Getting started with MQTT using the Mosquitto broker on Fedora

MQTT is a lightweight publish/subscribe messaging transport designed for machine-to-machine “Internet of Things” connectivity. It’s been used in all sorts of industries from home automation and Facebook Messenger mobile app to health care and remote monitoring over satellite links. Its ideal for mobile apps and IoT because of it’s small footprint, low power usage and small data packets. You can connect to a MQTT Broker over standard TCP/IP ports with or without TLS or over Web Sockets. There are many cloud based MQTT services such as OpenSensors, CloudMQTT, HiveMQ, AWS IoT or Azure IoT Hub but where is the fun in that?

There’s a few message brokers that support MQTT in Fedora including RabbitMQ or ActiveMQ (the version in Fedora is old but it would be nice if someone did update it to the latest version!) but for this I’ll be using Mosquitto as it’s small and relatively straight forward for home and demo usage.

Initial Install
I’ve tested this on a Digital Ocean Fedora 23 VM but for this I’ll be using a Beagle Bone Black with a Fedora 24 Beta minimal image but of course you can run it on any recent Fedora release on any supported device, ARM or otherwise.

After installing Fedora and getting it running on the network install and configure mosquitto:

  dnf install -y mosquitto screen
  mv /etc/mosquitto/mosquitto.conf.example /etc/mosquitto/mosquitto.conf
  firewall-cmd --permanent --add-port=1883/tcp
  firewall-cmd --permanent --add-port=1883/udp
  firewall-cmd --permanent --add-port=8883/tcp
  firewall-cmd --permanent --add-port=8883/udp
  systemctl enable mosquitto.service
  systemctl start mosquitto.service

By default the default settings are relatively straight forward, it runs under the mosquitto user, listens on all interfaces, with config options in /etc/mosquitto. In there is a well documented example config file called mosquitto.conf.example which contains all the default settings. Above we rename it to mosquitto.conf to use as a base config for us to modify. There’s details on using the Letโ€™s Encrypt service on the mosquitto site. If you’re using it on the public internet I’d strongly suggest you configure TLS.

Testing it works
Now that we have a basic install done lets make sure it works and get a basic idea of how MQTT works. Included in the mosquitto package is a couple of client utilities useful for testing the MQTT broker pub/sub functionality. Start up a screen session and in a window run the following commands which subscribes us to the โ€œtest/topicโ€ topic to the MQTT broker running on localhost:

  mosquitto_sub -h localhost -t "test/topic" 

Now lets publish some data to that topic. In another screen tab run the following command which will publish a string of text to the topic:

  mosquitto_pub -h localhost -t "test/topic" -m "Hello World!"

You can run multiple subscribers either from the screen session or remote from a different host but remember to change the “-h localhost” to appropriate hostname/IP if you’re testing remotely.

MQTT can also use two types of wild cards when subscribing to topic names. So to be able to read all temperature sensors publishing to a root topic you could use “home/+/temp” which would provide “home/bedroom/temp” and “home/livingroom/temp”. The “+” will match one hierarchical level where as “#” stands for everything deeper so “home/garden/#” would provide all sensors from the garden. When using wild cards you’ll need to know which topic is reporting so use mosquitto_sub in verbose mode:

  mosquitto_sub -h localhost -v -t "test/#"

Quality of Service
One of the killer features of MQTT for low power IoT sensor networks is that it’s a “store and forward” protocol with a couple of options for quality of service (QoS) guarantees. Once the node has registered with the broker any time it sleeps the broker will queue messages and take care of delivering that message to the node as soon as it reconnects. This means the node can sleep as long as needed to preserve battery life and just wake up and connect when it has data to send or at a predetermined interval without ever missing a message.

There’s three things needed to support QoS: 1) The subscriber needs to be registered by ID with the broker 2) The subscriber needs to disable clean-slate behavior (the default is enabled) 3) Both the publisher and subscriber need to be using quality-of-service level one or two so the broker knows it needs to store the messages. More details on QoS levels are covered here.

Here’s a small demo to play with QoS basics. First connect a subscriber to the broker supplying an ID, disable clean slate and enabling QoS level 1:

  mosquitto_sub -h localhost -v -t "test/#" -c -q 1 -i "PotPlant"

Then send the following two messages, one each with and without QoS. You should see them both show up on the subscriber:

  mosquitto_pub -h localhost -t "test/topic" -m "foo" -q 1
  mosquitto_pub -h localhost -t "test/topic" -m "bar"

Now stop the subscriber (Ctrl+c) and while it’s stopped send both of the messages again before restarting the subscriber. When it reconnects you should just receive the “foo” message because it’s the only one specifying a QoS level.

Further Reading
There’s a lot of information about MQTT on the web. The MQTT Essentials page from HiveMQ is a good place to start for further information and Awesome-MQTT is a curated list of MQTT related stuff with everything from language bindings to gateways/plugins for integration with various projects whether they be home audio or enterprise products.

My ARM grab bag device list

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?

Playing with Bluetooth Smart devices on Fedora

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.

Getting IoT kick started on Fedora

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.

Fedora 21 and ARM device support

As we slowly meander our way towards the pointy end of the Fedora 21 release, with Alpha speeding up in the rear view mirror, the Fedora ARM team are starting to discuss the best way to deal with the blossoming amount of ARMv7 devices that can and do run out of the box on Fedora.

With our 3.16 kernel containing device tree blobs for 200+ devices, the Fedora 3.17 rawhide kernel already containing 230+, it’s truly impossible to actively test and support all of those devices. So much like previous releases we’ll be focusing on testing a group of “primary devices” with the remainder being considered as secondary. This doesn’t mean they won’t work, it just means they’re not necessarily a testing focus of the regular contributors or they might not be readily available to purchase.

So what makes a device primary? Well there’s a number of considerations we’ve put into the list. Firstly the device has to be widely available and well supported upstream. Some will notice that some of the devices are no longer widely available (yes Panda, Trimslice and Calxeda I’m looking at you!) and I did consider their removal from the list but given a lot of contributors have them I think it’s worthwhile keeping them around for the moment. The primary devices list won’t be release blocking, we don’t block x86 releases for specific single devices, so I don’t believe we should for ARMv7 either.

Astute readers will notice the proposed primary list of around two dozen devices is much larger than the core devices we supported in Fedora 20! YAY! is all I have to say about that ๐Ÿ™‚

The list is not final, at the moment it’s a suggested list and one open for discussion to some degree and what we’ll be heading from Alpha to Beta with. I fully expect it to be tweaked as we go along, there might be cool new shiny Chromebooks ๐Ÿ˜‰ that arrive on the scene and end up working nicely and are hence worth actively supporting (no EXYNOS Chromebooks I’m not looking at you!) and some devices on the list below that end up not making the grade. One thing is for sure the grade includes that they support Cute Embedded Nonsense Hacks ie DeviceTree… there’s no board support here.

Primary:

  • Wandboard (all models/revisions)
  • Utilite (all models)
  • Cubox-i (all models)
  • Hummingboard (all models)
  • RIoTBoard
  • BeagleBone Black
  • Tegra K1 Jetson
  • CubieBoard (all models)
  • Banana Pi
  • Trimslice
  • PandaBoard (all models)
  • Calxeda Highbank/Midway
  • VExpress (qemu)

Secondary:

  • BeagleBone White
  • Beagle xM
  • Novena
  • UDOO
  • AC100
  • Qualcomm (IFC6410, DragonBoard)
  • Various Marvell devices (Mirabox, AX3, CuBox)
  • Various Exynos devices
  • Other AllWinner devices (as per available u-boot/DT support)
  • Gumstix Overo series of devices
  • OMAP5 EVM
  • STE SnowBall

ARM64:

  • AMD Seattle
  • APM Mustang
  • VExpress (qemu)

So what can a user expect from the primary devices above? Will all the functionality of a device work? Well it depends on the specific device and the associated SoC. For example the AllWinner SoC GPU support is far from upstream so unfortunately there will be no graphical UX for those devices, the Tegra K1 support for the GPU isn’t quite there yet but we’re hoping by GA it will be. Some will be better than others in terms of certain features but for example the AllWinner devices would make good storage devices with their SoC attached SATA and Network, no ugly usb storage/network here, so they are useful to support as a primary device and can easily have feature enablement in the F-21 cycle with a “yum upgrade” to a newer kernel.

We’ll delve deeper into the specifics of each device and the final list closer to beta.

3.15 Fedora ARM kernel status

There’s been quite a bit of water under the bridge since my post on the 3.14 kernel status. With 3.15.x due to land in Fedora 20 shortly I thought I’d give an overview of changes for 3.15 and what’s happened since the last post.

From a shiny new devices and features point of view the 3.15 kernel is relatively boring on the ARM devices front, the advantage of that was that from a development point of view things tended to just work on Fedora. Running a diff between out 3.14 and 3.15 ARM kernel configs and checking our shipped Device Tree Blobs I get the following main changes:

  • Enabling of Marvell Dove platform. This primarily will be useful for people with the Original Cubox
  • SunXi MMC suuport. The enables initial basic support (Serial/MMC/network) for a number of AllWinner platforms
  • Zynq 7xxx platform improvements
  • OMAP DRM driver conversion to Device Tree (more on that below)
  • Initial Utilite support. It’s pretty basic with support for serial, MMC/SATA, and one of the two NICS. I plan on improving this soon
  • Added Device Tree support for a number of OMAP Overo devices
  • Added Device Tree support for a number of i.MX6 based devices

So while it was boring form a new device support point of view a kernel cycle for ARM is never really that boring! There was a lot of nice improvements generally under the hood and the march toward Device Tree is basically complete. I’m not aware of any device now that is supported not through DT in Fedora.

I mentioned above OMAP DRM. In the 3.14 post I mentioned I was sure we’d get Panda working soon. And we did! The main issue remaining was actually display support with 3.14 and with 3.15 that problem is now mostly closed because all the connectors and their associated drivers now support DT which meeans all the modules now load in the right order and things mostly just work. There’s some further improvments here in Xorg userspace in rawhide so I’d sugggest trying a nightly or the not far off Fedora 21 Alpha.

I’ve also had a few cycles to test Marvell mvebu support on my Mirabox and fixed a few kernel issues here so it now works. Unfortunately Marvell’s support of uboot, and hence Device Tree, is from the last decade and hence fairly horrible! I’ll save details of that for another post.

3.14 Fedora ARM kernel status

With 3.14.1 out Josh and Justin are preparing to land the 3.14 kernel into Fedora 20. So what does it mean in terms of ARM on Fedora. Well it’s an evolution. There’s of course the usual raft of new devices and some new SoCs, and best of all lots of improvements in support for existing devices. Even the return of some old favourites! Generally from the stash of devices Paul, I and others have that get regularly tested things are looking pretty good with 3.14.

New SoCs and device support:

  • Tegra 4/K1 support has been enabled. For 3.14 this doesn’t mean much as there’s not a wide level of devices out there that we ship device tree blobs for but it’s a good preparation for 3.15 as we should have pretty reasonable support for the nice new Tegra K1 dev board!
  • TI devices: The 3.14 finally brings working support for the OMAP5 EVM board, this will improve further in 3.15 but it boots and generally works. It also adds support for the original BeagleBone and the USB is now finally all back for the Beagle-XM devices so they go back into the fully working list! Also the DT bits for the Overo devices has started to land so if is interested in those I’d love feedback from people with those devices.
  • Freescale i.MX: To this lovely growing list we add initial support for the various Cubox-i devices and the hummingboard. Still no HDMI support but here’s hoping for 3.15
  • Xilinx Zynq 7000: The SD controller has finally landed for this which means they should be bootable to login but from there I’m not sure the status of the rest of the support. We ship DT for the zynq-zc702, zynq-zc706 and zynq-zed devices so if you’ve got one of those and have time to test feedback would be welcome.

Interesting bugs fixed:
Nothing particularly exciting comes to mind here. The fix for the Beagle-XM usb hub power up is nice, as was the final config option for the BeagleBone White. There’s obviously a deluge of other ARM driver fixes and improvements (PTP high precision time support for modular CPSW ethernet on the BeagleBone’s anyone?).

Outstanding bugs and issues:
So this is really the list of items I have outstanding for 3.14 so that I can spin some new images. Feedback on any of these and anything I might not be aware of would be very useful.

  • OMAP DRM display. In 3.11 a new display framework landed for the OMAP DRM driver and in 3.12 the old one was dropped. This broke X on devices like the Pandaboard for 3.12+ kernels. I know roughly the problematic area but I just need to get the cycles to debug this. Any help is welcome.
  • Serial over USB. While this isn’t a kernel bug but rather just needs me to hack together some scripts it’s a blocker for easy OOTB support for devices like the BeagleBone Black
  • Tegra DRM display. After a re-write it’s back and modular again in 3.14. Just need to ensure it’s working and ready to go
  • Testing… testing… testing ๐Ÿ™‚

That’s mostly all I have on my list. If there’s anything I’m not aware of please do let me know and I’ll endevour to help out where possible. In particular I’m very interested in boot issues for devices that would would be supportable with new ARM images based on 3.14. From the 3.11 kernel that F-20 GA shipped with there’s been a lot of change and improvements, and while non boot enhancements are easy to do with a “yum update” issues with boot aren’t quite so easy to deal with!

Semi irregular Fedora ARM kernel status reports

I thought I’d start doing semi irregular ARM kernel status reports. I’ll do them as often as I think they might be useful and those who know me know I travel a lot and randomly and that ARM isn’t my $dayjob.

Few are bored or stupid enough to follow the 20 or so ARM kernel trees or have the regular insight as to what’s happening, what’s landed, what new devices might work and what bugs come and go that I do so I thought I’d try and dispense some of the more interesting bits of that information and how it relates to Fedora ARM to a wider audience by both the fedora-arm mailing list and my blog so those people that don’t sit on the IRC channel and those that like to lurk might have a better idea what’s going on.

The general format I plan to use is basically:

  • What’s new including SoCs, boards and new devices
  • Interesting bugs fixed
  • Outstanding bugs and issues
  • Random other insights

I don’t intend them to be long but rather short, sweet and to the point. They’ll probably come out when new major releases hit either rawhide or stable or something of particular interest lands. Feedback on both the format most other things is welcome as are questions and status of devices people might have had success or less so with.

I plan to have the first for 3.14 out later today and one for 3.15 RSN.

ARM hardware support on Fedora 20

A number of people complain about our hardware support on ARM. I’m not sure people really understand the issues we have bringing the hardware that we try to support to ARM and the constraints we work in. I’m going to try and outline the process we’ve been through over the last couple of releases and the reasons why we stick to the Fedora processes as much as possible. The other thing that I think people quickly forget is that the hardware support is a very small percentage of the overall work that has gone into bringing ARMv7 up to the excellent state it is in. Unfortunately like so many other projects the last 10% is always the hardest.

Support for hardware primarily revolves around three core components. They are the boot-loader (bios in x86 parlance), the kernel and any user space components needed which generally focuses on X drivers, but is no way the only thing.

Going back to the near memory Fedora 18 shipped with the 3.6.10 kernel. The 3.6 kernel didn’t ship with what’s known as the “Unified Multi Platform ARM kernel” which now allows us to ship a single kernel to boot multiple different SOCs (System on a Chip) by numerous manufacturers. The initial multi platform kernel support landed in 3.7 and initially allowed us to merge the Versatile Express and Calxeda Highbank kernels together. It was only with the 3.10 kernel we actually started to ship a single unified kernel that supported all the SoCs we support. We currently enable around a dozen different SoCs in the mainline kernel and actually support HW running on around half of those.

Supporting the multi platform kernel hasn’t been an easy ride. As you would expect of Fedora we were the first to adopt it and a lot of other distros still haven’t. Debian is in the process of moving over to it for Jessie, I thought Open SuSE was using it but it appears they’re not and Ubuntu certainly isn’t. I’m not sure about Arch or any of the others. It’s been an interesting ride and while a single kernel is something we’ve wanted for some time the lack of testing by a wider audience has certainly made it more painful for us than it could of been, it would be particularly helpful if Linaro, the main developers, actually used multi platform kernels for all their builds.

An example of problems we’ve had with the multi platform kernel is the support for the OMAP4 based PandaBoard, since before Fedora 17 it’s been consistently our best supported device but with the 3.11 kernel and the move of OMAP4 devices to DeviceTree it doesn’t boot and there’s been a number of us try to get to the bottom of the problem to no avail. Similarly going back to 3.6/3.7 the i.MX series of SOCs caused us massive problems to the point we just stopped supporting them but with the i.MX6 it’s very quickly becoming out best supported class of devices with a collection of almost a dozen very nice and relatively cheap devices (starting at USD$45) like the WandBoard dev boards, Compulabs Utilite and Cubox-i. Due to the high level of churn in the upstream kernel it at times makes it really hard and we can, and do, spend a lot of time chasing down issues with a single SoC or even device.

So what hardware actually works in Fedora 20? In theory we support 100s of devices but in practice the testing in limited to a selection of devices that we actually have to be able to easily test. So what actually works:

  • Versatile Express via QEMU emulation using libvirt.
  • Calxeda Highbank and Midway servers
  • Compulabs Trimslice (tegra).
  • The three WandBoards (i.MX6) in particular the Quad. 3.12 will improve the support too.
  • The BeagleBones (am33xx). In 3.11 there’s issues with usb, 3.12 is looking better.
  • BeagleBoard xM (omap3). For network you need to use the usb OTG port.
  • Mirabox and other Marvell (mvebu) devices with appended DTB (due to old uboot shipped with device).

Added to the above we ship around 100 device tree files, in 3.13 that rises to over a 120. I’ve had reports of a number of people successfully using some of these devices without issues. So what doesn’t work so well out of the box?:

  • PandaBoards (omap4). As mentioned above these broke with 3.11, I’m hoping to get them working again soon but my testing to date hasn’t been fruitful though.
  • Compulabs Utilite (i.MX6), well not with the 3.11 shipping kernel, we have initial support in 3.12 but there’s also issues with their initial uboot release.
  • AllWinner devices, but there’ll be a high quality remix that supports a lot of these devices, we’re hoping to improve the mainline support a lot in the F-21 development cycle.
  • Any device that doesn’t support multi platform kernels
  • Any device which isn’t supported in the upstream kernel

I’ve had reports of a number of other devices that “just work” or mostly work and with time this will improve. One thing that we’ve tried very hard not to do is pull 100s of patches in. Fedora likes to be as close to upstream as possible with their kernels and having lots of patches or kernel variants just doesn’t work as we just don’t have the resources to deal with them. We do on occasion pull in patches to fix or improve things but we try to keep as close to mainline as possible so if you want a device supported the first thing you’ll be asked is “What’s it’s supported state on the upstream kernel?”.

So what’s on the ToDo list? In short.. LOTS! With 3.14 we should finally get usable AllWinner devices, 3.13 in theory should have a number of RockChip devices supported and both of those SoCs bring a huge amount of cheap devices along that we have the potential to support. As it makes sense to enable new support we will. I’m also planning on improving and testing the support we currently have. I like the BeagleBone expansion capes so I plan on testing and playing with those and in general improving the support of devices that I have (a post on those coming soon).

All in all while we’ve got a long way to go I believe our hardware support has improved fairly well over the last couple of years where in Fedora 17 we officially supported two devices.

Serial console options on the Beagle Bone Black

So unlike the original Beagle Bone, which had a built in USB serial adapter, the Beagle Bone Black only has a serial header and you have to buy a USB to serial adapter to get a real serial console.

There’s one other option for a pseudo serial console over the USB On the Go port but the problem with this is that it doesn’t work with u-boot so only works once the kernel has booted as we can setup the port. The enabling and use of the USB OtG in Fedora is still on my ToDo list to investigate for ARM but we can possibly enable it as both serial and usb network at some point in the future.

So for now we need to use the 6 pin header to connect a USB to serial adapter. The most important thing to note here is that it requires 3.3 volts for the data signals so don’t use some of the older 5 volt units. The best USB to Serial to use is the FTDI FT232RL but at $20 it’s almost half the price of the device. The advantage is that it just works and the 6 pin connect just plugs straight onto the board (black goes to PIN 1). I’ve also tried the Adafruit 4 Pin Cable (PL2303), which at $9.95, is less than half the price and as the 4 pins are on 4 separate 1 pin headers it can be used on a number of different devices as it doesn’t matter how the serial headers are pinned out. To connect to The BBBlack the black wire goes to PIN 1 (Ground), the green wire to PIN 4 (Receive) and the white wire goes to PIN 5 (Transmit). The red wire is power and isn’t needed. CircuitCo has a number of other Serial Cable Options listed and the appropriate configurations for them too.

Now for a serial console app on Fedora I usually use screen. So simply once you have your serial console connected to the BeagleBoneBlack just plug the usb port into you computer and run sudo screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200 and then power up the Beagle Bone and you should soon see the output from u-boot and you’re on your way.