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Apr 1 16

Fedora 24 Alpha for aarch64 and POWER

by nullr0ute

So Fedora 24 Alpha is out for aarch64 and POWER. Keen followers will note that we were a couple of days behind the primary architecture’s Alpha release, which hasn’t been the case for the last few Fedora cycles where we’ve generally released on the same day.

The primary reason for the delay was the Pungi Refactor. While the pungi 4 change has been massive for primary architectures for the secondary architectures it’s the single biggest change to our release process EVER! Basically we’ve thrown the lot out and started again. When I started in release engineering over 18 months ago the number one goal that was set for me can be summarised as “Be more like primary. Make the whole secondary architecture as close to primary as possible!” and we’ve been continuously moving, albeit not as fast as I would have liked, in that general direction. With the arrival of pungi 4 for Fedora 24 we’re almost at that end goal in terms of the current way we do secondary architectures.

With Fedora 24 we’re also adding a lot more release engineering focused features and functionality to the secondary architectures. We have now have full nightly composes on rawhide and branched whereas previously we’d just produce a “Everything” repo. This allows ongoing continual testing on things so it’s easier to know when things regress. On PowerPC we’ve produced qcow2 cloud images to some degree since Fedora 22 but it was a bit of a manual process. These are now fully integrated into the pungi/koji process and, like on primary produced nightly, similarly they’ll be coming to aarch64 very shortly too. In Fedora 24 we’ve added Docker base images, they’re produced nighly on branched and rawhide for PowerPC now, and will be nightly for aarch64 at the same time the qcow2 cloud images arrive. Finally aarch64 will also soon have disk images like ARMv7 on primary to enable us to easily support the new shiny aarch64 Single Board Computers (SBCs) that are _FINALLY_ becoming available for the architecture, for Fedora 24 it’ll be a bit of a hack, but with Fedora 25 both ARMv7 and aarch64 will be able to move to koji based live-media-creator image build process but I’ll outline more of that in another post.

So the pungi refactor has been big for the secondary architectures. It’s required big changes in our infrastructure which is now mostly complete, there’s a few infrastructure cleanups and final changes that are in process, these will be done in the next few weeks in the lead up to Beta. We have a single host left to migrate to ansible (YAY!!) and some final moving around of resources. We’ll be changing the way we sync content out to mirrors too which will close out one of the final deltas of the rel-eng secondary process. Overall the last few weeks have been challenging getting all the bits in place, but by the time we hit Beta it’ll all be complete! The new processes lay the foundations for the secondary architectures to add functionality quicker than ever before, and by being almost identical to primary the “onboarding” of new people to use that process, or end users be able to consume the output of the rel-eng process is easier than ever before and that makes me happy! :-)

Mar 3 16

Lipstick on a Pig AKA the Raspberry Pi 3

by nullr0ute

So while waiting for local scratch kernel builds for much more interesting devices I started looking around to see if I could find details of the kernel sources for the new BCM2837 SoC that is centre stage in the Raspberry Pi 3.

The problem is I couldn’t. What I did find is the hack the Raspberry Pi Foundation uses to boot the RPi3 on github.

So there is no source code release for the new BCM2837 SoC, just a device tree file. Someone said to me “They’re violating the GPL” and before people get out their pitch forks… they’re NOT because this is the code they ship, they are meeting their obligations there.

So for the lay person (yes, I know there’s a lot of deep level tech details I’m glossing over deep ARM architecturey people!!) basically what they are doing is booting this device as a ARMv7 device, and because the code isn’t built for ARMv8 (32 or 64 bit) they really just get the speed bump of a ARMv7 device running a bit faster, and possibly some better memory speeds and other general improvements.

So what does this mean for other distributions that wish to actually to support the Raspberry Pi 3 as a aarch64 device? You currently can NOT do so!. Why? Basically it boils down to two things:

  • Source code release for the kernel: To be honest I don’t think this should be large. People with low level knowledge of ARMv7 and the BCM283x could probably hack this up
  • Firmware support: I suspect there will need to be a new firmware that supports booting this as a aarch64 device. I obviously don’t know for sure but I’m guessing the firmware will need changes to actually properly boot this as a aarch64 device. I’ve little doubt there’s a bunch of hackery going on in there!

Of the above two, if my theory is correct, the firmware is the problematic one because it relies on the Raspberry Pi Foundation to do the work. This work for something that they feel, at the moment, gives them no particular gain but only confusion about multiple OSes. They are of course correct for their use case, basically like old school enterprise where you buy a bigger server to scale vertically because your app won’t scale horizontally, but this is another kick in the guts of the Open Source community they so heavily rely on! Oh well, it’s about as much as I expected from the Raspberry Pi Foundation as after all their devices are only just now becoming usable with upstream kernels and open userspace GPU drivers…. after a mere four years.

So what does this mean for Fedora? Basically the only way we’ll be able to support it in the short, possibly medium, term is like it’s sibling the Raspberry Pi 2 as an ARMv7 device but with added shitty wifi. Really, this device isn’t a cheap aarch64 device, it’s just like lipstick on a pig! If a cheap aarch64 device is what you want one of those go and buy a PINE64.

On the plus side the work needed to support it as a ARMv7 device at the same time as it’s sibling should just be some minor u-boot and kernel device tree patches on top of what I previously documented . Note I’ve not looked closely at this as yet, I’m still waiting for mine to arrive (YAY day 3 of 1 day shipping)! Frankly I’d sooner support it this way, an aarch64 device with terrible USB2 IO and 1GB of RAM won’t provide much, if any, of a perf bump over ARMv7, and then have the Raspberry Pi Foundation spend their time working with Broadcom on fixing the wifi and enabling distribution of the wifi firmware in linux-firmware as proper opensource broadcom wifi support would have a wider impact on the Open Source community the Foundation relies upon!

Mar 1 16

Supporting Fedora 24 on the Raspberry Pi 2

by nullr0ute

So I get asked the question dozens of times a day so I thought I’d outline the answer to the question “When is Fedora going to support the Raspberry Pi 2?” and “The kernel support is upstream in the 4.5 kernel, why isn’t it enabled in Fedora 24?”

Ultimately support in the kernel is great, it’s obviously a core blocker, and the first steps to supporting a new piece of hardware in Fedora. The thing is that when people say kernel support is easy they are partially right but it’s only a very small part of what’s needed to support a complex device such has an ARMv7 Single Board Computer for the average user, especially one as popular as the Raspberry Pi! To make the device work with Fedora we could just enable the kernel bits but it doesn’t make for a good user experience OOTB (Out Of The Box).

With a lot of ARMv7 devices these days a new device comes out and it just works with Fedora. It’s awesome when I read a report, or someone tells me “I tried device X with Fedora and it just worked”. That’s because of a lot of work Fedora, and others, have done to ensure upstream boot loaders and boot process just works with new devices. It’s taken a long time to get us to this point. The Raspberry Pi is sadly not like all the other ARMv7 or aarch64 devices. It doesn’t have a standard boot process, doesn’t use u-boot or uEFI, needs vFAT partitions, firmware, text config files and other things that none of our other supported devices need. All of these differences need to be taken into account.

So in terms of the support being upstream in 4.5 the answer to that is it’s “mostly” upstream, there’s still a bunch of patches we’d need to pull in to ensure a nice OOTB experience. This isn’t a blocker in my opinion, it’s something that’s relatively straight foward with most of the bits already headed upstream into 4.6 so it’s a short term issue.

For the rest of the bits what do I consider a nice out of the box experience? This:

  • A single image to support the Raspberry Pi and all out devices (more on that below)
  • Graphics and USB support from boot to login
  • Most basic peripherals working, at a minimum USB (inc keyboard/mouse), HDMI, wired ethernet, a decent selection of wireless USB dongles, storage (MMC and USB) and preferably sound (analog, digital HDMI, mic)
  • A means of easily creating a bootable SD card from at least the Fedora command line, and probably Windows or MacOSX
  • Good documentation, FAQ etc

Single Image:
We currently produce a lot of different images for ARMv7 like Workstation, Server, Minimal and various desktops. If we had to double the amount of images we make to add vFAT that would double the work needed by QA, rel-eng and also lead to confusion by end users as to which image is needed. I have no intention of doubling anyone’s work, or adding confusion for end users, there needs to be a proper engineering solution to this problem!

Serial Console
A number of people have said to me “just enable it and tell them to use the serial console” but having been working on ARMv7 for over 6 years now I know from experience that this leads to vast amounts of confusion by end users as to why “it’s not working” and it leads to a lot of time “providing support” to end users. With a device such as the Raspberry Pi this will become an order of magnitude worse which won’t provide users a good Fedora experience, and likely drive the people who are trying to support the device a even more nuts than normal!

Basic peripheral support
I feel that network, storage, display, input and sound, although I’m still on the fence about sound, are the minimum viable supported peripherals needed for a good OOTB experience for users.

I know that initially we won’t support HATs very well, you can already copy around device tree overlays in the /sys filesystem for basic support, but upstream still hasn’t finalised what a good experience will look like in this regard. I think we can live with this. This won’t stop the use of I2C or SPI devices connected to the 40 pin header, most of these should work just fine.

Image to card creation
Closely related to the single image and basic peripheral support I think the ability to easily create an image to use is important. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to easily solve the Windows/OSX problem, although to be honest I’ve not looked at what’s out there and we might be able to extend LiveUSBCreator here.

Raspberry Pi 3
So when will we support this? Well the kernel support hasn’t been released yet, at least that I could find at the time of writing this. That being said I don’t think it’ll be a particularly evasive or large patch set, the hardware around the Cortex-A53 is the same, so it’ll be just some glue and a pinctrl driver to make all the bits work together, likely not too dissimilar to other recent SoCs that have gained ARMv8 support. This won’t land in 4.6 as the major changes are already queued to land in that, so likely 4.7 will be the earliest upstream kernel. The wireless on the other hand could be more interesting.

So basically the work needed for support of the Raspberry Pi 3, with a proper 64 bit OS 😉 , shouldn’t be too hard once the kernel bits are upstream.

Firmwares
The other issue we had was the legal ability to redistribute the “GPU boot loader firmware” thankfully that problem was resolved about a year ago, although it did take us over 2 years to do so!

The other firmware issue which will cause problems with Raspberry Pi 3 support is that the Broadcom wireless is notoriously terrible, as any Linux running Mac user will contest to, and their wireless firmware isn’t re-distributable in the standard process of being included in the upstream linux-firmware. With luck this is something that the Raspberry Pi Foundation could assist Broadcom in improving!

Summary
So we’re well on the way to adding support. Assistance in the issues above would be very welcome, whether for supporting a single image or adding support for writing images for the Pi, to help us get the bits done sooner rather than later. Feel free to reach out to me on IRC (pbrobinson on FreeNode) or some other means.

Oct 31 15

My ARM grab bag device list

by nullr0ute

They say the first step of coming to terms with addiction is admitting you have a problem… I have a problem with collecting ARM devices… there I said it! How big is this problem you ask? How about I list them out and let you decide!

I’ll break the list down into categories as I believe it’s big enough to do so :-/

The aarch64 set of devices currently stands at:

  • 2x Applied Mustang (different x-gene SoC revs)
  • AMD Seattle
  • 96boards HiKey (hi6220)

The ARMv7 boards list is currently:

  • Compulabs Trimslice (tegra-2)
  • Toshiba AC100 (tegra-2)
  • nVidia Jetson TK1 (tegra-124)
  • Acer Chromebook (tegra-124)
  • BeagleBoard xM (omap3)
  • Nokia n900 (omap3)
  • Nokia n950 prototype (omap3)
  • BeagleBone (am33xx)
  • BeagleBone Black (am33xx) x3
  • BeagleBone Green (am33xx)
  • PandaBoard ES Prototype (omap4)
  • PandaBoard ES B2 (omap4)
  • CubieBoard (allwinner-a10)
  • CubieTruck (allwinner-a20)
  • Banana Pi (allwinner-a20)
  • C.H.I.P. Alpha x2 (allwinner-r8)
  • Snowball (u8500)
  • Compulabs Utilite (imx6q)
  • WandBoard Quad revb (imx6q)
  • novena board (imx6q)
  • RIoTboard (imx6s)
  • UDOO Neo (imx6sx)
  • Origen (exynos-4)
  • OLPC XO 1.75 – a number of variants (mmp2) xNumerous
  • OLPC XO-4 including XO-Touch (mmp3) xNumerous
  • Linksys WRT1900AC (armada-xp)
  • Mirabox (armada-370)
  • ifc6410 (qcom)
  • Parallella Board (zynq7000)
  • Raspberry Pi 2 x3

The Cortex-M series for IoT sensors is currently:

  • TI SensorTag 2015
  • ARM mBed IoT starter kit
  • BeeWi SmartClim

Other random related bits:

  • BeagleBone Breadboard Prototyping Cape x2
  • BeagleBone CryptoCape
  • Original 256Mb Raspberry Pi model B
  • Grove starter kit for BeagleBone Green
  • Explorer HAT
  • PiGlo HAT
  • TI CC2531 802.15.4 USB dongle x3
  • numerous random sensors

So the list above is the devices that I use for hacking on. I count 41 without listing out the dozen or so ARM based XOs I have (various prototypes and models). I also don’t have in that list phones, tablets and two drones as I don’t really hack on those as it’s not like with the list above I don’t already have enough toys! So do I have a problem?

Oct 21 15

Playing with Bluetooth Smart devices on Fedora

by nullr0ute

So I have a few Bluetooth Smart (AKA BT Low Energy or BT-LE) devices including a BeeWi SmartClim Smart Temperature & Humidity Sensor, a TI SensorTag2 and a Runtasic Orbit activity tracker. I thought I’d see if I could connect to them with something other than their proprietary apps that run on my phone and get anything useful out of them.

To do this I installed a Fedora 23 minimal image on a micro SD card for BeagleBone Black, inserted a CSR USB Bluetooth 4.0 dongle and powered it up. Once I’d completed the first boot wizard and logged in I installed the bluetooth command line utility packages with a “sudo dnf install -y bluez bluez-libs”. You don’t need to use a BeagleBone, you can use any ARM device or even a standard laptop which supports Bluetooth 4+ with BT-LE support.

Now that we have a device running we’re ready to start to play.

First lets see if our system sees our bluetooth dongle:

$ sudo hcitool dev
Devices:
	hci0	AA:BB:CC:DD:EE:33

Then lets scan for any Bluetooth Smart devices that are in range:

$ sudo hcitool lescan 
LE Scan ...
A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6 (unknown)
A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6 CC2650 SensorTag
A9:B8:C7:D6:E5:F4 (unknown)
A9:B8:C7:D6:E5:F4 BeeWi SmartClim

Now create a connection to the device we discovered:

$ sudo hcitool lecc A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6
Connection handle 3586

In the bluez package gatttool is a tool we can use to interact with Bluetooth Smart devices. We can use gatttool in interactive mode to send commands to out previously scanned device address:

sudo gatttool -b A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6 -I
[78:A5:04:5B:7D:9A][LE]>

Now we connect to the deivce (note in older version of gattool the prefix would change from “[ ]” to “[CON]” now it changes the colour of the BT MAC):

[A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6][LE]> connect
Attempting to connect to A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6
Connection successful
[A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6][LE]>

We can request the device characteristics:

[A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6][LE]> characteristics
handle: 0x0002, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x0003, uuid: 00002a00-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0004, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x0005, uuid: 00002a01-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0006, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x0007, uuid: 00002a04-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0009, char properties: 0x20, char value handle: 0x000a, uuid: 00002a05-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x000d, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x000e, uuid: 00002a23-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x000f, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x0010, uuid: 00002a24-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0011, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x0012, uuid: 00002a25-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0013, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x0014, uuid: 00002a26-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0015, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x0016, uuid: 00002a27-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0017, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x0018, uuid: 00002a28-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0019, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x001a, uuid: 00002a29-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x001b, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x001c, uuid: 00002a2a-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x001d, char properties: 0x02, char value handle: 0x001e, uuid: 00002a50-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x0020, char properties: 0x12, char value handle: 0x0021, uuid: f000aa01-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0023, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0024, uuid: f000aa02-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0025, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0026, uuid: f000aa03-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0028, char properties: 0x12, char value handle: 0x0029, uuid: f000aa21-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x002b, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x002c, uuid: f000aa22-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x002d, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x002e, uuid: f000aa23-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0030, char properties: 0x12, char value handle: 0x0031, uuid: f000aa41-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0033, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0034, uuid: f000aa42-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0035, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0036, uuid: f000aa44-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0038, char properties: 0x12, char value handle: 0x0039, uuid: f000aa81-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x003b, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x003c, uuid: f000aa82-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x003d, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x003e, uuid: f000aa83-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0040, char properties: 0x12, char value handle: 0x0041, uuid: f000aa71-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0043, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0044, uuid: f000aa72-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0045, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0046, uuid: f000aa73-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0048, char properties: 0x10, char value handle: 0x0049, uuid: 0000ffe1-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb
handle: 0x004d, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x004e, uuid: f000aa65-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x004f, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0050, uuid: f000aa66-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0052, char properties: 0x1a, char value handle: 0x0053, uuid: f000ac01-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0055, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0056, uuid: f000ac02-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0057, char properties: 0x0a, char value handle: 0x0058, uuid: f000ac03-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x005a, char properties: 0x12, char value handle: 0x005b, uuid: f000ccc1-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x005d, char properties: 0x08, char value handle: 0x005e, uuid: f000ccc2-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x005f, char properties: 0x08, char value handle: 0x0060, uuid: f000ccc3-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0062, char properties: 0x1c, char value handle: 0x0063, uuid: f000ffc1-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
handle: 0x0066, char properties: 0x1c, char value handle: 0x0067, uuid: f000ffc2-0451-4000-b000-000000000000
[A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6][LE]> 

Request the name of the device by querying the appropriate characteristic by hhandle:

[A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6][LE]> char-read-hnd 0x3
Characteristic value/descriptor: 53 65 6e 73 6f 72 54 61 67 20 32 2e 30 
[A1:B2:C3:D4:E5:F6][LE]> 

The response is returned as a hexadecimal string. To make it readable we need to convert it to ASCII with some simple python:

 python
Python 2.7.10 (default, Sep  8 2015, 17:20:17) 
[GCC 5.1.1 20150618 (Red Hat 5.1.1-4)] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> "53656e736f7254616720322e30".decode("hex")
'SensorTag 2.0'
>>> 

So that’s the basics of playing with Bluetooth Smart on the command line. I want to work out all of the characteristics and write a simple python daemon to poll the device and then write the output to different locations depending on the config like to a text file or to a MQTT message bus.

Sep 9 15

Getting IoT kick started on Fedora

by nullr0ute

So a number of people have been discussing the Internet of Things on Fedora for some time. We now have a Fedora IoT mailing list where these discussions can be more centralised and directed.

So where and how do we get started here? I’m going to kick start some ideas here and repost it as a mail to the list so we can use it as a basis to start the discussion.

As I outlined in my Using Fedora as a base for the IoT revolution talk at Flock there’s a lot of use cases and components that make up a complete IoT stack. I think initially we should focus on two initial goals rather than biting off too much:

  • A IoT internet gateway device
  • A IoT sensors endpoint device

The general idea here is that both of the above would be a very minimal shared build, likely using atomic images to enable easy update/rollback with some specific components for each use case. Initially I suggest we focus on a single, or maybe a couple, of specific devices to limit the scope to something more achievable and to add features as we go.

IoT internet gateway device specs and features

  • Wired and/or wireless ethernet to provide internet connectivity
  • Bluetooth Smart (AKA LE)
  • Thread Stack support (6LoWPAN and friends)
  • 802.15.4 support
  • MQTT Broker support (not standard for a IoT GW but enables easier localised testing)
  • MQTT Client
  • Atomic support: updates, rollback etc
  • Works with both our endpoint below and other IoT OSes such as Contiki

IoT internet sensors endpoint specs and features

  • Wired or wireless ethernet IP support
  • Bluetooth Smart (AKA LE)
  • Equivalent to Thread Stack support (6LoWPAN and friends)
  • MQTT Broker support (not standard for a IoT GW but enables easier testing
  • MQTT Client
  • CoAP client
  • Atomic support: updates, rollback etc
  • Support for various inputs and outputs and sensors

I have no doubt missed a lot of details in the above use cases, it’s somewhere to start. I think we also need to look at tools like Node-RED and tools for managing the devices. IoT is a big topic, the idea is we need to get the conversation start somewhere. I’ll look forward to seeing you all on the list to do that.

Sep 3 15

Flock Rochester

by nullr0ute

I’m not going to do a day by day outline of what I did at flock, if I did it would basically be “blah blah blah I talked a lot to a lot of people about a lot of tech topics” and anyone that’s ever met me would have guessed that! It was, as in the past, a great conference. A big shout out to the organisers for an excellent event with two excellent evening events! So I’m going to give a brief summary to my talks and link to slides and video recordings.

My first talk was an overview of the state of aarch64 and POWER as secondary architectures. The slides aren’t particularly interesting as they’re just words for discussion points. The video has all the interesting bits. A related talk was Dennis’s Standardising ARMv7 booting with a memorial quote by Jon Masters 😉

My second talk was about using Fedora as a base for IoT. Slides are here but the talk was quite a bit different to the slides and is more interesting so I suggest watching the video.

I also actively participated in Dennis’s Fedora Release Engineering going forward because well obviously I’m part of it 😉 and it was interesting for where we’re going, and even where we’ve come from in the last year or so :)

Finally I loved the Keynote Be an inspiration, not an impostor by Major Hayden. He’s published a follow up blog post with a FAQ too.

The least memorable bit was the terrible Amtrak ride back to New York City. On the plus side it makes the worst of the British National Rail service seem amazingly on time! NEVER AGAIN!

Jul 13 15

Fedora 23 on the Thinkpad X1 Carbon gen 3

by nullr0ute

So my corporate laptop for the last three years has been a Thinkpad x220, it’s getting a bit long in the teeth, when I got it the x230 was already out but the corporate standard hadn’t rebased. This time I happened to get a new device just after the new corporate refresh so I have the shiny X1 Carbon gen 3 with real track pad buttons.

Of course I grabbed the latest rawhide nightly boot.iso to install the latest shiny! How did I get on? Initially it was disaster, the kernel crashed before I even got to anaconda (will spend some time to recreate and log that soon). Oops! So I grabbed a couple of the earlier installers and with a bit of trial and error before long I was at the initial anaconda screen. From there the process was relatively boring! Up and running with Fedora Workstation installed, disk encrypted I started to play with it to see which bits were good, bad or ugly.

So first up with the good. Over all the vast majority of the hardware just worked out of the box. The GPU, USB3, wired ethernet, wireless ethernet (iwl 7265 AC), trackpad/thumb pointer, bluetooth mouse, camera, onboard speakers all work just fine, I even managed to enrol my finger in the finger print reader without issue. I must say I’m loving the 1920*1080 screen over the old 1366*768 of the x220 and I’m getting use to the chiclet keyboard layout. Overall F-23/rawhide is solid right out of the gate with pretty much everything working as you’d expect on a stable release. :-)

It’s not all rosy though and some of the bad is that I’ve not managed to get the firmware upgraded to support 4K displays @ 60hz, thanks to Major and Sandro for the heads up on this, but it never seems to find the usb stick as a bootable image. Not a major issue in the short term as the OneLink Pro Dock I ordered is AWOL but I’ll want it soon as I’ve got a standing desk with a Dell 24 inch 4K monitor. The x220 and 4K monitor had never really worked overly well, the big issue was it only ran at 30hz refresh but I knew that when I got the monitor because I knew I was due for a refresh soon, it also had random glitches. I also need to workout how to adjust the acceleration of the thumb pointer thingy with libinput. Adjusting either the trackpad or mouse options in control panel doesn’t seem to have any effect, I never really used the trackpad on the x220 but I admit I’m getting use to the two finger scrolling for reading long pages. This should all be relatively easy to solve with a bit of poking!

The ugly seems to be the stability of the iwl 7265 wireless driver/firmware. It generally works but regularly shits itself. Some times minor by dropping SSH connections, sometimes majorly resulting in a need to unload/reload the modules or even to reboot! URGH! I’ve heard people complain about recent Intel Wireless stability but the “Advanced-N 6205 [Taylor Peak] (rev 34)” that was in the x220 was always solid. The solid lockups seems to be when pushing a reasonable amount of data via rsync/ssh. I do have a WRT1900AC router and I’ve connected to the 5 ghz 11ac so I’m wondering whether this combo is part of the issues. There is a newer firmware that hasn’t made it upstream yet. I need to do some more playing here testing the 11n 2.4ghz network as well as testing the newer firmware and possibly some patches that are on the wireless mailing list which I’m hoping will actually just land in 4.2 before long :-)

There’s a few other things I need to play with some more. I’ve not tried external HDMI video/audio, the external display port, the DP to VGA converter (nice one was included in the box though) or the headphone/mic socket. None of the functionality of the dock has been tested yet simply because it’s yet to show up! It reports around 7.5 hours of battery life but I want to look at what the state of power consumption on these devices after mjg59’s post about it to see if I can’t get that well into the double digit hours.

Overall I’m pretty impressed with out of box experience of F-23/rawhide on the Thinkpad X1 Carbon gen 3 :-)

Jun 22 15

Fedora 22 on ARM and aarch64

by nullr0ute

So with Fedora 22 well and truly out for both ARMv7 and aarch64 lets have a look at the release in general and also at the 4.0 kernel it ships.

Firstly I’d like to shout out to the AMAZING job done by the web team on the new sites for Spins, ARM and Labs. They really do look awesome!

It’s all to easy to get bogged down in the actual technical components that make up the actual release and not forget that there’s work that goes on all over the place that contributes to making the release easy to use even before you begin the download.

Anyway! On to ARMv7. We shipped GA with the 4.0.4 kernel and u-boot 2015.01. This combination gives us improved support for numerous devices primarily through new DT support and improvements to drivers. The 4.0 kernel from an ARM HW support PoV really was a minor revision. With the fully packaged and updated fedora-arm-installer it’s even easier to get a device up and running.

We were hoping to get enough time to rebase this to 2015.04 but we just plain ran out of time, although we do have a plan to be able to update the u-boot when writing an image to card/stick without the need to regenerate the images. More details on the improvements we’re planning for fedora-arm-installer for another post!

From an aarch64 point of view the big change, although one an average user won’t notice, was we went from carrying a rather large (around 65K lines) enablement patch for the kernel to a small collection of 4 bug/problem specific patches! This is a massive change where in the F-21 cycle we had a gigantic architecture enablement patch! This makes it much more straight forward and less stressful for both myself as the architecture maintainer and the core Fedora kernel developers. In terms of the rest of aarch64 we still support VExpress, APM Storm platform primarily with the Mustang boards, and the AMD Seattle platform.

Overall the Fedora 22 release on the ARM platforms is a really nice release, there’s been some good changes there to enable easier and quicker updates in the future and easier means of adding decent support to new devices mid cycle. AArch64 is maturing and hopefully we’ll start to see some more platforms land and the architecture start to depart the niche status!

Jun 10 15

Cheap travel routers

by nullr0ute

In the past I’ve traveled for work, conferences and personal a lot. The first category has declined a little from the “travel all the time” I’ve done in the past since I’ve joined the release engineering team. When travelling regularly I have a collection of things I pack that make life easier and a little more pleasant.

On of these is a travel router, often hotels have wired but no wireless, or flaky wireless or you need to pay for more than one device (or even one device). I don’t have a high spec need but it must have the following:

  • Dual ethernet WAN/LAN (everyone knows I have lots of ARM devices!)
  • Wireless, doesn’t need to be massivly fast (hotel internet is the bottle neck!) but it does need to be stable
  • Standard power cables, either figure 8 plug with inbuilt switching PSU or micro USB
  • Small
  • Open source and hackable. Probably supportable with OpenWRT
  • Quick and easy to reconfigure

For a number of years the device I used was an Apple Airport Express as it was one of the few that met most of the above criteria. But then I stopped using a iPod touch which meant the last option was dead due to the lack of openness.

Time for a new one! I’ve been looking for a while, I almost went for the popular TP-Link WR703N router as it’s well supported in OpenWRT but it meant that I lost the extra wired network port.

Then I came across the NEXX WT3020. It comes in four official options all of which have 802.11n, dual 100Mb ethernet, and runs from a micro USB connector! All but the bottom end model have a USB port for 3G or storage. The top two models just seem to have SW options but no other HW. Perfect, it even has OpenWRT support! So I went with the WT3020H, all for around $20.

I ordered one, while I was awaiting for it to arrive the OpenWRT project released Chaos Calmer 15.05-rc1 which has a prebuilt image and literally in less than five minutes I’d reflashed it to OpenWRT via the standard web flash interface! I’ve not had time to test performance, throughput and features such as USB but it seems to work pretty well for a $20 router and all the core features I need are working and it’s in a form factor that is TINY and I don’t even need to take an extra power supply. I’d call that a WIN!