Embedded Linux Distributions

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Besides the Linux kernel, one of the advantage of embedded Linux is the ability to leverage hundreds if not thousands of existing free and open source packages to easily and quickly add new features to devices. These packages range from graphical libraries, multimedia libraries, network libraries, cryptographic libraries, network servers, infrastructure software and more. However, integrating all these components together requires a relatively deep knowledge of the components. Hence, embedded-specific distributions and build systems have been created to ease this process.

Vendor distros


  • Android
  • Maemo (deprecated - see Meego)
  • Meego
  • Moblin (deprecated - see Meego)
  • OpenMoko
  • Access Linux Platform
  • LIMO

Other distros

Special purpose embedded Linux distributions

Configuration and Build systems

  • Open Embedded - System for building full embedded images from scratch
  • buildroot
    • Buildroot is a set of Makefiles and patches that makes it easy generate a cross-compilation toolchain and root filesystem for your target Linux system using the uClibc C library.
  • PTXdist
    • Kconfig based build system developed by Pengutronix
    • GPL licensed
    • Video of a talk given by PTXdist maintainer Robert Schwebel at FOSDEM 2009
  • Linux From Scratch
  • LTIB - Linux Target Image Builder (by Stuart Hughes of FreeScale) - see http://savannah.nongnu.org/projects/ltib
    • Slides and video of a talk on LTIB at the Ottawa Linux Symposium 2008
  • GeeXboX - Cross Embedded Systems Builder
    • GeeXboX provides a set of packages, patches and shell-based rules that creates a toolchain and a rootfs with customized packages and features selection.
    • Currently supports x86_32, x86_64, PowerPC, PowerPC64 and ARM architectures with either uClibc, Glibc or eGlibc C library.
  • Building Embedded Userlands - Presentation by Ned Miljevic & Klaas van Gend at the ELC 2008 which compares different configuration and build systems. Video of the conference available.
  • Scratchbox Cross-Compilation Toolkit, with support for x86 and arm.

See also Toolchains

Obsolete things

Further reading

  • Embedded OS mentions a variety of embedded operating systems, including embedded Linux.
  • [1] Tools and distributions for embedded Linux development - LWN.net 2010/04/27