopped the VM, you will need to start it:

$ elbe initvm start

Create an ELBE project for our Ubuntu image.

To begin with, we will base our image on the armhf-ubuntu example. We create an ELBE pbuilder project and not a simple ELBE project because we later want to build our own Linux kernel package for our board:

$ elbe pbuilder create --xmlfile=examples/armhf-ubuntu.xml \
  --writeproject rpi.prj --cross

The project identifier is written to rpi.prj. We save the identifier to a shell variable to simplify the next ELBE commands:

$ PRJ=$(cat rpi.prj)

Build the Linux package

As explained earlier we want to use ELBE to build our package for the Linux kernel. ELBE uses the standard Debian tool pbuilder to build packages. Therefore, we need to have debianized sources (i.e sources with the appropriate Debian metadata in a debian/ subfolder) to build a package with pbuilder.

First clone the Linux repositories:

$ git clone -b rpi-5.10.y https://github.com/raspberrypi/linux.git
$ cd linux

Debianize the Linux repositories. We use the elbe debianize command to simplify the generation of the debian folder:

$ elbe debianize

Fill the settings in the UI as follows (make sure you reduce the font size if you don’t see the Confirm button):

Make sure you set Name to rpi. Otherwise, you won’t get the output file names we use in the upcoming instructions.

The debianize command helps to create the skeleton of the debian folder in the sources. It has been pre-configured for a few packages like bootloaders or the Linux kernel, to create the rules to build these packages. It may need further modifications to finish the packaging process. Take a look a the manual to have more information on debianization. In our case, we need to tweak the debian/ folder with the two following steps to cross-build the Raspberry Linux kernel without error.

Append the below lines to the debian/rules file (use tabs instead of spaces):

override_dh_strip:
	dh_strip -Xscripts

override_dh_shlibdeps:
	dh_shlibdeps -Xscripts

Remove the following line from the debian/linux-image-5.10-rpi.install file:

./lib/firmware/*

Update the source format:

$ echo "1.0" > debian/source/format

The Linux kernel sources are now ready, we can run elbe pbuilder to compile them:

$ mkdir ../out
$ elbe pbuilder build --project $PRJ --cross --out ../out

According to how fast your system is, this can run for hours!

If everything ends well without error the out/ directory has been filled with output files:

$ ls ../out
linux-5.10-rpi_1.0_armhf.buildinfo
linux-5.10-rpi_1.0_armhf.changes
linux-5.10-rpi_1.0.dsc
linux-5.10-rpi_1.0.tar.gz
linux-headers-5.10-rpi_1.0_armhf.deb
linux-image-5.10-rpi_1.0_armhf.deb
linux-libc-dev-5.10-rpi_1.0_armhf.deb

Update the Ubuntu XML image description

Now we have our Linux kernel packaged we can move on to the image generation. Since we started from examples/armhf-ubuntu.xml, we will modify this file to fit our needs.

We begin by adding the Linux kernel package to the XML image description in the pkg-list node:


<pkg-list>
...
	<pkg>linux-image-5.10-rpi</pkg>
...
</pkg-list>

We also have to add the Device Tree to the boot/ directory because the Linux kernel package installs all the Device Trees into the /usr/lib directory.

This change is part of the rootfs modifications, therefore it is described under the finetuning XML node. We also rename the kernel image to kernel.img:


<finetuning>
...
	<cp path="/usr/lib/linux-image-5.10-rpi/bcm2710-rpi-3-b.dtb">/boot/bcm2710-rpi-3-b.dtb</cp>
	<cp path="/usr/lib/linux-image-5.10-rpi/overlays">/boot/overlays</cp>
	<mv path="/boot/vmlinuz-5.10-rpi">/boot/kernel.img</mv>
...
</finetuning>

We want to use an SD card on our Raspberry Pi, so we have to describe the partitioning of our image. For this purpose, we add the images and the fstab XML nodes to the target XML node:


<target>
...
	<images>
		<msdoshd>
			<name>sdcard.img</name>
			<size>1500MiB</size>
				<partition>
					<size>50MiB</size>
					<label>boot</label>
					<bootable/>
				</partition>
				<partition>
					<size>remain</size>
					<label>rfs</label>
				</partition>
		</msdoshd>
	</images>
	<fstab>
		<bylabel>
			<label>rfs</label>
			<mountpoint>/</mountpoint>
			<fs>
				<type>ext2</type>
			</fs>
		</bylabel>
		<bylabel>
			<label>boot</label>
			<mountpoint>/boot</mountpoint>
			<fs>
				<type>vfat</type>
			</fs>
		</bylabel>
	</fstab>
...
</target>

The Raspberry Pi board also needs firmware binaries and configurations file to boot properly. We will use the overlay directory to add these Raspberry firmware files to the image:

$ mkdir -p overlay/boot
$ cd overlay/boot
$ wget https://github.com/raspberrypi/firmware/raw/1.20210201/boot/bootcode.bin
$ wget https://github.com/raspberrypi/firmware/raw/1.20210201/boot/start.elf
$ wget https://github.com/raspberrypi/firmware/raw/1.20210201/boot/fixup.dat
$ echo "console=ttyAMA0,115200 console=tty1 root=/dev/mmcblk0p2 rootwait" > cmdline.txt
$ echo "dtoverlay=miniuart-bt" > config.txt

ELBE stores the overlay uuencoded in the XML file using the chg_archive command:

$ elbe chg_archive examples/armhf-ubuntu.xml overlay

The archive node got created in the XML file.

To tell ELBE that the XML file has changed, you need to send it to the initvm:

$ elbe control set_xml $PRJ examples/armhf-ubuntu.xml

Then build the image with ELBE:

$ elbe control build $PRJ
$ elbe control wait_busy $PRJ

Finally, if the build completes successfully, you can retrieve the image file from the initvm:

$ elbe control get_files $PRJ
$ elbe control get_file $PRJ sdcard.img.tar.gz

Now you can flash the SD card image:

$ tar xf sdcard.img.tar.gz
$ dd if=sdcard.img of=/dev/sdX bs=1M

And boot the board with root and foo as login and password:

Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS myUbuntu ttyAMA0

myUbuntu login: root
Password: 
Welcome to Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS (GNU/Linux 5.10-rpi armv7l)

 * Documentation:  https://help.ubuntu.com
 * Management:     https://landscape.canonical.com
 * Support:        https://ubuntu.com/advantage

The programs included with the Ubuntu system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Ubuntu comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by
applicable law.

root@myUbuntu:~# 

Note: Ubuntu cannot be built for Raspberry A, B, B+, 0 and 0W according to https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ARM/RaspberryPi, as Ubuntu targets the ARMv7-A architecture, while the older RaspberryPi use an ARMv6 processor.

Further details

LTP: Linux Test Project, Bootlin contributions

Introduction

The Linux Test Project is a project that develops and maintains a large test suite that helps validating the reliability, robustness and stability of the Linux kernel and related features. LTP has been mainly developed by companies such as IBM, Cisco, Fujitsu, SUSE, RedHat, with a focus on desktop distributions.

On the embedded side, both the openembedded-core Yocto layer and Buildroot have packages that allow to use LTP on embedded targets. However, for a recent project, we practically tried to run the full LTP test suite on an i.MX8 based platform running a Linux system built with Yocto. It turned out that LTP was apparently not very often tested on Busybox-based embedded systems, and we faced a number of issues. In addition to reporting various bugs/issues to the upstream LTP project, we also contributed a number of fixes and improvements:

Our contributions received a very warm welcome in the LTP community, which turned out to be very open and responsive. We hope that these contributions will encourage others to use LTP, and hopefully to make sure it continues to work on embedded platforms.

Quick start guide

At the time of this writing, LTP has more than 3800 tests written by the community, including about 1000 network-related tests. The tests are grouped together in categories described by files in the runtest/ folder. Based on this, two scenarios of tests are defined: default and network which are described by two files in the scenario_groups/ folder. These two scenarios simply list the categories of tests that need to be executed.

Here are the contents of the default and network:

$ cat scenario_groups/default 
syscalls
fs
fs_perms_simple
fsx
dio
io
mm
ipc
sched
math
nptl
pty
containers
fs_bind
controllers
filecaps
cap_bounds
fcntl-locktests
connectors
power_management_tests
hugetlb
commands
hyperthreading
can
cpuhotplug
net.ipv6_lib
input
cve
crypto
kernel_misc
uevent
$ cat scenario_groups/network 
can
net.features
net.ipv6
net.ipv6_lib
net.tcp_cmds
net.multicast
net.rpc
net.nfs
net.rpc_tests
net.tirpc_tests
net.sctp
net_stress.appl
net_stress.broken_ip
net_stress.interface
net_stress.ipsec_dccp
net_stress.ipsec_icmp
net_stress.ipsec_sctp
net_stress.ipsec_tcp
net_stress.ipsec_udp
net_stress.multicast
net_stress.route

Once you have LTP built and installed on your board thanks to the appropriate OpenEmbedded or Buildroot package, you can run these two scenarios of test with the following commands (-n specify the network one):

$ cd /opt/ltp
$ ./runltp
$ ./runltp -n

Then take a look at the content of the result and the output directories.

For more information on building or running LTP please read this readme.

Bootlin welcomes Hervé Codina in its team

Welcome on board!Since March 1st, 2021, we’re happy to have an additional engineer, Hervé Codina, in our engineering team based in Toulouse, France.

Hervé has 20 years’ experience working in embedded systems, both bare-metal systems and embedded Linux systems, in a wide range of applications. Hervé has experience working with U-Boot, Barebox, Linux, Buildroot, Yocto, on ARM platforms from various silicon vendors. Hervé will work within our engineering team to deliver ready-to-use Linux Board Support Packages, port bootloaders and the Linux kernel to new platforms, develop Linux kernel device drivers, implement custom Linux systems with Buildroot or Yocto, and more. His 20 years experience will further increase the expertise that Bootlin provides to its worldwide customers.

See Hervé’s page on our site for more details. Hervé is joining our team in Toulouse, who already included Paul Kocialkowski, Miquèl Raynal, Köry Maincent, Maxime Chevallier, Thomas Perrot and Thomas Petazzoni.

CFP open for Live Embedded Event #2

Back in December 2020, together with Smile, Logilin and Theoris, Bootlin organized and participated to the first edition of Live Embedded Event, a new 1-day online conference focused on embedded systems topics. Following the success of this first edition, we are now organizing a second edition of Live Embedded Event, which will take place on June 3rd, 2021. Like the previous edition, this event is free.

Live Embedded Event #2

The call for papers is open, and we are looking for talk proposals on a wide range of topics:

  • Software update and provisioning
  • Network connectivity (Long range / Short range)
  • Edge Computing / ML-AI
  • Security & Safety
  • RTOS and Embedded frameworks
  • Firmware, BSP and Bootloader
  • Internet Of Things / Cyber Physical Systems
  • Hardware: system-on-chips, interfaces, FPGA, open hardware
  • Linux kernel
  • Build systems: Yocto, OpenWrt, Buildroot
  • Development process, methods and tools
  • Embedded Linux
  • Real time

Two talk formats are proposed: 45 minutes talk + 15 minutes of questions, or 25 minutes talk + 5 minutes of questions. If you want to get a feeling of the talks that were accepted for the first edition, look at the Youtube channel of the event.

We look forward to your proposals for Live Embedded Event #2, and of course, to your participation!