Instructions for Dynamically Loading Device Tree Overlays into Linux Kernel

This document provides instructions for dynamically loading the device tree overlays (dtbo) into linux kernel running on DragonBoard410c.

Table of Contents

# 1) Device Tree Compiler

First of all we need to install device tree compiler (dtc) for compiling the source files (dts) into overlays (dtbo). Overlay support was added to the mainline dtc by v1.4.2 only. But, the one which is available as a package in debian based distros is v1.4.0. So, we need to install the compiler from source.

## 1.1 Installing the Compiler

$ sudo apt-get install flex bison swig
$ git clone git://
$ cd dtc
$ make -j$(nproc)
$ sudo make install PREFIX=/usr

2) Enable Overlay Support in Kernel

Next, overlay support needs to be enabled in the kernel. For which a custom kernel would be used other than the one available in Qualcomm landing page.

2.1 Cloning and Building the kernel

$ export ARCH=arm64
$ export CROSS_COMPILE=<path to your GCC cross compiler>/aarch64-linux-gnu-
$ git clone -n
$ cd kernel
$ git checkout -b kernel-<release> debian-qcom-dragonboard410c-<release>

Note: Replace < release > with latest release version found here

Now, custom kernel should be added as a source in order to fetch the configfs-overlay changes

$ git remote add source

Fetch latest changes and merge into release branch

$ git fetch source release/qcomlt-4.9+configfs_overlay

Now merge configfs_overlay changes into the release branch

$ git merge source/release/qcomlt-4.9+configfs_overlay

Configfs overlay feature has been enabled by default in defconfig

$ make defconfig distro.config
$ make -j$(nproc) Image dtbs
$ make -j$(nproc) modules
$ make modules_install INSTALL_MOD_STRIP=1 INSTALL_MOD_PATH=<folder>

Note: Replace < folder > with the path of folder to place kernel modules. Kernel modules needs to be transferred to the root file system, under /lib/modules folder on DragonBoard410c.

For further instructions on how to create bootable image and flashing onto Dragonboard410c, refer release notes here

3) Load Overlays Dynamically

After flashing the patched kernel onto Dragonboad410c, following instructions allows to load device tree overlays dynamically through configfs.

3.1 Compiling the Overlays

There are some example overlays available for reference. You can modify them according to the preferred device. Below example shows compiling the overlays for i2c based TSYS01 and MS8607 sensors. Device drivers for the appropriate sensors should have device tree support enabled for allowing cold plug.

$ git clone
$ cd DT-Overlays
$ make -j$(nproc)

After successful compilation, device tree blobs (dtbo) will be available in bin directory.

3.2 Loading Overlays via Configfs

Now its the time to insert the device tree blobs into running kernel using configfs. (Your kernel must have been compiled with CONFIG_OF_OVERLAY and CONFIG_CONFIGFS for the following steps to work.)

$ sudo su
# mount -t configfs none /sys/kernel/config

When configfs has been mounted properly, that directory should have been populated with subdirectories /sys/kernel/config/device-tree/overlays

# mkdir -p /sys/kernel/config/device-tree/overlays/tsys01
# cd <bin directory under DT-Overlays>
# cat tsys01.dtbo > /sys/kernel/config/device-tree/overlays/tsys01/dtbo

After loading, the device should appear under /proc/device-tree/soc/i2c@78b6000/

That’s it! You have loaded a device tree overlay dynamically. But this won’t be sufficient, you also need to load your device driver to work with the device. By this time, if the driver has been compiled into the kernel (by selecting y during make menuconfig), then the driver should have been probed successfully and it will appear under /sys/bus/i2c/devices/

If the driver was compiled as a kernel module, then insert it using modprobe