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Toradex spins a distro for embedded Linux newbies

May 2, 2019 — by Eric Brown 2,587 views

Toradex’s “Torizon” embedded Linux distro is built on’s Linux microPlatforms and aimed at Windows migrants and other Linux newcomers. It features Visual Studio integration, security features, OTA updates, and an optional Docker runtime.

Traditionally, embedded Linux distros launched by embedded board developers are hardened stacks designed for real-time Linux. Lately, however, we’ve seen some distros that aim to ease the embedded learning curve. Siemens, for example, released an alternative version of their still-available Yocto Project based Mentor Embedded Linux (MEL) that instead relies on a binary implementation of Debian for easier setup. Now, Swiss embedded vendor Toradex is pairing its Arm-based compute modules with a Torizon distribution that targets former Windows developers looking to switch to Linux.

Torizon installation environment (left) and container architecture
(click images to enlarge)

Unlike Siemens’ binary MEL, Toradex isn’t dispensing with the challenging, open source Yocto Project environment that now dominates embedded Linux development, but rather repackaging it. Torizon is built on’s continuously managed Linux microPlatform IoT service, which is in turn based on OE/Yocto and Docker container code. Although sells Linux microPlatforms as a subscription service, Toradex is offering its version for free.

Linux microPlatform architecture
(click image to enlarge)

A beta version of Torizon, which was teased last November as part of Toradex’s Colibri iMX8X launch, is now available with Toradex’s Arm-based compute modules as an alternative to its usual Yocto BSP. It can also be downloaded from Toradex’s GitHub page.

The open source Torizon was “designed to give developers the chance to take advantage of the vast Linux ecosystem without the need to be a Linux BSP specialist,” says Toradex. Developers moving from Windows CE and other Windows platforms are some of the main targets for Torizon. The distro includes a Torizon Microsoft Developer Environment that integrates with Visual Studio. The distro also supports .Net, which will be more tightly integrated in the future.


Torizon also adds improved security and an OTA remote update client based on Aktualizr, a “safe automotive-grade solution” based on an OSTree and Uptane daemon. The new distro aims to further ease the out-of-the-box experience with a Debian container, an optional Docker runtime, “and a range of upcoming tools that help with development and system configuration.”

Colibri iMX8X

At the heart of Torizon is TorizonCore, a lightweight base system that contains a Linux Kernel — there’s support for both mainline and downstream kernels — as well as basic services, such as an OTA client and optional container runtime. There’s also an option for a real-time optimized kernel. Currently supported products include the Colibri iMX6 and Colibri iMX7 modules, as well as the Apalis iMX6. Presumably the Colibri iMX8X will join the list soon.

“We looked for alternatives for WinCE, and after an in-depth evaluation of many OSs, such as Android, Windows 10 IoT Core, Commercial RTOS, and different Linux flavors, we decided that for most of our target customers, a Linux-based system in the best choice,” stated Daniel Lang, CMO of Toradex. “But that meant we had to improve on the ease-of-use. The result was Torizon!”

Further information

A beta version of Torizon is now available for free download at the Toradex GitHub page. More information may be found at the Torizon product page.

Toradex will host a Torizon webinar on June 7. There’s also a limited giveaway of 30 support hours for Windows and Win CE developers aiming to transition to Torizon.

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