Table of Contents

1. Initial Setup

My host computer is an iMac running macOS, and I used this to get my DE10-Nano up and running. Because the DE10-Nano and the Altera software stack aren’t really meant to work with macOS, I make heavy use of Virtualbox (for macOS) and a CentOS 7 virtual machine to do some of the Linux-specific stuff. I’ll note which parts of the following instructions require Linux specifically.

1.1. Downloading the OS image

The DE10-nano kit comes with a micro-SD card that is supposed to come pre-flashed with Angstrom Linux and the appropriate Altera drivers, but mine came empty. So, I went to the Terasic DE10-Nano Kit download page at Intel and downloaded


which contains only one file (de10-nano-image-Angstrom-v2016.12.socfpga-sdimg) which is the image.

I plugged the blank micro-SD card into my iMac and used Etcher to burn it. Etcher only lets you write image files that end with .img and not .sdimg, so I had to add the .img extension on to the uncompressed de10-nano-image-Angstrom-v2016.12.socfpga-sdimg file.

1.2. Resize the file system

The SD card shipped by Terasic is 8 GB but the Angstrom Linux image is only ~2.5 GB, so there’s a lot of free space on the card that Linux doesn’t use by default. I opted to expand the partition and file system after flashing the image so I could make use of the full 8 GB.

Expanding the file system cannot be done live, so you need a second Linux system on which you can perform the following expansion process for the newly flashed SD card. I used a Virtualbox VM with my USB SD card reader passed through.

My SD card showed up as /dev/sdb when I plugged it in. It contains a vfat-based boot file system (called de10-nano) and an ext3-based root file system (with no name). Unmount them:

# umount /dev/sdb1
# umount /dev/sdb2

Then we mess around with the partition table using parted. Note that you’ll be deleting partitions in the partition table, then defining new larger partitions atop the data that remained unchanged. This sounds a little scary, but it works:

# parted /dev/sdb
(parted) unit s                                                           
(parted) p
Model: Mass Storage Device (scsi)
Disk /dev/sdb: 15441920s
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: msdos
Disk Flags: 

Number  Start    End       Size      Type     File system  Flags
 3      2048s    6143s     4096s     primary
 1      6144s    210943s   204800s   primary  fat16        boot, lba
 2      210944s  4700159s  4489216s  primary  ext3

Partition 2 (ext3) is the root partition that we want to expand. So, we first delete that partition definition:

(parted) rm 2

Then recreate it with the same starting offset (210994) but using 100% of the remaining space:

(parted) mkpart primary 210944s 100%

(parted) p                                                                
Model: Mass Storage Device (scsi)
Disk /dev/sdb: 15441920s
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: msdos
Disk Flags: 

Number  Start    End        Size       Type     File system  Flags
 3      2048s    6143s      4096s      primary
 1      6144s    210943s    204800s    primary  fat16        boot, lba
 2      210944s  15441919s  15230976s  primary  ext3

(parted) q

Now we’ve resized the physical partition. Run e2fsck on the file system that was affected by this partition change:

# e2fsck -f /dev/sdb2

Then expand the ext3 file system to use the remaining space on the newly enlarged partition:

# resize2fs /dev/sdb2
resize2fs 1.42.9 (28-Dec-2013)
Resizing the filesystem on /dev/sdb2 to 1903872 (4k) blocks.
The filesystem on /dev/sdb2 is now 1903872 blocks long.

2. Connecting

Once your micro-SD card is flashed and the DE10-nano is successfully booted, one of the user LEDs should pulse like a heartbeat once Linux is booted.

Once Linux is booted, the DE10-nano is very easy to get into; the only account is root, and it has no password. You can get in via

  • Serial connection via the UART-to-USB mini-B connection on the DE10-nano
  • SSH (passwordless root login is enabled–yuck!)
  • VNC (again, passwordless root login to desktop works)

2.1. Serial connection

glock@Glenns-iMac:~$ sudo cu -l /dev/tty.usbserial-A106I3A5 -s 115200


|       |                  .-.           o o        
|   |   |-----.-----.-----.| |   .----..-----.-----.
|       |     | __  |  ---'| '--.|  .-'|     |     |
|   |   |  |  |     |---  ||  --'|  |  |  '  | | | |
'---'---'--'--'--.  |-----''----''--'  '-----'-'-'-'
                -'  |

The Angstrom Distribution de10-nano ttyS0

Angstrom v2016.12 - Kernel 4.1.33-ltsi-altera

de10-nano login: root

The default root account has no password, so just hit return.

2.2. Ethernet over USB

The DE10-SOC comes configured to use RNDIS to tunnel Ethernet over USB; this protocol is only supported on Windows and Linux though, so Ethernet over USB will not work on modern macOS versions. Plugging the USB-OTG into my Mac does literally nothing other than enumerate the board as Linux “Multifunction Composite Gadget.” The USB mass storage device won’t even show up on Mac, so you can’t read the Ethernet over USB documentation that should come up per the Intel documentation.

I opted to just pass through the device from macOS into a CentOS 7 VM, where the device seems to work exactly as intended. Once the appropriate device was passed through, unplugging and replugging the USB cable causes the Linux VM to show:

[  172.825663] usb 1-1: Manufacturer: Linux 4.1.33-ltsi-altera with ffb40000.usb
[  172.870983] usbcore: registered new interface driver cdc_ether
[  172.874240] cdc_acm 1-1:1.2: ttyACM0: USB ACM device
[  172.881254] usbcore: registered new interface driver cdc_acm
[  172.881256] cdc_acm: USB Abstract Control Model driver for USB modems and ISDN adapters
[  172.889530] rndis_host 1-1:1.0 usb0: register 'rndis_host' at usb-0000:00:0c.0-1, RNDIS device, 06:2f:81:67:98:2f
[  172.889545] usbcore: registered new interface driver rndis_host
[  172.891935] usb-storage 1-1:1.4: USB Mass Storage device detected
[  172.905545] scsi host3: usb-storage 1-1:1.4
[  172.905595] usbcore: registered new interface driver usb-storage
[  172.907863] usbcore: registered new interface driver uas
[  172.916021] IPv6: ADDRCONF(NETDEV_UP): enp0s12u1: link is not ready

We see that enp0s12u1 is the new Ethernet-over-USB device. This has to be configured to use the same subnet as the DE10; the appropriate settings are

  • IP:
  • Netmask:
  • Gateway:

Use either the GUI or ifconfig to set these. Then you should be able to ping to talk to the DE10.

2.3. SSH

Get the IP of the system from either your home router or (if you’ve logged in via serial) ifconfig. Then SSH to this IP address:

$ ssh root@

The default ECSDA encryption is a bit slow, so ssh may hang for longer than usual before prompting to accept the host key:

The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is ....
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.
glock@'s password: 
de10-nano:~$ who
glock           pts/0           00:00   Dec 26 21:32:29

2.4. VNC

The default VNC client that ships with macOS doesn’t seem to work with the DE10-nano’s VNC server, so I followed Terasic’s instructions and downloaded the free RealVNC client. Connecting to the IP address ( in my case) just worked and dropped me in an XFCE desktop, logged in as root.

3. Basic Configuration

3.1. Adding a non-root user

First thing to do after logging in is set a root password:

root@de10-nano:~# passwd

Then add an unprivileged user and set its password:

root@de10-nano:~# useradd --comment "Glenn K. Lockwood" --gid 100 --groups wheel,staff --create-home --shell /bin/bash glock
root@de10-nano:~# passwd glock

Make sure the user account works:

root@de10-nano:~# su - glock
mesg: Operation not permitted
de10-nano:~$ whoami

Not sure why the mesg: Operation not permitted error comes up, but it’s harmless.

3.2. Installing Software

# opkg update
# opkg list | grep sudo
# opkg install sudo


# visudo

and ensure that wheel group members are allowed to sudo by uncommenting the following line:

## Uncomment to allow members of group wheel to execute any command
%wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL

Other useful software packages to install include

package description
coreutils replace the busybox version of common Linux commands with the full Linux versions
man so you can read manual pages
man-pages the actual man pages
file determine the file type
python-pip so you can pip install python packages
screen GNU screen

It’s also helpful to opkg list > opkg_list.txt so that you can just grep a local copy of the software repository when searching for packages.

3.3. Basic Security

Edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config and change PermitRootLogin to no.

Disable the VNC service (if you aren’t using it):

# systemctl stop de10-nano-x11vnc-init.service
# systemctl disable de10-nano-x11vnc-init.service
# systemctl status de10-nano-x11vnc-init.service

You can also go ahead and disable de10-nano-xfce-init.service as well if you don’t plan on using the desktop UI at all.

3.4. Enabling non-root i2c, spi, and GPIO access

First create new groups called i2c, spi, and gpio (the GIDs don’t matter). Then create a file called /etc/udev/rules.d/99-com.rules which contains:

SUBSYSTEM=="i2c-dev", GROUP="i2c", MODE="0660"
SUBSYSTEM=="spidev", GROUP="spi", MODE="0660"
SUBSYSTEM=="gpio*", PROGRAM="/bin/sh -c '\
    chown -R root:gpio /sys/class/gpio && chmod -R 770 /sys/class/gpio;\
    chown -R root:gpio /sys/devices/virtual/gpio && chmod -R 770 /sys/devices/virtual/gpio;\
    chown -R root:gpio /sys$devpath && chmod -R 770 /sys$devpath\

Incidentally, this file is taken (in part) from Raspbian and is exactly how Raspberry Pi allows non-root users to manipulate the I2C, SPI, and GPIO devices on that SoC. There are some caveats surrounding the GPIO case since there is latency associated with all the chowns that must happen when GPIO pins are initialized by an application. See GPIO/I2C/SPI-access without root-permissions for the specific caveats on how to work around this.