Linux – How to create a Linux system that runs a single application

linux

I'm trying to run a Linux application and all I want to run is this one application off of boot. I need networking and that's all (no display, peripherals, etc.). I want no other applications running so that the application I run has 100% of the CPU. Is this possible?

Best Answer

Minimal initrd CPIO hello world program step-by-step

enter image description here

Compile a hello world without any dependencies that ends in an infinite loop. init.S:

.global _start
_start:
    mov $1, %rax
    mov $1, %rdi
    mov $message, %rsi
    mov $message_len, %rdx
    syscall
    jmp .
    message: .ascii "FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR\n"
    .equ message_len, . - message

We cannot use sys_exit, or else the kernel panics.

Then:

mkdir d
as --64 -o init.o init.S
ld -o init d/init.o
cd d
find . | cpio -o -H newc | gzip > ../rootfs.cpio.gz
ROOTFS_PATH="$(pwd)/../rootfs.cpio.gz"

This creates a filesystem with our hello world at /init, which is the first userland program that the kernel will run. We could also have added more files to d/ and they would be accessible from the /init program when the kernel runs.

Then cd into the Linux kernel tree, build is as usual, and run it in QEMU:

git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git
cd linux
git checkout v4.9
make mrproper
make defconfig
make -j"$(nproc)"
qemu-system-x86_64 -kernel arch/x86/boot/bzImage -initrd "$ROOTFS_PATH"

And you should see a line:

FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR

on the emulator screen! Note that it is not the last line, so you have to look a bit further up.

You can also use C programs if you link them statically:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>

int main() {
    printf("FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR FOOBAR\n");
    sleep(0xFFFFFFFF);
    return 0;
}

with:

gcc -static init.c -o init

You can run on real hardware with a USB on /dev/sdX and:

make isoimage FDINITRD="$ROOTFS_PATH"
sudo dd if=arch/x86/boot/image.iso of=/dev/sdX

Great source on this subject: http://landley.net/writing/rootfs-howto.html It also explains how to use gen_initramfs_list.sh, which is a script from the Linux kernel source tree to help automate the process.

Next step: setup BusyBox so you can interact with the system: https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/2692/what-is-the-smallest-possible-linux-implementation/203902#203902

Tested on Ubuntu 16.10, QEMU 2.6.1.

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