Single Board Computers (was Re: Project to stimulate Edu-FLS development)
paul at boddie.org.uk
Wed Jan 11 12:06:25 UTC 2017
On Wednesday 11. January 2017 10.19.35 Paul Sutton wrote:
> Hi Dr Stallman
> Just had a look at this list, so basically there does not seem to be a
> full solution out there that does not require some sort of non free
> software to get it working.
> What about mentioning Arduino in that list, Granted it is not a single
> board computer, but if people want solutions to a hardware project and
> want it to be as free as possible this could be an option, of course if
> it fits in to being truly free, then it can be recognized as such.
> > See fsf.org/resources/hw/single-board-computers for information.
On this topic, the FSF is considering the EOMA68-A20 card in its "Libre Tea"
form for RYF certification:
More information here:
As this latter article notes, the plan had been to produce the EOMA68-jz4775
card instead because the SoC involved (the Ingenic jz4775) doesn't need any
non-free software to function completely. However, it was determined that if
the Allwinner A20 used in the EOMA68-A20 doesn't expose its GPU, doesn't
require GPU support for productive use, and thus doesn't need non-free
software to function, it could potentially be RYF-certified instead.
Some of this deliberation occurred in the context of the availability of FSF-
endorsed operating system distributions. Various "libre" GNU/Linux
distributions actively support ARM but not MIPS in recent versions, with the
latter having been a focus in the past because the Lemote Yeeloong got a
certain amount of endorsement:
But there's something of a chicken and egg problem with MIPS systems and libre
distributions, currently, in that the distributions won't support an
architecture without any currently-produced (and easily-purchased) devices
that can be used without non-free software. This is also true of emerging
architectures such as RISC-V, but those architectures need to work towards a
basic level of adoption first, anyway.
Meanwhile, there's no particular incentive in producing devices for such
distributions without any particular interest from those distributions
themselves, particularly when those distributions can find other architectures
and systems to support, even when the systems being supported stand on
somewhat uncertain foundations, as shown by that FSF summary. However, the
situation around SoC vendors, documentation and suitability for Free Software
So, I think that the situation is getting better, but it would be nice if more
cooperation between different Free Software interests occurred. Libre
distributions should be able to support more than two architectures,
particularly when their upstreams (for example, Debian) are providing support
for far more than that. And in doing so, they would at least encourage
architectural diversity in the hardware realm.
P.S. I do wonder whether the reasoning around RYF endorsement for the A20
could be used with the MIPS Creator CI20, which uses the jz4780 that is
unfortunately encumbered with the proprietary and generally hostile PowerVR
technologies, simply by disabling the GPU. However, I don't know enough about
the jz4780 to be certain that doing this wouldn't disable all display support
and severely limit the product's functionality.
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