Running Upstream Linux on the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform

Thursday 7/1/21 08:25am
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Posted By Rajan Mistry
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Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by
Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

If you’ve been working with the Qualcomm® Robotics RB5 Platform and looking for more options for software images, your ship has come in. Linaro has upstreamed initial support for the platform to the mainline Linux kernel (recently 5.11 and 5.12) and now provides builds based on the Yocto Project and Debian. Linaro is also working on an AOSP (Android Open Source Project) image you can use on the platform.

That means Linaro has just made your software options on the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform a lot broader and more useful with Linux. It has also put together a short unboxing video that shows you how to flash the platform with Debian.


Why is Linaro doing this?

Linaro has been consistently ranked as a top-ten company contributor worldwide to Linux kernels since version 3.10. They work closely with us to upstream kernel support for Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ mobile platforms.

Linaro offers an alternative set of Linux software builds for our platforms. They provide upstream support and a vanilla Linux distribution for the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform and for other targets powered by our technology. That gives you a choice of either the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 release, based on the CodeAurora Forum with proprietary components, or the open-source software builds, with no proprietary user space blob. Plus, Linaro’s builds use the mainline, upstreamed Linux kernel for quality, security and easier maintenance.

The builds from Linaro rely upon open-source user space packages exclusively, and the Yocto Project and Debian builds are reference implementations for that user space. Because the builds have very few customizations, you can confidently work with any of them. Most of the chipset features, including platform I/O, are supported through upstreamed, vanilla software components.

As a developer, you’ll appreciate that the builds leave full control of the resulting operating system in your hands. You’ll have the flexibility to maintain and upgrade the OS over time using any long-term support (LTS) version of the Linux kernel and distro. If a feature you need is missing, the Linaro Developer Services team can support you.

Switching the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 to Linux

When you purchase the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit, your first step is to use the SDK Manager tool from Thundercomm to flash the LU image to it. LU and other versions provided by Thundercomm are based on a downstream version of the Linux kernel. They include proprietary drivers to support peripherals like cameras, audio, Wi-Fi, sensors, and LTE.

Now, you can use Linaro’s packages to switch the operating system on the platform to an upstreamed version of the drivers and the Linux kernel. Pre-release versions of Android builds are now available for Debian and OpenEmbedded/Yocto. Official releases are currently scheduled for later this summer, with AOSP coming soon.

The unboxing walkthrough

What’s in the development kit from Thundercomm?

  • Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform, including an aluminum backing plate
  • Connection mezzanine (HDMI, USB, USB-C)
  • Setup guide
  • Power adapter
  • USB-C to USB-A cable

The unboxing video from Linaro shows you how to get started with upstreamed Linux on the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform, by setting it up and flashing it with Debian. In case you’re new to the platform and you’ve never flashed an image to a development device before, the video covers the basic steps involved:

  • Resetting the platform using setup/rescue. The setup guide shows you how to build and install.
  • Manually configuring the platform to enter rescue mode, which includes setting the DIP switches
  • With the platform in reset mode, downloading and flashing the rescue package
  • In fastboot mode, rebooting the platform
  • Flashing the Debian desktop to the platform
  • Connecting the monitor (HDMI) and peripherals (USB)

At this point, you reboot the platform into Debian, where you can develop your application directly.

Next steps

Linaro Developer Services provides development, maintenance, and optimization of board support packages (BSP) for Arm platforms, including several technologies and platforms from Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. You can find Linaro published contact including documentation and product specifications at 96boards.org. The specs are open and designed for Arm-based development of software applications, hardware devices, kernels and other types of system software.

Watch the unboxing video for an easy-to-follow walkthrough of the steps to install upstream Linux to your board.


Qualcomm Snapdragon and Qualcomm Robotics RB5 are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

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