Book Image

Instant Optimizing Embedded Systems Using BusyBox

By : Wu Zhangjin, Cao Ziqiang
Book Image

Instant Optimizing Embedded Systems Using BusyBox

By: Wu Zhangjin, Cao Ziqiang

Overview of this book

As hundreds of millions of people have started using Android smartphones, embedded Linux systems are becoming more and more popular. To get more market share, not only for hardware and function piling up, smartphone manufacturers gradually realized the importance of user experience. To improve user experience, the back-end Linux system must be optimized in many ways. Instant Optimizing Embedded System Using BusyBox is a practical, hands-on guide that provides you with a number of clear, step-by-step exercises to help you take advantage of the real power behind Busybox, and give you a good grounding for using it to optimize your embedded (Android Linux) systems. Moving on from the basics, this book will teach you how to configure and compile it from source code, including cross-compiling it with static linking and dynamic linking. You will also learn how to install and use Busybox on the Android emulator. You will learn to replace the simple Android mksh console with Busybox ash console and start a telnet and HTTP service provided by Busybox. You will also build embedded Linux file system from scratch and start it on Android emulator. We will take a look at how to add functionality to Busybox based system, including adding external applets to Busybox, as well as building development environments (like Bash and C) for it manually or with the automatic Buildroot system. If want to learn how to take advantage of using Busybox applets to optimize your embedded system, then this is the book for you for it will also show you how to use the powerful applets to optimize multiple aspects of an embedded (Android Linux) system.This book will teach you how to build an embedded (Android Linux) system with Busybox, enhance its functionality to meet diverse system requirements, and optimize it to provide a better user experience for embedded products.
Table of Contents (8 chapters)

Creating a virtual Android device (Simple)

We have already discussed the configuration, compiling, and installation of BusyBox; it's time to talk about its usage on embedded platforms, and then for system optimization.

Android is the most popular embedded Linux system, and our book uses it as the experiment platform. To simplify building the experiment environment, the open source and free Android emulator is used instead of the real Android devices throughout the whole book. As a prerequisite, a virtual Android device will be created in this recipe.

Compare to real Android devices, such as the Raspberry Pi board or an Android smartphone or tablet, the virtual Android device created by Android emulator is cheaper. Android emulator is free to download and it is already rooted (with root permission for using without any limitation). Of course, because it is software emulated, it may be slower (if your development system has a low-end hardware configuration).

If you want to perform the following experiments on a real Android device, please make sure the device is rooted; otherwise, some exercises may fail due to permission limitations. The rooting method is out of the scope of this book; please contact your product maker for the same.

Getting ready

To create a virtual Android device, the Android emulator and the related Android SDK Manager should be installed first. ADT (Android Development Tools) provides these tools; we can get it from

Download and use for our x86-64 desktop development system. For other architectures, please download the proper version.

$ wget
$ sudo unzip -d /usr/local/
$ sudo mv /usr/local/adt-bundle-linux-x86_64-20130514 /usr/local/adt-bundle-linux

The tools required are installed at /usr/local/adt-bundle-linux/sdk/. Set the PATH variable in the shell startup script as before to set them permanently, so that they are easy to use:

$ echo "export SDK_ROOT=/usr/local/adt-bundle-linux/sdk/" >> ~/.bashrc
$ echo "export PATH=\$SDK_ROOT/tools/:\$PATH" >> ~/.bashrc
$ echo "export PATH=\$SDK_ROOT/platform-tools/:\$PATH" >> ~/.bashrc
$ source ~/.bashrc

With these settings, the tools like android, emulator, and adb are installed.

How to do it...

We use a virtual Nexus 7 device as our emulated experiment platform; its CPU is ARM with armeabi-v7a ABI (Application Binary Interface), and runs Android 4.2 with API (Application Program Interface) level 17.

  1. Create a virtual Android device with Android AVD Manager. Android allows us to quickly create an AVD (Android Virtual Device). Let's create one named busybox-avd; first, launch the AVD manager interface with the following command:

    $ android avd
  2. Click on the New button; start the configure interface and name it busybox-avd; choose Nexus 7 as the device name, and configure it as follows:

  3. Click OK to finish creation.

  4. Launch the virtual Android device with emulator.

    Start the AVD manager using android avd; choose the just created AVD and click on Start; choose Scale display to real size, and click on Launch to start it. After a while, the typical Android UI will be displayed.

  5. It can also be started with the following command line:

    $ emulator @busybox-avd -scale auto

-scale auto lets the emulator scale the windows to the real size of the virtual device.

How it works...

Google Android emulator, being based on QEMU, is an open source and free Bare Metal emulator. That is, it simulates the actual machine instruction set of the target system. This makes for a very accurate simulation, but it may be slow.

In reality, emulator is a wrapper and enhancement of QEMU. It adds the Goldfish platform emulation and adds some Android-specific features. It can be used to do most of the Android system development.

There's more...

Just as the real Android smartphone or tablet, the virtual Android device just created supplies with some development features, such as Android Debug Bridge (ADB) and the virtual serial-port-based shell environment.

  • Android Debug Bridge (adb): This is a powerful tool that can transmit files between the development system and the target Android system (including our virtual Android device); it can also start a shell and run commands on the device and so forth.

    Use the adb devices command to check if the virtual Android device is connected, as follows:

    $ adb devices
    List of devices attached
    emulator-5554  device

    The system setting of the USB debugging option should be enabled for this feature.

    We can also use it to transfer files; for example, download a prebuilt BusyBox for ARM and push it to the /data directory of the target Android device (/data stores the data of Android applications). In our example, we will download the one suffixed with armv7l for our virtual Android device ABI: armeabi-v7a.

    $ wget
    $ adb push busybox-armv7l /data/busybox

    Log in to Android from our development system, and experiment with our BusyBox on the Android device.

    $ adb shell
    root@android:/ # chmod 755 /data/busybox
    root@android:/ # /data/busybox echo "Hello, Android."
    Hello, Android.

    The previous command lines log in to the Android shell with adb. Use the chmod command to make sure /data/busybox is executable. Finally, run the echo applet of BusyBox on Android.

    adb also supports multiple devices; if many AVDs are connected together, the AVD can be specified via the serial number with the -s command, for example:

    $ adb -s emulator-5554 shell
  • Serial port debugging: To interact with the target system at the early development stage or to verify the low-level Linux drivers, we need another debugging tool, Serial port. This should be your first choice for debugging a just-launched embedded device or the last resort for tracking system statuses when the system is highly unstable.

    The Android emulator supports the virtual serial port; to start AVD with the virtual serial port and Linux kernel log output, append the -shell -show-kernel command:

    $ emulator @busybox-avd -scale auto -shell -show-kernel
    shell@android:/ echo $SHELL

    Note that the virtual serial port and Linux kernel log output belong to the Android system running on the Android emulator, not our development system.

    The previous -shell command starts a console with a serial port, and -show-kernel enables Linux kernel log output. As we can see, a console is linked with the virtual serial port, and the default shell is /system/bin/sh.

    If you only want to perform Linux kernel hacking, the -no-window command can be added to disable the graphic UI as follows:

    $ emulator @busybox-avd -no-window -show-kernel -shell