Tiny Core Linux


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Tiny Core Linux is a minimal Linux distribution, designed for on-demand software loading. This page describes builds of Tiny Core Linux for the OLPC XO-1 and XO-1.5. For more information on Tiny Core Linux, see http://tinycorelinux.com

People involved:

  • James Cameron, does microcore builds,
  • Yioryos Asprobounitis, does tinycore with GUI builds,

(For XO-1.75, see olpc-rescue at http://www.delorie.com/arm/olpc/)


microcore 3.4 for XO-1 and XO-1.5

Announcing a build of Tiny Core Linux for XO-1 and XO-1.5.

Useful for testing and diagnosis without touching the internal storage. Added recently are combined XO-1 and XO-1.5 support, a few scripts for backing up, restoring, and reverting laptops.


  • based on Tiny Core Linux 3.4 microcore variant, configured for a root shell in text mode, with additional shells on demand,
  • uses the OLPC kernel, for hardware support, based on the kernel from OLPC OS 10.1.3 build os860,
  • includes the wireless firmware shipped with OLPC builds, and binary redistribution of wireless and some filesystem tools from the OLPC builds,
  • includes XO-1.5 backup scripts xo-backup, xo-repart, and xo-restore, (these may be destructive, look at them before you use them),
  • includes XO-1.5 reversion server and client, for rapidly undoing filesystem changes made by laptop use, in test collections or shared classrooms.


Prepare USB Drive

  • select a USB drive of at least 128 MB capacity, (it may have either a FAT or ext2 filesystem),

Linux - GNOME and Firefox

  • insert the USB drive,
  • click on the tar file link above, and a dialog window will appear asking you what you want done with the download,
  • accept the default to open it in Archive Manager, and the Archive Manager window will appear,
  • click on Extract, and a dialog window will appear asking you where to extract to,
  • click on the USB drive in the Places list, then click on the Extract button, a dialog window will appear to tell you it worked,
  • close the dialog window,
  • close the Archive Manager window,
  • close the Downloads window,
  • eject the USB drive.

Linux - Terminal

  • download the tar file using the link above, to the USB drive:
cd /media/FRED
wget ${URL}
  • (Note that /media changes to /run/media/olpc for Fedora 17 based builds used in 12.1.0 and later).
  • extract the tar file, at the top of the USB drive:
cd /media/FRED
tar xf microcore-3.4-xo-2011-01-18.tar
  • eject the USB drive:
umount /media/FRED

Mac OS X

  • insert the USB drive,
  • control-click on the link above, select Download Linked File As ..., and a Save As dialog will appear,
  • change Where to the name of the USB drive, usually Untitled, then click on Save, the dialog will go away,
  • switch tasks to Finder, display the USB drive,
  • double-click on the tar file, and the contents will be expanded, a new folder boot will be created,
  • delete the tar file if you like, it is not required further,
  • eject the USB drive.


  • download the tar file,
  • insert the USB drive,
  • use WinZip or other operating system features to expand it onto the USB drive,
  • eject the USB drive.

Prepare laptop

  • ensure the laptop is unsecured, or sign the USB drive with your deployment keys,
  • insert the USB drive into the laptop,

Boot laptop

  • turn on the laptop, and the USB drive will be automatically read,
  • after a very short wait you will see the Tiny Core Linux system prompt:

Tiny Core Linux is now ready for your commands.

Configure wireless

  • configure wireless manually:
iwlist eth0 scan
iwconfig eth0 essid network
  • a DHCP client is in the background waiting to act when a network interface comes up, it may take a few seconds,

Installing additional utilities

  • additional utilities needed for a task can be installed:
su -c 'tce-load -wi rsync' tc

See the Tiny Core Linux documentation for more detail.

Additional shells

  • additional shells can be started using Alt/F2, username tc.

Access to XO-1 filesystem

  • you can mount and investigate the XO's JFFS2 flash filesystem, for example:
cat /proc/mtd
mkdir /mnt/root
mount -t jffs2 mtd0 /mnt/root

Access to XO-1.5 filesystem

  • you can mount and investigate the XO's eMMC or microSD filesystems, for example:
cat /proc/partitions
mkdir /mnt/boot /mnt/root
mount /dev/mmcblk0p2 /mnt/boot
mount /dev/mmcblk0p2 /mnt/root

tinycore 2.8 with GUI for XO-1 and XO-1.5

In January 2010 a version based on microcore 2.8 was announced for both the XO-1 and XO 1.5.

Ready version of Tiny Core Linux for the XO-1 are available here and instructions for installation (for tc_xo_mm) here

tinycore_xo is the minimal installation with just Xfbdev for display driver

tc_xo_with_apps adds a file manager, basic applications and Opera web browser

tc_xo_mm adds sound, audio and video players

tc_xo_X adds Xorg and functioning game keys

tc-xo_01 in 3 flavors is now available. See the build announcement for more

The tc-xo_02 based on tinycore v2.10 and unmodified OLPC kernel is now available. See the v02 build announcement for more

For further discussion of this variant check this forum thread


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