Is there a CNC Linux distro that we can use

Does anyone know if there is a Linux distro that has it’s focus on CNC.
Preferably Ubuntu or at least Debian as it’s core.

At this point it would be cool to have a USB-bootable OS that has GroundControl and Arduino (to install firmware) onboard.

This would then provide a very basic ‘pocket knife’ solution to be able to test the basics.

  • test basic USB connectivity
  • upload firmware
  • communicate with the firmware
  • send Gcode with GroundControl

This could then be used to see if people are dealing with WinMac driver issues, or actual (Arduino) hardware issues.

Eventually this could be extended to include other tools like






Atom io

So having an existing distro would then only need a little work to add what we need. And a little of our help to improve the distro. Instead of having to do everything. This to be able to keep our minds at the Maslow itself.

@Bee already mentioned PuppyLinux That also makes a nice candidate for the bare essentials (Arduino and GroundControl)

Then there is LinuxCNC but thatone is focussed on Realtime processing and direct machine control so in that regard it seems to have a slightly different focus


If you want the most bare metal to build from the ground up start with Arch linux.

Thank you

LinuxCNC is about it.

I’d plan on just looking at Ubuntu (Debian updates too infrequently for us)

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Many years back I made a Virtual Machine of Ubuntu with all of the software for the Makerbot CNC 3D Printer as a distribution testbed on local windows systems. It allowed testing before committing to it.

Thank you

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I’m plowing trough but i’m surprised how little there seems to be on CNC. That sire is not the most easy one to navigate so i could be just looking in the wrong corner :slight_smile:

I strongly suggest a Docker / Virtual Machine solution as it is hardware independent. More complex but more consistent.

Thank you

You could do a base install of Arch. Then record / script the things you add on. Arch is a kernel and command line and the bare minimum to operate such as tools to get online. From there you build what you need. This would be the purest solution. This is taking on a big hair ball of a project to maintain. I did it once before.

Thank you

That’s a bit of a tricky one. A real bootable USB would allow to circumvent any other OS and enable us to see if the entire connection path is ‘OK’. By being sure that there is no WinMac driver woopy interference.

I don’t think we really want to have to maintain a linux distro.

Supporting running on Linux, yes. Having a USB image that people can boot, fine.

creating .deb/.rpm packages, possibly

but creating a custom ground-up distro, no.

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Any chance of adding some basic CAD tools into GC as an add on using Freecad in the future? I understand it can be called from inside Python.

if you are looking for a bootable USB environment, adding Docker doesn’t help,
it just adds more complexity.

What we are doing here is pretty simple, it’s more work to get Docker or the VM
environment up and running and configured properly than it is to get GC up and

Neither one solves the driver issue, that has to be done on the base OS

If there is a distro specific to CNC (other than the LinuxCNC image), it’s such
a small niche distro that I wouldn’t want to have to depend on it.

There’s just nothing that’s specific to a CNC/3D printing workload (unless you
are needing real-time response so you can drive the motors directly, which is
why LinuxCNC is there and includes the real-time hacks)

@dlang I hope i can find a distro where we can plug in to.

I’m also holding back on creating a new distro from the ground up.
It would be cool if other CAD/CAM/CNC projects could jump in.

and you could do the same thing with Ubuntu and Fedora. they even use the same
kernel and command line

thus the distro wars start…

Debian/Ubuntu/Raspbian has a wider installed base than Arch, and we will need to
support them anyway. I have no objection to supporting Arch, but I’ve seen too
many projects turn Arch-only


OK - I found this

booting to Docker from USB

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*buntu based makes most sense to me too. I only played a few times with Arch and it’s a bit over my head.

From that perspective i would strongly push toward *buntu so that people new to Linux based OS have a fighting chance to find common answers on common questions.

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This is a CAD focussed distro based on ubuntu. Not sure if this is a good candidate to look at since we are more CAM focussed with the goal of what it should do

I am running Blender, QCad, LibreCAD, FreeCAD, DraftSight, Inkscape, Camotics, bCNC(Grbl) and the famous Maslow GroundControl with Ubuntu Mate. Plus my decade old fear of Arch linux was cured with Manjaro. Runs on an ancient desktop with PS2 sockets for keyboard and mouse (that’s not play station).
Kivy requires Ubuntu / Kubuntu / Xubuntu / Lubuntu (Saucy and above), the last time I checked LinuxCNC (runing my China 6040), they were still lower, so no fun for GC. Kubuntu LTS requires a upgrade of pyserial, but then also runs what I need. Lubuntu also tested and found running well.


So the newfangled little connectors? Real MB have DINs. :slight_smile:

The little guys are still around, the last time I looked they still made motherboards with them.

Evil Mad Scientist made a CNC cut computer desk a while back to hold a desktop, and just mentioned it in their blog. Just the thing to hide the mouse and keyboard connector from the 4 legged mice


Can’t believe they are still around. A nightmare for Field Service, as the users would push and twist to break the pins…
But just in case to come across, here’s the pinout

Downloaded the files for the CNC computer desk a while ago. On the growing list of thing the Maslow will cut.
Edit: the link to that useful desk