Supported Operating Systems

Currently most users of Balloon are using it with GNU/Linux. A couple are using it 'bare metal' with just bootldr providing 'setup and OS services'. We would welcome ports to other OSes (such as eCos, VxWorks, WinCE), but right now you get Linux or Linux. To build an Emdebian or Debian rootfilesystem, you will need to be running Debian GNU/Linux.

Getting the code

You can either download the sources and build everything, or download a pre-built release and install/update.

Getting the sources and building

The sources are all stored in a git repository.

Direct git read-only access is at, e.g.

git clone -b 1.0-stable balloon

to check out the stable release code.

If you are brave enough to fix stuff and want to help out bringing up version 2.0 release, please try

git clone balloon

Building the software for Balloon is covered in the BalloonDevelopment section.

Downloading a release

Binaries for the various boards and releases are available by http or using rsync from

The current Balloon3 stable release is v1.0-stable. The easiest way to download just the binaries is by doing

rsync -av --compress .

Installing and Configuring

BalloonSoftwareLoading is the place to start with info on how to fill you balloon with the latest code. And BalloonArmLinux has an overview of the distribution.

Getting Started

Quick Start with CUED board

115200, 8N1, no flow control (TX, RX, GND). Serial cable is fitted to removable plug which can dangle out of the PCMCIA slot. 9pin D.

Power is supplied via the barrel connector. 6-24V, centre positive. You should get 4 orange LEDs on the CUED board (2 on the auxiliary power board). If you get one red LED then that indicates overcurrent, overvoltage or possibly 'PSU too weak to start switcher'. The PSU should be able to supply up to 1A for start-up.

Quick start with bare Balloonboard

A bare balloonboard takes 3.6-4.6V. Power can be supplied via the main molex connector J14, or J11 or the Pinko connector. FPGA board usually have the molex fitted, CPLD board usually don't and you'll either need to solder a couple of power wires on or fit a connector.

Typical current is 300mA at 4V.

115200, 8N1, no flow control (3 wires). Serial available on centre pins of power socket (shares GND with power) and on J11.


See ChainBooting for details of the boot process.

set bootscript=exit

Either way you should get to a linux login prompt. The login is either "root", no password, or "root", "rootme"

Now what?

You'll have a Debian or Emdebian (default) root filesystem for armel. To get more software onto the device, you have a few choices:

  1. If you have USB networking configured, you can use apt to install packages. An Emdebian rootfs uses Emdebian Grip. Check if the package is available and then install it using apt. If not available, check out apt-grip (1) on your main box to convert Debian packages for Emdebian Grip.

  2. To cross-compile packages for armel, use cross-compilers from Emdebian and see if that works. (Not all packages in Debian cross-compile.)


Balloonboard: Software (last edited 2016-11-29 11:42:59 by JonathanMcDowell)