Author Archives: Marcin Juszkiewicz

AArch64 desktop — last day

Each year you can hear “this is a year of Linux desktop” phrase. After few days with AArch64 desktop I know one thing: it is not a year of ARMv8 Linux desktop.

Web browsing

OK, I can be spoiled by speed of my i7-2600k desktop but situation when Firefox with less than 20 tabs open is unable to display characters I type into textarea fast enough shows that something is wrong (16GB ram machine). And tell me that this is not typical desktop use of web browser…

YouTube. Main source of any kind of videos. Sometimes it works, but most of time I lack patience to wait until it will start (VP9 and h264 codecs support present). And no way to watch “live hangouts”.

And say bye to music streaming services like Deezer or Spotify.


I am not a game player. Installed Quake3 (which I never played before) and it worked, SuperTuxKart worked as well. But that does not prove anything as both those games have low requirements.

It probably never will be gaming platform on Linux desktop.


For my style of development it is fine. But all I need is terminal and gVim ;D

Other hardware?

I think that results may be affected by a fact that all I have here is Applied Micro Mustang based on X-Gene 1 cpu. It is one of first ARMv8 processors in Linux world and it is optimized for server use rather than desktop.

One thing is sure: in next year I will try this experiment with other AArch64 hardware. Just hope it will be sooner than in a year from now (which is my feeling after lack of new aarch64 hardware announcements from Linaro members during this week Linaro Connect).

AArch64 desktop: day two

First day behind me. Had to disconnect DVD drive as X-Gene SATA controller still does not like it. And to resolve some issues with multimedia support. Got some questions too.

What is desktop class?

There were questions about desktop class hardware, links to Gigabyte mainboard etc. So why Mustang is desktopstein and not desktop? Or rather: what desktop should have?

For me to consider mainboard as desktop class it needs to have few things:

  • microATX or miniITX format
  • USB ports (more than two, USB 3.0 speed should be available)
  • on-board sound with 3.5mm output (do not care USB/PCIe/SPI – has to work)
  • x16 PCI Express slot for graphics (can have 8 lines)
  • SATA controller working with optical drives (good-bye X-Gene 1)
  • at least four SATA ports
  • standard DIMM slots (without ECC requirement)

When it comes to AArch64 there is no such ones so far. Something can be arranged from few mainboards by adding extra cards or usb devices. And so far no new rumours about new hardware ;(

UPDATE: why 4 drives? I have system hdd, scratch hdd (to test installers) and want to have optical drive (also for installers).

Multimedia support

I use Fedora on my machines. And as lot of people know this distribution has strange rules when it comes to multimedia support. Forget about MP3, H264 and few other things.

Normally (on x86(-64) architecture) people go for RPMFusion repositories. But they do not support aarch64… So I did local rebuilds of everything needed to get MPlayer, VLC and H264 support for GStreamer (so Firefox is able to play YouTube videos).

There is no Adobe Flash support so some of YT videos does not work. Too bad that it includes live streaming as I am unable to watch Linaro Connect keynotes on desktop (good that it works on Android tablet).

AArch64 desktop: day one

Three years ago I was working on getting AArch64 toolchain built. Then lot of things happened.

Nowadays if you are lucky you can even have AArch64 hardware. The problem is that there is no desktop class one still. Mustang and Seattle are server boards, Juno is development platform, Hikey is out of stock, Dragonboard 410c has 1GB of memory (same as Hikey) and rest of “publicly available” AArch64 hardware is in Android or iOS devices.

I played with getting X11 running for quite long time so decided that it is time to make use of it. Moved Mustang mainboard into microatx tower case, added PCI Express riser with Radeon HD5450 graphics card in it. Then two hard drives (one for systems, second for testing installers) and fun started. Two monitors connected, speakers got some waves from cheap (1.5€) USB sound card, mouse and keyboard also migrated from my x86-64 desktop. I called resulting machine “desktopstein”.

Pressed power and machine booted. Nothing on screen for about 1.5-2 minutes because UEFI firmware does not initialize graphics and then some messages appeared and I was able to login to text console. Enabled lightdm and logged into KDE session.

Konsole works, Firefox works (copied whole profile from x86-64), Thunderbird fetched mails (also copied profile). No Chrome nor Chromium is fine. Had to switch to other music provider than Deezer as their web player requires Adobe Flash. But there are still lot of MP3 streaming services so VLC (from own rpmfusion rebuild) got something to play.

So far works good. During week I plan to do my normal work and try some random things.

From a diary of AArch64 porter — vfp precision

During last years lot of work went into design of SIMD instructions for different cpus. X86-64 has some, Power has and so does AArch64.

But why I am writing about it? Simple — build failures. Or rather test failures. Especially in scientific software like HepMC or alglib. They build fine but that’s all.

The difference was small — something like e-15 or smaller but it was enough to make tests fail. And what to blame? SIMD of course.

AArch64 has FMA (fused multiply-add) instructions which speed up calculations but result is more precise than traditional way when all operations are done one by one. This is enough for tests to fail :-(

But there is solution for it. To degrade you need to add “-ffp-context=off” to compiler flags. This disables use of FMA so results of tests are same as on x86-64 (on pre-Haswell/Bulldozer cores). As a bonus it works on powerpc64(le) and s390(x) too.

Thanks goes to David Abdurachmanov and Andrew Pinski for finding out which exactly flag needs to be used (instead of -fno-expensive-optimisations I used before).

From a diary of AArch64 porter — PAGE_SIZE

During fixing software to make it build and run on AArch64 sooner or later you can meet magical constant named PAGE_SIZE. And in most situations it will be used in a wrong way.

What it does is simple — tell how big page size is. But it does not work that way on AArch64 architecture as we have different values possible: 4K, 16K (may not be supported in all cpus) and 64K with latter being used in Fedora and other distributions. There were some packages which we built at time of 4K kernel being used and then wondered why things fail under 64K kernel…

But how to handle it as a userspace software developer? Simplest solution is to use sysconf(_SC_PAGESIZE) function call (same as getpagesize()). But remember to not hardcode anything based on what you get as a result. Otherwise your application can misbehave when run on kernel with other PAGE_SIZE size.

The good part is that if someone uses PAGE_SIZE constant in code then it will just do not compile on AArch64 as it is not present in system headers. From what I checked sys/user.h header has it defined on some platforms and does not on other so it can not be assumed as available.

UPDATE: added 16K page size which may not be supported in some cpus.

How to get Xserver running out of box on AArch64

As I want to have AArch64 desktop running with as small amount of changes needed as possible I decided that it is time to get Xserver to just run on APM Mustang.

Current setup

To get X11 running I need to have xorg.conf file. And this feels strange as on x86(-64) I got rid of it years ago.

Config snippet is small and probably could be even smaller:

Section "Device"
        Identifier " radeon"
        Driver  "radeon"
        BusID "PCI:1:0:0"

Section "Screen"
        Identifier      "Screen"
        Device          "radeon"

Section "DRI"
        Mode 0666

Without it Xserver failed to find graphics card.

Searching for solution

I cloned Xserver git repository and started hacking. During several hours (split into few days) I added countless LogMessage() calls to source code, generated few patches and sent them to x-devel ML. And finally found out why it did not work.

Turns out that I was wrong — Xserver was able to find graphics card. But then it went to platform_find_pci_info() function, called pci_device_is_boot_vga() and rejected it.

Why? Because firmware from Applied Micro did not initialized card so kernel decided not to mark it as boot gfx one. I do not know is it possible to get UEFI to properly initialize pcie card on AArch64 architecture but there are two other ways to get it working.

hack Xserver

We can hack Xserver to not check for pci_device_is_boot_vga() or to use first available card if it returns false:

diff a/hw/xfree86/common/xf86platformBus.c b/hw/xfree86/common/xf86platformBus.c
index f1e9423..d88c58e 100644
--- a/hw/xfree86/common/xf86platformBus.c
+++ b/hw/xfree86/common/xf86platformBus.c
@@ -136,7 +136,8 @@ platform_find_pci_info()
     if (info) {
         pd->pdev = info;
-        if (pci_device_is_boot_vga(info)) {
+        if (pci_device_is_boot_vga(info) || xf86_num_platform_devices == 1)
+        {
             primaryBus.type = BUS_PLATFORM;
    = pd;

This may not work on multi-gpu systems. In that case try removing “== 1” part.

hack Linux kernel

If firmware does not give us boot gfx card then maybe we can mark first one as such and everything will work? This is how PowerPC has it solved. So let’s take their code:

diff --git a/arch/arm64/kernel/pci.c b/arch/arm64/kernel/pci.c
index b3d098b..eea39ba 100644
--- a/arch/arm64/kernel/pci.c
+++ b/arch/arm64/kernel/pci.c
@@ -18,6 +18,7 @@
 #include <linux/of_pci.h>
 #include <linux/of_platform.h>
 #include <linux/slab.h>
+#include <linux/vgaarb.h>
@@ -84,3 +85,15 @@ struct pci_bus *pci_acpi_scan_root()
        return NULL;
+static void fixup_vga(struct pci_dev *pdev)
+       u16 cmd;
+       pci_read_config_word(pdev, PCI_COMMAND, &cmd);
+       if ((cmd & (PCI_COMMAND_IO | PCI_COMMAND_MEMORY)) || !vga_default_device())
+               vga_set_default_device(pdev);
+                             PCI_CLASS_DISPLAY_VGA, 8, fixup_vga);


Both hacks work. I can just run Xserver and get X11 working. But which one will get into upstream and then to Fedora and other Linux distributions? Time will show.

There are some issues with those solutions. If there are multiple graphics cards in a system then which one is primary one? Can their order change after firmware or kernel update?

Thanks goes to Dave Airlie for help with Xserver, Mark Salter for pointing me to PowerPC solution and Matthew Garrett for discussion about issues with kernel solution.

From a diary of AArch porter – POSIX.1 functionality

During years of development GCC got several switches which are considered obsolete/deprecated now. And as such they are not available for new ports. Guess what? AArch64 has such status too.

One of switches is “-posix” one. It is not needed anymore as “_POSIX_SOURCE” macro deprecated it:


If you define this macro, then the functionality from the POSIX.1 standard (IEEE Standard 1003.1) is available, as well as all of the ISO C facilities.

But it happens sometimes (I saw it in pdfedit 0.4.5 which is so old that it still uses Qt3). So if you find it somewhere then please save world with “s/-posix/-D_POSIX_SOURCE/g” :)