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Open Source Linux Hardware

The Ugly State of ARM Support On Linux 94

jfruhlinger writes "Power-efficient ARM processors are moving up the food chain, to the extent that even Windows will soon see an ARM port. Linux, which has long been cross-platform, should have a long head start in this niche, right? Well, blogger Brian Proffitt explains just how messy the state of Linux support for ARM is right now, partially as a result of mutually conflicting kernel hacks from ARM manufacturers who just wanted to get their products out the door and weren't necessarily abiding by the GPL obligations to release code. Things are improving now, not least because Linus is taking a personal hand in things, but sorting the mess out will take time."
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The Ugly State of ARM Support On Linux

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  • Problem is simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JamesP ( 688957 ) on Monday June 20, 2011 @05:54PM (#36506314)

    ARM manufacturers are idiots

    Intel gets open source, most ARM manufacturers don't.

    Hence, most BSP rely on proprietary drivers, they don't have up-to-date support for devices in the mainline kernel, etc

    Also, there's a lack of a 'standart platform', even though ARM is pretty much homogeneous

    Things are beginning to change, still. And ARM is still miles ahead from SH, embedded MIPS, etc

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20, 2011 @06:30PM (#36506656)

    >> a threat that could effect dozens of companies' livelihoods
    A lot of semiconductor companies were releasing linux-based SoCs way before the mainline kernel started consolidating code from vendors. If Linus stopped pulling ARM code, no business would shut down. I personally don't know any companies that rely on Linus' tree to ship their customers.

    >> To make matters worse, even though the GPL v2 license on the Linux kernel requires these changes to be released back upstream to the main Linux kernel, often they were not.
    This doesn't make any sense to me. GPL requires the changes to be released to the person who purchases your device/code. The vendors have zero responsibility to the mainline.

    >> ...this is entirely the reason why the non-profit Linaro consortium (...) was put together...
    One thing I wonder about Linaro is how they are going to be the leader and not play catch up. There are a lot of board-specific drivers they can consolidate, but as they consolidate, the vendors are coming out with even more.

    >> [a]s an indication of the scale of this problem, each new kernel release sees about 70,000 new lines of ARM code, whereas there's roughly 5,000 lines of new x86 code added."
    I find this comparison very unfair. Yes, that 70K number could be more like 20-25K but the devices with ARM processors have very different structures, designs, and end goals. One code can't fit them all. On the flip side, most x86 implementations are on either desktop or server side.

    I'm surprised Likely didn't talk about the device-tree support for the ARM tree. I've implemented a few (ppc-based) boards with device trees. The initial learning curve was a bit painful, but once you understand it, it enables a lot of common code and cuts down development time too. synthesizerpatel above mentioned "a standardized method for publishing SoC features in a structured format" above and the device trees are exactly it (except they're not XML! so, even better!)

    My preference as a lowly bring-up guy would be if the desktop/server kernel split up from the embedded kernel completely. Embedded kernel devs then can emphasize what's important to them (cut down development time, wide variety of device support, aggressive power mgmt) while the desktop/server devs can focus on their stuff.

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone