Linux 4.1 released, Free Electrons 17th contributing company

TuxLinus Torvalds recently released the 4.1 Linux kernel, for which gave a good description of the major new features: 4.1 Merge window, part 1, 4.1 Merge window, part 2, The 4.1 merge window closes.

As usual, Free Electrons engineers contributed to the Linux kernel during this development cycle, though this time with a smaller number of patches: we contributed 118 patches. This time around, Free Electrons is the 17th company contributing to this kernel release, by number of patches.

Our major contributions this time around have been:

  • On support for Atmel platforms
    • Alexandre Belloni did a good number of improvements to Atmel SoC support: converting some remaining SoCs to the SoC detection infrastructure, cleaning up the timer driver to use a syscon/regmap, removing a lot of unused headers in arch/arm/mach-at91/, etc. The final and very important change is that the AT91 ARM platform is now part of the multiplatform mechanism: you can build a single zImage for ARMv5 or for ARMv7 which will include support for the ARMv5 or ARMv7 Atmel platforms.
    • Boris Brezillon improved the Atmel DRM/KMS driver for the display controller by switching to atomic mode-setting. He also added Device Tree definitions for the Atmel display controller on Atmel SAMA5D3 and Atmel SAMA5D4.
  • On support for Marvell EBU platforms
    • Ezequiel Garcia enabled the Performance Monitor Unit on Armada 375 and Armada 38x, which allows to use perf on those platforms.
    • Gregory Clement did a number of fixes and minor improvements to support for Marvell EBU platforms.
    • Maxime Ripard enabled the Performance Monitoring Unit on Armada 370/XP, enabling the use of perf on these platforms. He also improved support for the Armada 385 AP board by enabling NAND and USB3 support.
    • Thomas Petazzoni added initial support for the new Marvell Armada 39x platform (clock driver, pinctrl driver, Device Tree). He did some cleanup and fixes in many Device Tree of Marvell EBU platforms and added suspend/resume support in the PCI and pinctrl drivers for these platforms.
  • Other contributions
    • As we posted recently, Alexandre Belloni also became in this release cycle a co-maintainer for the RTC subsystem.
    • Alexandre Belloni added bq27510 support for the bq27x00_battery driver.
    • Maxime Ripard did some small contributions to the dmaengine subsystem, improved the of_touchscreen code and the edt-ft5x06 touchscreen driver, and did some cleanup in the Allwinner sun5i clocksource driver.

For the upcoming 4.2 version, we have 198 patches in linux-next, of which 191 have already been pulled by Linus as part of the 4.2 merge window.

Our complete list of contributions follows:

Free Electrons 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. Free Electrons 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, Free Electrons 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: Free Electrons! 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.

Free Electrons 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.

Embedded Linux training update: Atmel Xplained, and more!

Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained boardWe are happy to announce that we have published a significant update of our Embedded Linux training course. As all our training materials, this update is freely available for everyone, under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA) license.

This update brings the following major improvements to the training session:

  • The hardware platform used for all the practical labs is the Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained platform, a popular platform that features the ARMv7 compatible Atmel SAMA5D3 processor on a board with expansion headers compatible with Arduino shields. The fact that the platform is very well supported by the mainline Linux kernel, and the easy access to a wide range of Arduino shields makes it a very useful prototyping platform for many projects. Of course, as usual, participants to our public training sessions keep their board after the end of the course! Note we continue to support the IGEPv2 board from ISEE for customers who prefer this option.
  • The practical labs that consist in Cross-compiling third party libraries and applications and Working with Buildroot now use a USB audio device connected to the Xplained board on the hardware side, and various audio libraries/applications on the software side. This replaces our previous labs which were using DirectFB as an example of a graphical library used in a system emulated under QEMU. We indeed believe that practical labs on real hardware are much more interesting and exciting.
  • Many updates were made to various software components used in the training session: the toolchain components were all updated and we now use a hard float toolchain, more recent U-Boot and Linux kernel versions are used, etc.

The training materials are available as pre-compiled PDF (slides, labs, agenda), but their source code in also available in our Git repository.

If you are interested in this training session, see the dates of our public training sessions, or order one to be held at your location. Do not hesitate to contact us at for further details!

It is worth mentioning that for the purpose of the development of this training session, we did a few contributions to open-source projects:

Thanks a lot to our engineers Maxime Ripard and Alexandre Belloni, who worked on this major update of our training session.

Linux 3.16 released, Free Electrons 7th contributing company

Linus Torvalds has released the 3.16 kernel a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the KernelNewbies LinuxChanges page has not been updated, but summaries of the merge window (part 1, part 2 and final part) give a good summary of the important changes available in Linux 3.16.

On Free Electrons’ side, 3.16 has been our most active kernel cycle ever: we have merged 388 patches in this cycle, making Free Electrons the 7th company contributing to the Linux kernel by number of patches according to the statistics. Free Electrons is ranked right after Texas Instruments, and before Novell, Renesas or Google. (Note that the statistics rank Free Electrons as 9th, but this includes the “Unknown” and “Hobbyists” categories which are not companies). This strong participation clearly shows Free Electrons’ ability to get code merged in the mainline Linux kernel, as we’ve progressively done since kernel 3.6 over the last two years.

We are therefore available to help companies willing to add support for their hardware (processor, system-on-chip, module, or board) to the mainline Linux kernel. Do not hesitate to contact to get the discussion started.

Our major contributions have again been focused on the support of various ARM processor families:

  • On the Atmel SoC family
    • Conversion of the SAM9RL processor to the Device Tree. Done by Alexandre Belloni.
    • Huge cleanup of ADC/touchscreen handling: improvements in the IIO at91_adc driver to support more SoC families, and conversions of several Atmel platforms to use this driver, and then finally removal of the old atmel_tsadcc driver. Done by Alexandre Belloni.
    • Numerous fixes to the clock handling on various SoCs, following their conversion to the Common Clock Framework. Done by Alexandre Belloni.
    • Conversion of the SAM9RL, SAM9x5 and SAM9n12 SoCs to the Common Clock Framework. Done by Boris Brezillon.
    • Boris Brezillon is now one of the official maintainers for AT91 clock support.
  • On the Allwinner SoC family
    • Addition of PWM support to sun4i and sun7i. Done by Alexandre Belloni.
    • Addition of SMBus support to the regmap subsystem. This was needed to support the P2WI bus of Allwinner A31. Done by Boris Brezillon.
    • New I2C driver for the P2WI bus of Allwinner A31, used to communicate with the PMIC. Done by Boris Brezillon.
    • Improvements to the Allwinner pinctrl driver needed to support the P2WI bus. Done by Boris Brezillon.
    • Addition of a driver for the PRCM (Power, Reset and Clock Management) unit of the Allwinner A31. Done by Boris Brezillon.
    • Numerous cleanups of the pinctrl driver for Allwinner. Done by Maxime Ripard.
    • Addition of the ARM PMU description in the Device Tree of Allwinner platforms. Done by Maxime Ripard.
    • Add USB support for Allwinner A31. Done by Maxime Ripard, with some help from Boris Brezillon.
    • Various improvements to Allwinner clock drivers. Done by Maxime Ripard.
  • On the Marvell Berlin SoC family
    • Addition of basic Device Tree descriptions for several Marvell Berlin processors and boards. Done by Antoine Ténart.
    • Addition of clock drivers and DT clock descriptions of the Marvell Berlin processors. Done by Alexandre Belloni.
    • Addition of the pinctrl drivers for the Marvell Berlin processors. Done by Antoine Ténart.
    • Enabling of SDHCI and GPIO support on Marvell Berlin. Done by Antoine Ténart.
  • On the Marvell EBU SoC family
    • Addition of watchdog support for Armada 375 and Armada 38x, which required some changes to the existing watchdog driver. Done by Ezequiel Garcia.
    • Addition of thermal support for Armada 375 and Armada 38x, which required some changes in the existing armada_thermal driver. Done by Ezequiel Garcia.
    • Improvements of the pxa3xx_nand driver used for NAND support on Armada 370/375/38x/XP to use the newly introduced ECC strength and step size Device Tree bindings, which allows from the Device Tree to override the ECC constraints described by ONFI, when needed to match the bootloader constraints. Done by Ezequiel Garcia.
    • Addition of a generic software TSO (TCP Segmentation Offload) layer, and the corresponding changes to enable this feature in the mv643xx_eth and mvneta network drivers. This gives a huge performance boost in transmit operations! Done by Ezequiel Garcia.
    • SMP support for Armada 375 and Armada 38x has been added. Done by Grégory Clement.
    • cpuidle support for Armada XP has been added. Done by Grégory Clement.
    • USB support (USB2 and USB3) for Armada 375 and Armada 38x has been added. Done by Grégory Clement.
    • Hardware I/O coherency support for Armada 375 and Armada 38x. Done by Thomas Petazzoni.
    • Enabling of the SDHCI and AHCI interfaces on Armada 38x. Done by Thomas Petazzoni.
    • Major clean-up of Marvell Orion5x support. This is an older ARMv5 family of processors from Marvell, having a lot of similarities with Kirkwood and more recent Armada. This cleanup include many Device Tree conversions, up to the point where a few Marvell Orion5x platforms can now be fully described using a Device Tree, with no board file. Done by Thomas Petazzoni.
    • Addition of a new Device Tree binding for fixed network links, i.e links that do not use a MDIO-controlled PHY. This involved both some generic PHY layer improvements, and corresponding changes in the Marvell-specific mvneta network driver. Done by Thomas Petazzoni.
    • Addition of a work-around for a relatively complex PCIe/L2 errata affecting Armada 375/38x, which fixes heavy PCIe traffic when the system is running with hardware I/O coherency enabled. Done by Thomas Petazzoni.

Here is the complete list of patches from Free Electrons merged into the 3.16 kernel:

Linux 3.15 released, an overview of Free Electrons contributions

The 3.15 of the Linux kernel was released just a few days ago by Linus Torvalds. As explained by, the headline features in 3.15 include some significant memory management improvements, the renameat2() system call, file-private POSIX locks, a new device mapper target called dm-era, faster resume from suspend, and more. One can also read the coverage by of the first part and the second part of the merge window to get more details about the major new features in this release.

As usual, Free Electrons contributed to the Linux kernel during this 3.15 cycle, and with a total of 218 patches contributed, it’s a new record for Free Electrons. According to the KPS statistics, Free Electrons ranked #12 in the list of companies contributing to the Linux kernel for the 3.15 kernel (if you exclude the “Unknown” and “Hobbyists” categories, which aren’t really companies).

The main features contributed by Free Electrons again centered around the support for ARM processors:

  • By far, the largest contribution this cycle was the initial support for the new Armada 375 and Armada 38x processors from Marvell. Gregory Clement, Ezequiel Garcia and Thomas Petazzoni have been working on the code to support these processors since a few months ago, and started pushing the patches to the public in February this year. For the Marvell Armada 38x processor, it means that the code was pushed in mainline even before the processor was announced publicly! The features supported in 3.15 for these processors are: interrupts, GPIO, clocks, pin-muxing, serial, I2C, SPI, timer, L2 cache, SDIO (only for 375), SATA (only 375), XOR, PCIe, MBus, networking (only for 38x), NOR and NAND support. Many other features such as SMP, I/O coherency and various other peripherals will be supported in 3.16.
  • Convert support for the Atmel AT91SAM9RL processor to the Device Tree, done by Alexandre Belloni.
  • Addition of iio-hwmon to the Freescale i.MX23 and i.MX28 processors, which allows to use the internal temperature sensor of the processor. Done by Alexandre Belloni.
  • Multiple fixes and improvements to the AT91 ADC support. Done by Alexandre Belloni.
  • Support for the watchdog in Armada 370 and Armada XP was added, done by Ezequiel Garcia.
  • A driver for the SPI controller found in Allwinner A31 SoC was added, as well as all the Device Tree information to describe this controller and related clocks. Done by Maxime Ripard.
  • Support for the I2C controller found in the Allwinner A31 SoC was added into the existing mv64xxx-i2c driver, as well as the necessary Device Tree information to use I2C on this SoC. Done by Maxime Ripard.
  • Audio support was enabled on the Armada 370 SoC, re-using existing code for Kirkwood, and therefore making audio work on the Armada 370 DB platform. Done by Thomas Petazzoni.
  • A number of issues in the PCIe support for Marvell processors have been fixed, thanks to the reports from a number of users. Done by Thomas Petazzoni, with help from these users.

We also contributed other things than just support for ARM processors:

  • The main contribution in this area is the addition of UBI block, a driver that allows to use read-only block filesystems such as squashfs on top of a UBI volume. The code was originally written by David Wagner who was an intern at Free Electrons, and later taken by Ezequiel Garcia who did a lot of additional cleanup work and community discussion to get the driver merged. Some details about this feature can be found in the Linux-MTD documentation.
  • A generic Device Tree binding to express NAND ECC related information in the Device Tree was contributed by Ezequiel Garcia.
  • The quest to remove IRQF_DISABLED continued, by Michael Opdenacker.

In details, all our contributions are:

Marvell publishes the datasheet of the Armada 370 processor

thumb-armada-xpOver the last two years, Free Electrons has contributed support for the Marvell Armada 370 and Marvell Armada XP processors to the mainline Linux kernel. These ARM processors are used mainly in Network Attached Storage devices but also in other devices such as printers. Until now the datasheet for these processors was only available for Marvell customers and partners under NDA, but last week, Marvell finally released the datasheet of the Armada 370 publicly, with no restriction, no registration, no NDA. The Armada 370 processor can already be found in several consumer grade products:

From now on, on the Marvell page (broken link removed) related to the Armada 3xx family, the Armada 370 Functional Specification (broken link removed) as well as the Armada 370 Hardware Specifications (broken link removed) can be found. While the Armada XP datasheet is not available at this time, it is worth mentioning that the vast majority of the peripherals are exactly the same between Armada 370 and Armada XP, so even Armada XP users will find useful information in this datasheet.

Free Electrons is happy to see that Marvell is making more and more progress towards mainlining their kernel support and opening their datasheets publicly. We strongly believe that the openness of these datasheets will allow hobbyists and developers to improve the support for Armada 370 in the open-source ecosystem, be it in the Linux kernel, in bootloaders like U-Boot or Barebox or even in other projects.

Free Electrons welcomes Boris Brezillon and Antoine Ténart

Boris Brezillon
Antoine Ténart

We are happy to announce that our engineering team has recently welcomed two new embedded Linux engineers: Boris Brezillon and Antoine Ténart. Boris and Antoine will both be working from the Toulouse office of the company, together with Maxime Ripard and Thomas Petazzoni. They will be helping Free Electrons to address the increasing demand for its development and training services.

Antoine started his professional experience with Embedded Linux and Android in 2011. Before joining Free Electrons in 2014, he started with low level Android system development at Archos (France), and worked on Embedded Linux and Android projects at Adeneo Embedded (France). He joined Free Electrons early March, and has already been involved in kernel contributions on the Marvell Berlin processors and the Atmel AT91 processors, and is also working on our upcoming Yocto training course.

Boris joined Free Electrons on April, 1st, and brings a significant embedded Linux experience that he gained while working on home automation devices at Overkiz (France). He was maintaining a custom distribution built with the Yocto. Boris also has already contributed many patches to the mainline Linux kernel sources, in particular for the Atmel AT91 ARM SoCs. Boris is also developing the NAND controller driver for the Allwinner ARM processors and has proposed improvements to the core Linux MTD subsystem (see this thread and this other thread).

Embedded Linux Conference 2014, Free Electrons participation

San JoséOne of the most important conference of the Embedded Linux community will take place at the end of this month in California: the Embedded Linux Conference will be held in San Jose from April, 29th to May, 1st, co-located with the Android Builders Summit. The schedule for both of these events has been published, and it is full of interesting talks on a wide range of embedded topics.

As usual, Free Electrons will participate to this conference, but this participation will be the most important ever:

If you are interested in embedded Linux, we highly advise you to attend this conference. And if you are interested in business or recruiting opportunities with Free Electrons, it will also be the perfect time to meet us!

Linux 3.14 released, Free Electrons contributions inside!

Linus Torvalds has just released the 3.14 version of the Linux kernel. As usual, it incorporates a large number of changes, for which a good summary is available on the KernelNewbies site.

This time around, Free Electrons is the 19th company contributing to this kernel release, by number of patches, right between Cisco and Renesas. Six of our engineers have contributed to this release: Maxime Ripard, Alexandre Belloni, Ezequiel Garcia, Grégory Clement, Michael Opdenacker and Thomas Petazzoni. In total, they have contributed 121 patches to this kernel release.

  • By far, the largest number of patches are related to the addition of NAND support for the Armada 370 and Armada XP processors. This required a significant effort, done by Ezequiel Garcia, to re-use the existing pxa3xx_nand driver and extend it to cover the specificities of the Armada 370/XP NAND controller. And these specificities were quite complicated, involving a large number of changes to the driver, which all had to also be validated on existing PXA3xx hardware to not introduce any regression.
  • Support for high speed timers on various Allwinner SOCs has been added by Maxime Ripard.
  • Support for the Allwinner reset controller has been implemented by Maxime Ripard.
  • SMP support for the Allwinner A31 SOC was added by Maxime Ripard.
  • A number of small fixes and improvements were made to the AT91 pinctrl driver and the pinctrl subsystem by Alexandre Belloni.
  • Michael Opdenacker continued his quest to finally get rid of the IRQF_DISABLED flag.
  • A number of fixes and improvements were made by Grégory Clement and Thomas Petazzoni on various Armada 370/XP drivers: fix for the I2C controller on certain early Armada XP revisions, fixes to make the Armada 370/XP network driver usable as a module, etc.

In detail, our contributions were:

Updated version of our kernel driver development course: Device Tree, BeagleBone Black, Wii Nunchuk, and more!

BeagleBone Black connected to the Wii Nunchuk over I2C
In the last few years, the practical labs of our Embedded Linux kernel and driver development training were based on the ARMv5 Calao USB-A9263 platform, and covering the ARM kernel support as it was a few years ago. While we do regularly update our training session materials, with all the changes that occurred in the ARM kernel world over the last two years, it was time to make more radical changes to this training course. This update is now available since last month, and we’ve already successfully given several sessions of this updated course.

The major improvements and updates are:

  • All the practical labs are now done on the highly popular ARMv7 based BeagleBone Black, which offers much more expansion capabilities than the Calao USB-A9263 platform we were using. This also means that participants to our public training sessions keep the BeagleBone Black with them after the session!
  • All the course materials and practical labs were updated to cover and use the Device Tree mechanism. We also for example cover how to configure pin muxing on the BeagleBone Black through the Device Tree.
  • The training course is now centered around the development of two device drivers:
    1. A driver for the Wii Nunchuk. This device is connected over I2C to the BeagleBone Black, and we detail, step by step, how to write a driver that communicates over I2C with the device and then exposes the device functionalities to userspace through the input kernel subsystem.
    2. A minimal driver for the OMAP UART, which we use to illustrate how to interface with memory-mapped devices: mapping I/O registers, accessing them, handling interrupts, putting processes to sleep and waking them up, etc. We expose some minimal functionality of the device to userspace through the misc kernel subsystem. This subsystem is useful to expose the functionalities of non-standard types of devices, such as custom devices implemented inside FPGAs.

And as usual, all the training materials are freely available, under a Creative Commons license, so you can study in detail the contents of the training session. It is also worth mentioning that this training session is taught by Free Electrons engineers having practical and visible experience in kernel development, as can be seen in the contributions we made in the latest kernel releases: 3.9, 3.10, 3.11 and 3.12.

For details about cost and registration, see our Training cost and registration page.