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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.

    • I'd like to see this in an open source hardware project to create what we all thought was going to be the crunchpad. This would be so cool.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Abcd1234 (188840)

        I'd like to see this in an open source hardware project to create what we all thought was going to be the crunchpad. This would be so cool.

        Unfortunately, the hardware is just a part of the equation. The other side is really solid, touch-capable software. And, despite being a Linux user for, oh, 15 years now, there's one thing I can say about the open source community: in the 15 years I've been involved with Linux, OSS developers still can't seem to get a handle on building intuitive, user-friendly, clean

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by peppepz (1311345)
          Is Android OSS enough for you? People seem to like its user interface.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Abcd1234 (188840)

            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

            • by CdBee (742846)
              A lot of OSS projects are so tightly controlled by a primary sponsor that the same applies. OpenOffice.Org for instance
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              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

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by oakgrove (845019)

              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 was

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Abcd1234 (188840)

                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.

                Then go re-read my post, as clearly your reading comprehension is failing you.

                I stated that OSS projects build shitty UIs.
                The responder said "Hey look, Android is awesome and it's OSS."
                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 proj

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by oakgrove (845019)

                  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 hea

                  • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

                    by Abcd1234 (188840)

                    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,

                    What part of "UI" don't you get? I'm assuming it's the "interface" part, though maybe the word "user" confuses you...

                    Either way, I'm done with you. You're clearly incapable of remaining focused on the actual topic at hand.

                    • by oakgrove (845019)

                      Either way, I'm done with you. You're clearly incapable of remaining focused on the actual topic at hand.

                      Yeah, it must be terrible when people won't play into your trolling.

                • Basically you made a general statement

                  I stated that OSS projects build shitty UIs.

                  That is impossible to prove and backed it with no arguments or example whatsoever and WE have to prove it's complete bullshit ?
                  I sense you are trying to mess with us but I can't find out why ...

                  Oh wait I know : you're a troll !

                  I'll give you a counter example : MeeGo (with it's panel thingy)has awesome UI that is more innovative than iOS 4.
                  Another ? Notification system in Android is 10x better than the one in iOS (or the lack thereof)
                  Ever tried Gnome Shell ?

                • I stated that OSS projects build shitty UIs.

                  You offered one example of each: hardly a statistically significant sample.

                  development is being done by a focused group of paid developers

                  Please point me to the rule that says OSS developers should not be paid or focused. Its definitely not in the OSI definition.

                  *very very different* from a traditional OSS project like, say, Gnome or KDE.

                  Both of which have a much better UI than Windows.

            • "Anyone who's seen an iPhone and an Android phone [NOT YET ON FROYO] 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. "

              fixed it for you

              Froyo is like getting a CPU boost and then a metric ton of steroids for the browser. Would not swap my Froyo-ed N1 for a 3GS. (4G is newer generation hardware, I'm trying for apples to apples).

        • Re:Tablet Design (Score:4, Insightful)

          by l0b0 (803611) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:27PM (#32812668) Homepage

          There seems to be a very common notion that the study and implementation of usability is for wimps and people who should have kept out of science, real nerds/geeks don't need no stinkin' GUI, user testing is boring and expensive, you see where this is going. And the really sad thing is that managers don't care much either, as long as the result is below their personal pain threshold. So we end up with interfaces which are barely usable to computer literates, and thus unusable to anyone with less experience. This has nothing to do with OSS, it's an industry thing.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gtall (79522)

            Just to amplify that, there is no acid test for when a gui is a good gui. In addition, what's a good gui for a novice is not necessarily a good gui for an experienced person. The only way to get a good gui is to do user testing, and not just any group of users will do. So a company either whacks together something an engineer thought was a good gui, or relies on a gui guru who knows how past guis work so the next one must be just like the others.

            Add to those problems that a good gui can easily take over 50%

        • by rawler (1005089)

          Just a tangential thought. The terminal interface is fluid and clean. It is also "user-friendly", depending on definition. What it isn't, is intuitive.

          The Cisco CLI, for those familiar with it, is actually really "intuitive" (as intuitive as complex multi-protocol network configuration ever gets), by introducing contextual hints. "What could you type here"-type help.

          Personally, I've for years been hoping for a keyboard-driven terminal-like interface, that is actually intuitive, but doesn't limit itself to 8

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by evilviper (135110)

          : in the 15 years I've been involved with Linux, OSS developers still can't seem to get a handle on building intuitive, user-friendly, clean, fluid user interfaces.

          That's okay... Neither can the closed-source world.

          As a counter-example, I submit MPlayer. And I don't mean the GUI that comes with it (though it doesn't affect the point). With MPlayer, if I want it to go full-screen, I hit "f". If I want to pause, I hit "p". If I want to seek forward, I hit the right-arrow key. If I want to seek backwards

    • I thought the same when I had an Acorn A4 back in 1994. Please bring a 15 inch model. Never happened.

  • by Qubit (100461) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:06AM (#32810296) Homepage Journal

    Here we go again. I'm getting an "Internal Server Error", but who knows exactly why the page is down.

    Coral Cache link is here, [nyud.net], and it'll theoretically work, well, that is if I can ever get the page to load...

    Too bad about RTFA, I guess, for once it looks like I can base my post solely on the summary and not feel an ounce of guilt. Let's see...I don't know much about Pegatron, but if their laptops don't come with a pair of wings and a horse head attached I think I'm going to feel let down.

  • by Qubit (100461) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:12AM (#32810370) Homepage Journal

    As their main webserver quietly melts in the background, please direct your attention to a video here [pirillo.com] (Coral Cache [nyud.net]) that has the exact same title as the url in this article.

    This link/video mentions Jerone Young, one of the "main engineers at Canonical" responsible for ARM development.

  • Can anybody tell me why ARM won the battle vs AMD's Geode processor?

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

      by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:22AM (#32810518) Homepage Journal
      AMD Geode is a series of processor models implementing the x86 architecture. ARM is a whole architecture with multiple manufacturers and a bazillion different models. ARM CPUs tend to be extremely power efficient, so they are the natural choice for mobile and many other classes of computers.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        ARM CPUs tend to be extremely power efficient, so they are the natural choice for mobile and many other classes of computers.

        Except for the fact that ATOM CPUs can now meet or exceed the power efficiency of many ARM CPUs.

        • by TeknoHog (164938)

          ARM systems tend to be systems on chip. AFAIK, the power advantage of Atom is easily negated by its supporting chipset. Look at the huge heatsink on the northbridge of an Atom system, then look at an ARM SoC with on heatsink at all.

          Moreover, whereas x86 often provides good performance per watt, ARM tends to have much lower idle consumption, which is pretty important in mobile devices.

        • Maybe but even in Intel's mouth they cannot quite meet and certainly not exceed the actual in situation battery life provided to the device.
          You have to consider the whole package (CPU+GPU+mainboard) since most ARM solutions are SoC. Also there is the idle power draw.

          Moreover ARM CPU have a better flexibility of implementation. i.e. you can make them do what you want and in the overall solution they tend to be used more efficiently.
    • Re:ARM vs Geode (Score:5, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:41AM (#32810832) Journal
      A few reasons: With Geode, you have your choice between the two main branches of the family: the original Geodes, descendants of the embedded x86 line that AMD bought from National Semiconductor; and the AMD-designed Geode, which is basically their 32 bit athlon design with some modifications to make it embedding friendly.

      The first are genuinely low power and heavily integrated; but those suckers are slow. The second are pretty zippy by embedded standards; but only low-power by the standards of the desktop/laptop athlons they were derived from(ie. not very). Neither is an especially compelling choice. The former is slow enough that x86 compatibility doesn't really help you in the consumer market(virtually nothing remotely modern will run fast enough, and if you are going to roll a custom ultra-zippy OS and application suite, x86 isn't a huge feature) and the latter is power hungry enough that you can't really get it into anything smaller than a netbook(where, if it weren't for the fact that it tends to get paired with a fucking SiS chipset, it would actually be OK).

      Second, "ARM" gets to piggiback on development work done for contemporary high-end smartphones. The board going into a "smartbook" will be virtually identical to that going into a high end smartphone, just with a bigger screen, battery, and keyboard, and quite possibly some bumped clock speeds made possible by the larger battery and greater heat-dissipation capacity of the form factor.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        With Geode, you have your choice between the two main branches of the family

        Actually, there are three: GX, LX and NX.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geode_(processor)#AMD_Geode [wikipedia.org]

        The first are genuinely low power and heavily integrated; but those suckers are slow. The second are pretty zippy by embedded standards; but only low-power by the standards of the desktop/laptop athlons they were derived from

        The GX's are brutally slow. The NX's are ULV Socket-A Athlon-TBirds, (and the power consumption isn't bad for a

        • by bhtooefr (649901)

          IIRC, the LX is just a warmed over GX with faster clock speeds - it's a descendant of the original Cyrix MediaGX family.

          As for the efficiency of the Geode NX... nope. It's on decade-old process technology, too. Looks to be in the same ballpark as a 1.6 GHz Atom on raw speed: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_lookup.php?cpu=AMD+Geode+NX+1750 [cpubenchmark.net]

          But, TDP on the Geode NX 1750 is 25 watts - TEN TIMES the TDP of an Atom N270.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hattig (47930)

      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 Q

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

      by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay@@@gmail...com> 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.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But to make things clear, x86 is a bad architecture

        Isn't it odd how the Mac platform jumps from CPU to CPU and somehow ended up on x86. If we could get the PC to jump just once, we'd be so much better off (and the Mac would be kinda screwed).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Nah, if it's truly a better platform then Apple will jump again. They've spent quite a bit of effort / time / money in the processes needed for this type of switch and performed very well in their previous jump. If anything Microsoft will have a far harder time doing this because of the backwards compatibility needs.

          I wonder if Apple patented any of the central ideas needed for this when they did Rosetta. It's pretty transparent the way it works under OS X -- I'm using Tiger (soon to be upgraded) and there
      • by Svartalf (2997)

        Actually an A9 is an out-of-order, superscalar implementation of the same thing they're used to with the ARM9 and ARM11, with a few embellishments you might/might not use.

        As far as the software people are mostly concerned, it's the same thing- and it's most definitely not niche as it'll run your stuff quite a bit faster than the older ARMs would.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        But to make things clear, x86 is a bad architecture,

        But to make things clear, you don't know what you're talking about.

        x86 is nothing more than a model at this point, what drives it under the hood can be just about anything AMD or Intel wants, as long as it appears as x86. There is nothing inheriently wrong with x86 compared to ARM, just neither AMD or Intel have spent years making their cores power efficient. ARM and all its licensors pretty much do just that, all the time, when working with the CPU so i

        • "x86 is nothing more than a model at this point"

          See, that is the problem. To get something usefull out of the x86 architecture you need a turing complete prefetcher, cache capable of varying instruction length, and a pipeline that will either slow (latency only, but it is more of a problem than it seems) every instruction down or will have a variable length. ARM needs none of that.

          • And might I add in that ARM effectively has some of the code compression ability of x86 via Thumb without the need for such high complexity during instruction decode.

    • Because Geode was crap! In a previous job we used embedded Geode boards in shops. They were useless - the hardware was some virtualised nonsense, the watchdogs didn't work, throughput was awful and documentation non-existent. Definitely the worst boards i've ever used.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I'm not going to say that it was good; because it was "built right down to price" back when good hardware cost a lot more than it does today; but the Geode's virtualized hardware was actually rather clever.

        It's a sordid tale going back to the Cyrix MediaGX(a cost and heat-optimized cutdown of the already cheap-seats Cyrix 6x86 line). The MediaGX creatively abused x86 System Management Mode to emulate the presence of a hardware VGA and sound card that did not actually exist. Working in concert with a spec
    • The same reason the US army would won over the football team of brazil in a Deathmatch with no rules : you're comparing two things that should be compared.
      ARM is an architecture developed by a consortium that licences it to manufacturers who can build CPU and then bundle them into very efficient SoC that provide an all in one solution. AMD Geode is a familly of x86 processors developed by AMD that can only be built and sold by AMD, where x86 is the architecture. It cannot be bundled as easily, nor does it
  • Lesser names? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArhcAngel (247594) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:15AM (#32810406)

    as well as lesser names such as Quanta, Invetec, Pegatron, and Compal

    They may not be household names but I would hardly call them lesser names. In fact I would be shocked if hp's Slate offering wasn't built by Quanta.

    Quanta Computer Incorporated [wikipedia.org] (TWSE: 2382) is a Taiwan-based manufacturer of notebook computers and other electronic hardware. It is the largest manufacturer of notebook computers in the world.[1] Its customers include ACER, Alienware, Apple Inc., Cisco, Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, Gericom, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Maxdata, MPC, Sharp Corporation, Siemens AG, Sony, Sun Microsystems, and Toshiba. It was founded by Barry Lam in 1988. Lam continues to head the company.

    Compal [wikipedia.org] is the second largest notebook manufacturer in the world

    3 January 2008: Asus [wikipedia.org] formally splits into three companies: ASUSTeK, Pegatron [pegatroncorp.com] and Unihan

  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:49AM (#32810982)

    These are ARM based platforms, but unlike the PC, there's not one single platform.

    On a PC, you know where everything is - and if not, the BIOS helps you. A lot of basic peripherals are at well-known locations (serial ports, keyboards, mice, etc). And for PCI, it exists in a well-known location as well. The BIOS does offer a memory map, but it's just to map physical RAM (which also exists at a well known location - it starts from 0).

    If you wanted to write a basic OS, you can accomplish a lot since you know RAM starts at 0, BIOS puts tables at well-known locations (ACPI, memory, etc), and where to expect a video adapter (already set up for you by BIOS), serial port, basic I/O. Add in a little code to do a little PCI probing to discover other adapters (mass storage, USB, etc), but that can wait since the basics are there. Heck, you can often guess a network controller might be placed at IO 0x300.

    On ARM, there's no such thing. You can't buy an "ARM Processor" - they don't really exist except as SoCs with onboard memory controllers, display controllers and other peripherals. And each chip can have different addresses for them. And while the ARM cores start at well-known location (0 - reset vector), there's often ROM there that does security boot, or just boot from NAND/SD/etc. And each peripheral exists in a different location - serial ports may be at 0x80000000 physical on one SoC, 0x80108000 on another, etc. RAM isn't based in any standard location - 0x40000000, 0x80000000, 0xC0000000 or other locations are possible. Ditto a PCI(e) bridge - it's somewhere in the memory map, but where you need to read the SoC manual to find out. End result is the OS has to be customized per-SoC and per-hardware because people can put things anywhere (for Linux, this just means the kernel since the POSIX abstraction layer hides the rest - provide a nice userspace and devices don't care).

    We don't think of it much, but the PC hasn't differed that much since IBM released their version of a desktop nearly 30 years ago. Heck, Intel's Pine Trail isn't PC-compatible, but it's an x86-based platform. Which is why Linux runs, but not Windows (desktop - you can probably get Windows CE running on it).

    That itself is a huge challenge. It's akin to consoles - all three consoles currently out (PS3, Xbox360, Wii) all have PowerPC processors inside them, but you can say none are compatible with each other, even though the lowlying ISA is the same.

    • These are ARM based platforms, but unlike the PC, there's not one single platform.

      Is there any particular reason why there isn't a standard way of doing things?

      I mean, is there a competitive advantage to the chip makers who license the ARM tech if they decide on their own addresses for various components? Or is it just that it hasn't been as big an issue with embedded systems in the past, and nobody large enough has stood up and said "here's the standard way of doing things"?

      • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:21AM (#32811482)

        Is there any particular reason why there isn't a standard way of doing things?

        I mean, is there a competitive advantage to the chip makers who license the ARM tech if they decide on their own addresses for various components? Or is it just that it hasn't been as big an issue with embedded systems in the past, and nobody large enough has stood up and said "here's the standard way of doing things"?

        Becvause it's embedded, so each manufacturer has a different way of doing things that they feel is "better". It's why there's no standard for network cards - Intel, Broadcom, Marvell and the like all have differing ideas on how to do things that they feel will give them the edge.

        Compatibility itself was never a consideration for embedded - at best you had source code compatibility, and some SoCs maintained memory maps for next-gen chips (so developers of previous-gen chips can reuse stuff like drivers). Intel's StrongARM and PXA25x chips come to mind (and Marvell has continued, which results in oddball placement of registers in the memory map these days, and things like "compatible small memory" and "large memory" maps when things have to be moved around).

        And in embedded systems, since the OS and applications (even if they run Linux) tend to be heavily customized anyways, the real need for cross-SoC compatibility is pretty minimal. The customer says they want an Samsung processor in their device (because they have a good deal with Samsung, for example), you use a Samsung processor. Next guy wants a Marvell one, you use Marvell. Third guy wants Freescale, etc.

      • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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

        • And u-boot is arguably the best case scenario. I just Love the guys who decide that they are too cool for u-boot and decide to roll their own obscure custom bootloaders. That makes life a lot easier...
    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      Heck, Intel's Pine Trail isn't PC-compatible, but it's an x86-based platform. Which is why Linux runs, but not Windows (desktop - you can probably get Windows CE running on it).

      Tell that to everyone running Windows 7 on their netbooks.

      You probably meant Moorestown which doesn't have a PCI bus. The next version, Oaktrail will be able to run regular Windows however.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Tell that to everyone running Windows 7 on their netbooks.

        You probably meant Moorestown which doesn't have a PCI bus. The next version, Oaktrail will be able to run regular Windows however.

        Ah you caught me, thanks. Yes, Moorestown was what I was thinking. And less so because of PCI, more so because if you want a phone, going through the BIOS and ACPI startup routines means you can lose the call before your OS can resume. (It may take "seconds" to come out of sleep, but on a low-power low-frequency platform,

    • by DrXym (126579)
      Ditto for MIPS. It's practically impossible to write code for some random MIPS chipset without being provided with the full build config, patches, drivers etc. That's probably a symptom of the space MIPS lives in - embedded devices where every chipset maker and their uncle produces a MIPS variant, some with bespoke hardware.

      The PC is lucky that it's development has been so linear. Occasionally the path might branch off down a few competing technologies but usually one of them hits a dead end or they conve

    • by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:14AM (#32811392) Homepage Journal

      These are ARM based platforms, but unlike the PC, there's not one single platform.

      Having worked on this sort of thing... you are so right. (Aside: there are some non PC x86 devices. SGI made some non-PC x86 workstations at one point, and the new generation of Atom phones won't be PCs.)

      However, all is not lost: this is exactly the kind of problem that Open Firmware [wikipedia.org] was designed to solve. Each machine has an Open Firmware interpreter on it that acts as a boot loader. Once loaded, the OS can query Open Firmware to find stuff out about the machine. What's more, Open Firmware has the ability to find basic device drivers written in bytecode on the devices themselves. Plug in a PCI mass storage device and you can boot from it --- regardless of your machine's architecture! And since Open Firmware is based around a Forth interpreter, you have a complete programming environment out of the box, which is fantastic for troubleshooting.

      Anyone who's used a Sun workstation, a PowerPC Mac or an OLPC will have been exposed to it. Unfortunately, Intel's adoption of EFI as the official next-gen PC boot architecture pretty much squashed Open Firmware's momentum.

      You can find a BSD/MIT licensed version here [openfirmware.info]... and yes, there is an ARM version.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:35AM (#32811696) Journal
        Mod parent up! I wish OpenFirmware got more press, it's a really beautiful system. One of the really nice things you can do with it is compile the OFW drivers once you've booted. Each card comes with a little Forth program describing how to control it. The firmware interprets this, but an OS can compile it for the target CPU at boot time (or later) if it wants. Or it can replace it with its own driver. EFI seems pretty backwards by comparison, and LinuxBIOS (or OpenBoot, or whatever it's calling itself now) is just incredibly bloated. I'd love to see ARM systems ship with an OpenFirmware implementation.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Charbax (678404)
          I filmed Mitch Bradley demonstrating Open Firmware as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvxxAeuhPp0 [youtube.com]
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          LinuxBIOS is now Coreboot and it can do stuff like load GRUB or just a Linux kernel directly as a payload. Hard to say it's bloated when you can get enough of it in 512kB to load the kernel. The real problem with coreboot is that it supports practically no hardware. If you want to use it in your shipping product that sort of thing is possible, but replacing system BIOS on anything not already supported with it is a job for an expert with the documentation.

      • by jackbird (721605)
        those SGI x86 "workstations" were just expensive NT boxes with (then jaw-droppingly new and shiny, but ludicrously small for serious graphics work) flat-screen monitors and wacky purple cases.
  • After the recent release of Ubuntu I have much more faith in there engineering team. Canonical is definitely showing promise in being the #1 desktop Linux distro.
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:13AM (#32811364) Homepage

    Instead of chasing every new fad device, why doesn't Ubuntu focus more resources on QA of existing hardware support? Three of the four WiFi cards I have don't work with Ubuntu 10.04. And they aren't broken due to some manufacturer's folly: the drivers to make the work exist, they are just compiled with the wrong options by Ubuntu.

    Ubuntu needs to spend those resources on TESTING their new software to make sure it works with common hardware before it is released.

    • by Superken7 (893292)

      I could not agree more with you. I wish they spent more time testing (or just hired more guys for testing purposes).
      Especially regression tests. Its not uncommon for someone to update from version X to version Y and suddently some hardware part stops working..

    • by extrasolar (28341)

      You know, at the end of the day, Canonical needs to concern itself with *its* bottom line too, you know.

      Sorry, but I hate it how people think they can tell companies how they should allocate their resources to fix their own personal problems. FWIW, I haven't had any problems with wifi on the computers I've installed Ubuntu on, so obviously they're doing something right.

      And I *really* want an ARM based GNU/Linux laptop,tablet, netbook.

    • QA in open source projects is volunteer work. You have the wireless cards and know that they don't work; Ubuntu's given you the tools to alter your configs and rebuild the kernel drivers into a working setup. What are the bug numbers where your patches are attached?

      Canonical *don't* use their resources to employ QA team-members, nor to buy one of every piece of common hardware. Get your hands dirty and stop trolling.

  • this is my point and frankly I wonder how this all happens. Challenges galore!
  • 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 AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> 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.

    • But how soon can i buy these laptops?

      On /. we've been asking the same question for *years* now [slashdot.org]. But it always comes down to one fact: big laptop manufacturers don't make laptops when there isn't a version of Windows to fall back on. So the answer to your question has almost certainly not changed: you will be able to buy them as soon as Windows 7 (or some version of Windows CE) and Microsoft Office runs on ARM. Yeah, it sucks ass, but it needs to be said. Don't get your hopes up until you see an actual release date (yeah, it was "imminent"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by peppepz (1311345)
        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

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