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. For more information on Tiny Core Linux, see http://tinycorelinux.com

People involved:

  • James Cameron,
  • Yioryos Asprobounitis,
  • George Hunt and;
  • Jerry Vonau.

Core 4.7.7 2015-11-14

Announcing a build of Tiny Core Linux for OLPC XO.

Useful for testing and diagnosis without touching the internal storage.


  • runs on XO-1, XO-1.5, XO-1.75, or XO-4,
  • configured for a single root shell in text mode, with alternate consoles available for login,
  • based on Core 4.7.7 (XO-1, XO-1.5) and Core 4.7.5 (XO-1.75, XO-4), uses the OLPC kernel from 13.2.6-18, and includes corresponding signed Open Firmware versions for automatic upgrade,
  • includes wireless firmware for each laptop, and wireless tools from Tiny Core Linux.


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 zip 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 zip file using the link above, to the USB drive:
cd /run/media/olpc/FRED
wget ${URL}
  • extract the zip file, at the top of the USB drive:
cd /run/media/olpc/FRED
unzip core-4.7.7-xo-2015-11-14.zip
  • delete the zip file if you like, it is not required further,
rm core-4.7.7-xo-2015-11-14.zip
  • eject the USB drive:
umount /run/media/olpc/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 zip file, and the contents will be expanded, a new folder boot will be created,
  • delete the zip file if you like, it is not required further,
  • eject the USB drive.


  • download the zip 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 kernel and initrd files 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 short wait you will see the Tiny Core Linux system prompt:
  • you may remove the USB drive.

Tiny Core Linux is now ready for your commands.

Configure wireless


The script scans for available networks, lists them, and allows you to choose one, and enter a password if necessary.

Configure wired USB ethernet after boot

When a USB ethernet adapter is connected before boot, if drivers are present it will be configured and be ready for use. When the adapter is added after boot, configure the interface using DHCP:


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, XO-1.75 and XO-4 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

Backup and Restore

See Backup for how to use Tiny Core Linux for backup and restore of a laptop.

See Save Journal for how to use Tiny Core Linux for backup of the Sugar Journal on multiple laptops.


See Reversion for how to use Tiny Core Linux to revert an XO with OLPC OS to a pristine filesystem configuration, as if it had just been installed. This can be used to quickly clean a set of class specific or loaned laptops.

Remote Diagnosis

  • respond to the password change prompts for the user tc,
  • wait for script to complete, and note the IP address of the laptop:
  • set up inbound port forwarding on router if required,
  • connect your OpenSSH client,
ssh tc@$IP

See also remote diagnosis using firmware only.

Boot from JFFS2 on XO-1

Mount the JFFS2 filesystem, save the original boot directory, and make a new one:

mkdir /mnt/root
mount -t jffs2 mtd0 /mnt/root
mv /mnt/root/boot /mnt/root/boot.orig
mkdir /mnt/root/boot

Mount the USB drive, and copy the required files to the JFFS2 filesystem:

mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/sda1
cp /mnt/sda1/boot/olpc.fth /mnt/root/boot/
cp /mnt/sda1/boot/initrd.x86 /mnt/root/boot/
cp /mnt/sda1/boot/vmlinuz.0 /mnt/root/boot/

Release the filesystems, remove the USB drive, and reboot:

umount /mnt/sda1
umount /mnt/root