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Loading Linux Images via Ethernet and TFTP Print


This note explains how to load images to the target via Ethernet. With an Ethernet connection available, U-Boot can load images from a TFTP host quickly and easily. This is the development and software manufacturing option that is preferable with U-Boot and Linux.

The download procedure is based on the tftpboot command provided by the U-Boot command interface. tftboot implements a download capability over Ethernet using the TFTP protocol and has the following synopsis:

tftpboot <file> [<load_addr>]

If you do not specify a load address, then the value will be taken from the loadaddr environment variable. On the STM32F7 Discovery board, loadaddr is set as follows, placing the download buffer into the on-module SDRAM:

STM32F746-DISCO>print loadaddr
loadaddr=0xC0007FC0
STM32F746-DISCO>

The MAC address of the Ethernet interface is defined by the ethaddr environment variable.The IP address of the board is defined by the ipaddr U-Boot environment variable. The TFTP server IP address is defined by the serverip U-Boot environment variable. Make sure you define these environment variables to values that make sense for your LAN and save them in the on-module eNVM:

STM32F746-DISCO> setenv ethaddr C0:B1:3D:88:88:89
STM32F746-DISCO> setenv ipaddr 172.17.6.136
STM32F746-DISCO> setenv serverip 172.17.0.1
STM32F746-DISCO> saveenv
...
STM32F746-DISCO>

Once the transmission using tftpboot finishes, the file will be in memory at the specified load address. The loadaddr environment variable will automatically be set to the address the tftpboot command used. The filesize environment variable will automatically be set to the number of bytes transferred during the load operation.

Then you are free to do whatever you like with the loaded image. You can boot Linux from the image (assuming it is a Linux uImage file), display the memory, etc.

One typical command sequence involving tftpboot is defined in the netboot environment variable, which by default is set in U-Boot as follows:

STM32F746-DISCO> print netboot
netboot=tftp ${image};run args addip;bootm
STM32F746-DISCO>

What netboot does is load from a TFTP host a file defined by image (the tftp command), then add the TCP/IP related parameters to the kernel command string (addip), and finally boot Linux from the just loaded image (bootm).

Let's use netboot to boot Linux via TFTP from the sample Linux image (networking.uImage) included in the Emcraft software distribution. Copy networking.uImage to the TFTP directory on the host and then from U-Boot on the target set the image environment variable to point to the image:

STM32F746-DISCO> set image antonp/networking.uImage
STM32F746-DISCO> saveenv
Saving Environment to envm...
STM32F746-DISCO> run netboot
Auto-negotiation...completed.
STM32_MAC: link UP (100/Full)
Using STM32_MAC device
TFTP from server 172.17.0.1; our IP address is 172.17.43.47
Filename 'antonp/networking.uImage'.
Load address: 0xc0007fc0
Loading: T #################################################################
##################################################### done
Bytes transferred = 1723712 (1a4d40 hex)
## Booting kernel from Legacy Image at c0007fc0 ...
Image Name: Linux-2.6.33-arm1
Image Type: ARM Linux Kernel Image (uncompressed)
Data Size: 1723648 Bytes = 1.6 MB
Load Address: c0008000
Entry Point: c0008001
Verifying Checksum ... OK
Loading Kernel Image ... OK
OK

Starting kernel ...

Linux version 2.6.33-arm1 (antonp‌@antonp.emcraft.com) (gcc version 4.4.1 (Sourcery G++ Lite 2010q1-189) ) #76 Thu Jun 25 17:01:31 MSK 2015 CPU: ARMv7-M Processor [410fc271] revision 1 (ARMv7M)
...
PHY: 00:00 - Link is Up - 100/Full
Freeing init memory: 552K
init started: BusyBox v1.17.0 (2015-06-25 12:17:23 MSK)
~ # ps
PID USER VSZ STAT COMMAND
1    root   352   S    init
2    root   0    SW    [kthreadd]
3    root   0    SW    [ksoftirqd/0]
4    root   0    DW    [events/0]
5    root   0    SW    [khelper]
6    root   0    SW    [async/mgr]
7    root   0    SW    [sync_supers]
8    root   0    SW    [bdi-default]
9    root   0    SW    [kblockd/0]
10   root   0    SW    [rpciod/0]
11   root   0    SW    [kswapd0]
12   root   0    SW    [nfsiod]
13   root   0    SW    [mtdblockd]
19   root   367   S    /bin/hush -i
20   root   348   R     ps
~ #

Here are some troubleshooting tips, in case tftpboot does not work for you from U-Boot:

  1. As trivial as it sounds make sure that the board is connected to the LAN with an Ethernet cable.
  2. Suppose you are still not getting your file from the TFTP server. It is possible that the problem is on the host side - you must set up a TFTP server correctly. Just google for "how to set up a tftp server" and follow the advice from some top articles.
  3. Make sure you have copied a file you are trying to download to the TFTP server directory on the host.
  4. Disable the firewall on the host since get enabled, it will block TFTP requests from the target.
  5. On the target, make sure that you have set ipaddr and serverip correctly. Check ethaddr and make sure that you don't have another embedded board (eg. another STM32F7 Discovery board) configured for the same MAC address.