Using the U-Boot Extension Board Manager – BeagleBone Boards Example

This article follows two earlier blog posts about Device Tree overlays:

Introduction

As explained in the first two blog posts, the BeagleBone boards are supported by a wide number of extension boards, called capes.

When such a cape is plugged in, the description of the devices connected to the board should be updated accordingly. As the available hardware is described by a Device Tree, the added devices on the cape should be described using a Device Tree Overlay, as described in the first blog post.

As explained in this post too, the bootloader is today’s standard place for loading Device Tree Overlays on top of the board’s Device Tree. Once you know which capes are plugged in, you can load them in U-Boot and boot Linux as in the following example:

load mmc 0:1 0x81000000 zImage
load mmc 0:1 0x82000000 am335x-boneblack.dtb
fdt addr 0x82000000
fdt resize 8192
load mmc 0:1 0x83000000 overlays/BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo
fdt apply 0x83000000
bootz 0x81000000 - 0x82000000

This mechanism works fine, but every time you plug in a different cape, you have to tweak this sequence of commands to load the right overlay (the .dtbo file). This would be great if each cape could be detected automatically and so could be the corresponding overlays.

Actually, all this is possible and already supported in mainline U-Boot starting from version 2021.07. That’s what this article is about.

BeagleBone Black with multiple capes - Relay Cape on top.
BeagleBone Black with multiple capes – We want to detect them automatically!

Accessing cape information

Each cape has to contain an I2C EEPROM describing itself, according to the Cape EEPROM Contents specification.

To identify which capes are plugged in, all you have to do is read the connected EEPROMs. You can test by yourself by booting a BeagleBone with a Debian image, and dumping the EEPROM contents as in the following example:

hexdump -C /sys/bus/i2c/devices/2-0054/eeprom 
00000000  aa 55 33 ee 41 31 52 65  6c 61 79 20 43 61 70 65  |.U3.A1Relay Cape|
00000010  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00000020  00 00 00 00 00 00 30 30  41 32 42 65 61 67 6c 65  |......00A2Beagle|
00000030  42 6f 61 72 64 2e 6f 72  67 00 42 42 4f 52 47 5f  |Board.org.BBORG_|
00000040  52 45 4c 41 59 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 47 48 49 31  |RELAY.......GHI1|
00000050  38 32 37 30 34 37 32 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |8270472.........|
00000060  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
...

Of course, the above kind of command only works if the corresponding Device Tree Overlays are loaded. Otherwise, the Linux kernel won’t know that the I2C EEPROMs are available.

The U-Boot extension manager

In the latest Debian images proposed by BeagleBoard.org at the time of this writing, there is already a mechanism to detect the plugged capes based on the information on their I2C EEPROM. However, that was a custom mechanism, and BeagleBoard.org contracted Bootlin to implement a more generic mechanism in the official version of U-Boot.

This generic mechanism was implemented by my colleague Köry Maincent and added to U-Boot (since version 2021.07) by this commit.

Let’s test this mechanism by building and booting our own image. The following instructions apply to the BeagleBone Black board.

SD card preparation

Using cfdisk or a similar tool, prepare a micro-SD card with at least one partition which you mark as “Bootable”. Then format it with the FAT32 filesystem:

sudo mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n boot /dev/mmcblk0p1

Now, remove and plug the micro-SD card back in again. It should automatically be mounted on /media/$USER/boot.

Compiling U-Boot

We first need to install a cross-compiling toolchain if you don’t have one yet. Here’s how to do this on Ubuntu:

sudo apt install gcc-arm-linux-gnueabihf
export CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf-

Now, let’s use the latest version of U-Boot at the time of this writing.

git clone git://git.denx.de/u-boot.git
cd u-boot
git checkout v2022.04
make am335x_evm_defconfig
make menuconfig

In the configuration interface, add the new extension command by setting CONFIG_CMD_EXTENSION=y. You can then compile U-Boot:

make
cp MLO u-boot.img /media/mike/boot

Compiling Linux and Device Tree Overlays

Now, let’s compile the latest 5.10 Linux kernel supported by BeagleBoard.org.

First, download the root filesystem (generated by Buildroot, with this configuration file) which we will include in the Linux kernel as an initramfs.

Then, let’s get the kernel sources and configure them:

git clone https://github.com/beagleboard/linux.git
cd linux
git checkout 5.10.100-ti-r40
export CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf-
export ARCH=arm
make omap2plus_defconfig
make menuconfig

In the configuration interface, enable compiling the Device Tree Overlays with CONFIG_OF_OVERLAY=y. Also set CONFIG_INITRAMFS_SOURCE="../rootfs.cpio". You can now compile the kernel and the Device Trees, and deploy them to the micro-SD card:

make
cp arch/arm/boot/zImage /media/$USER/boot/
cp arch/arm/boot/dts/am335x-boneblack.dtb /media/$USER/boot/
mkdir /media/$USER/boot/overlays
cp arch/arm/boot/dts/overlays/*.dtbo /media/$USER/boot/overlays/
sudo umount /media/$USER/boot

Configuring U-Boot and using the “extension” command

Now insert the micro-SD card in the BeagleBone Black. Connect the capes that you own. Then power on the board while holding the USR button (close to the USB host port).

On the serial line, you should see U-Boot 2022.04 starting. Interrupt the countdown by pressing any key, to access the U-Boot prompt:

U-Boot SPL 2022.04 (Apr 06 2022 - 15:04:53 +0200)
Trying to boot from MMC1


U-Boot 2022.04 (Apr 06 2022 - 15:04:53 +0200)

CPU  : AM335X-GP rev 2.1
Model: TI AM335x BeagleBone Black
DRAM:  512 MiB
Core:  150 devices, 14 uclasses, devicetree: separate
WDT:   Started wdt@44e35000 with servicing (60s timeout)
NAND:  0 MiB
MMC:   OMAP SD/MMC: 0, OMAP SD/MMC: 1
Loading Environment from FAT... Unable to read "uboot.env" from mmc0:1... 
 not set. Validating first E-fuse MAC
Net:   eth2: ethernet@4a100000, eth3: usb_ether
Hit any key to stop autoboot:  0 
=> 

Let’s try the extension manager now. First, we load the kernel image and Device Tree Binary (DTB) for the board:

=> fatload mmc 0:1 0x81000000 zImage
6219488 bytes read in 408 ms (14.5 MiB/s)
=> fatload mmc 0:1 0x82000000 am335x-boneblack.dtb
64939 bytes read in 10 ms (6.2 MiB/s)

Then, we set the RAM address where each Device Tree Overlay will be loaded:

=> setenv extension_overlay_addr 0x88080000

And define the command to load the overlays:

setenv extension_overlay_cmd 'echo loading ${extension_overlay_name}; fatload mmc 0:1 ${extension_overlay_addr} overlays/${extension_overlay_name}'
saveenv

Then, let U-Boot know where the DTB was loaded:

fdt addr 0x82000000

You can then scan for extension boards:

=> extension scan
BeagleBone Cape: Relay Cape (0x54)
BeagleBone Cape: BB-CAPE-DISP-CT43 (0x55)
BeagleBone Cape: Industrial Comms Cape (0x56)
Found 3 extension board(s).

Optionally, you can get a full listing after extension scan:

=> extension list
Extension 0: Relay Cape
	Manufacturer: 		BeagleBoard.org
	Version: 		00A2
	Devicetree overlay: 	BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo
	Other information: 	
Extension 1: BB-CAPE-DISP-CT43
	Manufacturer: 		Embest
	Version: 		00A0
	Devicetree overlay: 	BB-CAPE-DISP-CT4-00A0.dtbo
	Other information: 	
Extension 2: Industrial Comms Cape
	Manufacturer: 		BeagleBoard.org
	Version: 		00A2
	Devicetree overlay: 	BBORG_COMMS-00A2.dtbo
	Other information: 	

Taking the relay cape as an example, you can see that the name of the Device Tree overlay was derived from the description in its EEPROM, which we dumped earlier.

Now, everything’s ready to load the overlay for the first cape (number 0):

=> extension apply 0                                                                                                                                  
loading BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo
1716 bytes read in 5 ms (335 KiB/s)

Or for all capes:

=> extension apply all
loading BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo
1716 bytes read in 5 ms (335 KiB/s)
loading BB-CAPE-DISP-CT4-00A0.dtbo
5372 bytes read in 5 ms (1 MiB/s)
loading BBORG_COMMS-00A2.dtbo
1492 bytes read in 4 ms (364.3 KiB/s)

We are now ready to set a generic command that will automatically load all the overlays for the supported capes, whatever they are, and then boot the Linux kernel:

setenv bootargs console==ttyS0,115200n8
setenv bootcmd 'fatload mmc 0:1 0x81000000 zImage; fatload mmc 0:1 0x82000000 am335x-boneblack.dtb; fdt addr 0x82000000; extension scan; extension apply all; bootz 0x81000000 - 0x82000000'
saveenv

Reboot your board and you should see:

6228224 bytes read in 526 ms (11.3 MiB/s)
93357 bytes read in 10 ms (8.9 MiB/s)
BeagleBone Cape: Relay Cape (0x54)
BeagleBone Cape: BB-CAPE-DISP-CT43 (0x55)
BeagleBone Cape: Industrial Comms Cape (0x56)
Found 3 extension board(s).
loading BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo
1716 bytes read in 5 ms (335 KiB/s)
loading BB-CAPE-DISP-CT4-00A0.dtbo
5372 bytes read in 5 ms (1 MiB/s)
loading BBORG_COMMS-00A2.dtbo
1492 bytes read in 4 ms (364.3 KiB/s)
Kernel image @ 0x81000000 [ 0x000000 - 0x5f0900 ]
## Flattened Device Tree blob at 82000000
   Booting using the fdt blob at 0x82000000
   Loading Device Tree to 8ffe4000, end 8fffffff ... OK

Starting kernel ...

[    0.000000] Booting Linux on physical CPU 0x0
[    0.000000] Linux version 5.10.100 (mike@mike-laptop) (arm-linux-gnueabihf-gcc (Ubuntu 9.4.0-1ubuntu1~20.04.1) 9.4.0, GNU ld (GNU Binutils for Ubuntu) 2.34) #8 SMP Wed Apr 6 16:25:24 CEST 2022
...

To double check that the overlays were taken into account, you can log in a the root user (no password) and type this command:

# ls  /proc/device-tree/chosen/overlays/
BB-CAPE-DISP-CT4-00A0.kernel  BBORG_RELAY-00A2.kernel
BBORG_COMMS-00A2.kernel       name

Note: all the files used here, including the resulting U-Boot environment file, are available in this archive. All you have to do is extract the archive in a FAT partition with the bootable flag, and then you’ll be ready to boot your board with it, without any manipulation to perform in U-Boot.

How to add support for a new board

To prove that the new extension board manager in U-Boot was generic, Köry Maincent used it to support three different types of boards:

  • BeagleBone boards based on the AM3358 SoC from TI
  • The BeagleBone AI board, based on the AM5729 SoC from TI
  • The CHIP computer, based on the Allwinner R8 CPU, and its DIP extension boards.

To support a new board and its extension boards, the main thing to implement is the extension_board_scan() function for your board.

A good example to check is this commit from Köry which introduced cape detection capabilities for the TI CPUs and this second commit that enabled the mechanism on AM57xx (BeagleBone AI). A good ideas is also to check the latest version of board/ti/common/cape_detect.c in U-Boot’s sources.

Summary

The U-Boot Extension Board Manager is a feature in U-Boot which allows to automatically detect extension boards, provided the hardware makes such a detection possible, and automatically load and apply the corresponding Device Tree overlays. It was contributed by Köry Maincent from Bootlin, thanks to funding from BeagleBoard.org.

At the time of this writing, this functionality is supported on the BeagleBone boards (AM335x and AM57xx), on the CHIP computer (Allwinner R8), and since more recently, on Compulab’s IOT-GATE-iMX8 gateways.

With the combination of this blog post and the former two (see the links at the beginning), it should be clear how a specification can be written to use a combination of Device Tree symbols, Udev rules and extension board identifiers to make expansion header hardware “just work” when plugged in to various boards with compatible headers. BeagleBoard.org would be proud if our example inspired other community board maintainers.

References

Bootlin would like to thank BeagleBoard.org for funding the development and deployment of this infrastructure in mainline U-Boot, and the creation of these three blog posts on Device Tree overlays.

Device Tree: Supporting Similar Boards – The BeagleBone Example

This article is also available on the BeagleBoard.org blog.

Most of the BeagleBone boards from BeagleBoard.org share the same form factor, have the same headers and therefore can accept the same extension boards, also known as capes in the BeagleBoard world.

Of course, a careful PCB design was necessary to make this possible.

This must have been relatively easy with the early models (BeagleBone Black, Black Wireless, Green, Green Wireless, Black Industrial and Enhanced) which are based on the same Sitara AM3358 System on Chip (SoC) from Texas Instruments. However, the more recent creation of the BeagleBone AI board and keeping compatibility with existing capes must have been a little more complicated, as this board is based on a completely different SoC from Texas Instruments, the Sitara AM5729.

BeagleBone AI board
BeagleBone AI

BeagleBone Green board
BeagleBone Green

BeagleBone Black board
BeagleBone Black


Once the PCB design challenge was completed, the BeagleBoard.org crew set itself another challenge: implement software that supports each BeagleBone cape in the same way, whatever the board, in particular:

  • To have unique identifiers for devices in Linux, so that there is a stable name for Linux devices, even if at the hardware level they are connected differently, depending on whether the base board has a Sitara AM3358 and Sitara AM5729 SoC.
  • To have DT overlays for capes that are applicable to all base boards, even if peripherals are connected to different buses of the SoCs.

This article will explore the software solutions implemented by BeagleBoard.org. Their ideas can of course be reused by other projects with similar needs.

The need for a cape standard

A good summary can be found on Deepak Khatri’s Google Summer of Code 2020 page:

The idea of this project was to make the same user space examples work with both BeagleBone Black and BeagleBone AI, using the same references to drivers for peripherals assigned to the same pins between BeagleBone Black and BeagleBone AI. Also, Same DT overlays should work (whenever possible) for both BBB and BBAI, with updated U-Boot cape manager DT overlays will be automatically loaded during boot.

Software setup

The below instructions are for people owning the BeagleBone AI board and any other BeagleBone board, and interested in exploring the devices on their boards by themselves.

First, get the latest console images from https://beagleboard.org/latest-images:

Uncompress each image, insert a micro-SD card in the card read in your PC, and then flash the corresponding card. Here are example commands, assuming that the micro-SD card is represented by the /dev/mmcblk0 device:

unxz bone-debian-10.3-console-armhf-2020-04-06-1gb.img.xz
sudo dd if=bone-debian-10.3-console-armhf-2020-04-06-1gb.img.xz of=/dev/mmcblk0 status=progress

Connect the serial line of each board to your computer and then boot each board with it:

  • For BeagleBone AI: its sufficient to have the micro-SD card inserted.
  • On other BeagleBone boards, you may need to hold a button when you power up the board, to make it boot from the micro-SD card instead of from the internal eMMC. On the BeagleBone Black boards, for examples, that’s the USER button next to the USB host port. Note that you won’t need to do this again when you reset the board. The board will continue to boot from the external micro-SD card until it’s powered off.

You can connect with the default user, or connect as user root with password root.

Then, connect each board to the Internet, and get the latest package updates:

sudo apt update
sudo apt dist-upgrade

It’s then time to upgrade the kernel to the latest version supported by BeagleBoard. To do so, you’ll have to manually update the /opt/scripts/tools/update_kernel.sh file. In this file, go to the # parse commandline options section and add the below lines:

        --lts-5_10-kernel|--lts-5_10)
                kernel="LTS510"
                ;;

You can can then upgrade to the latest 5.10 kernel:

sudo /opt/scripts/tools/update_kernel.sh --ti-channel --lts-5_10

Reboot your board and with the uname -r command, check that you are now running Linux 5.10.

Unifying hardware on AM5729 and AM3358

Let’s start by comparing I2C buses.

Available I2C buses

The BeagleBone 101 document has the original P9 and P8 headers specification for I2C for the BeagleBone Black:

BeagleBone Black P9 and P8 connectors for I2C
BeagleBone Black P9 and P8 connectors for I2C

This is confirmed by the BeagleBone Black System Reference Manual. Now, let’s check the BeagleBone AI Reference Manual, which confirms that I2C buses are available at the same P9 connector pins:

BeagleBone Black BeagleBone AI SCL SDA
I2C1 I2C5 P9_17 P9_18
I2C2 I2C4 P9_19 P9_20
I2C2 N/A P9_21 P9_22
I2C1 I2C3 P9_24 P9_26

Note that on the BeagleBone Black, I2C1 and I2C2 are available at two different locations.

So, for both types of boards, we have at least I2C buses on P9_17/18, P9_19/20 and P9_24/26. However, that’s complicated because these pins don’t correspond to the same I2C buses. Therefore, users have to know that P9_19/20 correspond to I2C2 on BeagleBone Black and to I2C4 on BeagleBone AI.

The devices in /dev/ reflect such differences.

Here’s what we have on the BeagleBone AI:

root@beaglebone:~# ls -la /dev/i2c-*
crw------- 1 root root 89, 0 Mar 23 15:00 /dev/i2c-0
crw------- 1 root root 89, 3 Mar 23 15:00 /dev/i2c-3

Note that here with the AM5729 SoC, the first I2C bus is I2C1. Hence, /dev/i2c-0 corresponds to I2C1 (which is another I2C bus available on the SoC but not available through the cape headers) and /dev/i2c-3 corresponds to I2C4. Also note that I2C5 is not exposed in the default configuration that we have here, most probably because the corresponding header pins are used for other purposes.

And now let’s look at what we have on the BeagleBone Black:

root@beaglebone:~# ls -la /dev/i2c-*
crw------- 1 root root 89, 0 Mar 23 16:16 /dev/i2c-0
crw------- 1 root root 89, 1 Mar 23 16:17 /dev/i2c-1
crw------- 1 root root 89, 2 Mar 23 16:17 /dev/i2c-2

Here with the AM3358 SoC, /dev/i2c-0 corresponds to I2C0, /dev/ic2-1 to I2C1 and /dev/ic2-2 to I2C2.

So, on a running system, how to know which I2C bus device corresponds to the P9_19/20 header pins?

Unified access to I2C pins

The I2C section of the BeagleBone Cape Interface Specification, attempts to define equivalent /dev/bone/i2c/[i] bus device symbolic links across the supported CPUs, which correspond to the same cape header pins.

Such symbolic links are specified through the Device Tree description of such buses.

First, let’s have a look at the Device Tree for the BeagleBone AI (arch/arm/boot/dts/am5729-beagleboneai.dts):

&i2c4 {
	status = "okay";
	clock-frequency = <100000>;
	symlink = "bone/i2c/2";
};

Let’s have a look at the corresponding Device Tree for the AM3358 based BeagleBone boards: (arch/arm/boot/dts/am335x-bone-common-univ.dtsi):

&i2c2 {
	status = "okay";
	pinctrl-names = "default";
	pinctrl-0 = <>;

	clock-frequency = <100000>;
	symlink = "bone/i2c/2";
};

You can see that both devices, though they correspond to different devices, share the same symlink property, which is used to create a symbolic link in /dev/bone/i2c/ to the actual bus device file.

Let’s see such symbolic links on the BeagleBone AI:

root@beaglebone:~# ls -la /dev/bone/i2c/
total 0
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 80 Jan  1  2000 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 80 Jan  1  2000 ..
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 11 Mar 23 15:00 0 -> ../../i2c-0
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 11 Mar 23 15:00 2 -> ../../i2c-3

And on the BeagleBone Black:

root@beaglebone:~# ls -la /dev/bone/i2c/
total 0
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 100 Mar 23 16:16 .
drwxr-xr-x 5 root root 100 Mar 23 16:16 ..
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root  11 Mar 23 16:16 0 -> ../../i2c-0
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root  11 Mar 23 16:17 1 -> ../../i2c-1
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root  11 Mar 23 16:17 2 -> ../../i2c-2

You can see that at least /dev/bone/i2c/0 and /dev/bone/i2c/2 are shared between both types of boards. Userspace code examples can then support different boards by referring to such device file links, for example by using the I2C tools commands.

The symbolic links are created from the Device Tree sources not by the Linux kernel, but by the udev device manager, thanks to the following rule found in /etc/udev/rules.d/10-of-symlink.rules in the BeagleBoard Debian distribution:

# allow declaring a symlink for a device in DT

ATTR{device/of_node/symlink}!="", \
        ENV{OF_SYMLINK}="%s{device/of_node/symlink}"

ENV{OF_SYMLINK}!="", ENV{DEVNAME}!="", \
        SYMLINK+="%E{OF_SYMLINK}", \
        TAG+="systemd", ENV{SYSTEMD_ALIAS}+="/dev/%E{OF_SYMLINK}"

Accessing other devices

Other devices are available in the same way through symbolic links in /dev/bone/, for example UART (serial port) devices.

Let’s check on the BeagleBone AI (run sudo apt install tree first):

root@beaglebone:~# tree /dev/bone/
/dev/bone/
├── i2c
│   ├── 0 -> ../../i2c-0
│   └── 2 -> ../../i2c-3
└── uart
    └── 0 -> ../../ttyS0

2 directories, 3 files

On the BeagleBone Black:

root@beaglebone:~# tree /dev/bone/
/dev/bone/
├── i2c
│   ├── 0 -> ../../i2c-0
│   ├── 1 -> ../../i2c-1
│   └── 2 -> ../../i2c-2
├── spi
│   ├── 0.0 -> ../../spidev0.0
│   ├── 0.1 -> ../../spidev0.1
│   ├── 1.0 -> ../../spidev1.0
│   └── 1.1 -> ../../spidev1.1
└── uart
    ├── 0 -> ../../ttyS0
    ├── 1 -> ../../ttyS1
    ├── 2 -> ../../ttyS2
    ├── 3 -> ../../ttyS3
    ├── 4 -> ../../ttyS4
    └── 5 -> ../../ttyS5

3 directories, 13 files

Accessing header pins

Another challenge is with userspace software examples directly refer to header pins by their names. Here is a BoneScript push button demo, for example:

var b = require('bonescript');
b.pinMode('P8_19', b.INPUT);
b.pinMode('P8_13', b.OUTPUT);
setInterval(check,100);

function check(){
b.digitalRead('P8_19', checkButton);
}

function checkButton(x) {
  if(x.value == 1){
    b.digitalWrite('P8_13', b.HIGH);
  }
  else{
    b.digitalWrite('P8_13', b.LOW);
  }
}                

For AM3358 BeagleBone boards, the am335x-bone-common-univ.dtsi file already associates the P8_19 name to a specific GPIO:

P8_19 {
	gpio-name = "P8_19";
	gpio = <&gpio0 22 0>;
	input;
	dir-changeable;
};

Such definitions are processed by the drivers/gpio/gpio-of-helper.c driver.

However, this driver is specific to the BeagleBoard.org kernel, and the Device Tree for Beagle Bone AI doesn’t use it yet, so this aspect is still work in progress. The main goal remains though: define generic names for header pins, which map to specific GPIOs on different boards.

Universal Device Tree Overlays for Capes

Another challenge is to implement Device Tree Overlays for BeagleBone capes.

The goal as stated in the beginning is to use the same Device Tree overlays on both types of SoCs. While as of today it doesn’t seem possible to generate compiled Device Tree Overlays (DTBO) which would support both SoCs at the same time, the BeagleBoard.org engineers have come up with a solution to achieve this at source level. This means that, for each cape to support, the Device Tree Overlay binaries for the supported SoCs can be produced from a unique source file.

While this hasn’t been deployed yet in the 5.10 BeagleBoard kernel, such source code is already available in Deepak Khatri’s own tree.

For example this CAN1 overlay (BONE-CAN1.dts):

/*
 * Copyright (C) 2020 Deepak Khatri 
 *
 * Virtual cape for /dev/bone/can/1
 *
 * This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
 * it under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 as
 * published by the Free Software Foundation.
 */

/dts-v1/;
/plugin/;

/*
* Helper to show loaded overlays under: /proc/device-tree/chosen/overlays/
*/
&{/chosen} {
    overlays {
        BONE-CAN1 = __TIMESTAMP__;
    };
};

/*
 * Update the default pinmux of the pins.
 * See these files for the phandles (&P9_* & &P8_*)
 * https://github.com/lorforlinux/BeagleBoard-DeviceTrees/blob/compatibility/src/arm/am335x-bone-common-univ.dtsi
 * https://github.com/lorforlinux/BeagleBoard-DeviceTrees/blob/compatibility/src/arm/am572x-bone-common-univ.dtsi
 */
&ocp {
    P9_24_pinmux { pinctrl-0 = <&P9_24_can_pin>;};  /* can rx */
    P9_26_pinmux { pinctrl-0 = <&P9_26_can_pin>;};  /* can tx */
};

/*
 * See these files for the phandles (&bone_*) and other bone bus nodes
 * https://github.com/lorforlinux/BeagleBoard-DeviceTrees/blob/compatibility/src/arm/bbai-bone-buses.dtsi
 * https://github.com/lorforlinux/BeagleBoard-DeviceTrees/blob/compatibility/src/arm/bbb-bone-buses.dtsi
 */
&bone_can_1 {
    status = "okay";
};

The &ocp code applies the pin muxing definitions for CAN on P9_24 (&P9_24_can_pin) and P9_26 (&P9_26_can_pin), which of course are different on AM3358 and AM5729.

Here are these definitions for AM3358 (am335x-bone-common-univ.dtsi):

P9_24_can_pin: pinmux_P9_24_can_pin { pinctrl-single,pins = <
       AM33XX_IOPAD(0x0984, PIN_INPUT_PULLUP | MUX_MODE2) >; };		/* uart1_txd.dcan1_rx */
...
P9_26_can_pin: pinmux_P9_26_can_pin { pinctrl-single,pins = <
       AM33XX_IOPAD(0x0980, PIN_OUTPUT_PULLUP | MUX_MODE2) >; };	/* uart1_rxd.dcan1_tx */

And those for AM5729 (am572x-bone-common-univ.dtsi):

P9_24_can_pin: pinmux_P9_24_can_pin { pinctrl-single,pins = <
        DRA7XX_CORE_IOPAD(0x368C, PIN_INPUT_PULLUP | MUX_MODE2) >; };	/* gpio6_15.dcan2_rx  */
...
P9_26_can_pin: pinmux_P9_26_can_pin { pinctrl-single,pins = <
	DRA7XX_CORE_IOPAD(0x3688, PIN_OUTPUT_PULLUP | MUX_MODE2) >; };	/* gpio6_14.dcan2_tx */

You can see that using a generic Device Tree phandle (&ref), you can use a definition which value depends on the Device Tree includes for each board.

The same idea was applied in enabling (status = "okay";) the CAN1 bus (&bone_can_1).

On AM3358, it is defined as (bbb-bone-buses.dtsi):

bone_can_1: &dcan1 {

};

And on AM5729, its definition is (bbai-bone-buses.dtsi):

bone_can_1: &dcan2 {

};

Conclusion

By adding a symlink property to the Device Tree sources, BeagleBoard.org has made it possible to make userspace code, in particular its code examples, support all the BeagleBone boards at the same time, even though the devices they drive have are numbered differently on different SoCs.

Such a technique may be reused by other projects interested in running the same software on boards based on different SoCs.

As far as GPIOs are concerned, the drivers/gpio/gpio-of-helper.c driver is specific to the BeagleBoard.org kernel and is unlikely to be accepted in the mainline kernel in its current state. However, there are other solutions, supported by the mainline kernel, to associate names to GPIOs and then to look up such GPIOs by name through libgpiod.

Last but not least, it’s possible to use the same Device Tree Overlay source code to support an extension board on similar boards, just by using common definitions having different values on each different platform. Any project can reuse this idea, which just uses standard Device Tree syntax.

References

Bootlin thanks BeagleBoard.org for funding the creation of this blog post. Note that another post is coming in the next weeks, about the extension board manager we added to U-Boot thanks to funding from BeagleBoard.org.

Using Device Tree Overlays, example on BeagleBone boards

This article is also available on the BeagleBoard.org blog.

The concept of Device Tree overlays

The Device Tree language is a way to describe hardware that is present in a system and cannot be automatically detected. That’s the case of devices directly implemented on a System on a Chip, such as serial ports, Ethernet or Nand flash controllers. That’s also the case of devices connected to a number of buses, such as I2C and SPI, that do not provide mechanisms for dynamic enumeration and identification of devices.

For a given CPU architecture (ARM, PowerPC, etc), such a description allows to have a unique kernel supporting many different systems with distinct Systems on a Chip. The compiled Device Tree (DTB: Device Tree Binary), passed to the kernel by the bootloader at boot time, lets the kernel know which SoC and devices to initialize. Therefore, when you create a new board, and want to use a standard GNU/Linux distribution on it, all you have to do is create a new Device Tree describing your new hardware, compile it, and boot the distribution’s kernel with it. You don’t need to recompile that kernel, at least when it supports your SoC and the devices on your board.

Device Tree Source (DTS) files are normally distributed by kernel developers inside the Linux sources, for example in arch/arm/boot/dts/am335x-boneblack.dts for the BeagleBone Black board.

Kernel developers and board maintainers are not the only ones who may need to make changes to the board device trees, though. Normal users also have legitimate reasons for tweaking the device tree of their board, such as:

  • Declaring external devices connected to board connectors. The simplest example is an I2C temperature sensor, but this can also include entire expansion boards plugged into the main board.
  • Changing the hardware blocks that are exposed on the external pins of their System on Chip. This is called Pin Multiplexing, and the Device Tree is the place where such multiplexing is configured.
  • Modifying operating system related properties, such as the Linux kernel command line or flash partitions.

In you have such a need, a first way to do this would be to directly modify the Device Tree for your hardware in the kernel sources, and recompile it. However, this is a rather bad idea because it will make it more difficult to upgrade to a later version of the kernel, possibly featuring changes to the Device Tree file you modified too. It’s always better not to tweak files maintained by others, and find a way to override them instead.

A second possibility to tweak the Device Tree for a board is to include it from a custom Device Tree for your own use case, using the /include/ statement from the Device Tree language, or #include and the C preprocessor. You can then use references to nodes in the original tree, using labels, and then modify the properties of such nodes or add new subnodes to them. It’s even possible to remove existing nodes and properties by using the /delete-node/ and /delete-property/ statements, as shown in the Device Tree Source Undocumented page.

However, this is still an inconvenient solution. Any time you plug in a new device or an expansion board, or want to tweak other settings, you have to rebuild and update the full Device Tree for your board. What if you could prepare Device Tree fragments for each change to make, compile them once for all, and then, when you boot your device, load the main Device Tree and only the fragments you need, without having anything else to recompile?

This is exactly what Device Tree Overlays are about. For example, in /lib/firmware, the Debian image shipped by BeagleBoard.org contains compiled Device Tree Overlays (DTBO) for the extension boards (also known as capes in the BeagleBoard world) they support, such as:

BBORG_COMMS-00A2.dtbo
BBORG_DISPLAY18-00A2.dtbo
BBORG_DISPLAY70-00A2.dtbo
BBORG_GAMEPUP-00A2.dtbo
BBORG_MOTOR-00A2.dtbo
BBORG_PROTO-00A2.dtbo
BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo
BBORG_TECHLAB-00A2.dtbo

Then, at boot time, all you have to do is load the main DTB for your board, and then override it using the DTBOs corresponding to the capes which are currently mounted. Kernel contributors have also worked on solutions to load the DTBOs dynamically in the live system, but this solution is not mature yet. Therefore, the bootloader based solution at boot time remains so far the best one.

Writing Device Tree overlays

When the Device Tree overlays were first proposed, their syntax was very special and hard to remember. Fortunately, since version 1.5, the Device Tree compiler (dtc) supports a much more natural syntax for writing such overlays. For example, here are the sources for the overlay for the Relay cape, taken from the BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dts file in BeagleBoard.org’s Linux kernel tree:

// SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0-only
/*
 * Copyright (C) 2015 Robert Nelson
 * Copyright (C) 2019 Amilcar Lucas
 */

/dts-v1/;
/plugin/;

#include <dt-bindings/gpio/gpio.h>
#include <dt-bindings/pinctrl/am33xx.h>

/*
 * Helper to show loaded overlays under: /proc/device-tree/chosen/overlays/
 */
&{/chosen} {
        overlays {
                BBORG_RELAY-00A2.kernel = __TIMESTAMP__;
        };
};

/*
 * Free up the pins used by the cape from the pinmux helpers.
 */
&ocp {
        P9_41_pinmux { status = "disabled"; };  /* P9_41: gpmc_a0.gpio0_20 */
        P9_42_pinmux { status = "disabled"; };  /* P9_42: gpmc_a1.gpio0_07 */
        P9_30_pinmux { status = "disabled"; };  /* P9_30: gpmc_be1n.gpio3_16 */
        P9_27_pinmux { status = "disabled"; };  /* P9_27: mcasp0_fsr.gpio3_19 */
};

&am33xx_pinmux {
        bb_gpio_relay_pins: pinmux_bb_gpio_relay_pins {
                pinctrl-single,pins = <
                        0x1B4 (PIN_OUTPUT_PULLDOWN | MUX_MODE7) /* P9_41: gpmc_a0.gpio0_20 */
                        0x164 (PIN_OUTPUT_PULLDOWN | MUX_MODE7) /* P9_42: gpmc_a1.gpio0_07 */
                        0x198 (PIN_OUTPUT_PULLDOWN | MUX_MODE7) /* P9_30: gpmc_be1n.gpio3_16 */
                        0x1A4 (PIN_OUTPUT_PULLDOWN | MUX_MODE7) /* P9_27: mcasp0_fsr.gpio3_19 */
                >;
        };
};

&{/} {
        leds {
                pinctrl-names = "default";
                pinctrl-0 = <&bb_gpio_relay_pins>;

                compatible = "gpio-leds";

		jp@1 {
			label = "relay-jp1";
			gpios = <&gpio0 20 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
			default-state = "keep";
		};

		jp@2 {
			label = "relay-jp2";
			gpios = <&gpio0 07 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
			default-state = "keep";
		};

		jp@3 {
			label = "relay-jp3";
			gpios = <&gpio3 16 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
			default-state = "keep";
		};

		jp@4 {
			label = "relay-jp4";
			gpios = <&gpio3 19 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
			default-state = "keep";
		};
        };
};

BeagleBoard Relay Cape for BeagleBone boards
BeagleBone Relay Cape

This example shows us what is specific to Device Tree Overlay source code, compared to the normal Device Tree syntax:

  • Before any definition, the code must include the /plugin/; statement.
  • As in normal Device Tree code, you can refer to labels (such as &am33xx_pinmux in the above example), modify their properties, add or remove nodes and properties.
  • However, you cannot modify nodes which do not have a label. In this case, you have to recall such nodes by describing their absolute path from the root device between curly braces. There are two such instances in the above code: &{/chosen} and &{/}.

Compiling Device Tree overlays

Once you have the source code of the your overlay, it is supposed to be easy to compile it with the Device Tree Compiler. This time, let’s take the example of the BBORG_FAN-A000.dts overlay for the Fan cape, slightly modified:

// SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0-only
/*
 * Copyright (C) 2020 Robert Nelson
 */

/dts-v1/;
/plugin/;

/*
 * Helper to show loaded overlays under: /proc/device-tree/chosen/overlays/
 */
&{/chosen} {
        overlays {
                BBORG_FAN-A000.kernel = "Tue Jul 14 15:30:00 1789";
        };
};

/* From dra7.dtsi opp_nom-1000000000 */
&cpu0_opp_table {
        opp_slow-500000000 {
                opp-hz = /bits/ 64 <1000000000>;
                opp-microvolt = <1060000 850000 1150000>,
                                <1060000 850000 1150000>;
                opp-supported-hw = <0xFF 0x01>;
                opp-suspend;
        };
};

This file can be compiled as follows:

$ dtc -O dtb -o BBORG_FAN-A000.dtbo BBORG_FAN-A000.dts

The only change we made to this file was to replace __TIMESTAMP__ by a real timestamp. This statement is actually a macro meant to be substituted by the C Preprocesor before compiling with dtc.

This is where real life Device Tree overlay examples are getting more difficult to compile. Very simple overlays can be compiled with the above command, but as soon as the code contains #include statements or macros to be substituted by the C preprocessor, you have to call this preprocessor and give it the path to where the corresponding .h files are found in the kernel sources.

Fortunately, the kernel Makefile knows a suitable series of commands to compile such overlay sources.

Let’s clone BeagleBoard.org’s Linux kernel source tree. It contains Device Tree Overlays for most capes that are compatible with BeagleBoarg.org’s boards, and if I understood correctly, BeagleBoard.org’s kernel developers haven’t solved all the conflicts between their definitions and recent kernels yet. So, let’s checkout their 5.10 branch:

git clone https://github.com/beagleboard/linux.git
cd linux
git branch -a
git checkout 5.10

First, let’s install a toolchain, for example the one on Ubuntu:

sudo apt install gcc-arm-linux-gnueabihf

And then let’s prepare the environment for compiling the kernel:

export ARCH=arm
export CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf-

Then, we can configure the kernel for the OMAP SoCs:

make omap2plus_defconfig

We also need to tweak the configuration for compiling the Device Trees and Overlays properly. So, run make menuconfig and set CONFIG_OF_OVERLAY=y. For the practical manipulations, you will also need to set CONFIG_LEDS_GPIO=y and CONFIG_LEDS_CLASS=y.

Device Tree Overlays are found in arch/arm/boot/dts/overlays/. You can compile them along with all normal DTBs with:

make dtbs

In case you want to recompile a specific DT overlay, for example the BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dts file:

$ touch arch/arm/boot/dts/overlays/BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dts
$ make dtbs
  DTCO    arch/arm/boot/dts/overlays/BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo

Of course, for any of this to be useful at the end, you will also need to compile the kernel:

make -j8 zImage

Applying Device Tree overlays

As we already explained, U-Boot is the place where the Device Tree Overlays should be applied. To do this, here are the commands to run in U-Boot. As an example, we’re using the BeagleBone Black and its Relay Cape as example, assuming all the files where copied to the first partition of a micro-SD card, containing a FAT filesystem:

  1. Load the DTB in RAM:
    load mmc 0:1 0x820000000 am335x-boneblack-uboot.dtb
    
  2. Let U-Boot know where the DTB was loaded:
    fdt addr 0x82000000
    
  3. Load the Device Tree Overlay in RAM:
    load mmc 0:1 0x83000000 overlays/BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo
    
  4. Allocate extra space for the DTB for future overlays, here adding 8192 bytes for example:
    fdt resize 8192
    
  5. Apply the overlay that we just loaded to the main DTB:
    fdt apply 0x83000000
    

We are then ready to load the Linux kernel and boot it. Let’s see a more complete example…

Example usage on BeagleBone Black

You can of course follow this example, but you can also test it by yourself if you own the BeagleBone Black (or similar BeagleBone boards), and its Relay Cape.

Board setup

First, connect the Relay Cape to your board. In the below example, more capes are actually stacked, the Relay Cape being on top, as its volume doesn’t allow for further capes:

BeagleBone Black with multiple capes - Relay Cape on top.

Then, take a microSD card and format its first partition with the FAT32 filesystem:

sudo mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n boot /dev/mmcblk0p1

Remove the microSD card and insert it again. It should now be mounted on /media/$USER/boot. Download an archive containing all the files you should need for the BeagleBone Black and its Relay Cape, and extract this archive in this mount point.

This archive contains U-Boot binaries for the BeagleBone Black, a DTB for the same board, Device Tree Overlays for BeagleBone capes under the overlays/ directory, and a kernel including its own root filesystem as an initramfs. This way, you don’t have to prepare another partition to hold the root filesystem. Note that the src/ subdirectory contains the Buildroot 2021.02 configuration to generate the root filesystem, as well as the Linux kernel configuration that we used.

To boot on U-Boot on the microSD card, press the USER button next to the USB host connector, when you power-up the board. Note that this is needed only once, until the board is completely switched off again. The board will continue to boot from the microSD card across reboots and resets. Make sure that the U-Boot prompt shows a 2021.07 U-Boot version.

Once in U-Boot, you can load the kernel, DTB and DTBO, apply the overlay as shown in the previous session:

load mmc 0:1 0x81000000 zImage
load mmc 0:1 0x820000000 am335x-boneblack-uboot.dtb
fdt addr 0x82000000
load mmc 0:1 0x83000000 overlays/BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dtbo
fdt resize 8192
fdt apply 0x83000000

You are now ready to boot your kernel with its updated Device Tree:

bootz 0x81000000 - 0x82000000

Then, log in with the root user and an empty password.

Checking from Linux that the overlay was applied

The first thing you can check is that the device tree overlay was indeed applied. You can do this by checking properties which are specific to the overlay, such as the one that was added to the chosen node (see the BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dts sources once again.

$ cd /proc/device-tree/chosen/overlays/
$ ls
BBORG_RELAY-00A2.kernel  name

Our overlay specific property is there, but in a more general case, look for properties under /proc/device-tree which are specific to each overlay.

Testing the Relay cape

Have a look again at BBORG_RELAY-00A2.dts file. In particular, for each relay, it declares an LED which is controlled by the same GPIO:

&{/} {
        leds {
                pinctrl-names = "default";
                pinctrl-0 = <&bb_gpio_relay_pins>;

                compatible = "gpio-leds";

		jp@1 {
			label = "relay-jp1";
			gpios = <&gpio0 20 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
			default-state = "keep";
		};

		jp@2 {
			label = "relay-jp2";
			gpios = <&gpio0 07 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
			default-state = "keep";
		};

		jp@3 {
			label = "relay-jp3";
			gpios = <&gpio3 16 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
			default-state = "keep";
		};

		jp@4 {
			label = "relay-jp4";
			gpios = <&gpio3 19 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
			default-state = "keep";
		};
        };
};

Each LED is given a label that will correspond to a directory under /sys/class/leds:

# ls /sys/class/leds/relay-*
/sys/class/leds/relay-jp1:
brightness      max_brightness  subsystem       uevent
device          power           trigger

/sys/class/leds/relay-jp2:
brightness      max_brightness  subsystem       uevent
device          power           trigger

/sys/class/leds/relay-jp3:
brightness      max_brightness  subsystem       uevent
device          power           trigger

/sys/class/leds/relay-jp4:
brightness      max_brightness  subsystem       uevent
device          power           trigger

Since the each LED and associated relay are controlled by the same GPIO, this gives us a convenient interface to control the each relay. We just have to control the corresponding LED by using its interface in /sys/class/leds.

This may not be a generic solution to control relays, but it will be easier than having to use the libgpiod library and its associated tools.

Testing a relay for real

Now, let’s try to control Relay 3.

You are ready to connect a real circuit now. When the relay is inactive, the COM (Common) and NO (Normally Open) ports should be disconnected, while COM and NC (Normally Connected) should be connected. When you write 1 to the GPIO, the relay should then connect COM and NO:

Explanation of an electrical relay
via GIFER

The high voltage and low voltage parts of a relay are supposed to be separate and insulated, but in case their was a defect on my cape, I made my tests with a simple low-voltage circuit. However, relays are meant to be used for controlling normal AC voltages (110V / 230V).

Circuit controlled by the BeagleBone Black board and its relay cape - Off mode
Initial state – Relay off

Now, turn on Relay 3 by setting a non zero brightness on the corresponding LED:

echo 1 > /sys/class/leds/relay-jp3/brightness
Circuit controlled by the BeagleBone Black board and its relay cape - Off mode
Relay on, after echo 1 > /sys/class/leds/relay-jp3/brightness

You can turn the relay back off as follows:

echo 0 > /sys/class/leds/relay-jp3/brightness

Don’t hesitate to use this cape in your home automation projects!

What to remember

Device Tree Overlays are Device Tree fragments used to customize the Device Tree of a given board, typically to describe components added externally, including entire expansion boards, or tweak pin multiplexing. That’s the mechanism used by BeagleBoard.org’s kernel developers to support the numerous expansion boards (also known as capes) compatible with their boards. All you have to do is load the main Device Tree Binary for a board (DTB), and then load and apply Device Tree Overlay Binaries (DTBO).

Bootlin thanks BeagleBoard.org for funding the creation of this blog post. Note that more posts are coming in the next weeks, one about the BeagleBone Cape Interface Specification and one about the extension board manager we added to U-Boot.

Maintaining Yocto Project Documentation

For many years, Bootlin has been a strong user and a contributor to the Yocto Project, delivering numerous customized embedded Linux distributions and Board Support Packages based on Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded to its customers, for a wide range of hardware platforms and architectures.

In 2021, we have been able to bring this engagement further, as Bootlin engineer Michael Opdenacker has been given the opportunity to work as a maintainer for Yocto Project’s documentation, thanks to funding from the Linux Foundation. Since the mourning of Scott Rifenbark, the former maintainer, in early 2020, the project was in need for someone to fill this role.

Yocto Project developers and contributors did their best in the meantime though, in particular by migrating the documentation sources from the DocBook format to reStructuredText, to generate documentation using Sphinx. This migration was also done by the Linux kernel community, as reStructuredText seems to make it easier for developers to contribute to documentation.

For Michael Opdenacker, the interest of getting back to Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded was strong: he was one of the early users, over 15 years ago, of BitBake and OpenEmbedded. Many things have changed since Michael was generating his own OPIE and GPE Palmtop Environment images for handheld devices back in 2004 and 2005.

Indeed, since that time, under the Yocto Project umbrella, BitBake and OpenEmbedded have formed what’s probably the smartest, most versatile and most powerful embedded Linux build system. This build system takes a pretty steep learning curve though, and that’s why maintaining high quality documentation was a key focus from the start.

In addition to acting as a maintainer (reviewing and merging patches from contributors, encouraging contributions, managing documentation bugs, keeping the documentation current with the evolution of the code), we have so far also managed to:

  • Create brand new documentation, thanks to studying the source code and to knowledge from core developers. In particular, we documented vulnerability (CVE) management and drafted a first description of Hash Equivalence.
  • Implement a new infrastructure to generate diagrams from SVG sources. Currently, most graphics are bitmaps and do not render well in PDF and EPUB output. The next step is to migrate all diagrams to SVG.
  • Implement styling improvements, trying to eliminate unnecessarily complex sentences and make the documents easier to read.
  • Propose a “Documentation standards” document in markdown format, together with a diagram template with reusable shapes, text boxes and clipart, so that new documentation and diagrams are created in a way that’s consistent with existing documents.
  • Find bugs and improvement opportunities, and implement some of them, thanks to testing the software and reading the code.

Here are our contributions to the project so far, as of Oct. 20, 2021:

Yocto Project is a very welcoming open-source project, in which core developers are keen to help users and contributors. This makes it a real pleasure to participate to this project, in addition to the satisfaction to contribute to the progress of Embedded Linux.

If you are interested in studying Yocto Project and Bitbake’s documentation and contributing to it, you will be most welcome! The best is to get in touch with our community through the docs mailing list or chat with us on IRC. See our mailing lists and chat page for details.

If you’re interested in using Yocto Project for your embedded Linux projects, we also recommend you to check out our Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded system development training course, and its freely available training materials. We recently announced new dates for our upcoming online training classes on the Yocto Project:

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 SoC 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