Boost Linux kernel compilation for Raspberry Pi

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I do a lot of experiments with my new RPi nowadays. It’s like in the old days, in the early of ’90s, when I’ve got my HC-91, the Romanian ZX-Spectrum clone.

There is one small difference, though: the HC-91 has been delivered with a case an ROM-stored BASIC interpretor. The RPi has no case nor a pre-installed OS, so you have to take care of both.

To compile the Linux kernel for Raspberry Pi (i.e. ARM architecture) one should accomplish at least 8 different steps:

  • fetching the (last) Linux kernel source code (git://
  • fetching the (last) RPi firmware (git://
  • configuring the kernel according with the target architecture
  • compiling the kernel and its modules
  • copying the kernel image to the boot partition
  • copying the RPi firmware to the boot partition
  • (optional) configuring the kernel boot command-line and its start-up configuration
  • last but not least, copying the RPi firmware utilities to the target /opt/ directory

If you have to do often this task then it would be better to automate those steps. Because I did that many times and because I love to create my own scripts that makes my live easier (in the future), I wrote an automation script that accomplish all these steps.

This script assumes that you have already a crossdev environment prepared so you can use your cross-arm-compiler right away:

Raspberry Pi kernel compilation automation script.
Usage    : /usr/sbin/rpi-build [options]
Options  :
      -w : the working directory (mandatory)
      -c : CC prefix for the TARGET architecture
      -f : the path to your predefined Linux kernel .config file
      -p : the name of the boot partition of your RPi
      -t : the type of the partition specified by -p parameter
      -h : print this help message
Report bugs to eugenmihailescux at gmail dot com

The <working directory> is the place where the Linux kernel and firmware source code will be downloaded, where the build.log will be saved, where the final output directory will be deployed.

The <CC prefix> is the full path of the crossdev toolkit that will be used to compile the kernel for the TARGET architecture. For instance, if your cross compiler toolkit is installed at ~/x-tools/armv6-rpi-linux-gnueabi/bin/ and the compiler prefix is something like armv6-rpi-linux-gnueabi, then the CC prefix you specify should be ~/x-tools/armv6-rpi-linux-gnueabi/bin/armv6-rpi-linux-gnueabi- (note the dash at the end of the prefix!).

The <.config> is the path to a predefined Linux kernel .config file. You can use a predefined .config Linux kernel configuration file so that you don’t have to configure the kernel every time you run this script. For my RPi model B I have already created a cut-down RPi configuration and can be found here.

The <boot partition> is the name of your RPi boot partition on the SD Card. If nothing is supplied then /dev/mmcblk0p2 will be assumed by default.

The <partition type> is the type of the <boot partition>. If nothing is supplied then ext4 will be assumed by default.

The script can be downloaded from here.


About Eugen Mihailescu

Always looking to learn more about *nix world, about the fundamental concepts of arithmetic, algebra and geometry. I am also passionate about programming, database and systems administration.
This entry was posted in kernel, linux, Raspberry Pi and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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