Best of Embedded Linux

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This page is dedicated to documenting the "Best of Embedded Linux".

For now, this means the systems with the:

  • smallest memory footprint
  • fastest boot time

This page also has the most bizarre embedded Linux systems that I've heard of.

I considered adding things like the following, but for various reasons have not done so yet. (One problem is determining how to measure them).

  • most secure
  • most real-time
  • most stable (longest documented runtime?)
  • most power-efficient

One rule is that the "best" system must be an actual, shipping product. (I relaxed this rule for the boot-time category, until I can confirm their use in an actual product).


My criteria for smallest system is the one with the least RAM, running in an actual useful product, with a recent (2.6.11 or above) kernel.

In October of 2013, I postulated that the following product was the smallest Linux product I knew of: TP-Link MR3020

  • What is it: WiFi hotspot
  • Flash/Rom: 4M flash chip
    • partitions: 128K U-Boot
    • 1M kernel
    • 2.8M root filesystem
  • RAM: 32M DRAM



These were other products or systems mentioned at the ELCE 2013 status talk (BOF section):

  • VTec - has 8-meg. systems? (I can't find any)
    • See InnoTab
    • 64M on-board memory, doesn't run Linux natively (can be hacked onto the system)
  • LeapFrog - 8M RAM, 16M flash (couldn't find a system this low)
  • Pixter color - 4MB RAM??
    • has LH75411 (NXP) ARM7TDMI core
    • Came out in 2005, which makes it too old to qualify for a "best of" category (in 2013)
    • According to Pixter, it only has 32K SRAM (but maybe more DRAM)
    • It's not clear that it runs Linux natively from the manufacturer - maybe there was an add-on Linux cartridge (which would also disqualify this product from being a "best of" contender.
  • memento (sp?) click?
  • EFM32 (Wikipedia entry for EFM32)
  • Transcend WiFi SD card

Fastest booting

My criteria for fastest boot is one with the least time to go from cold boot (no power whatsoever) to first available product use. This includes the time for bootloader, user space, video startup (if applicable), until the product's primary use is fully available to the user (e.g. when a picture can actually be taken, for a digital camera).

Other candidates

  • Chevy volt - need details
  • Volvo - need details

Most Bizarre

Linux on 8-bit AVR

Yann Morin <> wrote:

Not sure it really applies, but there was this crazy (russian?) guy who managed to run Linux on an 8-bit micro-controller:

TL;DR version: The guy wrote a basic VM running on a 8-bit AVR, emulating the ARM instruction set (armv5, PXA255). That runs a small hypervisor to provide basic functionality via hypercalls.

Linux running in your browser in an emulator in Javascript

See To see Linux booting in an emulator written in Javascript, in your browser.


Please add more information to this page. If you know of an extreme use of Linux, please add it.