Boot Loader

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Boot Loaders

The bootstrap loader or boot loader is a small program running on a computer or device after power-on to load the operating system. Most boot loaders today provide additional features that allow to upgrade the firmware and access the system for troubleshooting.

U-Boot (build instructions for Xtensa)

U-Boot is one of the most popular boot loaders for Linux. It has a very complete Project Page as well as an nice introduction available here. A very complete U-Boot manual is also available here.

As of release v2016.09 xtensa support is available in the U-Boot mainline.


Tensilica has also ported RedBoot for the Xtensa architecture. A RedBoot binary targeting the XTAV60 (LX60) or XTAV200 (LX200) emulation board is usually provided after generating an FPGA bitstream for one of these boards. See the relevant board documentation from Tensilica for more details such as usage and supported features. For more information and to request sources, please contact Tensilica directly. For an example of how to boot the Linux kernel using RedBoot on the LX60 or LX200 boards, see RedBoot Example.

A source tarball for RedBoot with support for the Xtensa architecture is available here. For more details, see the tarball's README.txt file.

Host-Side Loading via OCD

An alternative to boot loaders is an external (e.g. "host-side") loading mechanism.

One common way to load a Linux kernel is to use debugging interfaces such as On-Chip Debug (OCD). For example, Tensilica Tools GDB (xt-gdb) can connect to a target Xtensa processor using OCD via the Xtensa OCD Daemon. It can then load and execute a Linux RAM image (Image.elf or vmlinux) onto the target using standard GDB commands. See Download and Run the Kernel for an example.

Linux Kernel Self-Boot Image

It is possible to adapt the kernel build scripts for the Xtensa architecture to create a self-booting image. That is, a Linux kernel image that includes a Reset handler and can be either burned in ROM or Flash or downloaded to the target using another mechanism such as OCD. Note: This has not yet been implemented.