1.12. Devicetree support

Flattened Device Tree (FDT) is a data structure for describing the hardware on a system. On an increasing number of boards, both barebox and the Linux kernel can probe their devices directly from devicetrees. barebox needs the devicetree compiled into the binary. The kernel usually does not have a devicetree compiled in; instead, the kernel expects to be passed a devicetree from the bootloader.

From a bootloader’s point of view, using devicetrees has the advantage that the same devicetree can be used by both the bootloader and the kernel; this drastically reduces porting effort since the devicetree has to be written only once (and with luck somebody has already written a devicetree for the kernel). Having barebox consult a devicetree is highly recommended for new projects.

1.12.1. The internal devicetree

The devicetree consulted by barebox plays a special role. It is referred to as the “internal devicetree” or “live tree”. The barebox devicetree commands work on this devicetree. The devicetree source (DTS) files are kept in sync with the kernel DTS files. As the FDT files are meant to be backward compatible, it should always be possible to start a kernel with the barebox internal devicetree. However, since the barebox devicetree may not be complete or contain bugs it is always possible to start the kernel with a devicetree different from the one used by barebox. If a device has been probed from the devicetree then using the devinfo - show information about devices command on it will show the corresponding devicetree node:

barebox@Phytec pcm970:/ devinfo 10002000.wdog
  num: 0
  name: /soc/aipi@10000000/wdog@10002000
  start: 0x10002000
  size: 0x00001000
Driver: imx-watchdog
Bus: platform
Device node: /soc/aipi@10000000/wdog@10002000
wdog@10002000 {
        compatible = "fsl,imx27-wdt", "fsl,imx21-wdt";
        reg = <0x10002000 0x1000>;
        interrupts = <0x1b>;
        clocks = <0x1 0x4a>;

1.12.2. Devicetree commands

barebox has commands to show and manipulate devicetrees. These commands always work on the internal devicetree. It is possible to add/remove nodes using the of_node - create/delete nodes in the device tree command and to add/change/remove properties using the of_property - handle device tree properties command. To dump devicetrees on the console use the of_dump - dump devicetree nodes command.

# dump the whole devicetree

# dump node of_dump /soc/nand@d8000000/
of_dump /soc/nand@d8000000/

# create a new node
of_node -c /chosen/mynode

# add a property to it
of_property -s /chosen/mynode/ myproperty myvalue

It is important to know that these commands normally work on the internal devicetree. If you want to modify the devicetree the kernel is started with see the -f options to of_property and of_node. This option will register the operation for later execution on the Kernel devicetree.

1.12.3. Device tree overlays

barebox has support for device tree overlays. barebox knows two different trees, the live tree and the device tree the kernel is started with. Both can be applied overlays to. Device tree overlays on the live tree

While the live tree can be patched by board code, barebox does not detect any changes to the live tree. To let the overlays have any effect, board code must make sure the live tree is patched before the devices are instanciated from it. Device tree overlays on the kernel device tree

Overlays can be applied to the kernel device tree before it is handed over to the kernel. The behaviour is controlled by different variables:


Overlays are read from this directory. barebox will try to apply all overlays found here if not limited by one of the other variables below. When the path given here is an absolute path it is used as is. A relative path is relative to / or relative to the rootfs when using bootloader spec.


This is a space separated list of compatibles. Only overlays matching one of these compatibles will be applied. When this list is empty then all overlays will be applied. Overlays that don’t have a compatible are considered being always compatible.


This is a space separated list of file patterns. An overlay is only applied when its filename matches one of the patterns. The patterns can contain * and ? as wildcards. The default is * which means all files are applied.


This is a space separated list of filters to apply. There are two generic filters: filepattern matches global.of.overlay.filepattern above, compatible matches global.of.overlay.compatible above. The default is filepattern compatible which means the two generic filters are active. This list may be replaced or supplemented by board specific filters.