Kernel Build Dashboard


This tool (i.e. kbdashboard) is used to configure and manage building proceedings of multiple linux kernels. It is written in Golang and hosted in this reposity.

Developpers, especially in embedded system, usually need to modify, build and test more than one linux kernel in different projects. Each project may use one kernel of specific version and compile with specific toolchain. Some may only manipulate one kernel but with different build directories according to different configurations. Anyway, developpers have to remember various configurations, direcotries and commands.

To make life easier, kbdashboard, acting as a wrapper, handles all these details. It has some advantages and features:

  • Run in any directories, no need of changing into the one where the kernel source tree is.
  • Use individual building directory without affecting the kernel source tree.
  • Simple commands to perform various actions from configuring to installing.
  • Easy to configure by the json format.
  • Colorful shell output.
  • Built-in environment variables for installation scrips.
  • Find out all DTS files related to the target DTB.

This post describes how to use this tool and some details about it. The version mentioned here is 0.2.2-00210a9

Build this Tool

First you need a Golang build environment, which is easy to install.

Then do the routines in the source tree :

$ make
$ sudo make install

You will get the executable kbdashboard installed in /usr/local/bin. In addition, the bash completion script will be generated and installed in /etc/bash_completion.d. The Makefile is very simple and can be modified easily if you want to change the installation places.

If you do not want to setup the building environment, that’s fine. You can get the executable file in here and generate the completion file.

How to Use this Tool

Required Tools

  • build-essential
  • libncurses5-dev
  • cross tool chain

Generate Bash Completion File

If it is your first time to use this tool, you should use the completion file to make life easier:

$ kbdashboard completion
$ source kbdashboard.bash-completion

From now, you can use the auto-completion feature of bash.

Here are the quick steps:

  1. $ kbdashboard edit: Edit the configuration and create a kernel profile.
  2. $ kbdashboard config def: Make default configuration of kernel.
  3. $ kbdashboard config: Do the menuconfig of kernel.
  4. $ kbdashboard build: Build kernel image.
  5. $ kbdashboard install: Invoke the installation script.

Create a Profile

The configuration file of kbdashboard is the core element. Use command:

$ kbdashboard edit

to create and/or modify it. Its path is $HOME/.kbdashboard/config.json. For the first time, kbdashboard will create a default configuration file and open it using vim. The template contains only one kernel profile with, apparently, invalid values:

        "color": true,
        "debug": false,
        "editor": "vim",
        "current": 0,
        "profile": [

Except profile, other configurations are global:

  • color: Colorize the output or not.
  • debug: Switch debug output on or off.
  • editor: Specify text editor used by edit command.
  • current: Current profile index.

The profile array contains the profiles of kernels. Among one profile’s options, only two are mandatory:

  • name: profile name.
  • src_dir: directory path of the kernel source tree.

Other options can be empty and will be substituted with default value during building.

  • arch: architecture name, corresponding to the ARCH.
  • cross_compile: prefix of toolchain, corresponding to the CROSS_COMPILE.
  • target: target of kernel image.
  • build_dir: building directory, corresponding to O. If not absolute, it is relative to the src_dir.
  • defconfig: kernel’s default configuration in arch/$arch/configs.
  • dtb: the name of target DTB file.
  • mod_install_dir: directory to install modules, corresponding to INSTALL_MOD_PATH. If not absolute, it is relative to the src_dir.
  • thread_num: number of thread used to compile, corresponding to ‘-j’ option.

After editing, use command list to see the result:

$ kbdashboard list

Use choose to set it as the current profile:

$ kbdashboard choose demo
$ kbdashboard choose 0

The current profile is marked by a red (if color is true) asterisk in the output of list, with which other commands handle.

Configure Kernel

Before comipling the kernel, you should configure it. First, make the default configuration:

$ kbdashboard config def

It will use the defconfig configuration and generate .config in the building directory.

Then, do the menuconfig, which is the default behaviour of command config:

$ kbdashboard config
$ kbdashboard config menu

Finally, if you want to save the result configuration, use command:

$ kbdashboard config save

It will update the configuration file arch/$arch/$defconfig.

Build Kernel

To generate the kernel image, use command build whose default subcommand is image:

$ kbdashboard build
$ kbdashboard build image

Command build modules is used to compile driver modules and install them into directory mod_install_dir:

$ kbdashboard build modules

For some platforms, such as ARM, DTB file is also needed. Use command build dtb to compile DTB and install it into build_dir:

$ kbdashboard build dtb

Install Kernel

Use command install to invoke installation script written by the users:

$ kbdashboard install

There is no such script at the beginning, so this command will create an empty script with name as 'profileName' in $HOME/.kbdashboard and open it using the editor. After editing, it will be invoked by this the command.

In installation script, there are some built-in environment variables that are helpful:

  • KBD_COLOR: global, colorful ouput switch.
  • KBD_DEBUG: global, debug output switch.
  • KBD_EDITOR: global, edior name.
  • KBD_CURRENT: global, current profile index.
  • KBD_NAME: profile, name.
  • KBD_SRC_DIR: profile, source directory.
  • KBD_ARCH: profile, archetect.
  • KBD_CC: profile, cross compiler.
  • KBD_TARGET: profile, build target.
  • KBD_BUILD_DIR: profile, build directory.
  • KBD_DEFCONFIG: profile, default config name.
  • KBD_DTB: profile, DTB target name.
  • KBD_MOD_DIR: profile, modules install directory.
  • KBD_THREAD_NUM: profile, thread number.

For example, if you want to copy your resulted uImage into a directory, which is maybe your tftp directory, in your script you can write:

cp -v $KBD_BUILD_DIR/arch/arm/boot/uImage ~/tftp

If user want to modify the script, use command edit install:

$ kbdashboard edit install

It is common to use a user-defined installation script in embedded development. But for PC environment, using command make install and make modules_install may be more general and useful.

You can call script using different parameters so that it can do different jobs each time. For example, to install image, modules and dtb:

$ kbdashboard install image
$ kbdashboard install modules
$ kbdashboard install dtb

It is up to you to write any things in your own script.

Command Details


Command help can show the supported commands and this is the default behavior of this program. To see the list of commands:

$ kbdashboard
$ kbdashboard help

help can also show more detialed usage of specific command. For example command build:

$ kbdashboard help build


list will list all kernel profiles and their information. The current profile is marked by a red asterisk. Be default, it outputs only main information.


  • -v: show all information of profiles.


This command is used to set the current profile by name or index. For example:

$ kbdashboard choose 0
$ kbdashboard choose test


It uses editor to open configuration file of kbdashboard or installation scripts for editing.

Tool’s configuration file and installation scripts are in the same directory $HOME/.kbdashboard.


  • profile: edit the tool’s configuration file. It is the default behaviour.
  • install: edit the installation script of current profile.


This command is used to configure the kernel of current profile.


  • menu: Same as make menuconfig. It is the default sub-command.
  • def: Same as make xxxx_defcofig, which is specified by defcofig.
  • save: Same as make savedefconfig.


Build various targets of the current kernel.

  • image: build kernel image. It is the default sub-command.
  • modules: build and install driver modules.
  • dtb: build DTB file specified by dtb.


This command is used to invoke the installation script of the current profile.

This script is in the same directory of the configuration file. If it does not exist, a new script will be created and opened with editor. Users can use command edit install to modify this script afterwards.

The parameters in the command line will be transferred into script. For example:

$ kbdashboard install arg1 arg2

arg1 and arg2 will become the parameters of the installation script.


This command is imported in case complex wrapper commands can not meet all requirements and acts as a straightforward wrapper of all targets of kernel.

For example, the command of making default configuration $ make ARCH=arm bcm_defconfig is:

$ kbdashboard make bcm_defconfig


This command can help you find all DTS files related to the target DTB of current profile. Starting from the first DTS file, it find the “include” recurselya untill there are no more “include”.

  • dts list: List all relevant DTS files. It is the default subcommand. Its options include:
    • -t: Print the tree-like graph.
    • -v: Print the absolute file path.
  • dts link: Make soft link of all relevant DTS files into a dirctory. If without -o option, the default out directory is [profile_name]_dts in the current path.
    • -o: Specify the output directory.


This command shows the version information consisted of version number, build time and git information(commit ID and branch name):

$ kbdashboard version
Version    : 0.2.0
Build time : 2017-02-23:15:07:44
Git Commit : 31c1e9e@master


This command does nothing with kernel building instead of generating a bash completion file. Copy this file to somewhere (e.g. ~/.kbdashboard-completion) and then '$ source ~/.kbdashboard-completion.