Can Socionext SynQuacer be first 96boards desktop machine?

During Linaro Connect SFO17 I had an occasion to take a look at first 96boards Enterprise Edition MicroATX format board: Socionext SynQuacer. Can it be called first 96boards desktop machine?

Just to remind — 96boards EE specification defined two form factors:

  • custom 160x120mm
  • MicroATX

There were attempts to build boards in that custom format (Husky, Cello) but they both failed terribly. Turns out that companies which are able to produce 96boards CE boards are not able to make more complicated ones.

Connect ago I wrote about Systart Oxalis LS1020A board as being first 96boards EE one but it used that custom format.

So going back to SynQuacer board…

I would say that it looks like typical MicroATX mainboard:

  • four memory slots (DDR4, up to 64GB, ECC or not ECC)
  • CPU under heatsink (24 Cortex-A53 cores, 1GHz clock)
  • PCI-Express slots (x1, x1, x16 with just 4 lanes)
  • two SATA ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • two USB 3.0 ports at the back
  • connector for another USB 3.0 ports
  • 96boards low-speed connector (think sensors, serial console, tpm etc)
  • 24pin ATX power connector (no extra +12V ones)
  • power and reset buttons
  • fan connector
  • JTAG port

Socionext SynQuacer

The official announcement did not provide information about price. Only info present was that it will available in December 2017. During discussions with Socionext representatives I was told that full developer box will cost around 1000 USD and involve mainboard, memory, storage (rather not SSD), case and graphics card. Price for just mainboard was not provided as it looked like such option is not planned.

From software point of view there was UEFI presented. With graphical boot. Upstreaming kernel support is in progress (Linaro provides 4.14-rc tree with required changes).

Will it satisfy a need for AArch64 desktop? Time will show. From what I got from developers using it already performance is quite ok as long as it is multithreaded (so kernel build goes nice with -j24 until linking phase kicks in).

Other option for AArch64 desktop would be Macchiatobin. Latest revisions are needed as PCI support got fixed (I was told that first revisions were unable to fully use PCI Express port). Bernhard Rosenkränzer was demoing such setup and it was running nicely.

First 96boards Enterprise board which will be on a market?

I am at Linaro Connect in Budapest, Hungary. And on Arrow’s stand I noticed something I did not expected — 96boards Enterprise Edition form factor board.

In past Linaro presented ‘Husky’ and ‘Cello’ devboards in 96boards EE form factor. None of them ever reached production. Only few prototypes existed (had some of them in hands). Both products were complete failures.

Systart Oxalis LS1020A got announced about month ago. They target routers, IoT gateways type devices with it.

As you can see board has ports all over the edges but that’s fault of 96boards EE specification which mandate such broken designs. When I saw it first time my question was “where is PCIe slot?” but found out that (according to spec) it is optional. Board has mini-pcie slot on bottom side anyway.

Speaking of design… Oxalis is made from two parts: carrier board and SoM (System on Module). SoM is based on NXP Network Processor QorIQ® LS1012A processor (single ARM Cortex-A53 core running up to 800 MHz) with 64MB of SPI flash (space for bootloader!) and 1GB of memory. Carrier board gives two GbE network ports, two USB 3.0 connectors, standard 96boards header, one SATA port (with power!), microSD and mini-pcie slot (on bottom side).

The beauty of such design is that you can replace CPU board with something different. According to Dieter Kiermaier from Arrow there are plans for other SoM board in future.

Will it be success? Time will show. Will I buy it? Rather not as for my development I need 16GB ram. Will it have case? Not asked. When on market? May/June 2017.

Linaro Connect: interesting hardware

Before going for Linaro Connect I had a plan to look at all those 96boards devices and write some complains/opinions about them. But it would be like shooting fish in a barrel so I decided against. But there were some interesting pieces of hardware there.

One of them was Macchiatobin board from SolidRun. I think that this is same as their Armada 8040 community board but after design changes. Standard Mini-ITX format, quad core Cortex-A72 cpu (with upto 2GHz clock), one normal DIMM slot (max 16GB, ships with 4GB), three Serial-ATA ports, PCI-Express x4 slot, one USB 3.0 port, microSD slot.

UPDATE: SolidRun confirmed – this is final design of their Armada 8040 community board.

Photo (done by Riku Voipio) shows which goodies are available:

Network interfaces from top to bottom are (if I remember correctly):

  • 10GbE (SFP + RJ-45)
  • 10GbE (SFP + RJ-45)
  • 2.5GbE (SFP)
  • 1GbE (RJ-45)

When it comes to software I was told that board is SBSA compliant so any normal distribution should work. Kernel, bootloaders (U-Boot and UEFI) are mainlined.

Price? 350USD. Looks like nice candidate for AArch64 development platform or NAS.

Other device was Gumstix Nodana 96BCE board which is 96boards complaint carrierboard for Intel Joule modules.

On top it looks like typical 96boards device (except USB C port):

But once reversed Intel Joule module is visible:

This is first non-ARM based 96boards device. Maybe even one of most compliant ones. At least from software perspective because when it comes to hardware then module makes it a bit too thick to fit in 96boards CE specification limits.

Note that 96boards Consumer Electronics specification does not require using ARM or AArch64 cpu.

Linaro Connect: Las Vegas sightseeing

One of cool things of being Linaro assignee is going to Linaro Connect conference. This time it was Las Vegas, USA. I was flying Berlin Tegel -> London Heathrow -> Las Vegas. Last part was fun as I met several Linaro folks at the airport ;D

Arrived in Vegas, went to hotel and fall asleep. Sunday was planned for some Ingress playing and for sightseeing. As usual I had several places marked on Google Maps to make things easier.

So Sunday… It was really Sun day. I took some water with me and refueled several times during day just to stay hydrated. With Las Vegas climate I was not even felt sweety as it vaporated right away…

But let’s start from beginning. I walked few hundred meters from hotel and caught public transport bus which took me to Freemont Street (or somewhere around). When I walked I felt like the only person on the Earth or in a no-go zone. There was basically no one on the street. After some walking and few photos I got asked something like “who are you and what you are doing here???” from security guy. It turned out that some part of Freemont Street (and surroundings) were closed due to some arts/music festival. I probably missed some ‘no entry’ plate…

Anyway I did not get any problems and was pointed where the gate is. Walked around, saw some places, bought souvenirs (including fridge magnet to my collection), another water bottles and decided to walk to another point on my map.

Yes, it may feel strange but I walked. And walked. And walked. Then Arts district happened.

OMG it was awesome. Deserted streets, shops with some retro furniture/stuff, shops with some crazy junk, shop with wax figures from Last Supper etc. But the best part was murals and graffitis. Lot of them, different styles and quality. I spent about 2 hours just walking there and taking photos.

Next step was the Strip. All those big hotel/casino buildings. At Circus Circus I found room with arcade machines and spent 25 cents on Galaga. In Venetian I looked at their version of Venice canals (have to go to Venice and compare one day :D). Few minutes later I saw Eiffel tower (or rather miniature version of it). Decided to skip searching for copy of Statue of Liberty and instead crossed street and went to take a look at Bellagio fountains show. Have to admit that it was nice. I saw three shows (had to sort few things around) and then took a cab back to the hotel.

More photos in Google Photos album

Linaro Connect: good to be back

One of things you do while you are at Linaro is going to Linaro Connect conferences. My previous one was 2012 Copenhagen one so it was good to be back.

All those people from different companies or projects… Some faces I recognized, some not. Several people recognized me, some said that my beard complicated it. Fun ;D

Discussions about random things, random hacking (not all Snow chromebooks are the same), talks to attend, talks to give…

And speaking of speaking — our team had a speak about OpenStack on AArch64. It was recorded but volume level is very low.

Complaining. Sure, there was some. And I got my badge upgraded just to show all those impersonators that I am back.

bagde with the main complainer text on it

There was jetlag as usual so I was a bit of excluded from evening events but those which I attended were great. Like team dinner with the Big Kahuna cheeseburger (with Sprite to drink).

Next year I have to organize trip in a way that I would do some personal sightseeing on a week before conference. According to rumours it would be in one of areas where I have some places to visit ;D

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.

Linaro Connect Asia 2013 was fun

Second day in a row I managed to get 8 hours of sleep like I was not able at Linaro Connect Asia 2013. There was no time for sleeping as so many things had happened.

This time I decided to go to Hong Kong on Friday to have whole Sunday for shopping or sight seeing etc. Also to make things different I went though Helsinki (was Istanbul in 2012). It was interesting experience to hear English language with Finnish accent. There were moments when during in-flight announcements I was not able to recognize when they ended Finnish part and started English one ;D

HEL was cold but only outside so once I got to terminal it was fine. Rushed though, passed biometric passport gate and got a seat with electricity to charge my Chromebook and phone. Flight was “fine” as usual but as it was during night I tried to catch some sleep.

Finnair’s crew had some problems getting in-flight entertainment system working so we could watch how Linux booted on those NSC Geode GX2 based devices. Due to copyright note in bootloader (redboot) I assumed that it is not older than 9 years. Very slow boot anyway with lot of text printed. They should show some splash + potential progress bar instead. But finally it started working. Provided in-ear headphones are much better than ones on Lufthansa flights.

Landed, got prepaid sim from “3” network, met Andrea Gallo and we went to hotel. I had plans to go to the city center but was too tired for it. I also lacked HKD due to other layout of keypad in ATM 😀

ATM keypad in Hong Kong

On Sunday we grouped and went to Shim Shui Po to do some electronics related shopping. Prices in Hong Kong are similar/worse than in Europe so I bought only few things which I had problems finding in low price at home: mini-ITX case (16€), Nexus 4 back cover (6.5€), case for Samsung Chromebook (7.5€) and some cables. There are still no USB 3.0 cables in wide selection ;( I also bought crappy dual sim phone for 10€ as I needed one to get my Polish sim on network.

I also did some shopping on Tuesday — this time on Ladies’ Market. It is one long street with lot of sellers with clothes, wallets, toys, phone covers, headphones and other gift like things of unknown quality. I left there all money I had but got gifts for everyone I wanted. Haggling there is a must as 40% of starting price is easy to get. And you do not even need to tell anything to get price lowered…

We also went to Shenzen, China for one afternoon but that’s story for separate post.

But I went there for connecting with people. And to discuss/present our work done in last cycle and to be done in next ones.

Each day started with keynote (Friday one had Linaro awards). And we got speakers from outside of Linaro:

  • Jon Corbet (LWN)
  • Lars Kurth (Citrix)
  • Jason Taylor (Facebook)
  • Greg Kroah-Hartman

Each talk was interesting. Jon shown Linaro developers that Big.Little switcher should be taken for community review earlier, Lars presented Xen on ARM (v7, v8), Jason told about how Facebook handles servers and where is a space for ARM ones. Greg’s talk was best — he told why he does not want our code, what kind of mistakes people do in sent patches and gave us story how one code submission can break whole set of devices due to lack of testing. I wonder how Linaro Kernel WG will handle Greg’s new requirement of having all Linaro patches signed by senior kernel developer.

This was also first conference where I was fully ARMed. I left my x86 laptop at home and took Samsung Chromebook instead. Ubuntu runs fine on it, speed is comparable but size (13.3″ contra 11.6″) and weight differ. This also gave me few more occasions to talk with other developers.

I spoke with Citrix guys about Chromebook kernel changes and their Xen backport will probably be merged into “linux-chromebook 3.4” package. Also had some discussions with ARM Mali developers which resulted in removal of OpenGLES packages from Chromebook support PPA due to licence issues (I do not have redistribution permission).

We also had meeting about hacking Samsung Chromebook where ChromeOS, Debian, Linaro, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu developers had discussion about what we can expect, where we are, how to get some things fixed etc. After that Nicolas ‘Charbax’ Charbonnier from armdevices.net shot video about it:

Direct link to video

I remember that Charbax tried to make interview with me at one of earlier Linaro Connects but I always rejected that idea. This time he went for help… And I could not refuse to Zack Pfeffer 🙂 How it went? You tell me:

Direct link to video

Hong Kong was great. Weather was perfect with +25°C, sun and no rain. Someone told me March is the last moment for being there 🙂

At a beach near hotel in Hong Kong

But then I had to leave. Problem with return flights is that they usually are around midnight. Add lack of sleep during previous nights and result is not nice mix. So we spent some time in airport lounge to charge batteries (our and devices) and then squeezed in economy class for 11 hours. Took a nap, watched movie in English with Finnish subtitles (learnt new word even) and read “Amiga, the future was here” book.

Imagine weather change when we landed in Helsinki… -13°C and snow. As I left my spring jacket in checked-in baggage (but I had sweater) those few minutes from airport -> bus -> plane were cold ones. Similar few hours later in Berlin. But I had some time for shopping. Skipped salmiakki cause it is hard to know which ones will be hardcore just enough but got some other things.

Helsinki with snow

Szczecin was nice on Saturday. Cold, but spring was visible. Winter came during night:

Szczecin next day

Next Linaro Connect will be in Dublin, Ireland. See you there!

I am going to Hong Kong

There will be Linaro Connect Asia next week. Which means: I am going to Hong Kong today. 21-22 hours trip like usual. This time through Helsinki 😉

But recently I started to count and got quite long list of Linaro events I attended so far:

  • 2010.05 UDS/M – Brussels, Belgium
  • 2010.07 Ubuntu/Linaro sprint in Prague, Czech Republic
  • 2010.10 UDS/N – Orlando, FL, USA
  • 2011.01 Ubuntu/Linaro sprint in Dallas, TX, USA
  • 2011.05 LC + UDS/O – Budapest, Hungary
  • 2011.07 Ubuntu/Linaro sprint in Dublin, Ireland
  • 2011.10 LC + UDS/P – Orlando, FL, USA
  • 2012.02 LC – Redwood City, CA, USA
  • 2012.05 LC – Hong Kong, China
  • 2012.11 LC + UDS/R – Copenhagen, Denmark

The “Linaro Connect” name is quite young and I do not remember which event got this name first. There will be three of them this year: Asia, Europe, US. But when and where? Do not ask me cause so far it was not announced yet.

So if any of my readers will be in Hong Kong next week — please say hi. And there will be Chromebook hacking session on Tuesday at 15:00 in Fountain 1 room (but please check schedule/ask me if not changed).

Used Chromebook for few days

Some days ago I got Chromebook and have to say that device is amazing. Light, small and fast enough for conference laptop. During Linaro Connect I did some hacking on it with help from Olof Johansson and Andrew Wafaa (he brought Chromebook for me from Cambridge). I also used script from Jay Lee to get all information required to resize STATE partition and fit Ubuntu on internal storage.

Now I am running Ubuntu ‘raring’ on my Chromebook with XFCE as a desktop — all running from internal storage (16GB eMMC from SanDisk). So far I did not remove original Chromium from device as I keep it as a reference system to be able to compare what I got with how it works with system from Google.

So what works? Most of things — suspend/resume, wifi, bluetooth, sound, touchpad, usb ports, sd storage, camera. But why they should not work when I am using same kernel binary as Chromium OS does 😉 So far did not yet came to rebuilding kernel — there were more important things to do first.

During Wednesday hacking evening I updated xf86-video-armsoc driver to X11 ABI 13 used by packages in ‘raring’ so I got 2D accelerated environment. Tried to find all sources required to build xf86-input-cmt driver but then got hint from Olof that “evdev” driver is enough — all it needs is small snippet of X11 configuration. And yes — it works but is not precise. Andrew told that he will try to build “cmt” driver for OpenSUSE so we will know how better it is.

What next? I have to create package for “cgpt” (GPT manipulation tool with support for Chromium OS extensions), tools and keys needed to sign kernel and kernel itself. Then some work would be needed for OpenGLES stuff but this can wait. I plan to upload everything needed into Debian and then request syncs to Ubuntu. From yesterday’s discussions I know which mailing lists I should go.

But I do not plan to cover everything. There will be no installation support from me. Users have to do it on their own cause there are several ways of getting other operating systems on Chromebook:

  • boot from SD card
  • boot from USB storage
  • resizing STATE partition to put system on internal eMMC (I did that)
  • removing Chromium OS completely to get more space for own system

Then there are also systems when user has developer firmware installed (that’s different that developer mode) or even setup where normal U-Boot is used as bootloader.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Today is 2.5 year of my work at Linaro. It was very good time. But good things have one thing in common — they end at some moment. For me that moment will be 30th November — after that I will be working at Canonical.

For me it will be like starting new job because they hired me to work at Linaro so I never really worked “at” Canonical — always “for”. Hope that it will be at least as interesting as Linaro work was.

When I think about all those 30 months few things came to my mind. First one is people. Linaro gathered many good engineers (and non-engineers as well) and it has many stars as well.

For example: Nicolas Pitre. I had big respect for him since I started work on embedded Linux. But until sprint in Prague, July 2010 I did not realise that he is blind… We went for some beers, chatted about things we did at previous jobs, spent good time (and I managed to not fail too much as a guide).

Other example: Few days ago Arnd wrote on Google+ about mold problem which forced him to throw some books into trash. Beside cookbooks and Discworld ones he found one written by David Rusling (CTO of Linaro)… It is hard to check Linux history and not meet someone who works at Linaro.

I learnt a lot during those 30 months. Not only about toolchains, cross toolchains and toolchains (yes, ‘toolchains’ are repeated) but also on Debian/Ubuntu packaging, relations between those two projects, how to get own packages into them, how to get fixes there etc. Now I am member of Ubuntu MOTU team (can upload to ‘universe’ part of Ubuntu) and since this week also Debian Maintainer. But at same time also learnt how OpenEmbedded works today and managed two Linaro layers for it.

AArch64 porting was/is a great project. There were some issues because it was internal only for some time when we had some internal patches which we preferred to not show to public. But that feeling when I got “hello world” compiled as one of first people outside of ARM Ltd. will always be something to remember. And now everyone can check how it works 😉

When I was at ELC/E 2011 in Prague there was a talk by Paweł Moll about running Linux on non-existing hardware. At that time it sounded like science fiction to me but later when I had to use Fast Models to boot AArch64 kernel I realised that it is not s-f.

But technical things are just one side. I enjoyed Linaro Connect meetings, chatting with people from different countries on technical and non-technical matters. It helped to improve my spoken English which I was not using so much before. I even had discussions about English itself with people like Andrew Stubbs — thanks man!

There were also funny moments. I remember when in Budapest David Rusling told me that I got unofficial title “main complainer at Linaro” due to my post about what is wrong with all those cheap developer boards we supported. We were sitting at a table during “Meet & Greet” and there was one guy sitting there. I did not saw his badge and asked him which boards he used so far. He told: Freescale Quickstart. I answered: Ah, that square one with five edges? And then I told what I like and dislike in it. We had interesting discussion and at the end I saw his badge – he was Freescale person at TSC 😉

Or visit in Computer History Museum. Man, I should follow Paul McKinney there — he recognized probably most of the devices there and know what they are for. We had interesting talk about it next evening in a bus.

So, there are few weeks of Linaro work for me. During this week I am be in Copenhagen at Canonical’s Summit where I met my next team to find out what exactly I will be working on. Then we have Linaro Connect co-hosted with Ubuntu Developer Summit. It will be a strange week for me. Will attend ARMv8 Summit sessions due to work I did in last weeks but other sessions? For sure will attend some, both Linaro and Ubuntu ones but this time not as much as on previous summits. If you need me on you session then add me to the list of attendees or contact me.

Week after LC/UDS I will spend in Spain. There is Embedded Linux Conference Europe in Barcelona where I will have a talk about AArch64 support in OpenEmbedded. There will be also similar session by Wookey about ARMv8 in Debian — check LinuxCon Europe schedule for it.

But Barcelona is also OpenEmbedded related for me. There will be General Assembly of OE e.V. and then Yocto Project Developer’s Day where I plan to discuss with OE developers about merging AArch64 support.

Then few days of holidays at warm country, visit Zygmunt and go back home for another 2-3 weeks of Linaro work.

So lot of work to do. Need to take a look at what exactly I did during those 30 months, which parts of it will need new maintainer, write some notes/documentation for it, check PPAs for things which may need updating etc. So far I did not yet decided will I maintain cross compiler packages in 13.04 and later releases of Ubuntu or not. For sure I will do that to android-tools which are now part of Debian.

But is it end of my Linaro journey? I hope not. Time will show will I stay at Canonical. Today it is hard to tell because there are interesting projects there as well. But I do not want to end my Linaro adventure.

And one more thing. As usual when I end my work at one place I gather recommendations on LinkedIn. If you have few spare minutes and want to write something then it will be appreciated: my LinkedIn profile.