SystemReady ES support for MacchiatoBin

I’ve had a MacchiatoBin Double Shot board for some time. It runs various services for my local network and generally just works. I run a TianoCore EDK2 firmware on it using ACPI. It’s purely a network device so I don’t bother with any form of graphics and in the very few occasions I need to access it locally I do so via the built in USB serial TTL.

Recently Solid Run announced the MacciatoBin is now SystemReady ES certified. Excellent news! I’ve worked with Arm for some time on both the SytemReady ES (Embedded Server) and SystemReady IR (IoT Ready) standards and recently the certification program has been finalised so it’s nice to start to see the fruits from all the hard work myself, and may others, have done over a number of years appear.

The EDK2 firmware I was running was coming up to two years old and there’s been a number of enhancements to the various components of the firmwares that make up a complete update so I decided to download the latest firmware and update it. Eventually I am sure Solid Run will have these published to LVFS to make the process even easier but I know that to get to this stage has been a LOT of effort so it’s still a great step forward.

The first step of updating a EDK2 firmware is to download it and put it on the EFI partition:

peter@macbin:~ $ wget https://github.com/Semihalf/edk2-platforms/wiki/releases/flash-image-a8k-mcbin.bin_r20210630
peter@macbin:~ $ sudo mv flash-image-a8k-mcbin.bin_r20210630 /boot/efi
peter@macbin:~ $ sudo reboot

On reboot you’re given a prompt to interrupt the boot process. From the menu select the option for the shell:

Shell> fs0:
FS0:\> ls
Directory of: FS0:\
04/06/2021  19:08          4,096  EFI
07/25/2021  17:01           2,855,040  flash-image-a8k-mcbin.bin_r20210630
          1 File(s)   2,855,040 bytes
          1 Dir(s)

FS0:\> fupdate flash-image-a8k-mcbin.bin_r20210630
Detected w25q32bv SPI NOR flash with page size 256 B, erase size 4 KB, total 4 MB
Updating, 99%
fupdate: Update 2855040 bytes at offset 0x0 succeeded!
FS0:\> reset

It then reboots and we’re done, you see a very similar output to previously with some updated versions of various firmware and before long you’re back through grub and running Fedora again. Painless!

I’m really happy to see this is such a straightforward process, and I’m looking forward to seeing more features, enhancements and fixes to the firmware including capsule updates and the associated LVFS/fwupdmgr support, and improvements around firmware security (fwupdmgr –force security). Top marks to the Solid Run team!

Fedora on the Pinebook Pro

First thing to note here is that this is not limited to the Pinebook Pro, I’m just using it as the example for 64 bit Rockchip devices with SPI flash on Fedora. This post is focused on devices with SPI but I’ll do a separate follow-up post for other devices including details for writing to eMMC over USB.

The story of Fedora on the Pinebook Pro, and other Rockchip devices, has been a sordid story of a lack of time, bugs, rabbit holes, more bugs and various other things. Not at all sordid at all really, mostly just a lack of time on my behalf, and nobody else stepping up to assist in a way to benefit all Fedora users, mostly they do one time hacks to sort themselves. Overall the support in Fedora for Rockchip devices has been quite solid for a number of releases. The problem has been with the early boot firmware, notable because without SPI flash it wants to splat itself across the first 8Mb of the disk, and if there was SPI flash it generally wasn’t overly stable/straight forward.

Anyway we’re now in a place where devices with SPI flash should mostly work just fine, those devices without it will work with a little manual intervention, and while the support isn’t complete, and will need more polish, they’re all details we can polish with little interruption to users by standard package updates. By default users will have accelerated graphics and from my testing on GNOME 40 it’s by all accounts a pretty decent experience!

Setting up the firmware

First step is to get the firmware written to SPI flash. This is a two step process, the first is to write out a micro SD card from another device, the second is to boot that mSD card on the Pinebook Pro, or another device like the Rockpro64, and write the firmware to the SPI flash.

There’s some nuances to this process, and the way the early boot firmware works, if another version of U-Boot takes precedence that is likely OK as it should still be able to work, the fall back is to use the internal switch to turn off the eMMC temporarily. I also have no idea if the Pine64 shipped U-Boot has any display output, the Fedora build does, if not you’ll need to use the option to disable eMMC or use a serial console cable. Anyway on to the steps:

Set up the mSD card
Use a mSD card that has no data you wish to keep, this process will wipe it out. You want at least U-Boot build 2021.04-3.fc34, you can adjust the umount to be more specific, and you need to substitute XXX for the media, otherwise it’s a relatively quick and straightforward process:

sudo dnf install --enablerepo=updates-testing -y arm-image-installer uboot-images-armv8
sudo umount /run/media//*
sudo spi-flashing-disk --target=pinebook-pro-rk3399 --media=/dev/XXX

Write the firmware to flash
Now remove the mSD card from your host and put it into the Pinebook Pro. Press the power button, from experience you likely need to press and momentarily hold and in a second or two the display will light up with text output. Interrupt the boot by pressing space. Next up we write out the flash:

Hit any key to stop autoboot:  0 
=> ls mmc 1:1
   167509   idbloader.img
   335872   idbloader.spi
   975872   u-boot.itb
  9331712   u-boot-rockchip.bin

4 file(s), 0 dir(s)

=> sf probe
SF: Detected gd25q128 with page size 256 Bytes, erase size 4 KiB, total 16 MiB

=> load mmc 1:1 ${fdt_addr_r} idbloader.spi
335872 bytes read in 39 ms (8.2 MiB/s)

=> sf update ${fdt_addr_r} 0 ${filesize}
device 0 offset 0x0, size 0x52000
61440 bytes written, 274432 bytes skipped in 0.803s, speed 427777 B/s

=> load mmc 1:1 ${fdt_addr_r} u-boot.itb
975872 bytes read in 107 ms (8.7 MiB/s)

=> sf update ${fdt_addr_r} 60000 ${filesize}
device 0 offset 0x60000, size 0xee400
914432 bytes written, 61440 bytes skipped in 9.415s, speed 106127 B/s

Once the last command above has completed eject the mSD card and type reset at the => prompt and the device should reboot and you should see output similar to before but running from the SPI flash!

If you had to turn off the eMMC you can now turn it back on.

Installing Fedora

The nice thing with the firmware on SPI flash it should now work mostly like any other laptop and you can use either the pre canned desktop images (Workstation, KDE, XFCE, Sugar), the Workstation LiveCD iso or the standard everything network installer.

To run the arm Workstation image off a micro SD card or USB stick you can do the following:

arm-image-installer --media=/dev/XXX --resizefs --target=none --image=Fedora-Workstation-34-1.2.aarch64.raw.xz

Note ATM you’ll need to use the USB port on the right hand side, I need to investigate the USB/USB-C port on the left as it appears not to currently work in firmware, but works fine once Fedora is running.

Next steps and improvements

The two biggest issues remaining for the Pinebook Pro is enabling PCIe support and the lack of the brcmfmac firmware, both WiFi and bluetooth, being upstream. For the later issue if there’s anyone from Synaptics that can assist in resolving that problem please reach out to me! A interim WiFi firmware to use is here.

Some things at the Fedora level I’ve not really tested and will do so more, and likely polish with OS updates, in the coming weeks include sound, USB-C port (charging and display output). On the firmware level there’s still some more improvements to be done, tweaks to improve the USB support, turning on the power LED as early as possible to give an indicator, improvements to the EFI framebuffer to ensure consistent early boot output, support for UEFI BGRT to enable smooth boot etc.

For support please email the Fedora Arm mailing list or reach out on IRC via #fedora-arm on Libera.Chat.

Installing Fedora on the NVIDIA Jetson nano

Updated – Aug 2021
You now used the latest R32.6.1 release and it now works with the latest Python releases. Some minor edits below.

Overview
Nvidia launched the Jetson Nano Developer Kit in March 2019, since there there’s been a few minor refreshes including a just announced cheaper 2Gb model. I received the original 4Gb rev A device shortly after they were launched.

Over the last year or so as part of my role at Red Hat I started working with some of the NVidia Tegra team to improve support for the Jetson devices. This work has been wide ranging and though it’s taken awhile, with Fedora 33 we’re starting to see the fruits of that collaboration. The first is improved support for the Jetson Nano. The official L4T (Linux 4 Tegra) Jetson Nano images look a lot like an Android phone with numerous partitions across the mSD card. This makes it harder to support a generic Linux distribution like Fedora as there are assumptions by distributions of control they can have over the storage, so while it was certainly possible to get Fedora to run on these devices it generally wasn’t for the faint of heart. As of the recent L4T releases, you definitely want R32.4.4, it’s now a supported option to flash all the firmware to the onboard SPI flash enabling the use of the entire mSD card for the OS of your choice, which as we all know will be Fedora 😉 but the instructions here should be adaptable to work for any distribution.

Before we begin
We do it in two stages, first is to flash the new firmware to the SPI over the micro USB port, second we’ll prepare the Fedora OS for the mSD card. For the first stage you’ll need the latest L4T Release R32.6.1 and the Fedora U-Boot builds installed locally.

Before we get started you’ll need the following:

  • A USB-A to micro USB cable for flashing
  • A HDMI monitor and a USB keyboard
  • A jumper, a jumper wire or something to close the connection on the FRC pins for recovery mode
  • A 3.3v USB Serial TTY (optional)
  • An appropriate 5v barrel PSU (optional)

If you wish to use a serial TTY there’s a good guide here for connecting it to the RevA nano, the RevB has two camera connectors so they’ve moved the serial console headers to near the mSD card slot. The command to see serial output is:

screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200

Flashing the Jetson Nano
So let’s get started with flashing the firmware. This step with the firmware on the SPI doesn’t have to be done often. First we’ll extract the L4T release and get all the bits installed that we need to flash the firmware:

sudo dnf install -y usbutils uboot-images-armv8 arm-image-installer
tar xvf ~/Downloads/Jetson-210_Linux_R32.6.1_aarch64.tbz2
cd Linux_for_Tegra
cp /usr/share/uboot/p3450-0000/u-boot.bin bootloader/t210ref/p3450-0000/

Next, based on instructions from the NVidia Jetson Nano Quick Start Guide, we need to put the Jetson Nano into Force Recovery Mode (FRC) to prepare for flashing the firmware:

  1. Ensure that your Jetson Nano Developer Kit is powered off. There’s no need for a mSD card ATM, we’re just writing to the SPI flash.
  2. Connect the Micro-USB OTG cable to the Micro USB port on the Nano. Don’t plug it into the host computer just yet.
  3. Enable Force Recovery mode by placing a jumper across the FRC pins of the Button Header on the carrier board.
    a. For carrier board revision A02, these are pins 3 and 4 of Button Header (J40) which is located near the camera header.
    b. For carrier board revision B01, these are pins 9 and 10 of Button Header (J50), which is located on the edge of the carrier board under the Jetson module.
  4. Only if you wish to use a separate PSU place a jumper across J48 to enable use of a DC power adapter.
  5. Connect a DC power adapter to J25. The developer kit powers on automatically and enters Force Recovery mode. Note it may be possible to do this with USB power but I’ve not tested it.
  6. Remove the jumper from the FRC pins of the Button Header.
  7. See if you can see the Jetson Nano is in recovery mode by running:
    lsusb | grep -i nvidia

Now we can actually flash the firmware (make sure you’re still in the Linux_for_Tegra directory):

sudo ./flash.sh p3448-0000-max-spi external

You will see a lot of output as the command runs, and if you have a serial TTY you’ll see some output there but eventually you’ll be returned to the command prompt and the system will reset. If you have a HDMI monitor attached you’ll see the NVidia logo pop up, if you have a serial console you’ll see a bunch of output and eventually the output of U-Boot and the associated U-Boot prompt.

Jetson TX1 and TX2
You can basically follow the same instructions above for the older TX1/TX2 devices except for two things. For the TX1 you can use the same L4T release, for the TX2 you need to download a different L4T release.

For the U-Boot copy there’s a different U-Boot for each device which needs to be copied to a different location. For the firmware copy I treat the eMMC as if it was the SPI flash, and run the OS off a SD card, it’s not the most efficient but it keeps things more straight forward:

TX1:

cp /usr/share/uboot/p2371-2180/u-boot* bootloader/t210ref/p2371-2180/
sudo ./flash.sh jetson-tx1 mmcblk0p1

TX2:

cp /usr/share/uboot/p2771-0000-500/* bootloader/t186ref/p2771-0000/500/
sudo ./flash.sh jetson-tx2 mmcblk0p1

Getting Fedora running
Now we have the firmware flashed we can prepare Fedora for the mSD card. Download the Fedora Workstation for aarch64 raw image. You can of course also use XFCE, Minimal or Server images. Put the mSD card in reader and after unmounting any filesystem run the following command (look at the help for other options around users/ssh-keys):

sudo arm-image-installer --media=/dev/XXX --resizefs --target=none --image=~/Downloads/Fedora-Workstation-33-1.3.aarch64.raw.xz

Note you need to replace XXX with the right device, and you don’t need a target option as we’re not writing the firmware to the mSD card.

Once that completes you should be able to pop the mSD card into your Jetson Nano and reset the device and see it boot. You will see all the output if you have a serial console attached. If you’re using HDMI it may take a little while once the NVidia logo disappears for the GNOME first user setup to appear.

Also note that while a lot of things work on this device, like the nouveau driver for display, it’s not perfect yet and we’re actively working to fix and improve the support for the Jetson Nano, most of these will come via the standard Fedora update mechanism. If you have queries please engage in the usual ways via the mailing list or #fedora-arm on Libera.Chat.

Three ways to speed up dnf on arm devices

I have a large bunch of Arm Single Board Computers I use for testing a lot. Most of the testing ends up being pretty basic stuff like firmware, kernels, and the various bits of hardware peripherals that people use like storage, network, display and sound output, plus things like sensors and HAT support.

The problem is that these devices often aren’t the fastest in the world for various reasons so I want to be able to apply updates to the basic system as quickly as possible to find out the results. Over time I’ve worked out that these three things speed up dnf quite a bit for the sort of testing I wish to do are as follows:

  1. Disable modularity:
    sed -i 's/enabled=1/enabled=0/' /etc/yum.repos.d/fe*mod*
  2. Don’t install weak dependencies:
    echo "install_weak_deps=False" >> /etc/dnf/dnf.conf
  3. Disable dnf makecache. It never seems to be up to date when you need it anyway:
    systemctl disable dnf-makecache; systemctl mask dnf-makecache

You may need to re-do some of these each major update as they seem to want to force you to have them every time.

The state of open source GPU drivers on Arm in 2019

I first blogged about the state of open source drivers for Arm GPUs 7 years ago, in January 2012, and then again in September 2017. I’ve had a few requests since then to provide an update but I’ve not bothered because there’s really been no real change in the last few years, that is until now!

The good news

So the big positive change is that there’s two new open drivers om the scene with the panfrost and lima drivers. Panfrost is a reverse engineered driver for the newer Midguard and Bitfrost series of Mali GPUs designed/licensed by Arm, whereas Lima is aimed at the older Utguard series Mali 4xx series of devices. Panfrost, started by Alyssa Rosenzweig, and now has quite a large contributor base, has over the last few months has been coming along leaps and bounds and by the time Mesa 19.2 is out I suspect it should be able to run gnome-shell on an initial set of devices. I’m less certain the state of Lima. The drivers landed in the kernel in the 5.2 development cycle, which Linus just released. On the userspace side they landed in the mesa 19.1 development cycle, but they’ve greatly improving in mesa 19.2 cycle. Of course they’re all enabled in Fedora rawhide, although I don’t expect them to be really testable until later in the 19.2 cycle, but it makes it easy for early adopters who know they’re doing to be able to start to play.

A decent open source driver for the MALI GPUs from Arm had been the last biggest hold out from the Arm ecosystem we’ve been waiting for and it covers a lot of the cheaper end of the SBC market with a lot of AllWinner and some Rockchip SoCs having the MALI 4xx series of hardware, which will use the Lima driver and other lower to midrange hardware shipping with the newer Mali midguard GPUs like in the Rockchip 3399 SoC.

Other general updates

Since I last wrote the freedreno (QCom Ardreno) and etnaviv (Vivante GCxxx series) have continued to improve and add support for newer hardware. The vc4 open drivers for the Raspberry Pi 0-3 generations have seen gradual improvement over time, and there’s a new open v3d driver for the Raspberry Pi 4 which they use from the outset.

The last driver is one that seems to have transitioned to be in limbo is the driver for the Nvidia Tegra Arm platform. While it has an open driver for the display controller, and the GPU mostly works with the nouveau driver, at least on the 32 bit TegraK1 (the upstream state of the Tegra X-series is definitely for another post) they appear to have yet another driver, not their closer x86 driver, but another one (not the latest rev, which is 4.9 based, but the only linkable version I could find) which is needed to do anything fun from an CUDA/AI/ML point of view, I wonder how it will fit with their commitment to support Arm64 for their HPC stack or will that only be interesting to them for PCIe/fabric attached discrete cards for HPC super computer deals?

That brings me to OpenCL and Vulkan for all the drivers above, for the vast majority of the open drivers support for either is basically non existent or in the very early stages of development so for the time being I’m going to leave that for another follow up in this long winded series, probably when there’s something of note to report. The other thing that is looking quite good, but one for another post, is video acceleration offload, there’s been quite a bit of recent movement there too.

Raspberry Pi improvements in Fedora 29

So Fedora 29 is probably going to account for the largest single improvement to support on the Raspberry Pi support in Fedora since we added initial support in Fedora 25. It certainly wasn’t without issue, but after quite a bit of debug we’ve got the post release issues with the WiFi back to being stable!

WiFi improvements
The support for upstream NVRAM files and the ability to add those files to linux-firmware means we get WiFi support for the Raspberry Pi 3 Series of devices out of the box! No need to grab anything, it just works! Well mostly, we had some issues with WiFi being very intermittent, as well as a missed bug around aarch64 but now with the 4.19.10 kernel everything appears to be working and stable. This makes me very happy and it took longer than I had hoped but we’re there. This device specific NVRAM driver support will also help another bunch of cheap Arm and x86 based devices that ship with Broadcom/Cyprus based WiFi support moving forward.

ZRAM enabled by default
By supporting and enabling ZRAM swap by default we get a more responsive device and less wear on the MicroSD storage. Over all we’ve seen reasonable performance improvements and to no date no major issues.

GNOME performance improvements
In May 2018 the Raspberry Pi Foundation kindly hosted a GNOME Performance Hackfest in the lovely Cambridge. Over a couple of days we managed to fix a number of issues seen, review and document a number of issues and work on a number of ways of reducing the memory usage of GNOME. Of course this improvement is primarily seen constrained devices like the Raspberry Pi but ultimately less memory utilisation by GNOME even helps devices with decent amounts of RAM and CPUs too. The fixes didn’t arrive in time for Fedora 28, but a bunch have landed in Fedora 29 providing noticeable improvements, and the GNOME team is by no means done and there will be more coming in Fedora 30 and beyond! It was an excellent start and I expect there will be ongoing enhancements here into the future especially with devices like the Purism Phone which will have similar constraints.

Initial CPU frequency support
Another of the largest issues around the Raspberry Pi is complaints it was slow, part of the issue here is that there’s no upstream CPU Frequency driver which means all models of the Raspberry Pi run at a glacial, but safe, 600Mhz out of the box compared to the highest speed, which on the 3B+ is 1400Mhz. With Fedora 29 we’ve landed an experimental cpufreq driver which allows us to run the Raspberry Pi 3-Series at much closer to optimal speeds. While this is experimental it might not stay around if we find out it causes issues or ends up being a maintenance burden but to date it hasn’t yet appeared to have caused any issues.

HWmon Voltage Sensor
There’s a new driver that reports when the voltage supplied by the PSU drops below the required voltage. It can be a bit noisy in dmesg but one of the biggest support problems we have with the Raspberry Pis is people using a power supply that’s not powerful enough, this issue is more of a problem with Fedora 29 because with the support for running at faster frequencies due to the cpufreq driver it means we also draw more power and some PSUs that were previously fine now cause issues because they can’t supply enough current.

Enhanced support for config.txt
A lot of the hardware addons are supported in Raspbian are done by enabling things in the config.txt file, this in turn does things like loading DT overlays and merging them with the base DT to enable extra hardware like HAT support. We have enhanced the way Fedora works with this which enables us to be much closer to the way Raspbian handles these things. The advantage this has is that the documentation that’s written for Raspbian is then usable by Fedora in the wider Raspberry Pi ecosystem which in turn makes it easier for end users to get HW up and running due to less differences in process. There’s further enhancements to make here but every step closer is easier for everyone to enable and use their favourite HATs.

Improved bcm283x firmware support
In preparation for grub2 support we enhanced how we deal with the firmware that the Raspberry Pi uses for booting. This deals with the early startup. We never use to upgrade it by default to ensure things didn’t break, but it also meant most users also didn’t by default get the fixes and enhancements. Now we do. The config.txt is also handled directly which means if you never edit the file you now automatically get any changes we make, because rpm handles the file as a config file, if we change it you get a .rpmnew file so you won’t lose your changes.

Camera support
This wasn’t available in the Fedora 29 4.18 kernels, but with the rebase to the 4.19 kernel the support for the camera on the Raspberry Pi CSI Camera interface improved enough we could enable this in Fedora. The early 4.19 kernels don’t automatically detect and load support if the camera module is attached. There’s some patches in 4.20 in rawhide for this, and we’ll bring some of this to 4.19 soon, and we’re working with upstream to further improve the camera support. You’ll also want the latest bcm283x firmware which tweaks some of the config.txt and updates to a firmware with ISP fixes.

Another improvements
There was also a number of general Arm improvements which sped up crypto on the Raspberry Pi, improved the USB, fixed up some issues with the wired ethernet on the 3B+, power and a number of other fixes. As always there’s more coming. The 4.20 kernel rebase should also bring with it analog sound support early in the new year.

Conclusion
Overall I was pleased with the work that landed in Fedora over 2018 for the Raspberry Pi. The WiFi regression was disappointing, but now with that fixed in 4.19.10 we have WiFi support out of the box without users needing to download anything which moving forward will make things a lot more straight forward. The initial support for the camera makes it much more useful in numerous use cases and we’ll really polish up the HAT support in Fedora 30 which for me is the last remaining big ticket item for Raspberry Pi support. There’s still some annoying bits around the EDID detection in the display, but there’s work to improve that upstream, and also there’s work to land the media decode offloading upstream too which will also one of the few remaining bits.

Using ZRAM as swap on Fedora

One of the changes I did for Fedora 29 adding using ZRAM as swap on ARM. The use of compressed RAM for swap on constrained single board computer devices has performance advantages because the RAM is an order of faster than most of the attached storage and in the case of SD/emmc and related flash storage it also saves on the wear and tear of the flash there extending the life of the storage device.

The use of ZRAM as swap isn’t limited to constrained SBCs though, I also use it on my x86 laptop to great effect. It’s also very simple to setup.

# dnf install zram
# systemctl enable zram-swap.service
# reboot

And that’s it! Simple right? To see how it’s being used there are three commands that are useful:

# systemctl status zram-swap.service
● zram-swap.service - Enable compressed swap in memory using zram
   Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/zram-swap.service; enabled; vendor preset: disabled)
   Active: active (exited) since Tue 2018-10-09 22:13:24 BST; 3 days ago
 Main PID: 1177 (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
    Tasks: 0 (limit: 4915)
   Memory: 0B
   CGroup: /system.slice/zram-swap.service

Oct 09 22:13:24 localhost zramstart[1177]: Setting up swapspace version 1, size = 7.4 GiB (7960997888 bytes)
Oct 09 22:13:24 localhost zramstart[1177]: no label, UUID=d79b7cf6-41e7-4065-90a9-000811c654b4
Oct 09 22:13:24 localhost zramstart[1177]: Activated ZRAM swap device of 7961 MB
Oct 09 22:13:24 localhost systemd[1]: Started Enable compressed swap in memory using zram.
# swapon
NAME       TYPE      SIZE   USED PRIO
/dev/zram0 partition 7.4G 851.8M   -2
# zramctl
NAME       ALGORITHM DISKSIZE   DATA  COMPR  TOTAL STREAMS MOUNTPOINT
/dev/zram0 lz4           7.4G 848.3M 378.4M 389.9M       8 [SWAP]
#

When I was researching the use of ZRAM there was a lot of information online. A lot of implementations sliced up the zram into multiple slices to enable the balancing of the slices across CPUs, but this is outdated information as the zram support in recent kernels is now multi threaded so there’s no performance advantage to having multiple smaller swap devices any longer, and having a single larger swap space allows the kernel to be more effective in using it.

In Fedora all the pieces of the Fedora implementation are stored in the package source repo. So those that are interested in using zram for other use cases are free to test it. Bugs and RFEs can be reported as issues in pagure or in RHBZ like any other package.

Fedora on the UDOO Neo

Some time ago I backed the UDOO Neo Kickstarter as it looked like a nifty, well featured, IoT device. I got the full option which came with 1Gb RAM and both wired and wireless Ethernet and some add-on sensors. It was a well run kickstarter campaign and the device was well packaged with a fab box. It has both a Cortex-A9 processor to run Fedora and a Cortex-M4 embedded processor to enable you to do Arduino style functionality which should be interesting to experiment with.

For various reasons it has sat around gathering dust, it’s been a bit of a long drawn out process with me randomly poking it as time allowed.. Primarily this was because there was no decent upstream U-Boot and kernel support, and I’d not had the time to hack that up myself from various downstream git repositories, but even without Fedora support their forked Ubuntu distro in the form of UDOObuntu has an experience that is truly terrible!

Late 2016 the problem of a lack of upstream support for U-Boot and kernel changed with initial basic support landing upstream for all three (Basic, Extended and Full) models so with a few cycles over a weekend it was time to dust it off to see if I could get Fedora 26 (did I mention this has been long running?) running on it and to see what worked.

The first thing for me to do was to setup a serial console for easy debugging. The UDOO Neo documentation is generally outstanding and the pins for the UART1 TTL are documented. Two things to note here is that the headers are female rather than the usual SBC male pins so I had to bodge my usual usb to serial TTL with some male-male jumper wires and you’ll need a ground for the TTL which is undocumented on their page, I used one of the GNDs as documented on connector J7 and all was good.

So after an initial set of fixes to the U-Boot support it saw my Fedora install and started to boot! Success! Well sort of, as mentioned above the initial support is rudimentary, it started to boot the kernel and very quickly managed to corrupt and destroy the filesystem not making it much beyond switch root. That wasn’t good. In the last week or two I’ve had a little time to look again, similar issues, it was better than it was a year or so ago but it still ended up with corruption. I reached out to one of the maintainers from NXP that deals with a bunch of the i.MX platforms and I got directed to a handful of patches, a test kernel and image later and a test boot… all the way to initial-setup! SUCCESS!

The core support for the i.MX6SX SoC and the UDOO Neo is pretty reasonable, with the MMC fixes it’s been very stable, all the core bits are working as expected, included wired and wireless network, thermal, cpufreq, crypto and it looks like the display should work fine. There’s a few quirks that I need to investigate further which should provide for a fun evening or weekend hacking. There has also been recently merged support for the i.MX6SX Cortex-M4 land upstream in Zephyr upstream for the 1.13 release, so getting that running and communication using Open-AMP between Fedora and Zephyr should also be an interesting addition. I think this will be a welcome addition to Fedora 29, and not a moment too soon!!

Fedora on the UP Squared

With the IoT Working Group and Edition moving forward I’ve been looking for an x86_64 device suitable for testing IoT related use cases. I was originally planning on using the MinnowBoard or Joule but given Intel has killed those product lines off it was back to the drawing board. I eventually settled on the UP², in particular I chose the UP² Pentium-4GB-32GB-PACK as it had everything I wanted in one box.

Hardware

The on paper hardware specs show a recent generation Intel Apollo Lake core, reasonable memory and storage options, an onboard FPGA, USB-3, dual ethernet and various other bits. The kit comes with options for active or passive cooling and the later the heatsink is massive, for the moment I’m running it on the passive cooling. The case is OK, I wouldn’t rave about it though. The power connector on the other hand is terrible, the PSU cable doesn’t seat well into the board and I’ve bumped it already and had it lose power, the power button is also tiny, so small in fact I mistook it for a reset button.

Fedora support

As you would expect the support in Fedora 27 is decent, accelerated 4K graphics, wired RealTek ethernet NICs, Intel m.2 PCI-e WiFI/Bluetooth, although the later is only 4.2 for IoT I would have appreciated Bluetooth 5, all work out of the box as expected. The firmware is uEFI and in theory supports secure-boot but I couldn’t work out how to turn it on in the firmware menus as it was greyed out, it also has a TPM2 module I’ve not had time to investigate. They eagle eyed would also note that I mention Fedora 27 even though Fedora 28 has been out a few days. Well for some reason F-28 doesn’t boot, I tried the network installer and the Workstation live image, they both get to the grub menu, then I get no output and nothing for a moment then it resets and we start again. I need to investigate this further but Fedora 27 Workstation livecd booted and installed fine so that’s what it’s got for the moment. Ultimately this is going to a host to test Fedora IoT so while I tested the general support this is fine.

IoT support

There’s a number of reasons I chose this particular device as an IoT test device:

  • Reasonably priced with a reasonable feature set.
  • Intel hasn’t killed it off yet like they’ve done with the Joule platform and Minnowboard 3 so I could actually buy it 🙂
  • Multiple network interfaces, reasonable WiFi and Bluetooth support.
  • Industrial IO sensors via an onboard Intel Sensor Hub. lsiio is reporting 9 sensors of various types. I’ve not checked this further yet.
  • USB-3, a Raspberry Pi HAT compatible connector and other options to add IoT related functionality or interfaces.

FPGA support

I’ve not looked at the FPGA support at all. The upstream kernel now has a FPGA Manager Framework and there’s a bunch of Altera FPGA support there but I’m not sure how it maps to this device. I also have to investigate open source toolchains for FPGA bitstreams as a lot of them just aren’t, I’ll likely do the HW enablement side of things and leave the toolchain bits to people that understand them. I also have the 96boards Ultra96 board so FPGA investigation was already on my Fedora 29 To Do list, and a lot of other people seem quite interested in them of late, no idea why 😉

Getting started with Fedora on the 96boards Dragonboard

Support for this board has been a long time coming, it was originally announced in March 2015 and shipped later that summer. Two years on we can finally add support for it to Fedora. The enablement here will also assist us with supporting the newly announced 600c and 820c boards more quickly. We’re not all the way there yet, there’s still some firmwares that needs to go upstream into linux-firmware, but the improvement is fantastic and it’s been a pleasure working with the 96boards and Qualcomm teams getting to where we are today.

At the moment we support running Fedora off either an micro SD card or a USB stick. We don’t currently support running off the eMMC and currently basically treat that as the location of the firmware. Anyway lets get started!

Updating the firmware

You’ll want to update to the latest firmwares, my board originally had an old firmware without support for PSCI and so it didn’t bring up all four cores or support reboot. OOPS! You’ll need the latest linux rescue images from the 96boards download site. As I write this the latest is the 17.09 release (version 88). Create a directory for this file before you unzip it because it’ll expand all into the current directory. While there we also need a u-boot build that’s prepared for flashing, the upstream support isn’t quite complete, we add a few patches to the Fedora build to get everything working nicely. You can grab a pre-built version here and also get LK firmware build which enables display output.

You’ll need a host with the fastboot utility, in Fedora this is found in the android-tools package, and a micro USB cable. This process is very similar to flashing a phone with a new image, not surprising given the chipset really. If you have a serial console on the board you can follow along on the console but it’s not required for this board.

To put the board into fastboot mode we hold down the volume down button, labeled as ‘(-)’ near the middle USB port and then power it on. Wait around 30 seconds to ensure it’s booted to fastboot. You can test this with the fastboot devices command. You’ll likely want to run the next commands as root, or use sudo, and be in the directory you created with the extracted firmware and u-boot build:

sudo ./flashall
sudo fastboot flash aboot emmc_appsboot.mbn
sudo fastboot flash boot u-boot.img
sudo fastboot oem select-display-panel adv7533_1080p

The flashall command runs a series of fastboot command to write out various early boot firmware to the eMMC, then we write u-boot out to the boot partition, and finally ensure that output is configured to appear on the HDMI port. Assuming you don’t get any errors from fastboot that should be all the firmware done and in place.

Fedora image and further setup

Next up is the Fedora image. I chose the Workstation image, but we also have a Minimal Image and a traditional Server image. GNOME not the fastest in the world as 1Gb of RAM isn’t really enough for GNOME-3 anymore, but it works well enough. On a USB stick or Micro-SD card (I’ve tried both). We need to write out the image, then expand the rootfs (Note: update XXX for the device you’re writing to):

xzcat Fedora-Workstation-27-1.6.aarch64.raw.xz | sudo dd status=progress bs=4M of=/dev/XXX
sudo gparted /dev/XXX (expand the last partition)
partprobe

Next up we need to adjust the kernel command line slightly, mount up the first partition and edit /EFI/fedora/grub.cfg and search for the string cma=256MB and delete it, then add in it’s place the following console=tty1 console=ttyMSM0,115200n8. Next mount the boot partition (partition 2) and create a sym link

ln -s dtb-4.13.9-300.fc27.aarch64 dtb

. Unmount the partitions and we should be good to go on the Dragonboard.

Plug in a keyboard, mouse (and/or a usb cable for the serial console if you’re going that route) and a HDMI cable, plug in the USB stick or SD card and power it up. If you’re following along on the serial console you should see output straight away, screen might take a little longer.

Once you’ve booted you should be able to complete initial-setup (text or the one from Workstation) and login. To get the WiFI and Bluetooth working you need to install a Radio (WiFi and friends) firmware package which I’ve made into a rpm you can grab from here until it lands into linux-firmware.

What next?

The DragonBoard 410c is pretty functional. I’ve not widely tested sound, the Venus media offload components (we have all the firmware and kernel bits for this), the GPS or some of the other more advanced components but I’ll have more details about those soon. I’ll be documenting the above plus other bits on the Fedora ARM wiki so keep an eye on that or get involved and help out 😛