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I have been tasked with running Linux as an operating system on an embedded device.

The target has an x86 processor and has 8 GB CompactFlash device for storage.

I have managed to use buildroot to create the kernel image and cross compilation tools. I have partitioned the CF device into a small FAT partition where the kernel image resides as well as syslinux boot configuration and an ext3 file system where I have decompressed the root file system generated by buildroot to.

The system boots successfully using syslinux by setting the root directory to the CF ext3 partition where my buildroot file system is located.

My question is centred around the need for robustness in the face of immediate (and frequent) power loss as it is crucial for the device to boot successfully after power outages. I have read that mounting the root file system as read only is a way of ensuring data integrity. Is this a sensible way for me to proceed?

I have also read about the possibility of loading the root file system into RAM to achieve the same thing but as yet do not know how to do so.

Is there a preferred way of achieving this goal and if so what is the best way for me to proceed?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes, it is a strong solution, but powerfull!

Making r/o useable

You have to mount some directories in rw, like /var, /etc and maybe /home. This could by done using aufs or unionfs. I like this another way, using /dev/shm and mount --bind:

cp -a /var /dev/shm/
mount --bind /dev/shm/var /var

You could before, move all directories who have not to change in normal operation in a static-var, than create symlinks in /var:

mkdir /static-var
mkdir /static-var/cache
mkdir /static-var/lib
mv /var/lib/dpkg /static-var/lib/dpkg
ln -s /static-var/lib/dpkg /var/lib/dpkg
mv /var/cache/apt /static-var/cache/apt
ln -s /static-var/cache/apt /var/cache/apt
... # an so on

So when remounting in ro, copying /var in /dev/shm won't take too much space as most files are moved to /static-var and only symlinks are to be copied in ram.

The better way to do this finely is to make a full power-cycle, one day of full work and finely run a command like:

find / -type f -o -type f -mtime -1

So you will see which files needs to be located on read-write partition.


As in this host no writeable static memory exist, in order to store history and other logs, you have to config a remote syslog server.

echo >/etc/syslog.conf '*.* @mySyslogServer.localdomain'

In this way, if your system break for any reason, everything before is logged.


When running whith some mount --bind in use, for doing such an upgrade while system is in use (whithout the need of running init 1, for reducing down-time), the simplier way is to re-build a clean root, able to do the upgrade:

After remounting '/' in read-write mode:

mount -o remount,rw /

for mpnt in /{,proc,sys,dev{,/pts}};do
    mount --bind $mnpt /$mnt$mpnt;

chroot /mnt

apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade


umount /mnt/{dev{/pts,},proc,sys,}

mount -o remount,ro /

And now:

shutdown -r now
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Thanks for your answer. I do not completely understand it as my Linux skills are not great at the moment. It is still very helpful though and gives me some more areas to research. –  mathematician1975 Jan 14 '13 at 10:23

I only have experience using a more recent buildroot (2014-02). In that version you can disable 'remount root filesystem read-write duing boot' in the config file with:


I managed to create an image that just uses its ext4 / partition as read only so unplugging the power of the system does not harm at all. It works great, so if you don't need to write to your filesystem, maybe this is a far simpler solution than the one mentioned above (which seems more or less applicable to a Debian system as it refers to apt-get).

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Thanks for the answer - however in the end I opted for a initramfs setup with mounting just a couple of directories with sync option on the CF drive for data persistence. This has served me pretty well for the time being. –  mathematician1975 Oct 1 '14 at 11:40

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