The goal of this article is to guide you through compiling and running Barrelfish inside QEMU, and to write and run programs on Barrelfish itself. The instructions below assume you are using a recent version of Ubuntu.

To run Barrelfish on the Pandaboard, have a look at PandaBoard.


Barrelfish requires the following tools to compile correctly:

We are running nightly build tests on the latest Ubuntu LTS release (16.04.x) and are ensuring Barrelfish always builds using the Ubuntu versions of the above-mentioned tools. You can get a full build environment on Ubuntu by running the following command

$ sudo apt-get install build-essential bison flex cmake qemu-system-x86 qemu-system-arm ghc libghc-src-exts-dev libghc-ghc-paths-dev libghc-parsec3-dev libghc-random-dev libghc-ghc-mtl-dev libghc-src-exts-dev libghc-async-dev gcc-arm-linux-gnueabi g++-arm-linux-gnueabi libgmp3-dev cabal-install curl freebsd-glue libelf-freebsd-dev libusb-1.0-0-dev qemu-utils gcc-aarch64-linux-gnu g++-aarch64-linux-gnu
$ cabal install bytestring-trie

Note: Sometimes cabal fails because its repository,, is down. In this case a mirror can be used, for example as documented in

Getting Barrelfish

First we need to get the latest version of Barrelfish from the mercurial repository. Use the following command:

git clone git://


Once you have cloned the repository, cd into it, create a build directory, and enter it:

cd barrelfish
mkdir build
cd build

Prepare for build: The hake build system

We use hake to build barrelfish.

GHC Versions

7.10.3 is the version we use internally (read: the version Ubuntu 16.04 LTS ships). Note that Haskell/GHC tends to be not very backwards compatible even for different minor versions. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to use the version that Ubuntu LTS is currently shipping.

Build barrelfish

Then create the required makefile:

../hake/ -s .. -a x86_64

Valid arm targets are:

../hake/ -s .. -a armv7

or (experimental)

../hake/ -s .. -a armv8 

To see what make targets are available for building Barrelfish run

make help-platforms

To see what make targets are available for running Barrelfish run

make help-boot

Note: If you get the following error:

stack overflow: use +RTS -K<size> to increase it

Try to avoid having the build directory in the source tree


Now we can build Barrelfish. The following target builds the basic binaries for X86.

make X86_64_Basic

To speed things up you can specify a number of jobs. This should ideally be slightly more than the number of cores, so on a 4-core machine you could use:

make -j 5 X86_64_Basic

Once that has completed, you can issue the following command to run Barrelfish on QEMU:

make qemu_x86_64

To change options for QEMU, such as allocating more cores, you might want to execute the tools/ directly. The following commands allocates 4 cores.

../tools/ --menu ./platforms/x86/menu.lst.x86_64 --arch x86_64  --smp 4

Known Issues

Gold linker

GNU binutils includes an ELF linker named "gold" which is faster than the default BFD linker for large C++ applications. However, when linking Barrelfish's CPU driver you may see the following error:

/usr/bin/ld: fatal error: -pie and -static are incompatible
collect2: error: ld returned 1 exit status
make: *** [x86_64/sbin/cpu] Error 1

To fix this issue uninstall the binutils-gold package. For further details on why this occurs see this discussion.

BarrelfishWiki: Getting_Started (last edited 2016-12-22 21:49:03 by MoritzHoffmann)