Single Board Computers (was Re: Project to stimulate Edu-FLS development)

Paul Boddie paul at
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.
> Paul
> > See 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 
is improving.

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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