Brussels / 3 & 4 February 2018


... like real computers!

Making distributions work on single board computers

Installing an operating system on single board computers (SBCs or "Fruit-Pis") is very board specific and requires a lot of hand holding. If at all, standard distributions support only a small number of them explicitly, which leads to a lot of board specific images and distributions. This talk will show how this situation can be improved, to the point where off-the-shelf Linux (or BSD) distributions can be installed on those boards, without those distros knowing about each and every one of them. Key ingredients are standardized firmware interfaces like UEFI, stable device trees and on-board memory like SPI flash. This should make using ARM based SBCs as easy as using (x86) PCs today: like "real computers". On top of this ways to simplify and speed up mainline Linux kernel support are explored. Enabling kernel support for new SoCs usually takes a while, especially if the effort is driven by the community. This delays distribution support, up to a point where a certain SoC or board might become slightly dated when it's finally supported. Using more device tree features and less hardcoded kernel data would reduce the code required to support new SoCs, ideally reaching a point where new SoCs could be at least booted with existing (distribution!) kernels, just by providing the proper device tree blob. This talk describes the idea and gives an example by looking at what can be done on Allwinner SoCs.


Andre Przywara