Install a Real or Virtual Linux Machine

If you don't already have a Linux machine, you can set one up in several different ways. You can install a Linux distribution natively, either on its own machine or as a dual-boot system. You can install Linux on a virtual machine on, say, a Windows host machine. You can also use Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), available on Microsoft Windows 10, which allows you to run a Linux distribution with an emulation layer substituting for the Linux kernel.

We recommend using the Ubuntu distribution of Linux or one of its variants (Kubuntu, Mint, etc.). The instructions here assume you are using Ubuntu. The 20.04 LTS (Long Term Support) version is stable and reliable.

Native Linux

You can install Ubuntu on a bare machine easily. Follow the directions (this link is for 20.04) on the Ubuntu website. You can also install Ubuntu on a disk shared with your Windows installation, or on a separate disk, and make a dual-boot installation.

Linux on a Virtual Machine

Linux can also be installed easily on a virtual machine. First you install the virtual machine software, and then create a new virtual machine, usually giving the VM software a .iso file of Ubuntu or another distribution. On Windows, VM Workstation Player and VirtualBox are both free and easily installed.

Install Build Tools on Ubuntu

The Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Desktop distribution includes most of what you need to build CircuitPython. First, in a terminal window, do:

sudo apt update
# Try running `make`. If it's not installed, do:
# sudo apt install build-essential
sudo apt install git gettext uncrustify

Next you need to download and unpack the ARM gcc toolchain from its download page. ARM is no longer updating its Ubuntu "ppa" (private package archive), so you need to install the toolchain manually.

If you want to build an older version of CircuitPython:

# Put the unpacked toolchain into an appropriate directory.
# This is an example.
$ cd ~/bin
$ tar xvf <name of the .bz2 file you downloaded>

Next, add a line to your .bash_profile or other startup file to add the unpacked toolchain executables to your PATH. For example:

$ export PATH=/home/$USER/bin/gcc-arm-none-eabi-10-2020-q4-major/bin:$PATH

Open a new terminal window, and see if you now have the correct executables on your path:

$ which arm-none-eabi-gcc

Now move to the Build CircuitPython section of this guide. There we will get the CircuitPython source code, install a few more dependencies, and then build!

This guide was first published on Apr 26, 2018. It was last updated on Apr 26, 2018.

This page (Linux Setup) was last updated on May 12, 2021.

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