Jul. 12th, 2013

You can find out on the Yocto project's website, but here's my take.

Yocto is a build system, not for individual software applications, but for an entire configuration which includes the operating system, the hardware and the software configuration. A few well chosen commands will eventually yield an operating system and a root filesystem for a desired architecture which can be loaded on an embedded system (either real or emulated).

The front end is basically a package manager. That is, it will handle fetching upstream sources, configuring, compiling and installing as necessary. Of course, it's not installing those packages on your system, it is preparing them for installation on some other system. Like a package manager, it tracks dependencies. It must also track the particular open-source license under which each source has been released.

If compilation is necessary, it is usual that a package is being cross-compiled. This is not the situation that regular package managers have to deal with and it is a possibility that many configuration scripts ignore. Thus, the Yocto package maintainer's task is a bit more challenging than for a normal package manager as they must modify configure scripts to be cross-compiler compliant.

The back end takes over after the build process has completed the install into a directory in the designated workspace. The files in the install directory are split out and repackaged into a bunch of sub-directories. This step gives the build process a way to limit the size of the root filesystem to only those parts of the install files that are necessary, a crucial step given the relatively small size of embedded devices.

Yocto can be configured to use a variety of package managers to repackage any necessary files obtained by the previous splitting and packaging process.

Eventually, everything is combined into a few largish files which constitute the ultimate goal of this whole process.

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September 2013

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