I'd like to make a single board computer capable of booting Linux, with my low-tech garage tools (2 sided PCBs, reflow skillet, no plating through holes).

What's the simplest hardware design I could choose?

Are there any microcontrollers with enough onboard flash/RAM to run Linux/uCLinux?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I think it would be simpler to buy one rather than make one. A BeagleBoard is a pretty popular solution at $149. \$\endgroup\$
    – semaj
    Mar 5, 2010 at 0:00
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I absolutely agree. But, I want to make one :-) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 5, 2010 at 0:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for having the ambition for such an undertaking. Best of luck. \$\endgroup\$
    – semaj
    Mar 5, 2010 at 0:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that it is certainly cheaper/easier to buy one than to build one. There are a variety of solutions out there... Here are a few that I'm aware of: - Gumstix - BeagleBoard - Chumby (easily hack-able) - Plug Computers (SheevaPlug, GuruPlug, etc -- Check out plugapps.com) \$\endgroup\$
    – Nate
    Jul 1, 2010 at 23:53

5 Answers 5


I'd like to see this too, but my gut instinct is to say "maybe, but it's a lot of work". Even the smallest Linux distro is going to need around a megabyte of RAM to run. This means at least 30 or so additional pins for the RAM controller in the microcontroller, and a couple of big RAM chips.

One of the simplest architectures I know that has Linux for it is the Atmel AVR32 series of parts. The smallest, the AT32UC3A0128 comes in a relatively hacker-friendly 100-pin TQFP package. This is at least amenable to hand-soldering, unlike most of the OS-capable embedded microcontrollers that come in BGA packages. (the chips that have the little solder balls underneath them) You can get an idea as to the complexity of a circuit using that chip by examining the EVK1100 eval board.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That EVK1100 is a lot more complicated than is strictly necessary. Those kinds of eval boards usually have a lot of extra peripherals - things like LCDs, buttons and such that are there to give you a leg up on getting output from the chip. Making your own board you'll only include the things you care about and usually end up with a much simpler design. \$\endgroup\$
    – edebill
    Mar 5, 2010 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most eval boards, definitely. The EVK1100 looks a bit better than many in by separating out those parts that are core and those that are peripherals. At least it seems like that from the pics, I don't have one. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – todbot
    Mar 6, 2010 at 8:56

Linuxstamp is probably your best bet. It's open and has the PCB drawings, schematics, etc available. But as far as doing it at home - probably not. There's some very fine pitches on some of the parts. You're welcome to try, but it seems like a fair bit of consternation to me.


The Nintendo DS is capable of running uCLinux. You can get a used one for cheap, the only peripheral you need to run Linux on it is a microSD adapter (can be had for $15 from dealextreme.com) and a microSD (small ones are basically free these days)


You pretty much need a decent size piece of RAM and flash outside the MCU/MPU. If I was going to make a bare bones Linux system, I think I would go with simple cheap ARM with a serial port. You could make a tiny PCB with 4MB of RAM, 2MB of FLASH, RS-232 transceiver, COM port, and the ARM. You could get real fancy by adding ethernet, but that won't add too much real estate to the PCB.


I believe you are looking for something like the following http://hforsten.com/making-embedded-linux-computer.html

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Nice project. However while that can be assembled and soldered at home, it needs a professionally made PCB, while the question asks about making the PCB at home also. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Voigt
    Nov 12, 2016 at 4:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ hmmm yes. I guess thats going to be a little tough.. \$\endgroup\$
    – Denis
    Dec 6, 2016 at 16:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.