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ARM hardware now and the not so distant future

by nullr0ute on March 27th, 2012

So one of the things that I noticed during the heated discussion on the devel mailing list is the impression is why would we want to promote ARM to a Primary Architecture when there wouldn’t even be hardware available to run it in the next year or so. Well the lack of hardware is completely untrue and that will only increase in the coming months and years. So I thought I would try and cover off some of the hardware that is either available now or will be in the next year or so that you might want to run Fedora on. All of the devices covered are available now or should be available by the time Fedora 18 makes it’s Halloween début, of course I have no crystal ball as to HW time lines so things might well change.

Development Boards: all these devices are currently available, there will no doubt be new releases or refreshes in the coming months, likely as Cortex-A15 chips become more widely available.

  • BeagleBoards: There’s three main varieties of these single core Cortex-A8 devices consisting of the original BeagleBoard, the BeagleBoard xM and the new tiny BeagleBone. They range from 800Mhz – 1Ghz and 256-5126Mb RAM with a few other options.
  • PandaBoards: There’s the PandaBoard and the PandaBoard ES. Bother at dual core Cortex-A9 processors the former at 1Ghz, the later at 1.2. From there the specs are similar with 1Gb RAM, WiFi, BT, 100Mb ethernet and various other features.
  • Raspberry Pi: The little baby that took the world by storm taking pre orders in the order of 200K boards and taking a couple of sites offline. There’s a model A and B based on a Broadcom ARMv6 chip the later has ethernet, both have 256Mb of RAM. Fedora is the recommended OS by the Foundation
  • Snowball: A ST-Ericsson based dual core Cortex-A9 with 1Gb RAM, wifi, BT, GPS, ethernet, 4/8Gb emmc and a raft of other fun stuff. It also has a MALI GPU which has development on the open “LIMA” driver
  • Origen: based on a Samsung dual core 1Ghz Cortex-A9 processor which can be replaced, it has 1Gb of RAM, wifi and number of other bits including the same MALI GPU of the igloo
  • Freescale i.MX53: A single core 1Ghz Cortex-A8 Freescale board 1Gb RAM, SATA, ethernet, with options of LCDs etc

SmartBooks, SmartTops, Terminals: These devices are the equivalent of the x86 netbooks and nettops, all are mostly available now.

  • OLPC XO 1.75: Initially shipping with Fedora 14 but we’ve already got dev images running F-17 and it will be the basis of the June stable release. The first production shipment of this device will be 60,000 units. There’s various SKUs but it’s a 1ghz Marvell processor with either 512Mb/1Gb RAM, 4/8Gb emmc, wifi, and the usual XO features, it should have in excess of 9 hours of battery life.
  • Efika SmartBook: a 800Mhz Cortex-A8 Freescale processor, 512Mb RAM and with all the usual 10 inch Netbook style of features
  • Efika SmartTop: the same specs as the smartbook
  • Toshiba AC100: A dual core Cortex-A9 1ghz processor with 1gb of RAM, and all the usual 10 inch netbook options, very thin and light with great battery life but the device wasn’t widely available but is sought after
  • ASUS eeePad Transformers: These devices are a combination tablet and netbook. Depending on the model they either come with a dual core 1ghz Tegra2 or a quad core Tegra 3 CPU with various specs. They are a tablet with the option of a keyboard dock which makes them into a netbook. With touchscreens, quad core processors, an interesting form factor and an unlocked bootloader they’re an interesting format.
  • HP t5325 thin client: A Marvell 1.2ghz Cortex-A8 512Mb RAM thin client
  • Trimslice: A Tegra 2 based smarttop desktop device with a couple of different modes all with a dual core 1ghz Cortex-A9 processor with 1Gb of RAM, 1Gb ethernet plus a couple of options including dual HDMI, 11n wifi.

Tablets: these aren’t readily available at the moment but should be available this year.

  • OLPC XO 3: Similar specs to the XO-1.75 but in tablet form factor, it will ship the Fedora derived OS all touch based UX it will likely be one of the first production devices using the new gtk3 and XInput 2.2 touch support in Fedora 17
  • Vivaldi: A 7inch tablet running KDE Plasma tablet UX on Mer the HW is a 1ghz single core Cortex-A9 processor with 512Mb of RAM and a MALI GPU it’s not the highest spec device but it should be easy to run Fedora on it

Servers:

  • HP Moonshot: In conjunction with Calxeda this is a quad core processor server with 4GB of RAM with up to 288 servers in a 4U chassis. Includes all the expected server features with things like a fully reconfigurable switch backplane with each device using a mere 5 watts of power.
  • Dell: has announced it’s intention to enter the ARM server market, there’s not much detail as yet
  • Seco Carrier Boards: these are various boards using Tegra processors used in things like the Barcelona Super Computer

Plug Computers: There’s a number of plug computers out there based on the Marvell Sheeva Plug generally a 1ghz ARMv5tel processor with 512Mb RAM. These devices are low power, generally quite cheap and come in a number of different devices.

So I think that gives a reasonable overview of ARM based devices that will be available in the coming months, if not already, that should be easily able to run Fedora on ARM without too many problems. This covers but a few of the available ARM based devices but they are a subset that should be relatively easy to run Fedora on them in the coming releases. ARM processors have a number of interesting advantages hardware wise. Firstly they are generally very low power with a lot of quad core devices needing only 5 watts to run, but some of the other advantages is HW encode/decode support for things like MPEG2/4 out of the box which would enable HD decode without having to ship encumbered codecs in Fedora as well as HW crypto as well.

I’m also sure this isn’t a definitive and there’s a lot of other devices that should be able to run Fedora on ARM without too many problems if someone is prepared to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.

From → ARM, Fedora