Using C with the Kubos SDK

Creating a Project

Create a folder for your project with the mkdir command followed by the name of your project.

Inside of this folder you will create three new folders:

  • project-name - This is where any header (*.h) files will go.
  • source - This is where any source (*.c) files will go.
  • test - This is where any test files will go.

This is the skeleton folder structure of your C project.

You also need to create a text file called CMakeLists.txt. This is where the build instructions for your project will go.

Here is a quick rundown of the files needed to start your project:

Your final directory structure should look like this:

|_ CMakeLists.txt
|_ project-name
|_ source
|_ test

Kubos uses the CMake build system, along with our own folder conventions, for C projects. You can read more about CMake here.

Working with CMakeLists.txt

The CMakeLists.txt file provides instructions to cmake on how to build the C project.

All CMakeLists.txt files need to start with these two lines:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.5)
project(project-name VERSION 0.1.0)

Next, cmake must be told what type of project it is building and which source files to compile.

If the project is a library, then the add_library command will be used:


If the project is an executable, then the add_executable command will be used:


Lastly, the header folder needs to be added using the target_include_directories command:

  PUBLIC "${project-name_SOURCE_DIR}/project-name"

Building a Project

To build a Kubos C project, the CMake build mechanism needs to be invoked.

First, a folder will be created to store the build artifacts:

$ mkdir build
$ cd build

Next, CMake will be called and told where to find the build instructions:

$ cmake ..

Lastly, make will be called to execute the build setup by Cmake:

$ make

All build artifacts will be generated in the build folder. If the project is an executable, then the binary will be named project-name. If the project is a library, then the library file will be named libproject-name.a.

To build a project from scratch, run make clean to remove all prior build artifacts followed by make.

To pick up on any changes to the project`s CMake files, run cmake .. again, followed by make.

To build a project without any of the prior make or cmake artifacts, remove the build directory with all of its contents and start the build process over.

Cross Compiling

By default, CMake will compile with the local gcc toolchain found on the PATH. If you are working inside of the SDK VM, then the native target is x86 Linux.

The SDK also provides cross-compiling toolchains for several different targets:

Vendor Toolchain Description
ISIS /usr/bin/iobc_toolchain/usr/bin/arm-linux-gcc ISIS-OBC
Pumpkin /usr/bin/bbb_toolchain/usr/bin/arm-linux-gcc Pumpkin Motherboard Module 2
Beaglebone /usr/bin/bbb_toolchain/usr/bin/arm-linux-gcc Beaglebone Black, Rev. C
(Vagrant) /usr/bin/gcc Native x86 Linux

If you would like to cross-compile for one of the supported embedded boards, then CMake will need to be informed about which cross-compiling toolchain to use. CMake looks at two environment variables when compiling to determine which toolchain it should use. These variables are CC and CXX.

For example:

$ mkdir build && cd build
$ export CC=/usr/bin/bbb_toolchain/usr/bin/arm-linux-gcc
$ export CXX=/usr/bin/bbb_toolchain/usr/bin/arm-linux-g++
$ cmake .. && make


Executables generated from C projects can be transferred to the target OBC via a supported file transfer method.

Binaries may be transferred to any location on the target board, however, they should be copied to /home/system/usr/bin if you would like them to be automatically accessible via the system PATH.