Outstanding projects for PowerPC 64 big endian

JdLL 2018

As you probably know, we were attending the JDLL meeting (Journées du Logiciel Libre, The days of the open software, https://www.jdll.org/) and we promised to give an update about our participation. This time, our attendees were Phillipe Ferrucci and Fadi Osman. They gave a speech introducing our project and explained all the details. Using Fadi’s own words:

“It was a pleasure meeting Philippe! We also saw the OpenSUSE guys and other people one of which is the inventor of the magnetic stripe. Very impressive!

The Haiku people were very nice and helped us!”

During the speech about twenty to thirty  people were attending. We were asked the usual questions: Why have you chosen PowerPC?  Is PowerPC really open source? …

As usual, we very much insisted on the importance of diversity, and brough the well-known Intel cpu bug, most notably Meltdown and Spectre on the table, and the existence of back doors as a real life example of the issues deriving from the present technological monopoly. We also stated the importance of keeping PowerPC Linux distros alive, especially in their PPC64 variant.

Regarding the second question “is PowerPC open source?”, we explained the work behind the OpenPower foundation. Moreover, one of the reasons we chose PowerPC is also the background of people involved  in the project, in a way or another: most of us are owners of classic or new generation Amigas and PowerPC macs.

Journées du Logiciel Libre

Journées du Logiciel Libre

During the interesting discussion, there was people trying to help overcoming the described problems encountered in carrying out our activities, and made suggestions based on  their very valuable experience and knowledge.

  • Someone suggested to simplify the design by removing the SATA controller and connect the SSD directly using the I/O interface.
  • Another person talked about all the issues that were encountered by the people developing the Pandora console, such as designing its chassis.
  • We got a very interesting and useful information from people who can help us with industrialization issues.
  • Others suggested that more people could be more attracted by an open source PPC raspberry pi format board, instead of a PPC laptop.
  • We also had a conversation with the CEO of Why! which is already one of our main donors and is interested in further collaborating and selling the notebook.

Encourage the continued support of PPC64

Now we want to mention the new proposal from Aaron Smith (another of our main donors in the crowdfunding campaign, as well as the Amiga on the Lake’s CEO). He is asking PPC64 Linux users to help encourage the continued support of PPC64

The Amiga On The Lake company is working to provide a fully featured Linux “version” expressly developed for the AmigaOne X5000 computer. To achieve this goal, Aaron is offering a discount to “any serious developer that wants an AmigaOne X5000 motherboard to develop on”. In addition to that, he is asking all Power Mac G5 owners to actively support the Debian PPC64 development.

Read the full communication here.

Continuing our Yocto Project research

We are still developing a research Linux image based on Yocto Project. We are not sure yet if we will produce a custom distribution using Yocto or, if it will be too much of an effort for us. In any case, the work we are doing is being useful for the entire PPC community. As an example, we found a bug that caused an error building a 4.14 kernel for ppc64. We reported it to the Yocto Project bug tracker and we proposed a patch that was accepted, committed and will be available in the upcoming 2.5 version.

PowerPC yocto project

PowerPC yocto project

In addition to that, we are currently trying to build Firefox 52 ESR (Extended Release Support). Fully working and well-performing Web browsers are indeed the main headache we have in the software area on the PPC platform. At the moment, there are only a few Web browsers that can be built for PowerPC and Firefox has to be compiled using special configuration flags and source code patches to avoid issues. In order to build it, we are gathering information mainly from Gentoo, Debian, RedHat and OpenSUSE forums and issue trackers. Using this, we were able to compile and run Firefox but we are lacking a JIT JavaScript engine, causing major slowdowns while browsing and we still need to resolve a series of remaining bugs and test the final result properly.

In case you want to collaborate in that tasks you can contact us

Adelie / Alpine PowerPC distro

The maintainer of Adelie is a highly skilled programmer who loves ppc64, a tier 1 architecture for PowerPC.

Adélie and Alpine: PowerPC distros for each endianness

Alpine Linux is a widely-known distribution focused on security and small footprint, built on the musl libc.  IBM has helped port Alpine to the ppc64el architecture (little-endian), and as of Alpine 3.7 it is officially supported.

Moreover, Adélie Linux is focused on making an easy-to-use desktop environment that runs on any speed or age of hardware, based on Alpine tools and musl libc. It officially supports the ppc64 architecture (big-endian) and was the first distribution to fully support ppc64 on musl, and to ship the LXQt environment on ppc64/musl.

adeline PowerPC Linux distro

Adelie PowerPC Linux distro

“We feel the future of libre computing lies in PowerPC, and we are excited to see where the PowerPC platform goes,” said A. Wilcox, lead of Adélie.  “Projects like GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook and Raptor’s Talos show a bright future of truly libre and owner-controlled hardware.”

* Alpine Linux is available at https://alpinelinux.org/
* Adélie Linux is available at https://adelielinux.org/

Compiling PowerPC64 Debian packages on IBM Power8 instance at the Oregon University

Thanks to the OSU Open Source Lab of Oregon University and OpenPower Foundation we obtained the access to the OpenStack running on Power8 server so we have started an Power8 instance with 4 vcpu , 8GB of RAM and we have started to compile PowerPC packages, in particular big endian (BE) packages for Debian powerpc that we publish in our public repo. These compiled packages run on ppc64 G5 machine, and might turn out to be useful for our future Open Hardware Laptop.

We have prepared a Debian 8.10 PowerPC BE instance based on a Power8 based on OpenStack to compile Debian PowerPC BE packages for the “sid” release (unstable).

You can check our project in the OSU Open Source Lab

Thanks to Power8 instance now we can compile big packages of applications in a fraction of time we need with a PowerMac G5 dual core, or with X86.

mame ppc64be compilations

mame ppc64be compilations

In case you want to fix debian packages to run optimized for powerpc64 big endian with altivec please please contact us.

 

Cloud resources to explore, learn, and develop on POWER

https://developer.ibm.com/linuxonpower/cloud-resources/

Oregon State University

Oregon State University

Power Progress Community Debian repository

Our software working group have patched some Debian sid (unstable) packages, enabling specific optimizations for the ppc64 platform and enabling the Altivec support, if available. The work is also focused on fixing bugs and porting to ppc64 as many packages as possible.  You may find our repository and the instructions on how to try it out at http://repo.powerprogress.org

In case you want to collaborate with us you can contact us

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Firefox Compiled installable from our repo.powerprogress.org

 

repo powerprogress packages list

repo powerprogress packages list

Presentation of our project at the Monza Linux User Group, Italy

We thanks our friends at Brigx for the warm hospitality at their place in Bernareggio, Monza Brianza, Italy, where we presented our project. The people attending seems very interested on the current activities, and we take the opportunity to thank for their valuable donations.

One thought on “Outstanding projects for PowerPC 64 big endian

  1. Hi guys. Just thought I would share an article for reference I wrote last year. It deals with the problem of being big endian in a little endian world. It also goes into detail of what endian is and where it stemmed from. In the process I unintentionally gave a history of computers during my research. I also cite examples where each endian has a strength or weakness. I give examples where big endian makes logical sense and little endian wouldn’t be inter-operable with its own kind. As well as where big endian would practical but market trends force it to be impractically little endian. Well from my point of view any way. It does have a leaning towards AmigaOS4 but the focus is on PowerPC and big endian. So thought I would share it as I find it relevant to this big endian discussion.

    https://blitterwolf.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-worlds-fastest-endian.html

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