Six years ago I was one of first members of project which later got “Linaro” name. Today I am back. But in different form.

On 30th April 2010 I got email titled “Welcome to Linaro” and became software engineer at Linaro. Time shown that it was done in a way which helped to start project but was not liked by member companies. The plan was to leave in October 2012 but due to someone’s decision I stayed until May 2013.

Today I got “Linaro Assignee On-Boarding” email which means that I am still officially software engineer at Red Hat but assigned to work at Linaro. Same as people from other member companies.

I wonder will I get my unofficial title “main complainer at Linaro” back or do I have to deserve it again ;D

Waiting for 96 boards with MIPS or Arduino?

Linaro Connect in progress. Bubblegum 96 announced and present at 96boards website. But I am waiting for MIPS version…

Why MIPS? Looking how earlier Consumer Edition 96 boards devices got released it looks to me that compliance to specification is optional. And as there is no information that cpu has to be ARM (“Design is SoC independent (targets 32 or 64 bit SoCs)”) so let make MIPS one.

I thought about Atmega first but kernel support shall be provided and video output. On the other side — both (Linux kernel on AVR and video output) were already done in past on that platform so maybe it could be done.

You can run any random kernel release, have own set of ugly patches for bootloader. And you will get “96 boards officially certified” stamp on it.

In my opinion 96boards project should enforce “your SoC should have at least minimal support in linux-next kernel tree” rule before even looking at products. Actions Semi maybe is good in producing chips but looks like they have no idea how to take care of software.

Cello: new AArch64 enterprise board from 96boards project

Few hours ago, somewhere in some hotel in Bangkok Linaro Connect has started. So during morning coffee I watched keynote and noticed that Jon Masters presented RHELSA 7.2 out of the box experience on Huskyboard. And then brand new board from 96boards project was announced: Cello.

Lot of people was expecting that this Linaro Connect will bring Huskyboard alive so people will finally have an option for some cheap board for all their AArch64 needs. Instead Cello was presented:


Compared to Husky (below) there are some hardware differences to notice but it is normal as 96borads enterprise specification only tells where to put ports.


I suppose that both boards were designed by different companies. Maybe it was a request from Linaro to ODM vendors to design and mass produce 96boards enterprise board and Husky was prototyped first but Cello won. Or maybe we will see Husky in distribution as well. Good part is: you can preorder Cello and get it delivered in Q2/2016.

Have to admit that I hoped for some industry standard board (96boards Enterprise specification mentions microATX) instead of this weird 96boards-only format which I ranted about already. Anyway 299 USD for quad-core Cortex-A57 with SATA, UEFI, ACPI, PCIe (and maybe few more four letter acronyms) does not sound bad but good luck with finding case for it ;(

I may go back to Linaro

Few days ago my manager asked me if I would like to go back to Linaro. This time not as ‘Linaro-but-Canonical engineer’ but as ‘Red Hat assigned engineer’. That made me thinking…

Those three years at Linaro were good time. Learnt a lot about cross toolchains, got possibility to work on bootstrapping AArch64 support in OpenEmbedded, Debian/Ubuntu and then Fedora/RHEL. Met many skilled people from around the world, travelled into places which I would probably not visit on my own.

Going back sounds good. From my discussions with few people from Linaro there is more and more AArch64 related work there (and I have some hardware at home) so my rusty arm32 skills can rust in peace. Have to take a closer look at what exactly is on a plate there to take and find some place.

So if you work for Linaro and will be at FOSDEM (or then I would love to talk.

96boards goes enterprise?

96boards is an idea from Linaro to produce some 32 and 64-bit ARM boards. So far there were two boards released in “consumer” format and few more announced of rumoured. The specification also lists “extended” version which has space for some more components.

But during Red Hat Summit there was announcement from AMD with mention of “enterprise” format:

How would you like an affordable and compact 160x120mm board to jump start your development efforts with AArch64? AMD and Linaro have been collaborating to develop a 96Boards Enterprise Edition (EE) specification that is ideal for the individual developer. Targeting the server and networking markets, the board will feature a 4-core AMD Opteron A1100 Series processor with two SO-DIMM memory slots, PCIe®, USB, SATA, and Gigabit Ethernet capabilities. Popular operating systems such as CentOS, Fedora, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server for ARM Development Preview are targeted for use with this particular board. Additional software downloads, updates, and a forum for software developers will be available via the 96Boards web site. The board is slated to be available in 2H 2015 from distribution partners worldwide and it will be supported through the Linaro Enterprise Group’s site.

I do wonder where from they took idea to name yet-another-crazy-non-standard board format “Enterprise Edition”. In my understanding what enterprise user like is something which just works and comes with support and does not require crazy embedded nonsense hacks.

So when I saw post from Jeff Underhill with photos of the board I noticed few arghs.

Top view of AMD "Enterprise" board

Bottom view of AMD "Enterprise" board

First of course is board format. 160x120mm does not sound like any industrial format. Nano-ITX is 120×120, Mini-ITX is 170x170mm. But everyone knows that enterprise people love to be creative and make own cases. Why it was not done as 170×120 with partial compatibility with mini-itx cases?

Second thing (related to first) is connectors placing. With PCI-Express x16 slot (with x8 signals) I wonder how it will look when some cables go one side or the other while card sticks out of board. With SATA ports moved to the other side there would be space for USB and Ethernet ports so all cables would be in same area. Note also molex connector to give power to SATA disks.

Nice that there are two memory slots (DDR3 ECC SO-DIMM). But with second on the bottom we probably can say goodbye to all PC cases as it would not fit. Yay for creativity when it comes to cases (again).

There are holes to mount heatsink above CPU. From quick look I think that those for FM2 socket may fit.

HDMI connector suggests some graphics to be present. I did not heard about Radeon core inside AMD Seattle CPU but it could change since last check.

But even with those “issues” I would like to have that board 😉

96 boards again?

During Linaro Connect 2015 Asia there was announcement about new Linaro project called “96boards”. It is about making cheap ARM/AArch64 boards in same form factor and same placement of ports. And first board named HiKey was presented. Today third one — from Qualcomm. So we have two boards now (2/96 was not yet announced).

I prefer not to comment on form factor, lack of Ethernet, mobile phone cpus and other things people do not like but about software requirements.

96boards specification v1.0 says:

Minimum Software requirements for 96Boards certification will include:

  • Boot architecture (open source implementations are strongly recommended)
    • Support for bootloader such as U-Boot/FDT, UEFI/ACPI, UEFI/FDT
    • Support for a secure execution environment (optional)
    • Support for ARM Trusted Firmware (ARMv8), including PSCI APIs (optional)
  • Accelerated graphics support
    • Accelerated graphics drivers need to be fully supported either with open source code, or through royalty free binary drivers. If binary drivers are utilized, the vendor will provide support to provide updated drivers/libraries to support new mainline Linux kernel features.
  • Kernel
    • A kernel based on one of the following that is buildable from source code and any required binary blobs:
    • latest “mainline” or “stable” kernel
    • The latest Google-supported Android kernel version
    • One of the last two LTS kernels (for example Linaro LSK)
  • Operating system
    • The latest released (stable) version of one or more of the following open source distributions shall be made available for a 96Boards CE compliant design:
    • Android
    • Debian or Ubuntu
    • Fedora or Red Hat
    • An OpenEmbedded/Yocto build of a Linux distribution

I hoped that Linaro will be a place where free/open source software would matter. But it looks like “let release whatever you want as long as size and ports match” deal. Any blob as bootloader, binary graphics drivers (does someone remember TI OMAP line and PowerVR? Those boards run with raw framebuffer nowadays).

And that kernel requirement… HiKey uses cpu which is not in mainline kernel, so does Qualcomm one. Are they in AOSP kernel? Maybe. But does someone else than Android uses those trees for serious work? Latest I see in kernel-msm (which may not be proper place to check) is 3.10 which was released (in mainline) nearly 2 years ago…

I really wonder how “latest released (stable) version” of Debian/Fedora/Ubuntu can be made available for those boards when all those distributions use mainline kernel only (I do not count user generated remixes which are not supported by anyone).

So I wonder will 96/96 board came with mainline support, open bootloader and open drivers for everything. Time will show. Until that I am not so interested.

2 years of AArch64 work

I do not remember exactly when I started working on ARMv8 stuff. Checked old emails from Linaro times and found that we discussed AArch64 bootstrap using OpenEmbedded during Linaro Connect Asia (June 2012). But it had to wait a bit…

First we took OpenEmbedded and created all tasks/images we needed but built them for 32-bit ARM. But during September we had all toolchain parts available: binutils was public, gcc was public, glibc was on a way to be released. I remember that moment when built first “helloworld” — probably as one of first people outside ARM and their hardware partners.

At first week of October we had ARMv8 sprint in Cambridge, UK (in Linaro and ARM offices). When I arrived and took a seat I got information that glibc just went public. Fetched, rebased my OpenEmbedded tree to drop traces of “private” patches and started build. Once finished all went public at repository.

But we still lacked hardware… The only thing available was Versatile Express emulator which required license from ARM Ltd. But then free (but proprietary) emulator was released so everyone was able to boot our images. OMG it was so slow…

Then fun porting work started. Patched this, that, sent patches to OpenEmbedded and to upstream projects and time was going. And going.

In January 2013 I started X11 on emulated AArch64. Had to wait few months before other distributions went to that point.

February 2013 was nice moment as Debian/Ubuntu team presented their AArch64 port. It was their first architecture bootstrapped without using external toolchains. Work was done in Ubuntu due to different approach to development than Debian has. All work was merged back so some time later Debian also had AArch64 port.

It was March or April when OpenSUSE did mass build of whole distribution for AArch64. They had biggest amount of packages built for quite long time. But I did not tracked their progress too much.

And then 31st May came. A day when I left Linaro. But I was already after call with Red Hat so future looked quite bright ;D

June was month when first silicon was publicly presented. I do not know what Jon Masters was showing but it probably was some prototype from Applied Micro.

On 1st August I got officially hired by Red Hat and started month later. My wife was joking that next step would be Retired Software Engineer ;D

So I moved from OpenEmbedded to Fedora with my AArch64 work. Lot of work here was already done as Fedora developers were planning 64-bit ARM port few years before — when it was at design phase. So when Fedora 15 was bootstrapped for “armhf” it was done as preparation for AArch64. 64-bit ARM port was started in October 2012 with Fedora 17 packages (and switched to Fedora 19 during work).

My first task at Red Hat was getting Qt4 working properly. That beast took few days in foundation model… Good that we got first hardware then so it went faster. 1-2 months later and I had remote APM Mustang available for my porting work.

In January 2014 QEmu got AArch64 system emulation. People started migrating from foundation model.

Next months were full of hardware announcements. AMD, Cavium, Freescale, Marvell, Mediatek, NVidia, Qualcomm and others.

In meantime I decided to make crazy experiment with OpenEmbedded. I was first to use it to build for AArch64 so why not be first to build OE on 64-bit ARM?

And then June came. With APM Mustang for use at home. Finally X11 forwarding started to be useful. One of first things to do was running firefox on AArch64 just to make fun of running software which porting/upstreaming took me biggest amount of time.

Did not took me long to get idea of transforming APM Mustang (which I named “pinkiepie” as all machines at my home are named after cartoon characters) into ARMv8 desktop. Still waiting for PCI Express riser and USB host support.

Now we have October. Soon will be 2 years since people got foundation model available. And there are rumors about AArch64 development boards in production with prices below 100 USD. Will do what needed to get one of them on my desk 😉

It is 10 years of Linux on ARM for me

It was somewhere between 7th and 11th February 2004 when I got package with my first Linux/ARM device. It was Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 (also named “collie”) and all started…

At that time I had Palm M105 (still own) and Sony CLIE SJ30 (both running PalmOS/m68k) but wanted hackable device. But I did not have idea what this device will do with my life.

Took me about three years to get to the point where I could abandon my daily work as PHP programmer and move to a bit risky business of embedded Linux consulting. But it was worth it. Not only from financial perspective (I paid more tax in first year then earned in previous) but also from my development. I met a lot of great hackers, people with knowledge which I did not have and I worked hard to be a part of that group.

I was a developer in multiple distributions: OpenZaurus, Poky Linux, Ångström, Debian, Maemo, Ubuntu. My patches landed also in many other embedded and “normal” ones. I patched uncountable amount of software packages to get them built and working. Sure, not all of those changes were sent upstream, some were just ugly hacks but this started to change one day.

Worked as distribution leader in OpenZaurus. My duties (still in free time only) were user support, maintaining repositories and images. I organized testing of pre-release images with over one hundred users — we had all supported devices covered. There was “updates” repository where we provided security fixes, kernel updates and other improvements. I also officially ended development of this distribution when we merged into Ångström.

I worked as one of main developers of Poky Linux which later became Yocto Linux. Learnt about build automation, QA control, build-after-commit workflow and many other things. During my work with OpenedHand I also spent some time on learning differences between British and American versions of English.

Worked with some companies based in USA. This allowed me to learn how to organize teamwork with people from quite far timezones (Vernier was based in Portland so 9 hours difference). It was useful then and still is as most of Red Hat ARM team is US based.

I remember moments when I had to explain what I am doing at work to some people (including my mom). For last 1.5 year I used to say “building software for computers which do not exist” but this is slowly changing as AArch64 hardware exists but is not on a mass market yet.

Now I got to a point when I am recognized at conferences by some random people when at FOSDEM 2007 I knew just few guys from OpenEmbedded (but connected many faces with names/nicknames there).

Played with more hardware then wanted. I still have some devices which I never booted (FRI2 for example). There are boards/devices which I would like to get rid of but most of them is so outdated that may go to electronic trash only.

But if I would have an option to move back that 10 years and think again about buying Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 I would not change it as it was one of the best things I did.

My own company started 8th year today

Seven years ago I created my one person company. And it was one of best things I did in my life.

All started in 2006 when I started doing some small paid jobs around OpenEmbedded. Small things: solving build problems, updating recipes, adding new ones. But companies prefer to get invoice for such stuff instead of just giving money…

So one day I went to city hall and created what was then called “HaeRWu Marcin Juszkiewicz”. I changed name 2 years later and got rid of that ‘impossible to pronouce’ part.

There were many different clients for my consulting work. CELF was my first one, later I dropped my daily work and started remote work for OpenedHand. When they were acquired by Intel I got quite nice offer but preferred not to move to UK so went own way. From time perspective I do not know was it right decision 😉

So I looked at market around OpenEmbedded and started working with Bug Labs and few smaller jobs for other clients (some knew me from OpenedHand times). Also had job proposal from Canonical for their newly created ARM team but nothing came from it.

Time passed. One and half-year later Canonical made another attempt and this time I though “why not?”. So I went there just to be moved outside to a team which did not have any official name (other than NewCo or New Core which you may heard somewhere). And that team became Linaro some days later.

At Linaro I did lot of cleanup in Debian/Ubuntu toolchain components, added bootstrapable cross toolchain and fixed several packages (also created some new ones). But then, just when I was supposed to move to Canonical, new things came and AArch64 took my whole time.

ARMv8 work was great time. Learnt new things about OpenEmbedded, saw how project moved during those two years when I did not follow it’s development. Och it was good time.

But good things have to end one day. And so did my time at Linaro. But at around same time I started talking with several companies around Linaro to find a new place for me.

And I found it at Red Hat. Took a bit of time to get everything set up but I think that it was worth it. But due to the fact that I am employee not contractor I will suspend and in few months shutdown my consulting company.

It served me well. I came from being person not recognizable to someone who is known by people who I see for first time. It is good feeling 😉

Remote Linaro Connect

As I left Linaro I am not at Linaro Connect in Dublin, Ireland. But decided to access at least keynotes (which were always interesting) and probably also some sessions.

George Grey introduction speech was fine. Number, standard Linaro information (what it is, how many people etc). Worth watching if you want some updates but may be skipped.

Then James Bottomley from Parallels spoke about server side of computing. Unix, Windows NT, Linux, Itanium, AMD64/x86-64, Atom, 64-bit ARM are good keywords for his presentation. I liked few things:

  • Itanium iceberg description (why IA64 was disaster without IA32 compatibility)
  • Atom contra ARM “power fight” (hard to tell which one will be better for servers when it comes to energy use)
  • mentioning of Blackadder (I know what it is but never watched more then one episode)

There were some issues with bandwidth so there are few moments in video where audio/video stops and you get group photo from previous Linaro Connect instead. But this is “normal” on first day and I hope that will get fixed by network team.

There are few sessions today which I plan to take a look. ARMv8 Status one and the one about Linux scheduler.