Recently purchased HiFive Unleashed. How do I get started?

Background: I work within the linux environment a bit already, and I wanted to take the opportunity of this board being available to 1.) learn a lot more about linux and 2.) learning a lot about riscv architecture and assembly for it. I’m having the issue of not knowing where to start though. I’m an extreme noob when it comes to the development of anything linux. I only have experience using various distros and building the kernel w/a debian rootfs for an ARM SoC. I’ve already built linux from the freedom u sdk and loaded it up successfully onto the board. I’m confused on a couple of things:

1.) Is there no way to get a package manager onto the board yet? Right now I think it just uses BusyBox (Still not completely sure what that is in comparison to a package manager). And if not, how could I contribute to the production of packages that aren’t made yet?

2.) If I can’t get a package manager to install packages like gcc, how do I get these packages onto the board? I want to start developing some basic programs to interface with an offboard MCU via I2C or SPI, but idk how to do that if I can’t compile C.

3.) I have experience working with various MCUs and am much more comfortable working with things that don’t use an OS.(MSP430, SAMD21, AVR MCUs, etc)

4.) I’ve read through the getting started guide and the datasheet, but I’m stuck in this spot where the datasheet is too far out of reach because I don’t know how to actually compile code that can use the datasheet, but I’m also past the point of using the Getting Started Doc. Are there any guides on porting Linux I could use?

Note: I may be way out of my depth so if I have mentioned anything incorrectly, please correct me. Thanks

freedom-u-sdk is good for demos, but not for real work. If you want to do real work, you can try Debian, Fedora, OpenEmbedded, buildroot, etc. A lot of projects have support for RISC-V nowadays. You can find a good list of stuff at

Debian and Fedora have over 80% of the OS packages built for RISC-V. These are nice if you want to do work natively and use apt/dnf to install packages.

OpenEmbedded and buildroot are nice if you want to build your own OS from scratch, and choose how it is configured. These are built with cross compilation.


Thank you!