HELIOS Software GmbH

Intel Edison How-To Guide v1.0

This article describes using a Mac as a workstation for remote login and console connection. A Mac is probably one of the easiest clients to get started with, but it should be pretty much the same procedure with a Linux or Windows workstation (using PuTTY).


What to buy

Article Price Comment
Intel Edison breakout board with CPU 70 € Note the breakout board is also available without the CPU
2 x Micro-USB Cable 5 € One for console and one for disk access (Regular USB cable with one end Micro USB)
Optional: Power Supply 13 € Wall plug transformer for DC main power DC 7-15 V 500 mA (I used 1000 mA)
Optional: Battery 10 € Rechargeable battery 3.7 V (Lithium-ion or Lithium polymer battery) 1200 mAh

Please note: A mobile phone Micro USB charger (5 V min. 500 mA) for 6 Euro connected to the Edison USB 2 port to supply power and to charge a connected battery will work. However it is not recommended because it takes away the USB port.

Initial setup of the Edison

The CPU board must be plugged into the breakout board (if not already delivered this way). Press the CPU board very carefully into the breakout board on the PCB, where the white label is located, until it snaps in.

// Find out the serial device name (in my case /dev/cu.usbserial-AJ035WVG)
$ ls -l /dev/cu.usbserial*

// Get a root shell
$ sudo sh

// Connect your Mac with the Edison console port with 115200 baud
// Edison is still without any power
# screen /dev/cu.usbserial-AJ035WVG 115200

// A blank screen without error message proves you are connected to the Edison console port

// When unplugging the console terminal the screen sessions ends.
// Sometimes the Mac Terminal window is in a weird tty state after unplugging, this can be fixed via
# stty sane # (and enter)

Initial boot of the Edison

The Edison initially already has a Linux operating system (Yocto Linux v1.6) installed on its flash drive which is fine for the first try. However, it is outdated and the latest version should be installed later.

The console output now shows the boot process and finally the login screen.

[ OK ] Reached target Login Prompts.
[ OK ] Started Network Name Resolution.
[ OK ] Started WPA supplicant service.

Poky (Yocto Project Reference Distro) 1.6 edison ttyMFD2

edison login:

// Login as "root" with empty password

// For initial password and WiFi setup issue configure_edison
// Newer Linux versions require "configure_edison --server" for the initial setup.
# configure_edison

Flashing latest Intel Edison firmware

The pre-installed Linux OS (firmware) on the new delivered Edison is outdated, here are instructions how to install the latest version.

// Log in as root and re-format update disk with VFAT32 format
# mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n EDISON_F32 /dev/disk/by-partlabel/update

// Log in as root
# reboot ota

The flashing process takes about two minutes, the system reboots multiple times until it is done and offers a login.

Please note that the root partition is entirely new after the flashing process and therefore the "configure_edison" as described above needs to reinitialize the password, WiFi and all other custom settings. The Edison Linux "/home" partition is untouched, therefore I recommend to save private files only in "/home" because there they will survive the flashing process.

Recovering from a messed up Linux

Recovering from Linux problems can easily be done by re-flashing the Linux:

U-Boot 2014.04 (Oct 14 2014 - 15:19:04)

Watchdog enabled
DRAM: 980.6 MiB
MMC: tangier_sdhci: 0
In: serial
Out: serial
Err: serial
Hit any key to stop autoboot: 0
boot >
// to re-flash the Linux version which resides on the update VFAT-32 partition run
boot > run do_ota

This will re-install the Linux on the root partition, all configuration and passwords are lost, however the /home content will survive. I recommend to save all configuration files and other stuff into /home which allows easy restoration if the Linux gets re-installed.

Some additional information about booting can be found here: http://wiki.openwrt.org/doc/techref/bootloader/uboot.config

There is another option for recovering. Switch the Edison via a 3 second click on the power button into a so called APM (Access Point Mode) mode. This creates its own WiFi setup with the factory serial number for password and the option to connect via http://edison.local to the device. In our configuration the password is not working therefore I don't describe it further. Intel documentation regarding APM mode can be found here: https://communities.intel.com/docs/DOC-23137. The APM can be turned off via the console by entering "configure_edison --disableOneTimeSetup".

Useful Yocto Linux commands

For these commands issued from the Mac client via the Terminal, we assume that the Edison host name has been set to "edison" and is available via WiFi. Use the edison.local, DNS name, or IP address:

Terminal commands:

// Remote login
# ssh -l root edison.local
// File transfer via sftp (use put or get)
# sftp root@edison.local

Commands issued directly on the Edison as root (via the ssh remote login):

// to shutdown and power off the system. (Don't use "halt" because it will not turn off power resulting in the Edison getting hot.)
# systemctl poweroff

// The main configuration script
# configure_edison

// Limit logging space to avoid running out of disk space
# vi /etc/systemd/journald.conf
//sets it to max 20 Mbytes. Reboot to activate it

// Show the logging disk usage
# journalctl --disk-usage

// View system messages
# journalctl --since=today # or use --since=yesterday

// Use 'systemctl' to 'stop' or 'start' a service. It can also be used to 'disable' or 'enable' a service,
// or check a service via the 'is-enabled' argument
# systemctl stop mdns
# systemctl start mdns

Get additional 800 MB disk space

By default the update process works via an extra 800 MB VFAT partition where the new Linux installation files are copied to and which get flashed later on. However, this space is unutilized. Here I describe how to format and use it within the Edison Linux.

// Create a file system
# mkfs.ext4 /dev/disk/by-partlabel/update

// add the following single line at the end of 'fstab'
# vi /etc/fstab
/dev/disk/by-partlabel/update     /mnt      auto    noauto,x-systemd.automount,,
nosuid,nodev,noatime,discard,barrier=1,data=ordered,noauto_da_alloc 1   1

// Another option is to duplicate the line "/dev/disk/by-partlabel/home..." and replace home
// with update, and replace the mount point from /home with /mnt

// These commands will mount the drive and show the new disk space
# mount /mnt
# df -k
/dev/mmcblk0p9          757680       776    701856   0% /mnt

Installing Java 8 runtime

The Edison is pretty compatible with the Linux x86 32-bit operating system. I downloaded and installed the regular 32-bit Oracle Java runtime and it works great with our applications.

// On the Mac:
// get or put the Java (jre-8u25-linux-i586.tar) to your Edison
$ sftp root@edison.local
sftp> cd /home
sftp> put jre-8u25-linux-i586.tar
sftp> exit

// On the Edison:
# umask 0
# cd /home
# tar xvf jre-8u25-linux-i586.tar
# ln -s jre1.8.0_25 java

The Java 'bin' path was added into the root.profile file via "PATH=$PATH:/home/root/bin:/home/java/bin"

Installing additional Linux Tools (bash, less, etc.)

The Intel Edison Yocto comes with a stripped down Linux runtime where common UNIX utilities are provided via limited BusyBox counterparts. As disk space and memory are no big issue on the Edison, additional packages can be downloaded and installed from sites hosting opkg packages for the Edison.

wget http://repo.opkg.net/edison/repo/core2-32/bash_4.3-r0_core2-32.ipk
wget http://repo.opkg.net/edison/repo/core2-32/less_458-r0_core2-32.ipk
wget http://repo.opkg.net/edison/repo/core2-32/cronie_1.4.11-r0_core2-32.ipk
wget http://repo.opkg.net/edison/repo/core2-32/perl-module-filehandle_5.14.3-r1_core2-32.ipk
wget http://repo.opkg.net/edison/repo/core2-32/vim_7.4.27-r0_core2-32.ipk

// Sample how to install a downloaded package
opkg install bash_4.3-r0_core2-32.ipk

More information on the OPKG Package Manager is available here: http://wiki.openwrt.org/doc/techref/opkg

PS: I copied some frequently used tools from an existing SELS 32-bit Linux to the Edison and they work fine.

Power consumption

I tested the breakout board with the Intel Edison powered by a 3.7 V rechargeable battery and measured the power consumption provided by the battery. I don't know how much power overhead the breakout board has but I don't believe it is much because it is probably only the power light.

Power Edison Operating Mode Temp Comment
0.8 mA After shutdown - The BQ24074 chip eats some power when off!
50 mA Running and idle cold WiFi is active but no traffic
80 mA One CPU 100% busy (loop.c) <35 °C WiFi is active but no traffic
87 mA Two CPUs 100% busy (loop.c) <35 °C WiFi is active but no traffic
90 mA One CPU 99% busy via imageconv <37 °C HELIOS 1 GB image sample-images processing
120 mA WiFi file transfer via sftp cold 2 MB/s file transfer
125 mA Two CPUs 99% busy via imageconv <38 °C HELIOS 2 x 1 GB image sample-images processing
190 mA Two CPUs 99% busy via imageconv + WiFi sftp <38 °C 2 MB/s file transfer

The power consumption is pretty much in line with the Intel documentation. It is interesting that an idle Edison needs about 50-60 mA, whether or not WiFi is configured. I believe there is more power saving potential but I haven't figured out everything yet. Here are some open questions:

I verified the power consumption by checking how long a fully charged battery runs. It confirms my basic power consumption measurements listed in the table. In general the Edison needs between 50 and 300 mA depending on load and WiFi traffic. The breakout board optionally needs an additional 200 mA for battery charging, which totals to a maximum of 500 mA.

Choosing a rechargeable battery

The breakout board uses a Texas Instruments charging chip (BQ24074) which supports Lithium-ion and Lithium polymer batteries. Power source input can be the USB 2 port providing 5 V with 500 mA or the main DC power which allows voltages between 7-15 V. The battery must be a 3.7 V battery and should deliver the required Edison power of 300 mA for the maximum power utilization. Here are some helpful links:


The following table provides some battery configurations I tested.

Battery Type Power Charging power Charging until full Comment
Lithium Polymer 3.7 V 600 mAh 200 mA 3 hours Works fine for breakout board, charging light turns off when full
Lithium-Ion 3.7 V 1200 mAh 200 mA 6 hours Works best for breakout board, charging light turns off when full
Lithium-Ion 3.7 V 2200 mAh 200 mA 11 hours Charging aborts after 6 hours, charging blinks for error

The TI BQ24074 chip is pretty clever, it has configuration resistors on the breakout board which specify the charging power and charging duration. It detects when the battery is full and switches to trickle charging. When the battery charging exceeds the maximum configured duration (via resistor) it stops charging and blinks to avoid damages. An input power OFF/ON resets the chip and charging continues. The current breakout board charges about 6.5 hours with up to 200 mA. This means a battery should not have more than 1200 mA to avoid that charging aborts with a blinking LED indicating an error.

Details regarding the charging chip configuration:

BQ24074 Pin Function Ω Units Comment
TMR Charging duration 47k 6.5 hours Specifies the charging duration
ISET Charging power 4.7k 200 mA Specifies the charging power

USB 2 high power offers only up to 500 mA total power, The Edison SoC (System on a Chip) needs max. 300 mA, the charging needs an additional 200 mA which sums up to 500 mA. Assuming that USB 2 powering option should be preserved, charging with more than 200 mA makes little sense. Charging with less than 200 mA may take too long but could be feasible for solar input power where high power may not be available.

The TMR resistor can be changed to accommodate batteries with a capacity of more than 1200 mAh:

Battery Hours@mA TMR (Ω)
1300 mAh 6.5 x 200 mA 48.75k
1400 mAh 7 x 200 mA 52.5k
1500 mAh 7.5 x 200 mA 56.25k
1600 mAh 8 x 200 mA 60k
1800 mAh 9 x 200 mA 67.5k
2000 mAh 10 x 200 mA 75k
2200 mAh 11 x 200 mA 82.5k
2400 mAh 12 x 200 mA 90k
4000 mAh 20 x 200 mA 150k

Resistor configurations which charge a little bit longer are no problem because the charger will stop once the battery is full. Here is a picture of the breakout board which identifies the location of the TMR resistor:


The second is the 2k ITERM resistor, the third is the 4.8k ISET resistor configuring the 200 mA charging power output.

External antenna

The built-in antenna works pretty well, there is an optional antenna port on the Edison board. The biggest problem I had is to find out the parts needed because I didn't know the connector type. Here is some information about it.


I have not installed the antenna so far because the connector is so small and I expect plugging/un-plugging cannot be done many times. I also don't know if the antenna is good for all WiFi modes.

Disk read/write performance

The flash drive has about 2.4 GB available in /home. The disk performance has been measured, and it is the same, regardless of whether the /etc/fstab barrier is 1 or 0. Testing has been done with the included dd program.

Test in 1 MB blocks Throughput Command used
Write 512 MB 17.58 MB/s time dd if=/dev/zero bs=1024k count=512 of=xx
Read 512 MB 98.68 MB/s time dd if=xx bs=1024k of=/dev/null

After the writing the Edison was rebooted to ensure that the data is not in the cache anymore. The almost 100 MB/s read performance is very impressive, the write performance is probably related to the flash writing which takes time. However, with a 1 GB memory the write performance should complete immediately and the kernel needs to write stuff in the background. It looks like async writes are somehow turned off the in Linux kernel.

HELIOS UB2 on the Edison

The latest software release HELIOS UB64 is only 64-bit. Therefore we used the previous UB2 release for proof of concept testing. Here are some status notes:


Existing problems/limitations:

Linux Problems:

Related links