Installing libmraa on Ubilinux for Edison

Contributors: caseyd
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libmraa contains helpful bindings for addressing hardware on Intel Galileo and Edison that work in a variety of languages. In this tutorial we will use a python script to make an LED blink. You will need an Intel Edison, a way to connect to it (e.g. a Base Block), and access to some GPIO pins (e.g. a GPIO Block).


You need to have Ubilinux, a version of Debian, running on your Edison. You can do that by following this tutorial.

Blinking an LED using mraa on Ubilinux

Suggested Reading

The Circuit

The first thing to do is connect up the LED. For this tutorial, we used an Intel Edison, a Base Block, and a GPIO Block. You can also use the Console Block, Mini Breakout Board, or Arduino Breakout Board.

Parts List

In addition to the Edison and breakout board(s), you will need some basic components. Below is the list of components used in this tutorial. Note that from the resistor kit, we used a 1 kΩ and 220 Ω resistor.


Unless you are using the Edison Arduino Breakout board, the Edison cannot supply enough current to fully (and safely) light an LED. As a result, we need to make a basic switch using a BJT transistor.

Connecting an LED to Edison

Note: If you are using the Arduino Breakout Board, you do not need to use this circuit, as the Arduino board can provide enough current. You will want to use the pin labeled A0, as noted in Table 3 of the Arduino Breakout Hardware Guide.

Also Note: if you are using the Mini Breakout Board, you will want to use GP44 (J19, pin 4) according to the Breakout Board Hardware Guide.


Connect your LED circuit to the GPIO Block as shown.

View of the GPIO Block connected to the LED circuit

  • 220 Ω Resistor (Pin 2) → LED (Anode)
  • 2N3904 (Collector) → LED (Cathode)
  • 2N3904 (Base) → 1 kΩ Resistor (Pin 2)
  • GPIO Block (GND) → 2N3904 (Emitter)
  • GPIO Block (VSYS) → 220 Ω Resistor (Pin 1)
  • GPIO Block (GP44) → 1 kΩ Resistor (Pin 1)

Important: Note the direction of the LED and transistor! In the photo, the flat edge of the LED is pointing down (towards the transistor), and the flat edge of the transistor is pointing to the right (towards the resistors).

Install Libraries

Install Dependencies

We’ll be using Debian’s Advanced Package Manager to install the dependencies needed for libmraa. Log in as root (or use “su” or “sudo”) on your Edison and type:

apt-get update

apt-get update will update your local cache of all currently available packages in the repository.

The first dependency of this install is the PCRE development files.

apt-cache search pcre

apt-cache search does just what it sounds like – searches apt packages. Look through the list and you should see:

libpcre3-dev - Perl 5 Compatible Regular Expression Library - development files

Looks like the right thing.

apt-get install libpcre3-dev

Now that we are familiar with installing packages from apt, let’s get everything else we need for the build:

apt-get install git
apt-get install cmake
apt-get install python-dev
apt-get install swig

Build and Install mraa

libmraa is not in apt so we’ll have to compile it from source. Don’t worry, it’s easy:

git clone
mkdir mraa/build && cd $_
make install

Important: Make sure you run the final command, “make install” with root or “sudo.”

That DBUILDSWIGNODE flag turns off node.js support, which isn’t available in the version of swig in apt. If you need node.js, you can compile a newer version of swig from source (3.01+).

Update Shared Library Cache

To use the library in C or C++ programs, we need to add it to our shared library cache. With root (or using “sudo”), open up the file:

nano /etc/

Scroll down to the bottom of the file and add:


Your file should look like this:

Appending library location in

Save and exit (‘Crtl-x’ and ‘y’ with nano). Type the command (using root or “sudo”):


You can check to make sure that the cache was updated by typing the command:

ldconfig -p | grep mraa

You should see that the libraries have been included in the cache.

Verifying that libmraa was added to the cache

Export Library Path for Python

If you plan to use Python with mraa, you will need to export its location to the Python path. Enter the command:

export PYTHONPATH=$PYTHONPATH:$(dirname $(find /usr/local -name

Note that this command lets us use the mraa module for this terminal session only. If we restart the Edison, we will have to retype the command.

Optional: You can modify the .bashrc file to run the commands automatically every time the Edison starts. Open the .bashrc file with your favorite editor. For example:

nano ~/.bashrc

Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the file, and add the command from above in a new line.

export PYTHONPATH=$PYTHONPATH:$(dirname $(find /usr/local -name

The bottom of your .bashrc file should look like the screenshot below.

Appending export command in .bashrc

Save and exit (‘Crtl-x’ and ‘y’ with nano).

Updating Sudoers File

This part is also optional. If you installed sudo, you might notice that PYTHONPATH is not updated properly when you try to run a Python script with “sudo.” For example, you might get an error like “ImportError: No module named mraa.”

Open up the sudoers file:

sudo visudo

Right under the first “Defaults” line, add the following:

Defaults        env_keep += PYTHONPATH

Your sudoers file should look like the screenshot below.

Adding PYTHONPATH to the sudoers file

Save and exit (‘Crtl-x’ and ‘y’ with nano). Reboot your Edison for this to take effect.

Using C

If you want to use C, create a file with your favority text editor:

nano blink.c

Copy the following code into that file:

/* Blinky test using mraa */

#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <signal.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

#include "mraa.h"

#define LED_PIN 31

int running = 0;

void sig_handler(int signo)
    if ( signo == SIGINT ) {
        printf("Closing GPIO\n", LED_PIN);
        running = -1;

int main()
    /* Initialize mraa */
    mraa_result_t r = MRAA_SUCCESS;

    /* Create access to GPIO pin */
    mraa_gpio_context gpio;
    gpio = mraa_gpio_init(LED_PIN);
    if ( gpio == NULL ) {
        fprintf(stderr, "Error opening GPIO\n");

    /* Set GPIO direction to out */
    r = mraa_gpio_dir(gpio, MRAA_GPIO_OUT);
    if ( r != MRAA_SUCCESS ) {

    /* Create signal handler so we can exit gracefully */
    signal(SIGINT, sig_handler);

    /* Turn LED off and on forever until SIGINT (Ctrl+c) */
    while ( running == 0 ) {

        r = mraa_gpio_write(gpio, 0);
        if ( r != MRAA_SUCCESS ) {

        r = mraa_gpio_write(gpio, 1);
        if ( r != MRAA_SUCCESS ) {

    /* Clean up GPIO and exit */
    r = mraa_gpio_close(gpio);
    if ( r != MRAA_SUCCESS ) {

    return r;

Save and exit the file (‘Crtl-X’ and ‘y’ for nano). Compile the program with:

gcc blink.c -o blink -lmraa

Note the “-lmraa” that tells the compiler to include the mraa library. Run the program by typing:


Important: You need to run blink as root! If you get an error such as “Invalid GPIO pin specified” or “FATAL error, libmraa program must be run as root (EUID 0), cannot proceed” it means that you do not have permissions to modify GPIO. Either switch to root using the “su” command or run the command with “sudo” (if you have “sudo” installed).

You should see your LED start turning on and off!

Using Python

For Python, use your favorite text editor to create this simple script, called something like For example:


In that file, enter the following:

import mraa
import time

# Setup
x = mraa.Gpio(31)

# Loop
while True:

Save and exit the file (if you are using nano, press ‘Crtl-X’ and ‘y’).

Run it with:


Important: You need to run as root! If you get an error such as “ValueError: Invalid GPIO pin specified” it means that you do not have permissions to modify GPIO. Either switch to root using the “su” command or run the command with “sudo” (if you have “sudo” installed).

Blinking an LED with Debian on Edison

Probably not the first time you’ve made an LED blink, but maybe the first time in python on Debian!

Pin Map

You might have noticed that we used GP44 in hardware and GPIO 31 in our example code. This is because the mraa library uses a different number for the pins. If you would like to use mraa to control hardware, figure out which GPIO pins you plan to use on the table below (labeled “Edison Pin”) and then use the MRAA Number in software.

Note that the “Edison Pin” numbers are the same GPIO pin numbers found on Linux in the Edison. They are also listed on the GPIO Block. The “Pinmode” allows you to change the function of each pin.


  • Input/output voltage on the GPIO Block is 3.3V by default
  • Input/output voltage on the Arduino Breakout is 5V
  • Input/output voltage on the Mini Breadboard is 1.8V

MRAA pin map table based on Intel’s IOT Dev Kit Repository

Edison Pin (Linux) Arduino Breakout Mini Breakout MRAA Number Pinmode0 Pinmode1 Pinmode2
GP12 3 J18-7 20 GPIO-12 PWM0
GP13 5 J18-1 14 GPIO-13 PWM1
GP14 A4 J19-9 36 GPIO-14
GP15 J20-7 48 GPIO-15
GP19 J18-6 19 GPIO-19 I2C-1-SCL
GP20 J17-8 7 GPIO-20 I2C-1-SDA
GP27 J17-7 6 GPIO-27 I2C-6-SCL
GP28 J17-9 8 GPIO-28 I2C-6-SDA
GP40 13 J19-10 37 GPIO-40 SSP2_CLK
GP41 10 J20-10 51 GPIO-41 SSP2_FS
GP42 12 J20-9 50 GPIO-42 SSP2_RXD
GP43 11 J19-11 38 GPIO-43 SSP2_TXD
GP44 A0 J19-4 31 GPIO-44
GP45 A1 J20-4 45 GPIO-45
GP46 A2 J19-5 32 GPIO-46
GP47 A3 J20-5 46 GPIO-47
GP48 7 J19-6 33 GPIO-48
GP49 8 J20-6 47 GPIO-49
GP77 J19-12 39 GPIO-77 SD
GP78 J20-11 52 GPIO-78 SD
GP79 J20-12 53 GPIO-79 SD
GP80 J20-13 54 GPIO-80 SD
GP81 J20-14 55 GPIO-81 SD
GP82 J19-13 40 GPIO-82 SD
GP83 J19-14 41 GPIO-83 SD
GP84 J20-8 49 GPIO-84 SD
GP109 J17-11 10 GPIO-109 SPI-5-SCK
GP110 J18-10 23 GPIO-110 SPI-5-CS0
GP111 J17-10 9 GPIO-111 SPI-5-CS1
GP114 J18-11 24 GPIO-114 SPI-5-MISO
GP115 J17-12 11 GPIO-115 SPI-5-MOSI
GP128 2 J17-14 13 GPIO-128 UART-1-CTS
GP129 4 J18-12 25 GPIO-129 UART-1-RTS
GP130 0 J18-13 26 GPIO-130 UART-1-RX
GP131 1 J19-8 35 GPIO-131 UART-1-TX
GP134 J20-3 44
GP135 J17-5 4 GPIO-135 UART
GP165 A5 J18-2 15 GPIO-165
GP182 6 J17-1 0 GPIO-182 PWM2
GP183 9 J18-8 21 GPIO-183 PWM3

Resources and Going Further

We have shown you how to install the mraa library and make a simple blinking LED project with Python. If you are ready to dig deeper into Debian on the Edison and mraa, check out some of these sites:

Check out these other Edison related tutorials from SparkFun:

SparkFun Blocks for Intel® Edison - Dual H-Bridge

A quick overview of the features of the Dual H-bridge Block.

SparkFun Blocks for Intel® Edison - PWM

A quick overview of the features of the PWM Block.

Edison Getting Started Guide

An introduction to the Intel® Edison. Then a quick walk through on interacting with the console, connecting to WiFi, and doing...stuff.

SparkFun Inventor's Kit for Edison Experiment Guide

Learn how to harness the power of the Intel® Edison using JavaScript to post data to the cloud, control electronics from smartphones, and host web pages that interact with circuits.