What happens behind the build process?

Build process summary:

  • creates development environment on top of amd64 Ubuntu 20.04 LTS,
  • downloads proven sources, applies patches on top and uses tested configurations,
  • cross-compiles universal boot loader (U-Boot), kernel and other tools and drivers,
  • packs kernel, U-Boot, dtb and root customizations into Debian packages,
  • debootstraps minimalistic Debian Buster and Ubuntu Focal into SD card images,
  • installs additional packets, applies customizations and shrinks image to its actual size.

Check this image compiling example with partial cache.

Build process details:

Creating compile environment

First things first. All necessary dependencies are downloaded and installed. This happens though both http and torrent network. Btw. having too much unused traffic? Help us to reduce ours :)

Using board configuration

We need to get some predefined variables about selected the board. Which kernel & uboot source to use, modules to load, which is the build number, do we need to have a single partition or dual with boot on fat, which extra drivers to compile out of the kernel tree … All this stuff is predefined for each and every single supported board.

Downloading sources

When we know which sources to use and where they need to be the download or updated this process starts. This might take from several minutes to several hours.


In the patching process we are applying patches to the used sources. The process is - depending on selected board - defined in:


Patch rules for subdirectories are: KERNEL_FAMILY-BRANCH for kernel and U-BOOT-SOURCE-BRANCH for U-Boot.


Debootstrap creates fresh Debian / Ubuntu root filesystem templates or use cached under:


To recreate those files you need to remove them manually. From time to time they will be recreated anyway if Armbian updates their rootfs cache.

Kernel install

When the root filesystem is ready we need to install the kernel image with modules, board definitions and firmwares. Along with this we set the CPU frequency min/max, hostname, modules, network interfaces templates. Here is also the place to install headers and fix + native compile them on the way.

Distribution fixes

Each distribution has it’s own way of doing things:

  • serial console
  • different packets
  • configuration locations

Board fixes

Each board has their own tricks: different device names, firmware loaders, configuration (de)compilers, hardware configurators

Desktop installation

You can build a desktop environment withing the image. Consider this feature as experimental. Do not expect to have working hardware acceleration since this is a very complicated task and needs individial care for different boards.

External applications

This place is reserved for custom applications. There is one example of application: USB redirector.

Closing image

There is an option to add some extra commands just before closing an image which is also automaticaly shrink to it’s actual size with some small reserve.

Directory structure

It will be something like this:

compile.sh              compile execution script
lib/bin/                blobs, firmwares, static compiled, bootsplash
lib/config/             kernel, board, u-boot, hostapd, package list
lib/documentation/      user and developers manual
lib/patch/              collection of kernel and u-boot patches
lib/scripts/            firstrun, arm hardware info, firmware loaders
lib/LICENSE             licence description
lib/README.md           quick manual
lib/common.sh           creates environment, compiles, shrink image
lib/configuration.sh    boards presets - kernel source, config, modules, ...
lib/distributions.sh    system specific installation and fixes
lib/main.sh             user input and script calls
lib/makeboarddeb.sh     creates board support package .deb
lib/repo-update.sh      creates and updates your local repository
lib/repo-show-sh        show packets in your local repository
lib/upgrade.sh          script to upgrade older images
sources/                source code for kernel, uboot and other utilities
output/repository       repository 
output/cache            cache for root filesystem and headers compilation
output/debs             deb packeges
output/images           zip packed RAW image
userpatches/kernel      put your kernel patches here
userpatches/u-boot      put your u-boot patches here
userpatches/            put your kernel config here

Additional info