Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Hardware Hacking GNU is Not Unix Build

Live Interview: Luke Leighton of Rhombus Tech 68

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the onward-to-freedom dept.
Today we're doing a live interview from 18:30 GMT until 20:30 GMT with long time contributor Luke Leighton of Rhombus Tech. An advocate of Free Software, he's been round the loop that many are now also exploring: looking for mass-volume Factories in China and ARM processor manufacturers that are truly friendly toward Free Software (clue: there aren't any). He's currently working on the first card for the EOMA-68 modular computer card specification based around the Allwinner A10, helping the KDE Plasma Active Team with their upcoming Vivaldi Tablet, and even working to build devices around a new embedded processor with the goal of gaining the FSF's Hardware Endorsement. Ask him anything. (It's no secret that he's a Slashdot reader, so expect answers from lkcl.)
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Live Interview: Luke Leighton of Rhombus Tech

Comments Filter:
  • first post (Score:4, Funny)

    by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:26PM (#42252595) Homepage

    yaay always wanted to do that :)

    • And as the subject of the mentioned interview, I don't think you can even get modded down for it.
      • It's the traditional medieval Right of the First Post. :-)

        (Yes, I know, that one is a fiction, but you must never get facts in the way of a good joke...)

      • by lkcl (517947)

        yeah you can - comments are open. hey modders, biteme!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let us know they're coming ahead of time... and I mean days, not minutes.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sadly it seems like SOC development outpaces your ability to actually put it into a platform. Is this still going to continue for the foreseeable future?

    • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:56PM (#42252919) Homepage

      Sadly it seems like SOC development outpaces your ability to actually put it into a platform. Is this still going to continue for the foreseeable future?

      good question! this first one was always going to be the hardest. it's taken.... almost a year to eventually find all the parts and suppliers. Mid-Mount HDMI was a bitch to track down. we'll still need to do the PCMCIA casework, and so on, which will need $6k for the endplate to be modified.

      once that first one is done, however, we'll not only have pre-established relationships with all the suppliers, but we'll likely already have spare stock of some of the parts, *and* have the schematics to be able to cut/paste to create the next one, and so on and so forth.

      so i fully expect subsequent cards to be vaaastly quicker development time. but, even there, it depends on the level of cooperation of the SoC vendor. if they don't provide EVB schematics, we can expect the PCB development to take longer. etc. etc.

      remember - this is a project which will be going for at least the next decade. we're just getting started.

  • I made a "Ask Slashdot" about the topic a month or so ago hoping to raise some discussion about it, but apparently Slashdot editors didn't like the idea, possibly because I lambasted the Allwinner A10 quite clearly. To keep this comment short I'll just drop a few select quotes from the wiki pages:

    Integrate G2D support for 2D acceleration, right now Mali drivers sometimes are slower than FBDEV in 2D tasks ( http://linux-sunxi.org/Mali400 [linux-sunxi.org] )

    ,

    * No output modules support apart from cedarfb which uses raw framebuffer access (not compatible with xf86-video-mali and any other driver/device that wants to write raw at the same moment). * No support for GUI of the VLC, only command line VLC is supported * 1080p and such movies with high bitrate sometimes buffer too slow and frames are dropping. * No support for OSD because of lack of YUV420 ( http://linux-sunxi.org/VLC [linux-sunxi.org] )

    , http://linux-sunxi.org/XBMC#Optimize_XBMC_for_the_Allwinner_A10_SoC_used_in_most_media_players_and_tablets [linux-sunxi.org] ,

    Disadvantages Allwinner's CedarX technology and libraries:

            Allwinner's own CedarX proprietary libraries have no clear usage license, so even if the source code for some versions is available the terms-of-use is unknown in open source software.
            The Android glue code is implemented as a "media player" (parallel to Android's Stagefright multimedia framework) instead of as standard OpenMAX (OMX) components and API's.
            This "media player" has limitations when it comes to playing back content pointed to by Android URIs and some web-based content.
            There is no glue code for any other multimedia frameworks on GNU/Linux systems. The use of OpenMAX (OMX) instead would have rendered this a non-issue, with existing projects like GstOpenMAX (GStreamer OpenMAX). ( http://linux-sunxi.org/CedarX [linux-sunxi.org] )

    All these things quite well show the lack of commitment and complete blindness towards all the possibilities these kinds of SoCs could enable if only the software and the licenses were up to snuff. This brings me to the question: why choose the A10 when there are SoCs that atleast support the standard way of accelerating video through OpenMAX and/or GStreamer? Who does everyone seem to use Mali-400 when it's apparently very poorly supported? Is there any manufacturer who is even PLANNING to some day do a SoC with properly maintained and supported software package -- or better yet, release the programming documents to the wild so people can implement F/OSS software packages?

    • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @03:05PM (#42253009) Homepage

      All these things quite well show the lack of commitment and complete blindness towards all the possibilities these kinds of SoCs could enable if only the software and the licenses were up to snuff. This brings me to the question: why choose the A10 when there are SoCs that atleast support the standard way of accelerating video through OpenMAX and/or GStreamer? Who does everyone seem to use Mali-400 when it's apparently very poorly supported? Is there any manufacturer who is even PLANNING to some day do a SoC with properly maintained and supported software package -- or better yet, release the programming documents to the wild so people can implement F/OSS software packages?

      MALI's not actually owned by ARM, afaict, it's still licensed by ARM from Mediatek. the engineers *inside* ARM have been banging on at ARM to get this resolved. the management are not listening.

      why use the A10? because it's around $7.50 in very large volumes, that's why. all its competitors are around the $11 to $12 mark. the other reason is: allwinner are actually trying, within the best of their ability and understanding, to actually work with the free software community. some things they Grok, others they don't. it's challenging, but it's exciting.

      • why use the A10? because it's around $7.50 in very large volumes, that's why. all its competitors are around the $11 to $12 mark. the other reason is: allwinner are actually trying, within the best of their ability and understanding, to actually work with the free software community. some things they Grok, others they don't. it's challenging, but it's exciting.

        So, basically, "screw the end-users as long as we can shave $5 off the price."

        • by lkcl (517947)

          why use the A10? because it's around $7.50 in very large volumes, that's why. all its competitors are around the $11 to $12 mark. the other reason is: allwinner are actually trying, within the best of their ability and understanding, to actually work with the free software community. some things they Grok, others they don't. it's challenging, but it's exciting.

          So, basically, "screw the end-users as long as we can shave $5 off the price."

          *lol* - well... not exactly. if it was AMLogic for example, who screwed us over with GPL violations, then i wouldn't give a flying fuck if their processor was $5 i *still* wouldn't give them the time of day.

          and the main reason for that is because if we propagate GPL-violating source code, it exposes our customers to risk of lawsuits - primary *and* secondary Copyright violations. so, we just flatly refuse to work with GPL violators, now, and that's the end of it.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Allwinner's own CedarX proprietary libraries have no clear usage license, so even if the source code for some versions is available the terms-of-use is unknown in open source software.

      This is China, everything is "open source" :-)

      Seriously though, expecting them to understand and pick an OS license is perhaps a bit much. Eventually they will probably get it but the idea just doesn't exist in China right now. I remember when I first heard about it and it took a while to realize I should be making use of the GPL or whatever, because before then people just uploaded their docs to a BBS or make a web site and put their code in a .lha file with maybe a little disclaimer if you were lucky.

  • Slashvertisements (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WoOS (28173) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @03:05PM (#42253007)

    So first we get an report on the near completion of the EOMA board [slashdot.org]. Three months later, before it has time to prove itself (how many have been sold?), lkcl (probably Luke Leighton) gets into the limelight again with a seemingly not so well thought out proposal to build his own microcontroller [slashdot.org]. Standard quote of lkcl (paraphrased): "I don't know nothing, so I can't discuss how to overcome that well known restriction.". And now, a week later, an - bascially unannounced and unprepared - interview with this self-declared revolutionary.

    All to give more spotlight to Rhombus Tech,

    This is not News for nerds. This is product placement.

    • Re:Slashvertisements (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @03:07PM (#42253027) Homepage

      This is not News for nerds. This is product placement.

      yeah - 'innit great? ... i tell you what: you take over. if you're prepared to deal with the suppliers and the free software community and keep up-to-date with the SoC vendors and so on, knock yourself out - i'm not going to stop you.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Honestly, for me, this is the best slasvertisement yet, if so. Please send more.

      I am extremely interested in these (type of) products, the development of them, and any news related to them.

      Now if you want bitch about "remote desktop [slashdot.org]" to a linux server, I can agree.

      But this, this is why I'm still checking.

      • by lkcl (517947)

        I am extremely interested in these (type of) products, the development of them, and any news related to them.

        yeah. i mean - i'm a geek / software person. what the heck am i doing getting involved in hardware? ahh... because nobody else is - not with this kind of goal in mind, anyway, and certainly not with the same business aims.

        but.... regarding the processor: we have to be quick! it's not going to be long before 40nm is outdated, and 28nm is "king". 28nm NREs and the whole verification process is... costly.

  • How much effort is there to get things to work with touch screens enhanced with ntrig or wacom technology?
    I like touch screen technology, but at some point you do really need stylus close to a real pen.

    • by lkcl (517947)

      How much effort is there to get things to work with touch screens enhanced with ntrig or wacom technology?
      I like touch screen technology, but at some point you do really need stylus close to a real pen.

      oo. intriguing question. hmm, not sure i'm qualified to answer! my personal experience with wacom touchscreens has been limited to the Acer Travelmate C100, which i liked so much that when it fell to bits (i literally wore a hole through the shift key with my left fingernail for example) i bought a C112 as a replacement.

      i found that it was quite easy - relatively speaking as far as being comfortable editing xorg.conf files - to set up the wacom drivers and configs etc. at the time i think they were seri

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @06:09PM (#42254659)
    For when your rectangles are too square.
  • by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:56AM (#42257277)

    Hi Luke, sorry for the late questions - the timezone wasn't convenient.

    You mentioned that the Mali and corresponding limadriver wasn't free enough.

    Does the adreno from Qualcomm pose similar problems with regards the freedreno driver Or is it more of a problem that Qualcomm won't license it to third parties separate from their SnapDragon product?

    What's the status of replicant.us on the allwinner? i.e. to what extent does the A10 solution you are developing fulfil a 'free' platform in a pragmatic sense?

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

Working...