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Linaro on the OMAP4 TI Pandaboard

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Just a quick one.

A couple of days ago I intercepted a package meant for Marcin Juszkiewicz on the promise I would give him it back in a weeks time at the Linaro@UDS event. This package contained a shiny new TI OMAP4-based Pandaboard. Now, the run up to a UDS event is always super busy but I managed to steal a few hours here and there and with some last minute late night debugging with Canonical kernel engineer Lee Jones (borked UART settings in the end for those interested) the Linaro images now work on the Pandaboard. Special kudos to the Canonical ARM team who did all the heavy lifting to enable the Pandaboard in Ubuntu.

And before you say “it didn’t happen without pictures”, here they are.




Expect some video demo’s and more pictures of the various Linaro flavours soon.

Written by Jamie Bennett

October 21st, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Linaro,Linux

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ARM A15: A Game Changer

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ARM? Who are they?

ARM are a humongous company, not so much in employee numbers and site buildings, but in the number of actual products that their technology comes to market with. From a seemingly small number of incredibly smart people comes a sales figure of nearly 3 ARM chips for every man, woman and child on the planet, a huge feat that, with recent partnership announcements, and rumors galore, is only going to get bigger.

ARM shares have gone from a level of just over 135 this time last year to well over 400 today and with ARM’s Q3 2010 Earnings release due Oct 26th, I’m sure we will see continued growth. But why all the fuss?

ARM has been around for a long time. Smartphones, set-top boxes, even a robot or two so what is going so right for ARM lately? Well their deal with Apple for the strangely named A4 (cleverly stripped Cortex-A8, ARMv7-A core) which went into the iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and is now the corner-stone of Apples iOS solutions has helped, a deal with Microsoft, dozens of ARM based Android phones, and the odd Maemo/MeeGo phone helps. But now we have a new era. A time where ARM are moving out of their comfort zone and competing with the likes of Intel and AMD on performance, but this time doing it with an eye to power consumption. There are a lot of exciting things going on at ARM, not to mention their huge focus on Linux with Linaro, but their recent announcement of the ARM A15 architecture got me excited more than others.

Low Powered, Multi-Core, High Performance

The A15 is billed as having:

Unprecedented levels of performance, power-efficiency, and technology leadership

and reading the technical specs one can only wonder what is in store for this architecture. Some of the highlights include:

    • Up to 2.5Gz clock speed
    • Chip fabrication down to 28nm
    • Address up to 1TB of memory
    • Hardware Virtualisation
    • Single to Quad core (and beyond) configurations
    • Suitable for everything from phones to servers

Possibilities

So looking at the specifications, where is this chip likely to land? Well, its not quite that easy to guess as the processor itself is so versatile. If one were to attempt a guess one could hypothesise that we will see at least phones and netbooks but more importantly tablets, laptops, and servers. The last three, maybe four are new to ARM. But a chip so capable has its uses.

    • For netbooks and laptops, a more powerful CPU is essential. Couple this with low power consumption and an increasingly powerful user experience from Ubuntu, Linaro and other Linux distributions equates to a great portable laptop device.
    • Tablets are the new buzz word. Android is the main contender to Apple at the moment although RIM have just announced their PlayBook and HP cannot be discounted with their acquisition of PALM and WebOS. If its not an Apple device then its most likely to be Linux based (unless its the QNX RIM tablet) and what better way to utilise that than to use a flavour that is highly optimised for ARM based Linux devices.
    • Servers are uncharted territory for ARM. Quietly, bubbling up amongst the tech crowd is the notion that vast arrays of hot, expensive to run, power-hungry x86 based servers could be replaced by cold, cheap, powerful ARM servers. For a company who pays millions (upon millions) of dollars for a server farm, saving money on both climate control to cool servers and their electricity bill is huge news. Couple that with the fact that ARM servers could be cheaper to purchase and you get a lot of buzz in this area. One such company that caught this curve early was SmoothStone. Expect to see a huge uptake in the interest of ARM based servers in the coming 12 months.

Conclusion

ARM based devices are ubiquitous, just like Linux. You may of not of even heard of ARM, just like you may not of heard of Linux, but making a phone call or searching on Google means you could already using their respective technologies.

ARM, just like Linux, is a quiet pioneer, prevalent in the background just waiting for the opportunity to become mainstream. Whether mainstream is the goal, prevalence most definitely is on the agenda.

Written by JamieBennett

September 28th, 2010 at 11:26 pm

LinuxCon 2010

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Boston Skyline
This month I had the pleasure of attending LinuxCon in Boston. The event was a great success and I managed to get some face-to-face time with old and new friends alike, including the new Ubuntu Release Manager, Kate Stewart and the new Ubuntu Technical Architect, Allison Randal among others. I attended many, many sessions and even managed to catch up with one or two people to talk business but the sessions that stood out for me were:

A Technical Look at Linux at Oracle – Wim Coekaerts

Wim is a great speaker and the topic was new to me so I listened intently. Unfortunately Oracle followed up by promptly suing Google.

Mobile Linux: Adapting Practices, Driving Innovation, Collaboration, and Scalability – Rob Chandhok

Rob outlined Qualcomms Open Source effort. They do a lot of good work with Linux and their latest announcement, that they would be making an effort to consolidate work done in the ARM eco-sphere, echo’s what Linaro is tasked at achieving. I’m sure there will be a lot of overlap and collaboration going forward.

Android/Linux Kernel: Lessons Learned – Matthew Garrett

Matthew spent his time describing the failed attempt to get Android’s power management solution, suspend blockers, into the mainline kernel. It was a heated discussion at times but did highlight some failings on both Google’s and the kernel communities sides.

Linux Kernel Panel – James Bottomley, Jon Corbet, Dave Jones, Chris Mason, Ted Ts’o

Kernel panels, or round-tables, seem to be a common practice at many conferences and this was no exception. A good bunch of speakers, lots of questions from the audience including one or two on the status of the ARM kernel.
Kernel Panel at LinuxCon

Open Source Software Adoption Patterns in Enterprise IT – Jeffrey Hammond

Jeffrey fired of statistics and facts about the studies his company have been doing with regards to Linux adoption. The facts proved interesting with a trend for an accelerated Linux adoption from the pool of people he surveyed.

MeeGo: Where Are We Now – Dawn Foster

Dawn gave a high-level introduction to MeeGo, the project bearing the fruits of the collaboration between Nokia and Intel. Nothing new was discussed but the level of interest in MeeGo was evident by the full room.

Doing What it Takes: Current Legal Issues in Defending FOSS – Eben Moglen

Listening to Eben speak is a pleasure in itself, let alone listening to him talk about a subject close to the heart of many open source developers. For someone to stand there for 30 mins, without slides or prompts, never fumble a word and capture the attention of everyone in the room, Eben must be commended.

Selling the Value of Open Source When Cost is Not the Driver – Ravi Simhambhatla

Virgin America wouldn’t be my obvious choice when selecting a company that really utilizes and ‘gets’ open source but Ravi’s explanation of how they use it, where they were before open source, and what they have planned for the future was captivating. Virgin America really are revolutionizing their internal IT departments by using Linux and they have even bigger plans for the future.

Overall a good event, looking forward to the next one.

Written by Jamie Bennett

August 24th, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Ubuntu live cd’s, now 33% faster

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One of the goals for the Lucid cycle was to investigate why it took so long to boot an Ubuntu live cd session. Why is this important I hear you ask? Well the live cd is usually the first thing a potential new Ubuntu user sees. They get an Ubuntu Desktop (or other flavour) cd from their friend/colleague/random person, insert it into their machine, wait for a while and are then presented with a live session. All well and good but if your running on slower hardware, even a different architecture such as ARM, this initial slowness can be orders of magnitude more than a fast desktop/laptop. For example, the ARM images we shipped for Karmic took over 3 minutes to boot into a live desktop session.
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Written by JamieBennett

February 12th, 2010 at 2:27 am

Posted in Linux,Ubuntu

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New Development Machine

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Recently I decided to build a new PC which was to become my main development machine. Before I started looking at the price and performance of all the major parts I had a good idea what I wanted, fast CPU, lots of RAM, fairly large hard drive e.t.c. but what I ended up with wasn’t exactly what I first imagined.

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Written by Jamie Bennett

September 23rd, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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