FriendlyARM mini2440



What is it?

The FriendlyARM mini2440 is a small single-board computer with plenty of I/O and several options for touch-screen LCD interfaces. I've got the version with a 3.5" touchscreen which is available from several resellers in the USA for about $110:


The principle attraction of the mini2440 is all the I/O. In particular, there are a number of 3- and 4-pin shells with serial, audio and power connections, and a 34-pin shrouded IDC header which carries processor GPIO, clocks and I2C signals. These are somewhat unusual connectors, especially the expansion header which is a 2mm pitch. Fortunately they're all available at the normal components retailers:

Expansion header

The expansion header is where most of the interesting things are happening. This provides access to a number of direct connections to the ARM SoC as shown below:



Note that many of the pins have several functions which are selected by setting the pinmux in the SoC - I'll discuss that in greater detail in the software section. Also be aware that pins 16 and 24 are also tied to buttons on the board, and many of the pins are also routed to some of the other connectors so don't try to use them for more than one function at a time. Refer to the schematic for further details about potential conflicts.


The mini2440 is shipped with a fairly usable QTopia installation running on a Linux 2.6.x kernel. By default this kernel supports a few custom I/O drivers to access the on-board LEDs and Buttons, as well as the I2C port and one of the ADC channels. All of these are accessible via user-space devices for which demo applications and source code is available. Unfortunately, if you want to use other I/O ports and services you'll need to customize the kernel. Details of that process are presented here.

Note that many of the folks using the mini2440 have chosen to completely change their Linux installation. This means choosing a different kernel, a new root filesystem, and in some cases even replacing the Supervivi bootloader with an alternative like u-boot. I'm not interested in making such extensive changes - the QTopia linux works fine and seems to be fairly well integrated, so I'm happy to continue using it.

Kernel Tweaking

Tweaking the Linux kernel isn't particularly difficult, but gathering the information and tools required to do so and setting them up can be tedious. FriendlyARM's download page has archives of the source and tools you'll need, as well as an extensive and detailed user manual with instructions on how to do this in Chinese. For those of us who don't read Chinese, Google Language tools are able to make some sense of this manual - cutting and pasting into the translator worked for me and I've extracted the relevent directions down into a text file which you may find helpful: mini2440 Manual ch5-7 English Translation.

The most important part of setting up a development environment is to be familiar with working with the linux command line. That's well outside the scope of this document, so I'm assuming you've already got a Linux system up and running which you can use to base the rest of the process on. I use both Fedora 11 and Ubuntu 9.04, but all my mini2440 work has been done on the Ubuntu system. Given that you've got Linux running, the rest of the process consists of:

  1. Download and Install the ARM cross-compiler

    The ARM cross-compiler is available on the FriendlyARM download site here: arm-linux-gcc-4.3.2.tgz.

    I found this blog entry extremely helpful for the process: Equally Bad: Project: How to setup the mini2440 dev tools

    Take note of the software dependencies that are called out in the above blog. I've also been cautioned that on a vanilla Ubuntu 9.10 install you may also need to install the ncurses5 package if you haven't already.

  2. Download and Extract the Linux kernel source

    There are several versions of the Linux kernel shipped with the mini2440 depending on when you bought your board. My board was delivered with the 2.6.32-2 kernel, so that's what I'm basing this on. If you have an older kernel (use the 'uname -a' command to check) you'll want to use different files, or else upgrade your entire NAND installation to use more up-to-date firmware.

    The Linux kernel source I used is available on the FriendlyARM download site here: linux- You'll want to use this rather than a generic Linux kernel since it contains customized code specific to the mini2440, including the LED, Button and ADC drivers.

    Once you have the kernel source tarball, choose a place to extract it - the location isn't critical. Use the command 'tar -zxvf linux-' to do this and a new directory called 'linux-' will be created. At this point you're ready to customize and/or compile your kernel. If you'd like to try building the kernel without changes just to test that everything is working, follow these steps:

    1. cd linux-
    2. cp config_mini2440_t35 .config # choose the pre-built config that matches your LCD
    3. make menuconfig # and just exit
    4. make zImage # and wait for the process to finish - about 1/2 hour on my Atom CPU

    Now you've got a compressed kernel image in ./arch/arm/boot that you can download into the NAND flash as described below.

  3. Edit the board initialization routines for your hardware

    The specific hardware hookups that Linux has to know about are all set forth in the board init file and consist of data structures and C code which describe the hardware to the kernel drivers. This is aslo where the GPIO pinmux (mentioned above) is set up - it's responsible for routing the signals from on-chip peripherals like SPI and I2C to the port pins and must be configured before they can be used. The board init file for the mini2440 is located at:


    As delivered, this board init file contains info about the UARTs, LCD, Ethernet, NAND, MMC and I2C buses. To use SPI bus 0 on the expansion connector we have to add information about it. I've done that already and the updated file can be found here:

    Extract this file and copy it to the location above.

  4. Configure and compile the kernel for your hardware

    Although we've told the kernel about the specific hardware our board uses in the init file, we need to give the kernel a set of drivers that can talk to that hardware. More specifically, we want to add the GPIO and SPI device drivers to the config file. The easiest way to do this is to grab my config file here:

    Extract this file and copy it into the linux- directory, then follow these steps:

    1. cd linux-
    2. make clean # to start over if you built a test case above
    3. cp config_mini2440_t35_gpio_spi .config
    4. make menuconfig # and just exit
    5. make zImage

    This will only work if you happen to have the same T35 LCD that I do. If you have different LCD you'll need to configure your kernel by hand using the menuconfig tool. This requires you to find the pre-built config file for your hardware - primarily which LCD you've got - and copy it to '.config' in the kernel root directory. When you've done this, run 'make menuconfig' to build and run the ncurses-based configuration utility. Use the arrow and enter keys to navigate around the various kernel options and enable the following:

    Once you've found and enabled these (they should all be under the devices menu), exit menuconfig and proceed with 'make zImage'.

  5. Install the kernel on the board

    This step requires the use of a host computer to talk to the Supervivi bootloader which is accessible when the mini2440 is powered up with the NAND/NOR switch in the NOR position. Two links are required - an RS-232 serial connection for text-based command/response between you and the bootloader, and a USB connection for bulk data transfers. It's possible to do this in either Windows or Linux, but the Windows process seems a bit better integrated so that's the approach I took.

    NOTE: during the process of getting my kernel to work I had to download several times and I ran into some annoying USB driver behavior. It seems that the Windows USB driver for the mini2440 is buggy because it frequently fails to recognize the mini2440. The only solution I found was to disconnect the mini2440, uninstall the driver and reconnect/reinstall. Perhaps I should have tried downloading using the Linux approach - it might have been more reliable.

    You'll need a Windows machine to run the download application provided by FriendlyARM on the DVD which ships with the board. The application is called DNW and is found at:


    You'll also need the USB drivers for Supervivi which are found at:


    These can also be found on the FriendlyARM download page here:

    First connect the mini2440 RS-232 port to your Windows PC serial port (or use a USB/Serial adapter) with the serial cable that came with it. Bootloader commands are sent via this link. Connect the mini2440 USB to your PC as well - bulk data transfers take place over this connection. Flip the NAND/NOR switch on the mini2440 to the NOR position and power it up. Windows should recognize a new USB device and prompt you for the driver location. Point it at the USB driver mentioned above.

    Run DNW. It should spot the USB connection and put the text [USB:OK] in the window's title bar. Select "Serial Port->Connect" from the menus and hit enter a few times. This should put the text [COM:115300] in the window's title bar as well and you should see the Supervivi help text scroll across the screen.

    At this point you're ready to download your new kernel. Hit 'k' on the keyboard to download a kernel image. Now select 'USB Port->Transmit/Restore' from the menu. This brings up a file select dialog. Browse to the location of your new kernel file and proceed. A progress bar should appear as the file is sent - the process should only take a few seconds. Download is complete and you may now exit from DNW.

    Power down the board and flip the NAND/NOR switch back to the NAND position. Power up - you should see the penguin screen and short progress messages, after which a QTopia desktop appears. Pull up a terminal window and type 'uname -a' - the kernel date should be only a few minutes old. You're done.

User Applications

After the process described above you should have a kernel with GPIO and SPI capability. You should find a device named '/dev/spidev0.0' as well as new GPIO entries in the /sys/class/gpio directory. You'll need some applications to test these new I/O devices and I've got a few here:

Going Further

You'll notice that there are two SPI ports, numerous external interrupts, timers and UART flow control options for some of the expansion connector pins. Connecting these is possible and requires further modifications to the board init file and kernel configuration. Additionally, there are four ADC inputs, only one of which is presently supported by the kernel driver. All these should be fairly easy to enable with a bit of extra work.

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Eric Brombaugh

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