Docker is a light-weight virtual machine with excellent cross-platform support. This allows us to run something very close to the ev3dev OS on any desktop or notebook computer. This means that we get the same versions of all of the libraries running on the EV3 but compile with the power of a desktop processor.

This will only work on 64-bit operating systems. We do not maintain images for 32-bit operating systems.

Getting Docker

Docker has excellent documentation, so we will just send you to their install page. Come back when you have Docker installed for Windows, Mac or Linux.


Docker for Linux has quite a bit of information to read. This may help you sort through it. The most important parts are:

  • Add the Docker package repository
  • Install the docker-ce package
  • Add your user to the docker group

Also, you will need to install qemu-user-static on your host computer, otherwise you will get an error: exec user process caused "exec format error".

Download the ev3dev cross-compiler image

We provide a Docker image with the most common developer tools already installed. Download it by running…

docker pull ev3dev/debian-stretch-cross

This will take some time. The download is nearly 1GB!

When it is finished, we can give it a shorter name…

docker tag ev3dev/debian-stretch-cross ev3cc

Docker images are immutable. You can always revert back to this image after making changes without having to download it again.

You can see a list of images you have downloaded by running…

docker images

… and delete them with…

docker rmi <image-name-or-hash>

But don’t delete the one you just downloaded yet!

Hello World!

Let’s do the classic hello world program in C. Create a new, empty directory wherever you like. In your favorite text editor, paste this and save it as hello.c. For this example, we will be using C:\Users\myname\example\hello.c.

#include <stdio.h>

int main(int argc, const char *argv[])
    printf("Hello World!\n");

    return 0;

If you are using Windows, you must explicitly allow shared drives in the Docker control panel first!

Docker Toolbox

Unless you are using Windows 10 Pro edition, you may have received the following error when trying to install Docker using Install Docker.msi:

HyperV is not available on home editions. Please use Docker Toolbox.

This is fine, you can just download Docker Toolbox instead.

Docker Toolbox however handles shared drives differently; there is no whale icon in the system tray. Instead, Docker Toolbox automatically allows sharing of your C:\Users\myname folder. Also, the path handling is different, you have to use paths in linux style, so the command below has to be changed:

docker run --rm -it -v /c/Users/myname/example/:/src -w /src ev3cc

Now, we compile using the docker image. First we run a new docker container…

docker run --rm -it -v C:\Users\myname\example\:/src -w /src ev3cc

Let’s break down the command:

Now we can compile our program…

arm-linux-gnueabi-gcc -o hello hello.c

Note: For BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi 2/3 use gnueabihf instead of gnueabi.

Since this program does not depend on any hardware drivers, we can actually run this program inside of the Docker container! There are some caveats though… You must be running Docker >= 1.12 and if you are using a Linux host you must have the proper format registered with binfmt_misc.


This will output:

Hello World!

Also, a binary file called hello will now exist in C:\Users\myname\example on your host computer. You can copy this file to your EV3 and run it!

To exit the docker container, simply type…


Note: if encountered /lib/ No such file or directory error while running ./hello in the docker environment, try qemu-arm-static -L /usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/ ./hello

Advanced Usage

If you need to install additional libraries, you need to be sure to install the armel version (or armhf for BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi 2/3). Example:

sudo apt-get install libsomething-dev:armel

It is best to create a Dockerfile to do this so that you can repeat the process easily and share it with others. Here is an example on how you might do this.

The same example also shows a trick of how to keep a Docker container running so that you can run builds without starting a new container each time.

Using GDB

gdb is the GNU debugger. TODO: need to find a good link for intro to gdb.

Although it is possible to run gdb directly on the EV3, you will quickly run out of memory. To get around this, we will do remote debugging.

Let’s debug our “hello world” program. First, we need to make sure we compile with debugging symbols (thats the -g flag). You will need to copy the new executable to the EV3 too if you haven’t done the mounting a remote file system thing yet.

arm-linux-gnueabi-gcc -g -o hello hello.c

On the EV3, run gdbserver. host is the name or IP address of your host computer (or VM) and 3333 is an arbitrary TCP port.

gdbserver host:3333 hello

Then back in the docker container run gdb. target remote tells gdb to connect to your EV3. If you have trouble connecting by hostname, you can use the IP address of your EV3 instead ( in this example). And of course, the port number needs to match what you used with gdbserver.

gdb hello

This starts an interactive gdb session. You have to type in the commands on each line that starts with (gdb); the other lines are output and you should not type them.

Reading symbols from /host-rootfs/home/david/work/brickdm/build/hello...done.
(gdb) target remote
Remote debugging using
(gdb) break hello.c:5
Breakpoint 1 at 0x8428: file hello.c, line 5.
(gdb) c

Breakpoint 1, main () at hello.c:5
5               printf("Hello World!\n");
(gdb) c
[Inferior 1 (process 1821) exited normally]
qemu: Unsupported syscall: 26
(gdb) q