LITMUS^RT: Linux Testbed for Multiprocessor Scheduling in Real-Time Systems

Installing LITMUSRT

Working with LITMUSRT generally requires compiling the entire LITMUSRT kernel from source, and then installing liblitmus and Feather-Trace. The following instructions include all of the necessary compilation and installation steps.

These instructions were tested on 32- and 64-bit versions of Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 (running in VirtualBox VMs), but should be largely identical for other platforms. When in doubt, contact the LITMUSRT mailing list.


Some Linux systems, including Ubuntu 14.04, do not have git or the ncurses and openssl libraries installed by default. These are needed for compiling LITMUSRT, and can be installed on Debian-based systems (including Ubuntu) using this command:

sudo apt install libncurses-dev git libssl-dev

Create a directory to contain all of the litmus-related code. This directory is identified using the $DIR environment variable for the remainder of this tutorial:

mkdir litmus
cd litmus
export DIR=`pwd`

Configuring and compiling the LITMUSRT kernel

First, obtain a copy of the LITMUSRT kernel code:

cd $DIR
git clone
cd litmus-rt

Next, we need to configure the compile-time kernel options.

Obtaining a default kernel configuration

If it’s available, the kernel configuration used by the currently running kernel is usually a good starting point when configuring a new kernel. On Ubuntu systems, the kernel configuration files for the pre-installed kernels are located in the /boot directory, and can be copied by running the following command (in the $DIR/litmus-rt directory):

cp /boot/config-`uname -r` .config

Alternatively, on other systems, the existing kernel configuration options may be contained in /proc/config.gz:

zcat /proc/config.gz > .config

Finally, if neither of the two options worked and you can’t locate an existing configuration file for your system, you can run the following command to generate a default configuration:

make defconfig

After a suitable initial configuration has been obtained with one of the above steps (or after simply creating a new configuration from scratch), some further adjustments are needed for LITMUSRT to work correctly.

Adjusting configuration options for LITMUSRT

These instructions use the menu configuration tool to locate and adjust the options needed for LITMUSRT. Access this tool by running the following command:

cd $DIR/litmus-rt
make menuconfig

You’ll need to find and adjust several configuration options. I’ll include the locations of the settings in the menu-based configuration for my Ubuntu systems, but these locations may change depending on which base version of the Linux kernel you’re using:

Compiling the LITMUSRT kernel

After finishing making configuration changes, save the updated configuration (keep the .config name). Afterwards, run the following commands to build the LITMUSRT kernel:

make bzImage
make modules

This will take some time. To speed things up a little, you may want to enable a parallel build by giving the -j option to make (with a limit of twice the number of cores or so).

Installing the LITMUSRT kernel

After compiling the LITMUSRT kernel, install it using the following commands:

cd $DIR/litmus-rt
sudo make modules_install
sudo make install

(These instructions will usually differ somewhat on non-x86 platforms and when cross-compiling.)

Finally, configure the boot loader (e.g., grub in Ubuntu and most modern distros on x86) to show the boot menu, to allow the LITMUSRT kernel to be selected during boot rather than the default Linux kernel.

# Comment out the line containing GRUB_HIDDEN_TIMEOUT, then save the changes.
sudo nano /etc/default/grub

# Re-generate grub's internal configuration settings.
sudo update-grub

You should now be able to reboot your system and select the Litmus kernel from the boot menu.

Building liblitmus

After the kernel has been built, proceed next to building liblitmus, which is the userspace portion of LITMUSRT. This includes both libraries for writing real-time tasks and utilities such as setsched for managing the system’s schedulers.

To download and build liblitmus:

# You can place liblitmus elsewhere, but it's more convenient to put it
# somewhere relative to the LITMUS^RT kernel source code, which is required when
# compiling liblitmus.
cd $DIR

# Obtain a copy of the liblitmus source code
git clone
cd liblitmus

# Usually, no configuration file is needed for liblitmus. However, if you didn't
# place liblitmus in the same location as the LITMUS^RT kernel source code's
# directory, then you'll need to provide a .config file to refer to the correct
# location of the LITMUS^RT kernel source code. Download the following template to
# get started.
wget -O .config

# Finally, compile liblitmus

Building the Feather-Trace Tools

The Feather-Trace tools are needed to trace and visualize scheduling events, and to measure overheads when using LITMUSRT. Feather-Trace tools are built in a manner identical to liblitmus, with the sole difference that the (in the common case purely optional) .config file refers to the location of liblitmus rather than the LITMUSRT kernel source.

To download and build Feather-Trace:

cd $DIR
git clone
cd feather-trace-tools
wget -O .config

Next Steps

At this point, reboot the system into LITMUSRT and try running a few examples. Check out the tutorial for some initial steps, or the plugin creation tutorial to start writing a LITMUSRT scheduler plugin.