What interest me in ARM world

When I published my last post about ARM boards there were many questions and suggestions with interesting devices. Thank You all for it.

But there were also suggestions about ARM9 or ARM11 based devices. So I decided that it is good time to write what interest me now in ARM world.

But first some inventory. I had/used/have several devices with ARM cpu:

  • StrongARM (armv4) one:

    • Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 (which took me to ARM world)
  • ARM920 (armv4t) ones:

    • Openmoko GTA01 bv3, bv4 (s3c2410)
    • EDB9301 (EP9301 cpu)
    • Sim-One (EP9307)
  • ARM926 (armv5te) ones:

    • Sharp Zaurus sl-5600 (pxa250)
    • Sharp Zaurus c760/sl-6000 (pxa255)
    • Sharp Zaurus sl-c3000 (pxa272)
    • Sheevaplug (kirkwood)
    • Atmel devboards (at91sam9263, at91sam9m10)
    • ST-Microelectronics/ST-Ericsson NDK-15, NHK-15 (st88n15)
    • Nokia 770 (omap1710)
    • Linksys NSLU2 (ixp425 iirc)
  • ARM1136 (armv6) ones:

    • Nokia N810 (omap2430)
    • Bug r1.0, r1.2 (i.mx31)
  • Cortex-A8 (armv7a) ones:

    • Beagleboard B7, B7, C3 (omap3430)
    • Nokia N900 (omap3430)
    • Nexus S (exynos3)
    • Genesi Efika MX Smartbook (i.mx51)
    • Freescale Quickstart (i.mx53)
  • Cortex-A9 (armv7a) ones:

    • Pandaboard EA1, A1 (omap4430)
    • Archos G9 80 (omap4430)

All of that during last 8 years. Most of my ARM live so far was around ARM926 based devices (some of them still can not be listed here) and I do not want to go there again. Kirkwood core was fastest one with 1.2GHz clock and 512MB of RAM it was really fast machine. I only missed Serial ATA in my Sheevaplug (rev 1.0) but even with hard drive on USB it was nice improvement.

Then I played a bit with ARM11 processors. Ok, they were faster than most of ARM9 cpus but I already had experience with Sheevaplug. And after few months first Cortex-a8 board landed on my desk — I got Beagleboard B7 from Bug labs as test platform for their new device. This was improvement!

I still remember my reaction when connected it to normal LCD monitor and saw it used at 720p resolution (1680×1050 was a bit hard for omap3). Moved to Nokia N900 few months later and found that fast cpu means nothing when paired with slow storage and not enough memory for system.

So today I prefer to not look below Cortex-A9 (or comparable cores like ones from Qualcomm or Marvell). Hope to play one day with Cortex-A5 (which should replace ARM926 one day) just to see how low-end armv7a cpu behave.

And wait for ARMv8 to hit market.

Let’s take a look at ARM boards again

Over year ago I wrote post in which I complained about cheap developer boards but concentrated on ones supported by Linaro. This time I want to write about boards which I did not even had occasion to play with.

Most popular one was Rasperry/Pi. But as I already wrote why I’m tired of it I prefer to not discuss it too much. In short: old cpu core (ARM11), not enough memory (256MB), requires closed binaries even to boot (the GPU binary also contains the first stage bootloader).

Then we have a lot of boards based on AllWinner A10/A13 cpus. Single core Cortex-A8, no Linux kernel support in mainline. Fun is that there is Serial ATA controller in SoC but most of the boards does not offer that so users have to use SD or USB storage which is slower. Example devices: Hackberry, Cubieboard, Mele A1000.

Fun stuff starts to appear from Freescale area. i.MX6 cpu has potential and many options available. There are Wandboard, Sabrelite with second one providing interesting addons like mini PCI-Express slot (with PCIe signals) or small board with buttons (Android oriented).

Quad A9 boards are also available with Samsung s3c4412 cpu — like ODroid-X which I described when it was released. But no Serial-ATA in this processor.

So which one to choose? All depends what you want to do with it. Few days ago on debian-arm mailing list someone asked “Workstation based on ARM motherboard, good idea ?” which got me to conclusion that it possible to setup low specification desktop today with ARM cpu.

I wonder how much would I have to pay for mini-ITX compatible board (can be smaller but has to be mountable to normal PC case) with 2-4GB of memory (SO-DIMM preferred) with quad core cpu and Serial ATA. So I could connect usb mouse/keyboard, monitor though HDMI, speakers with 3.5mm jack, Ethernet (1GbE preferred) and boot Debian/Ubuntu straight from SATA hard drive or ssd. 2D/3D acceleration working and recent (max 2 versions old) Linux kernel working with not insane amount of patches. But such day probably will not happen.

UPDATE: Looks like VIA had such idea with their APC board. Neo-ITX format but components few years old ;(

Switched blog theme again

Long, long time passed since last time I changed theme on my blog. What you see this time is Twenty Twelve from WordPress team. Maybe it is not yet finished but it works better than Carrington which I had before. Not to mention that previous theme was not updated for long time (I did few updates by hand with code from their Subversion repository but it was not comfortable).

This theme looks good on desktop, phone, tablet and I will use it for probably quite long time. Will update it to released version once there will be such one ;D

Finally applied for Debian Maintainer

In 2002–2003 I was thinking about becoming Debian Developer as I had some experience with packaging, solving problems with it etc. But then 2004 came, I bought Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 PDA and started using OpenEmbedded…

Time passed, I got even more experience about packaging, different build systems used in FOSS projects and made good use of that in OE, Poky work. And as a result I went to Linaro (though Canonical) and started working on Ubuntu packages…

So now, when I have my own packages: android-tools and powerdebug the time came to finally start work on becoming Debian Developer to give back to community which gave me so much during last 13 years of my use of Debian.

My application on debian-newmaint ML.