There are several posts and videos around recent discussion in “ARM announces Ares” thread on Real World Technologies website. People quote Linus Torvalds like crazy…

SBBR

Yes, we need AArch64 (real Arm64 architecture name) systems for developers. SBBR compliant ones so their users will not have to deal with ‘how the hell should I boot it’. Instead get Linux distribution and install it like on current developer boxes (PXE, USB, CD etc).

SBBR: System Boot Base Requirements — specification which defines firmware of AArch64 server system. Which mean UEFI, ACPI on hardware compliant with SBSA (Server Base System Architecture) specification. In short: boring box which just works with any serious Linux/BSD distribution and for any random user looks and works like x86-64 box when it comes to booting.

Hardware formats

Some people would like small format — like Intel NUC, Apple Mini. Just open a box, put m.2 storage, few sticks of memory and go.

Other ones would like (micro)ATX format. You put it into standard case, add m.2 and sata storage, few sticks of memory, PCI Express graphics card and use.

So far there are no such systems in affordable prices. Or you have to deal with some issues.

Software issues

Anyway, you got hardware. Or access to. Or even bloody VM somewhere. So you start development. And often hit a wall…

Nowadays development culture ‘loves’ to use random binaries from the Internet. You do not wait until someone package software you would like to use, you grab compiled binaries from vendor/authors. Their website or github/gitlab release page.

And nope. x86-64 binaries only. So you dig for some aarch64 builds or look how to build it on your own. And you do not work on your project but on someone’s else one. Or you change your one to not use that external component.

Language extensions

Or your project is in Python/Ruby or other language with extensions compiled to native code. And simple “pip install scipy” which took 4s on your x86-64 machine now just fails…

So you install compilers, Python headers, check which libraries you should have installed, which versions of them, do your distro have them etc. Finally “pip install scipy” works. After several hours from your development time.

Conclusion(?)

Getting AArch64 hardware for developers is important. When it happen? One day. Maybe even before people forget that such architecture existed.

We talk about it during each Linaro Connect. So far nothing serious came from it. We had some failed attempts like Cello or Husky. There is Synquacer with own set of issues. Some people use MACCHIATObin. Some still use Applied Micro Mustangs which should get a place in computer museums.

It is chicken and egg issue. No one makes affordable AArch64 systems because no one buys them. Because no one makes them. Hardware vendors concentrate on server market — no chips to choose for developer systems.

We need Arm64 systems for developers. Again.
                    

One thought on “We need Arm64 systems for developers. Again.

  • 24th February 2019 at 04:06
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    Regarding python you might like to know that Ben Nuttal runs a service for automatically building arm python wheels called piwheels.

    His service is currently 32-bit only, primarily targeting raspberry pi users but the code is available on github, so presumably it wouldn’t be too difficult to spin up in instance of it for arm64 users.

    https://piwheels.readthedocs.io/en/latest/

    Reply

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