In this article we will report electrical schematics and donations progress and our current activities. Those of you who are following our twitter account and facebook page have already received updates about our work.We are mainly, but not only, focused on software development. In a nutshell, our developers are testing current Linux distributions, setting up the best emulation environment for a Qoriq T2080 machine using Qemu and even experimenting with Yocto Project in order to evaluate a custom made distribution.
Working on PowerPC GNU/Linux distro’s
Let’s start with the distributions first. As you may know, we stated from the beginning that our intention was to help to maintain Debian for 64bit PowerPC (ppc64) and include it as the default Linux OS for our notebook. This idea is still our goal but we have found more good options such as Lubuntu, openSuse and even Gentoo. In relation to this, our testers are creating a list of actively supported Linux distributions working on PowerPC and are evaluating the installation procedure, their performance and keeping trace of the issues found.
In addition to that, we found an interesting resource at http://bgafc.t-hosting.hu/oses4ppc.php where you can find a list of available Operating Systems for PowerPC.
Kernel 4.14 and Video Cards on PowerMac G5
Another good finding was done by one of our members when compiling a custom and experimental kernel using 4.14 sources and GCC 7.3 on Gentoo in a PowerMac G5. As he reported, “gcc 7.3.0 is definitely an improvement! Both 2D and 3D acceleration do no longer freeze the card (AGP Radeon 9650 + 9800) on a G5. Also Firefox runs pretty stable now and less sluggish too (could be ’cause it’s running on accelerated Xorg now)”. In addition to this, we are testing newer PCIe video cards on a PowerMac G5 , using the Open Firmware command “boot-device hd0:,\\”, so without using yaboot and without tbxi.
Testing an emulated e6500 core in Qemu
Another effort is being done to setup a virtual environment to emulate our future notebook using Qemu. This is important as it will enable the development of software and to test, for instance, the u-boot boot process. Most importantly, it will allow any interested person to play around with our target platform and configuration, even if owners of x86 hardware only. Sadly there isn’t a ready-made QEMU machine configuration that fits perfectly our specifications, but that’s the reason we are working on this task in the first place. So far, it seems feasible to fire up a machine based on a e6500 CPU using QEMU version 2.11 using the built-in u-boot, but we still have issues making it boot a linux partition. It seems that lately the QEMU development mailing list (https://lists.nongnu.org/archive/html/qemu-devel/) is putting a great effort in putting the PowerPC emulation in a much better shape, making us confident that the upcoming 2.12 will be a life changer for reaching our goal (https://wiki.qemu.org/Planning/2.12). Stay tuned.
Yocto Project for PowerPC Linux Image
Recently, we are experimenting with Yocto Project creating a Linux image. We are evaluating this possibility as it could be an additional option for setting up a fine-tuned OS when the hardware arrives. Currently it runs an LXQT Desktop Environment and includes applications such as Otter browser, The Gimp, kvirc, qBittorrent, Audacious, Mpv, Qps and Speedcrunch. Now we are focusing on having working kernels for a Mac Mini G4 and PowerMac G5.
Video Card works on NXP T4240QDS devkit
The Borea team tried to setup a desktop based on the NXP T4240QDS development system. After not too much of a struggle he managed to get Gentoo Linux up and running with LXDE, and using an ordinary off-the-shelf ATI Radeon PCIe card and the T4240’s native networking using DPAA, so with no PCIe ethernet adapter. The Borea team used a vanilla Linux 4.14 kernel, a standard PowerPC Gentoo distribution and additionally, Cairo Dock to test the nice GPU effects to check if 2D acceleration was working. The result performed surprisingly well, and without any instability issues! For example, VLC was able to play FullHD Xvid content using 2 cores out of 24 available running at 1,6 GHz with Altivec enabled. LibreOffice 188.8.131.52 works nicely too. Unfortunately getting any web browser running seems to be a bit of a challenge. Firefox 54.x compiles, but gives a segmentation fault at startup, Firefox 58 does not even compile at all, but the team had just a quick try on that. Some packages runs into illegal instructions, most probably due to incompatibilities with the Power8/9 ISA, or probably not all apps correctly support Altivec ABI. Some work has to be done on these issues, but the overall impression using a T4240 in a desktop environment felt quite fast indeed.
We will be attending “Les journées du Logiciel Libre” on March 24th
Finally, we will attend the meeting “Les journées du Logiciel Libre” (“Days of Open Software”) the 24th and 25th of March 2018 in Lyon (http://www.jdll.org/). We will make our presentation named “Portable Open Hardware” on the 24th of March 2018 at 12h30 at the”Maison Pour Tous”, Salle des Rancy 249 rue Vendôme 69003, Lyon. See the map at https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/49680968
Don’t miss the latest issue of BSD Mag including an article by Saulo Paiva explaining our Open Source Power Notebook project and an interview with Roberto Innocenti.
On the 29th December 2017 we submitted our project “Open Hardware GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook” to the Italian “FunkyPrize”. Funkyprize is an award established in 2014 in memory of Marco Zamperini, an Italian professor that knew how to push the younger generations to an informed and cutting edge use of new technologies. The FunkyPrize aims to help filling the gap created by its premature disappearance, encouraging those who intend to pursue its mission, for a more mature, aware and widespread use of the Internet in Italy, and for developing the potential of the Internet as a tool for improving the quality of life and creating new forms of participation in the social and economic life of the country.
Sadly, we have not been selected as a finalist for the prize 🙁
Electrical Schematics Ready! waiting for the last 25% of donations
We just want to remember that our campaign is not targeted to make a product. We aim to create a freely available, well-documented and production-ready electrical schematics, allowing anyone to produce and, why not, customize a PowerPC based hardware.
At the time of writing this,we have reached the 75% of the required amount of money and with your (little) help we can make it happen.
When achieved the goal of this phase ( currently we are at 75%) we will balance the designer and he will transfer us the Eletrical Schematics,as we are agreed. After the needed reviews we will release this work to the Community.
If you are thinking on helping us, instead of one-time donation, you may want to consider a recursive, monthly donation. This could have a smaller impact to your account. Moreover, monthly donations allow us to better plan our activity, and most importantly, they let the engineer know the remaining period for reaching the final goal.
Please, spread our project and help us to make possible this amazing Linux PowerPC Notebook.