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Handhelds Power Ubuntu Linux Hardware

Surveying the Challenges of Linux On Cortex A9-Based Laptops 119

Posted by timothy
from the multiple-fronts dept.
Charbax writes "In this video, Jerone Young, lead partner engineer at Canonical, explains some of the challenges facing Canonical and other companies who are part of the new Linaro project, in preparation for the now imminent release of a whole bunch of ARM Cortex A9 Powered laptops and desktops likely to be manufactured by giants of the industry such as HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba, as well as lesser names such as Quanta, Invetec, Pegatron, and Compal, all of whom have been showing tens of early prototype designs of these ARM-powered laptops at trade shows around the world during the past year and a half. They're working to standardize the boot process, write drivers to use graphics and video hardware acceleration, optimize the web browser (Chrome and Mozilla), and implement faster DDR3 RAM and faster I/O bus speeds, as well as to optimize the software to use the new faster dual core ARM Cortex A9 processors."
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Surveying the Challenges of Linux On Cortex A9-Based Laptops

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  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:55AM (#32810156)

    Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" screens and not just 10 and under.

  • Re:ARM vs Geode (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hattig (47930) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:42AM (#32810846) Journal

    Because it's been winning the battle since the Psion 5 came out. Or the Apple Newton came out. It beat MIPS and SH3 and SH4 before Palm switched from Dragonball CPUs.

    And in the past few years, it's because it's licensable, cheap, can be integrated with other components in your own SoC, works well, has a nice ISA, has the features that you need for a mobile platform, doesn't have cruft like x86, didn't need x86 compatibility anyway, etc, etc.

    I did use a Geode based tablet back in 2000 or so. It was running QNX. Rubbish.

  • Re:ARM vs Geode (Score:5, Interesting)

    by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay@gmMONETail.com minus painter> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:50AM (#32810994) Homepage Journal

    A previous poster already answered, on a nice manner. But to make things clear, x86 is a bad architecture, and to make it run any fast, you need to create a very power hungry chip. ARM is a much better architecture, leading to smaller and less power hungry cores.

    There is also a problem of scale here. It is cheaper to make an ARM that everybody uses than to make a x86 that will fit only a ninche. But that doesn't completely apply to the current situation, since the A9 is also ninche. (For the A8 things are different.)

  • by imgod2u (812837) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:33AM (#32811666) Homepage

    There's just very little reason to do it. Consider the modern PC. Consider that it won't boot if you don't have an archaic PCI bus and legacy peripherals. Consider that well before the 4GB memory limit was hit, the 4GB addressing limit was really hampering the OS due to the fact so many memory address spaces are "reserved" for peripherals that may or may not be there.

    There is a lot of waste in the PC from a hardware/software standpoint all in the name of conforming to this "standard way of doing it" that dates back 30 years. I doubt you want this in your cell phone.

    ARM has been able to evolve significantly due to this level of flexibility. The AMBA system bus itself has almost kept pace with the rate of CPU speed increases. Not only that but a lot of SoC vendors use their own proprietary bus architecture depending on the application. A company named Sonics provides packet-style memory access IP for SoC vendors that allows highly efficient memory bandwidth sharing amongst multiple heterogeneous cores. You'll never see this in a PC.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:05PM (#32812248)

    Since I'm currently running Ångström linux on a brilliant cortex A8 machine (the pandora) - and yes, it runs chrome and ff3.6 no problem and has 3d drivers that make Quake 3 perform really well - I can't believe that these 'challenges' are going to be insurmountable.

  • Where can i buy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slashdoMENC ... com minus author> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:00PM (#32813104) Homepage

    But how soon can i buy these laptops?
    It's all well and good talking about it and showing prototypes, but i want to buy one of these ARM based laptops... The only ARM based laptops i see for sale right now are older models, usually running windows ce with very little memory or storage and pitiful battery life (usually because of a tiny battery rather than inefficient design)...

    I have an EEE901 right now, 2gb ram, solid state 20gb drive, 9" screen... something with similar power to this, but significantly better battery life and perhaps a little thinner/lighter would suit me just fine.

  • Re:Tablet Design (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:05PM (#32813188) Homepage

    Anyone who's seen an iPhone and an Android phone side-by-side will tell you that the Android interface, while okay, pales beside the iPhone. The latter is just far cleaner and smoother. The touch interface is more responsive. The browser works better. It's just a far better experience. Of course, the iPhone has a ton of other problems (not the least of which is Jobs' intention to keep the software ecosystem a walled garden), but as a general rule (save for a few places, like the alerts system), the UI is not one of them.

    Besides which, Android, while its source is open, is not what I would call an open source project. It's developed primarily by a single company paying their developers to build Android full time. And yet it's still behind iOS in terms of usability.

  • Re:Tablet Design (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:42PM (#32814842)

    While this may be true on older Android phones, I've just had the opportunity to use a HTC Incredible side by side with an iPhone 4.
    There is no difference in UI responsiveness.
    The browser on Android is at least on par with the one on the iPhone. The screen flipping is clearly faster on the Incredible, and the iPhone's multitasking is no match vs Android. I'd be hard pressed to find things where the iPhone offers a "better experience".
    Of course that's just my personal experience as of yesterday. Best go and see for yourself.

  • Re:Tablet Design (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oakgrove (845019) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:43PM (#32814852)

    Anyone who's seen $PREMIUM_PRODUCT and $MASS_MARKET_PRODUCT side-by-side will tell you that the $MASS_MARKET_PRODUCT, while okay, pales beside the $PREMIUM_PRODUCT. The latter is just far cleaner and smoother.

    People like choice. There is room in the market for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, and the list goes on. I'm not even sure what point you are trying to make. And the GP was not even talking about the iPhone. You were apparently trying to argue over his comment about people liking Android's user interface. Personally, I like it. And, yes, I've used it and an iPhone side by side.

    Besides which, Android, while its source is open, is not what I would call an open source project.

    This is just pure FUD.

    It's developed primarily by a single company paying their developers to build Android full time.

    So, Google is developing the Linux kernel now? Somebody better let Torvalds know so he can quit wasting his time.

    And yet it's still behind iOS in terms of usability.

    Debatable. But even if it is, it must be ahead in other areas if sales are anything to go by.

  • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:53PM (#32814992)

    The issue is that the SoCs have different internal components for which there is no standardized interface. The SoC is a complete system, but the definition of what a 'complete system' is depends entirely on the feature set -- the feature sets vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and even chip to chip for a single manufacturer as the SoC solutions are tailored for specific applications, the memory maps change based on what features are available which are in a lot of cases just 'cut and pastes' of system components on the chip.

    Some SoCs have real time clocks built in, some don't but provide external connections, some SoCs have not only a full ARM processor but also a dedicated DSP chip (TI OMAP-L137). The ethernet device for a SoC varies from mfg to mfg because it's their own device on die.

    Most of this never becomes a problem for end-users of embedded systems as any system producer that utilizes SoCs will have to build a custom u-boot that kickstarts the chip and starts the components in the correct order, then you need Linux kernel drivers for each of the features.. It's a pain in the butt if you're a company developing a custom SoC based product (I work for one and had to do u-boot and kernel porting for two ARM chips now, and it's not fun)

    The awesome fall-out of this is that u-boot essentially replaces BIOS, so there's no need to plumb for what devices are part of your system, so you can get insane boot times (1 second from power up to login prompt) if you do it right.

  • Re:Tablet Design (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oakgrove (845019) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:42PM (#32815942)

    I responded with "And yet the UI pales compared to a closed-source project like iOS, and it's still a single company driving development, unlike your average OSS project, so it's not even that good an example."

    Do you get it now? Do I need to use smaller words?

    Why use small words when I can sum up my thoughts in 2 letters? Here they are:
    bs

    This is just pure FUD.

    No it's not. I invoked no fear, created no uncertainty, nor implied any doubt.

    Yawn. You said Android isn't an open source project. It is. [android.com] Look up the word uncertainty.

    Aside from the kernel (which has fuck-all to do with the UI), does android have a large community of volunteer developers?

    Unbelievable. Yeah, aside from that kernel that has been continuously developed and refined for almost 2 decades and has had billions of dollars pumped into it, Android is just pure Google. I'm sure it took much more effort to come up with the DalvikVM and bionic than that one little kernel. It's just out of the kindness of their hearts that they decided to go with Linux rather than just whip up their own in their spare time.

    No. It's no different than, say, Java: virtually all development is done by a single, commercial organization, that then releases their work for free.

    See my previous statement.

    Now, please, Android-fanboy, leave me alone.

    Wow. Name calling. Your arguments just get better and better.

  • Re:Where can i buy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by peppepz (1311345) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:16PM (#32817606)
    I'm optimist. Today we have Android, and every day we see some new kind of gadget running it.

    We see a bunch of major laptop manufacturers forming a consortium for the sole purpose of easing the development of linux-based ARM devices. This means that they must have something cooking, otherwise they wouldn't be investing that money.

    We also have MeeGo shaping up, which will be even more open than Android, and is championed by the world's biggest phone maker and CPU maker - and it will run on ARM too.

    Even on the closed source front, millions of people are now familiar with using Apple's devices instead of Windows-based hardware. And Windows Mobile simply disappeared from existence.

    As for Office, well, I know people who are more used to OpenOffice.org's old-school interface rather than MSOffice 2007's advanced next-generation ribbon. And IIRC Nokia is funding the development of KOffice so I think we can expect some nice office applications on MeeGo in the near future.

    My conclusion: Windows has never been so weak as it is today. So 2011 might be the year of non-Windows on the netbook. Or, to be more politically correct, the year of fair competition on the netbook.

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