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Debian Derivative Optimized for the Raspbery Pi Released 95

sfcrazy writes "The Raspberry Pi foundation has announced the release of the first SD card image based on the Raspbian distribution. The image will make it easier for Raspberry Pi users to switch from 'generic' Debian Squeeze to this 'optimized' image." The new image is based on Wheezy and optimized for ARM with floating point instructions, and supersedes the Squeeze based soft float image. Benchmarks show much improvement in performance, and the updated software in Wheezy generally improves the usability of the Raspberry Pi.
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Debian Derivative Optimized for the Raspbery Pi Released

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  • Can't reach http://www.raspbian.org/ [raspbian.org] -- maybe already slashdotted. Google seems to confirm this address is correct.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ARMv6 still slow. If this CPU were in your cellphone, you'd be shopping for a better one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If this CPU were in my cellphone, I'd have paid a LOT less for it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:12PM (#40687141)

      Unless you just want a phone that works and costs $35. Not everyone has unlimited money to buy phones that have processing power that mostly exists for bragging rights.

      • I was paid $50 to get my phone (free with rebate).. now the service, that's another story. But they go hand-in-hand, so you can't really separate them. It's an HTC Sensation, and is my first foray into smartphones. It's cool - but I really still don't get how people can't live without them. And I'm no luddite, hell I used to work for THE cell phone company back in the day and had one of the first flipphones and first StarTacs. I got those because it was cool.. now I just find them annoying for the most

        • by oxdas ( 2447598 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @03:49PM (#40689591)

          They can be separated and are in many countries. You were not paid $50 from your phone company. You received a loan from your phone company for the cost of the phone plus the fifty dollars. You will repay the loan over the next few years in the form of inflated rates for your service. If you continue to use the phone on their network beyond your contract terms then you will still be paying the subsidy without getting any benefit.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:57PM (#40687721)

        It is weird when you are fixing someones XP pc and you realize that your phone has 2x the memory, a faster processor and screen with slightly more pixels than theirs. A good kind of weird.

    • But it's not in my cell phone.

  • graphic drivers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:10PM (#40687103)

    The bigger performance problem so far are the X window system device drivers.
    Right now it seems the driver is just a frame-buffer driver and the CPU does all the work,
    and is not using the GPU.
    Until they write accelerated drivers, the performance will by slow.

    • Re:graphic drivers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie&hotmail,com> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @03:36PM (#40689441) Homepage

      This is indeed what I said on Engadget; this announcement basically says the team compiled most of the stuff for hardware-FPU whereas previously it was either using software-FPU or had both codes compiled-in, as such this stuff does indeed help CPU-bound software that is heavy on the maths, but doesn't really do anything for basic bit-blitting or linear gradients used in graphics. Most of the "slowness" - complaints I see when reading any RPi-related news is exactly due to CPU having to do all the drawing.

      It's been a long time now since I been lurking around the RPi forums, but so far I have not heard of plans to bring out an accelerated X-driver which is quite a shame. It really limits the usefulness of the system. I still hope the devs do come around to it eventually, though.

  • Why not contribute the changes you make back to main line Debian?

    • Re:Why fork? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:20PM (#40687267)
      Because its optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware and the tweaks it uses are likely to be near worthless for most other hardware. Its like all the distributions that were coming out for the EEE PC (first low cost netbook to gain popularity) which had the main advantage of being really easy to install/use on the particular platform. In other words, instead of spending a few hours configuring Debian to optimize it for my hardware I can just install a simple OS.
      • Re:Why fork? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:30PM (#40687375)

        In other words, instead of spending a few hours configuring Debian to optimize it for my hardware I can just install a simple OS.

        Its not that simple. Now you have to subscribe to the debian security mailing list and backport all security patches to your little customized OS.

        Also some day your little offshoot OS will go away or the devs will stop working on it. Now what? That'll never happen with main line Debian.

        I hate supporting special little OS like that, its absolute agony. Main line Debian or nothing, please.

        • Or you just take regular snapshots of the testing branch and merge your changes?

        • Re:Why fork? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @02:27PM (#40688727) Homepage
          > That'll never happen with main line Debian.

          Try telling that to those of us with DEC Alphas. For some bizarre reason we really won't believe you.
        • Re:Why fork? (Score:4, Informative)

          by lindi ( 634828 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @02:38PM (#40688873)

          You can use official debian armel. It'll just be bit slower.

        • I'm at a loss as to why anyone would prioritize back-porting security fixes.

          The device is intended for hobbyists, not mission critical internet-facing applications.

        • Now you have to subscribe to the debian security mailing list and backport all security patches to your little customized OS.

          No need to subscribe to the list really, just pull in the packages as they appear and let they autobuilders have at them.

          Compared to following testing (which we are doing at the moment) following the various types of updates to stable will be a walk in the park.

        • quit your trolling.
          the pi foundation already has two debian releases that do use Debian mainline. the reason the raspian guys are re-building everything is because Debian doesn't do a port that supports hf on arm6. if you hate it so much, try convincing Debian to add a new port...
          the raspian guys already automatically merge mainline updates.

    • Re:Why fork? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:20PM (#40687269)

      They haven't changed much code, only recompiled it with different settings, so there isn't anything to push back to Debian.

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        So I can use official Debian source packages with Raspbian with no modification? Just add the source repos and use 'apt-get source --compile' and it just works?

        • As long as they are compiled for ARMv6, probably.

        • Re:Why fork? (Score:5, Informative)

          by mpthompson ( 457482 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @02:06PM (#40688443)

          From the Raspbian FAQ:

          For the great majority of Raspbian users, for practical purposes the answer is "No". Packages from the Debian repositories cannot and should not be used with Raspbian. However, if you really know what you are doing and can deal with a file system that may no longer boot, it may be possible to get certain select Debian packages working with Raspbian. The rest of this answer deals with how that might be done.

          Debian armel packages use the soft float ABI which is incompatible with the hard float ABI used by Raspbian. In theory it should be possible to install Debian armel packages in parallel with Raspbian packages using multiarch. However multiarch setups conflict with a hack we had to make to support the videocore libraries and there are other potential issues too. As such we don't currently recommend or support multiarch configurations with Debian armel and Raspbian armhf.

          Debian armhf packages should be compatible with raspbian packages but a system with such a mixture WILL NOT RUN ON THE PI. Furthermore there may be corner cases where libraries build slightly differently on Raspbian. Such mixed systems can be useful for development (they were used heavily in the process of creating Raspbian) but are not recommended for general use.

          Architecture independent ("arch all") packages are compatible between Debian and Raspbian. Source packages should in general be compatible though some may need modification to adjust compiler settings (most Debian packages just use the compiler defaults but some use their own settings for various reasons).

        • by lindi ( 634828 )

          Yes, http://archive.raspbian.org/raspbian/pool/main/g/gcc-4.7/gcc-4.7_4.7.1-2%2Brpi1.diff.gz [raspbian.org] shows that they modified the gcc-4.7 package to generate code for ARMv6:

          +gcc-4.7 (4.7.1-2+rpi1) wheezy; urgency=low
          + * Set defaults for raspbian (ARMv6+VFP)
          + * Disable testsuite
          + -- Peter Michael Green Sun, 01 Jul 2012 13:20:21 +0000

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Mainline Debian ships with binary kernels for various ARM platforms. Once you recompile the kernel and change enough of the surrounding software infrastructure to support a very specific platform, it pretty much has to become a fork. There are a number of examples of this with Debian.

    • Re:Why fork? (Score:5, Informative)

      by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @02:03PM (#40688407)

      Why not contribute the changes you make back to main line Debian?

      Well it's not much of a fork, much more a port.

      The debian foundation has two ARM binary versions, the 'performance' version (armhf) that's compiled for ARMv7 or better chips, and the 'compatible' (armel) version that's compiled for IIRC ARMv4 or better.

      One of the reasons the pi is so cheap is it uses an older SoC, based on ARMv6. The cortex chipsets A9 you see in say, the iphone or samsung SoC are ARMv7 instruction set based. So up to now, the standard raspberry pi debian distro was the vanilla armel squeeze, with a wheezy armel beta. However, the pi ARMv6 does have floating point hardware that allows for 'hardfloat' compilation rather than the 'softfloat' compilation option - which is used in the ARMv7 version of debian, but not the armel version. Using the hardware support for floating point calculation is obviously faster than doing it in software emulation, thus the new port to take advantage of every little bit of performance you can get out of the $5 SoC on the pi.

      So raspbian is basically debian ARM, but all the binary packages have been recompiled with the hardfloat option to take advantage of the floating point hardware; they're using wheezy as the target, which is current debian testing IIRC. It's debian armhf, but compatible with the v6 pi. The Debian Foundation weren't interested in supporting a 3rd version of debian on ARM hardware, which is entirely fair enough - the amount of people interested in an ARMv6 with hardfloat who aren't using the pi is going to be very small, though they can of course run raspbian on their hardware too if they also have ARMv6 with hardware floating point; it's not like debian are rolling in money themselves. They were happy for a 'roll your own' version though, which is what has happened.

      Last I checked, the raspbian project team (which is basically two guys) had successfully compiled basically everything in the debian package tree, along with keeping up to date with the constantly changing nature of debian testing; they had a compile farm running continuously to keep up, and the setup is worth reading about when the raspbian site comes back; it's a tiny operation that's giving hundreds of thousands of pi owners a significantly faster default distro on a shoestring budget. I think it's brilliant, and is an excellent example of why open source is so awesome. Want an entire OS and software custom compiled to get every ounce of performance out of the hardware? Go for it! And look, these guys have done it for you!

    • Re:Why fork? (Score:5, Informative)

      by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <.plugwash. .at. .p10link.net.> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @02:17PM (#40688581) Homepage

      Good question, the changes we make in raspbian come into basically three categories.

      1: changing compiler defaults. Theese can't be pushed upstream until/unless the debian tools get an understanding of flavours*. This is a subject I intend to bring up on the debian mailing lists in-time but it may well cause a flamewar.
      2: hacks, it's inevitable that when you have only two people doing a project on this scale that you will run into issues that you don't have the manpower to solve properly and so have to hack around to keep things moving forward. Such hacks include things like reducing optimisation levels, using non-default gcc versions and disabling testsuites. I don't think debian would want these changes.
      3: proper bugfixes, I do try and push these back to debian where possible.

      We do not intend to be a fork, the VAST majority of source packages are imported from debian and rebuilt with no source changes whatsoever.

      * a flavour is a variant that is binary compatible but has different minimum CPU requirements.

    • from the debian wiki [debian.org]:

      "Currently the Debian armhf port requires at least an ARMv7 CPU with Thumb-2 and VFP3D16"

      the pi uses an ARMv6 CPU.

  • For only a few more dollars you could have a slightly more powerful CPU like tha allwiner A10 [wordpress.com] and a little more RAM soy you can run real debian and real ubuntu like the Beagleboard, Beaglebone and the Odroid-X can and you wouldn't need a forked, stripped linux distro, you could run the real thing. You don't need a weird graphic processor without drivers that nobody will touch, you need RAM and compatibility.

    I hope they fix this in the next revision, the allwiner is selling for penauts nowadays.

    • by ThorGod ( 456163 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:55PM (#40687693) Journal

      Odd...most of the uses I can come up for this machine don't have it hooked up to a monitor.

      • Exactly my thought. I'm thinking of it as a replacement for the Linksys NSLU2 slugs I've been using as media servers for the past 6 years or so. And since X11 is available for the platform then we'll have interactive terminals, editors, and graphical clients running on the Raspberry Pi that don't need a local graphics display (which is the case for the Linksys NSLU2).
      • by Trogre ( 513942 )

        Not that odd - that someone's intended use for this device is different from yours.

    • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:55PM (#40687695) Homepage Journal

      This leads one to the question... underpowered for what exactly?

      Buy the right hardware for your project. If this doesn't fit then don't buy it. Buy the ODroid-X [techspot.com], which is a quad core 1.4 Ghz if that is better.

      PI is giving me a platform to cheaply learn some stuff, so it fits my needs fine.

    • These days, when A15 is almost on the market? I don't get why all the boards like this always use a core that is almost ten years old or so. Hmm, A15...quad-core to boot, nice.
      • by rufty_tufty ( 888596 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @01:52PM (#40688279) Homepage

        It depends on the application. The A15 would be the wrong thing if you were interested in minimizing:
        *design complexity

        All of which the Pi is interested in doing.

        • I'd welcome an A15 based board that would allow me to replace my current desktop, an aging, although perfectly sufficient AMD Sempron 64, with something comparable in speed yet much less power hungry, something that could be almost always-on. It's probably a slightly different task but it eludes me why there doesn't seem to be any development in this area - something Efika-MX-style, only with a more modern ARM core.
          • it eludes me why there doesn't seem to be any development in this area

            Probably because the A15 isn't out yet...

          • Intel Atom (D2700 2x2.13GHz@10W)? AMD Zacate (E-450@18W)?
            I bet you can find them at the $50-$70 range (motherboard+cpu).

    • by Ixokai ( 443555 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:56PM (#40687717)

      A few more dollars, so like, $40? Okay, I'd do $40 for a more powerful CPU and more RAM. Maybe $50? Sure, I have the cash. I mean, it goes against the goal and purpose of the Raspberry Pi, so it might not make the target audience happy, but sure.

      Except, just some minor googling seems to put the items you're listening at $90 to $150. That's not a few more dollars. That's two to four times the cost.

      • by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @01:08PM (#40687825)
        Depending on where you live, the rasberry pi is a bit more than the advertised 35 dollars. In the USA I just paid $45 usd for one from element14.com
      • by repvik ( 96666 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @01:18PM (#40687903)

        Somewhere in between $50 and $90 is $72.49, which is the price for the Oval Elephant: http://www.ovalelephant.com/p-2062-mini-pc-android-linux-linaro-a10-chip-1gb-ddr3-ram [ovalelephant.com]
        I've bought one of them, and it was shipped today. It's got a fair bit more oomph (1,5GHz Allwinner A10) than the RPI, a much neater package, an much more ram. Oh, and it's got 4GB internal flash, so you're not dependant on a SD card. It also has BGN wifi built in. It should shortly be able to run XBMC on android 4, although without HW decoding yet. It can also run linux.

        Of course, it's slightly more than twice as expensive as the RPI. But it's way more than twice as valuable IMO.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Little Attiny board, $5.
          Atmega328 board, $12.
          Arduino Board, $20.
          Current Pi model, $35.
          Your solution and others, $72
          Tablets, small computers, $200

          Right tool for the right job.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Anyone please do not propose devices without GPIO/I2C/SPI/UART pins as a replacement for Raspberry PI. For many people this is key feature of RPI. 99% of those "replacement" were available long before raspberry (Gumstick/PogoPlug/etc). Problem was when you were looking something that can interact with physical world, such eval boards with similar performance were and are avialable but with prices well above > 150-200 USD. I would be really happy if someone can show me replacement that will have GPIO/I

          • PSOC3 FirstTouch Starter kit costs $50 and even comes with a USB cable for programming and/or power, and a 9V battery for when you want it away from wires.

            It has an Intel 8051 (remember those?), is slightly smaller than a RaspberryPi, has GPIO/I2C/SPI/UART, has an onboard FPGA to handle all of the IO as well as extra blocks for things like DSP, coms interrupts and buffers, fast hardware lookup tables, custom logic etc. Internal ADCs, internal DACs, internal comparators, internal 25mA opamps. Analogue can be

  • How is this any different than armhf already in testing and unstable? It's what I'm running on my tablet.

    • Re:armhf? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mpthompson ( 457482 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @02:00PM (#40688367)

      Debian armhf in testing and unstable has a minimum CPU requirements of ARMv7-A+VFPv3-D16+Thumb2. Unfortunately, the Raspberry Pi CPU doesn't meet these specs.

      What Raspbian did was rebuild virtually all Debian Wheezy packages to the ARMv6+VFPv2 specs of the Raspberry Pi. Fortunately, the armhf ABI is fully supported on ARMv6 which means that Raspbian built packages run fine under Debian Wheezy armhf. This made the port much easier than it otherwise might have been as all building occurred on Debian armhf systems and the resulting binaries just needed to be verified free of ARMv7 code.

      • by lindi ( 634828 )

        The only confusing part is that they call the architecture "armhf". This means that you don't get an error message if you try to install debian armhf packages but they just crash when you try to run them.

        • The same applies if you are running debian on an older x86 box and try to install a deb built on ubuntu. Or if you try and upgrade from an older debian release to a newer one that has dropped support for your CPU variant.

          Precedent is that debian architecture names specify cpu family/abi not specific CPU variants. This gives more flexibility but it does mean you can install packages that are compatible with those you have installed but are not compatible with the CPU variant you have.

    • by Rufty ( 37223 )
      From the raspian faq [raspbian.org]:

      The port is necessary because the official Debian Wheezy armhf release is compatible only with versions of the ARM architecture later than the one used on the Raspberry Pi (ARMv7-A CPUs and higher, vs the Raspberry Pi's ARMv6 CPU).

  • by drwho ( 4190 )

    1.11GB seems bloated. The only spare SD card I have around is 512MB. I know, I should go out and get myself some modern SD flash, which will probably be a lot faster too. My only question is why 1.11GB...? Because you've included all the ports, or...?

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.