Bootlin working on the $9 C.H.I.P. computer

C.H.I.P computer

If you’re following the news about embedded Linux and new cool development platforms, you for sure couldn’t miss the announcement on the world’s first $9 computer. This computer, called C.H.I.P., was started through a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter and reception in the Free Software and Open Source community has been very positive. Out of an initial funding goal of $50,000, NextThing Co, the Oakland, California based company creating this product eventually managed to raise more $2,000,000 of funding.

NextThing Co announced their intention to support the platform in the most open way possible: the schematics will be made available, and it will be supported in the mainline Linux kernel.

It turns out that the processor NextThing Co has chosen for this platform is an Allwinner R8 processor. Bootlin has been working since several years on supporting Allwinner processors in the mainline Linux kernel: our engineer Maxime Ripard is the maintainer of the Allwinner SoC support.

Thanks to this long term involvement, Bootlin has been asked by NextThing Co to work with them to support the C.H.I.P. computer in the mainline Linux kernel, and in the process bring some significant improvements to the support of Allwinner processors in the kernel.

C.H.I.P, world first $9 computer

NextThing Co announced recently our collaboration in a blog post on Kickstarter:

We’re incredibly excited to announce that we’ve partnered with one of the premier contributors to ARM Linux: Bootlin! We will be collaborating with their amazing team of ARM Linux engineers, and of course our Kernel Hacker backers to help us test and mainline C.H.I.P.’s kernel modifications as we move forward.

Bootlin is also very excited to be working with NextThing Co on this project! Thanks to this, over the next months, we will have a very substantial amount of time dedicated to this project, and we will regularly push code to support the missing hardware Allwinner SoC hardware blocks in the mainline Linux kernel and to support the C.H.I.P. board.

Pocket C.H.I.P

More details about the C.H.I.P:

  • Availability planned for 2016 for the general public. A selection of 1000 kernel hackers who backed on Kickstarter will have the platform earlier.
  • Very small platform: 40mm x 60mm, making is even smaller than a Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone.
  • Allwinner R8 processor, clocked at 1 Ghz, and offering OpenGL/OpenVG acceleration through an ARM Mali GPU
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board NAND flash storage
  • WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 to connect the system to the outside world
  • One USB host port
  • Powered through a micro USB connector which also supports USB OTG (either USB host or device).
  • Jack connector for composite video out, headphones and microphone input.
  • Many headers to connect external devices (SPI, I2C, UART + 8 GPIOs)
  • Integrated circuit for charging a LiPo battery and being powered by it
  • Additional HDMI or VGA add-on boards will be needed to connect to displays with the corresponding connectivity.

Bootlin engineer Alexandre Belloni co-maintainer of Linux Atmel processor support

Atmel SAMA5After becoming the co-maintainer of the Linux RTC subsystem, Bootlin engineer Alexandre Belloni also recently became a co-maintainer for the support of Atmel ARM processors in the Linux kernel.

Bootlin has been working since early 2014 with Atmel to improve support for their processors in the mainline kernel. Since this date, our work has mainly consisted in:

  • Modernizing existing code for Atmel processors: complete the switch to the Device Tree and the common clock framework for all platforms, rework all that was needed to make Atmel processor support compatible with the ARM multiplatform kernel, and do a lot of related driver and platform refactoring.
  • Implement a complete DRM/KMS driver for the display subsystem of the most recent Atmel processors.
  • Upstream support for the Atmel SAMA5D4, the latest Cortex-A5 based SoC from Atmel.

Thanks to this long-term involvement from Alexandre Belloni and Boris Brezillon, Alexandre was appointed as a co-maintainer of Atmel support, replacing Andrew Victor who hasn’t been active in kernel development since quite some time. He is joining Nicolas Ferre and Jean-Christophe Plagniol-Villard in the team of maintainers for the Atmel platform.

Alexandre has sent his first pull request as an Atmel co-maintainer on May 22, sending 9 patches to the ARM SoC maintainers, planned for the 4.2 kernel release. His pull request was quickly merged by ARM SoC maintainer Arnd Bergmann.

Bootlin is proud to have one of its engineers as the maintainer of one very popular embedded Linux platform, which has had since many years a strong commitment of upstream Linux kernel support. Alexandre is the third Bootlin engineer to become an ARM platform maintainer: Maxime Ripard is the maintainer of Allwinner ARM processor support, and Gregory Clement is the co-maintainer of Marvell EBU ARM processor support.

New training course on Buildroot: materials freely available

Buildroot LogoLast year, Bootlin launched a new training course on using the Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded to develop embedded Linux systems. In the selection of build system tools available in the embedded Linux ecosystem, another very popular choice is Buildroot, and we are happy to announce today that we are releasing a new 3 days training course on Buildroot!

Bootlin is a major contributor to the Buildroot upstream project, with more than 2800 patches merged as of May 2015 (including the ones contributed with our previous name). Our engineer Thomas Petazzoni alone has contributed more than 2700 patches. He has gathered an extensive knowledge of Buildroot and its internals, being one of the primary authors of the core infrastructures of Buildroot. He is a major participant to the Buildroot community, organizing the regular Buildroot Developer Days, supporting users through the mailing list and on IRC. Last but not least, Thomas acts as an interim maintainer when the main Buildroot maintainer is not available, an indication of Thomas strong involvement in the Buildroot project.

In addition, Bootlin has used and is using Buildroot in a significant number of customer projects, giving us an excellent view of Buildroot usage for real projects. This feedback has been driving some of our Buildroot contributions over the last years.

The 3 days training we have developed covers all the aspects of Buildroot: basic usage and configuration, understanding the source and build trees, creating new packages including advanced aspects, analyzing the build, tips for organizing your Buildroot work, using Buildroot for application development and more. See the detailed agenda.

buildroot-slidesWe can deliver this training course anywhere in the world, at your location (see our rates and related details). We have also scheduled a first public session in English in Toulouse, France, on November 30 to December 2. Contact us at training@bootlin.com if you are interested.

And finally, last but not least, like we do for all our training sessions, we are making the training materials freely available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license, at the time of the training announcement: the first session of this course is being given this week. For the Buildroot training, the available materials are:

Our materials have already been reviewed by some of the most prominent contributors to Buildroot: Peter Korsgaard (Buildroot maintainer), Yann E. Morin, Thomas De Schampheleire, Gustavo Zacarias and Arnout Vandecappelle. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their useful comments and suggestions in the development of this new training course.

ELC 2015 videos available

The videos from the last Embedded Linux Conference that took place late March in San Jose, California, are now available on Youtube! This represents a lot of interesting and useful content about embedded Linux topics.

You’ll find below the videos of the three talks given by Bootlin engineers at this Embedded Linux Conference.

An Overview of the kernel DMAEngine subsystem, Maxime Ripard

MLC/TLC NAND Support: Challenges for MTD/NAND Subsystem, Boris Brezillon

The Device Tree as a Stable ABI: A Fairy Tale?, Thomas Petazzoni

Bootlin contributes U-Boot support for SECO i.MX6 uQ7 board

SECO i.MX6 uQ7 SOMAmongst the multiple customer projects we are currently working on that rely on i.MX6 based platforms, one of them is using the SECO i.MX6 µQ7 System on Module as its heart. Unfortunately, the SECO Linux BSP relies on old U-Boot and Linux kernel releases, which we didn’t want to use for this project.

Therefore, Bootlin engineer Boris Brezillon has ported the mainline U-Boot bootloader on this platform, and contributed the corresponding patches. These patches have been merged, and the support for this platform is now part of the 2015.04 U-Boot release. To build it, simply use the secomx6quq7_defconfig configuration.

The work behind these patches was funded by ECA Group.