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What would you like to see for ARM based embedded distro’s?

Written by JamieBennett on November 3rd, 2009 at 8:38 pm in Android,Linux,Maemo,Ubuntu,Ubuntu Netbook Remix

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So its that time of year again, we released a great product and instead of being content, we want to make an even greater one next time. It’s scary to think that I leave for the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) next week but as a Canonical employee we are all charged with coming up with great idea’s on how to make our particular field of interest even more awesome than it is now.

I personally have been working on the Ubuntu Netbook Remix flavour of Ubuntu and our ARM based offerings. With my experience, I truly believe that ARM has huge potential to break out of its ultra-embedded space and into the mobile ultra-smart phone or netbook area. All my efforts this coming 6 month cycle will be here.

Nokia has a great example of an ultra-smart phone, the N900. If you gave this device a 7″-10″ screen and a near-full size keyboard it would have rave reviews as an up-and-coming netbook distribution. Android is doing the same albeit in a different manner, coming from a very focused Mobile distribution to maybe something more? Canonical’s approach is another top-down example. We have traditionally targeted the desktop and server environments but as netbooks get cheaper (and hardware not particularly powerful) we all need to evaluate where the support line is drawn. The boundaries have definitely blurred on where the smart phone stops and the netbook begins.

Mer is another example of where some ARM distro’s are going. For me Mer is very interesting; Mer traditionally targets the lower horse-powered hardware which follows even closer to what todays phones have to offer. Not all phone hardware (and netbook hardware) is created equal and maybe the opportunity to offer Hi-Def playback and 3D acceleration on all platforms isn’t possible but I would definitely like to see Mer and other open source distributions on consumer-grade phones.

So, what I’m interested in these next 6 months is not just where I as a Canonical employee can take Ubuntu, but where I, as an ARM developer, generously employed by Canonical, can help the whole ARM eco-system. What would you like to see Canonical improve in the ARM embedded space in the next 6 months? All suggestions welcome.

8 Responses to 'What would you like to see for ARM based embedded distro’s?'

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  1. Hi,

    I am interested in the N900. Being a Linux fan since first laborious trial with Fedora Core 5 and many upgrades and distros since (my main desktop distro is now Fedora 11 supported by Ubuntu 9.10), Maemo certainly appeals. However, application support will be critical. From a purely selfish perspective I am interested in guitar and keyboard educational/simulation applications such as those on the iphone, but I am not sure this is what you are after. Next would be OpenOffice or similar support to allow edit of MsOffice docs/spreadsheets etc.



    5 Nov 09 at 1:53 pm

  2. Just browsed the “even more awesome than it is now link” and now I am positive that my thoughts were not what you were after. However, I stand by my comments that application support is critical for any platform – it must be useful and appealing to the target user population.



    5 Nov 09 at 2:02 pm

  3. I’m part of the Mobile ARM team which aims to bring ARM Linux support to many platforms. Sure, some of them are core business opportunities for my employer, Canonical, and get preferential treatment (no-brainer), but the wider eco-sphere also benefits for us fixing problems, making software available, and pushing new idea’s.

    For instance, we already have an off-shoot of our distribution that works on the Nokia platforms, Mer, which is an excellent effort by the community to provide an alternative distribution for Nokia’s devices. This will benefit from the wider ARM support of Linux not just by us but other Linux vendors entering the ARM space.

    For me personally, I want to improve ARM support for Linux, for Canonical, and for others interested in Linux on the ARM platform. For example, device-tree’s on ARM, which is a sore subject for some, is high on my list along with lower powered graphics acceleration and a more unified and faster boot process.

    ARM is a major sleeping giant, and I’m here to make sure Linux is the default choice for ARM device manufacturers.


    5 Nov 09 at 2:22 pm

  4. I think one thing that is sorely missing in Ubuntu is the ability to build a cross-toolchain to match the toolchain on your Ubuntu ARM target. Cross-compiling apps is a fairly common use-case, IMO, and having the ability to generate matching cross-toolchains would go a long way in making it easier for embedded vendors to adopt Ubuntu on ARM.

    Arun Raghavan

    6 Nov 09 at 1:09 pm

  5. I’m interested in “lower powered graphics acceleration”. Can you say a bit more about that? Thanks.

    ARM have historically been a bit nasty with keeping instruction sets and peripheral data sheets secret, telling QEMU and other emulator developers that they can’t emulate it fully, and causing the disappearance of an open source ARM instruction set compatible CPU for FPGAs by threatening to sue. So I have a bit of a negative feeling about ARM, despite the great chips that are coming out. I do hope that is changing and they are going to embrace a more open attitude themselves!

    Jamie Lokier

    7 Nov 09 at 7:27 am

  6. Hi Jamie,

    Did you see my email to mobile-devel-list@gnome.org recently? http://mail.gnome.org/archives/mobile-devel-list/2009-November/msg00000.html That wouuld be something I’d love to see Ubuntu Mobile involved in.


    Dave Neary

    10 Nov 09 at 11:01 am

  7. Dave, as you probably know, performance from the boot process onwards is a drive Canonical are very interested in, a drive that extends to the mobile team too. Its definitely on the radar, in fact if you look at the blueprints registered at http://wiki.ubuntu.com/MobileTeam/LucidSpecifications you can see some performance based initiatives already which will be followed by more when UDS starts next week.


    10 Nov 09 at 7:57 pm

  8. Java. Full java.


    12 Dec 09 at 2:21 am

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