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.

Electrical Schematics as a present for the New Year’s Eve?

The 2018 is approaching and we are reaching our first campaign goal. We are now at the 64% of the requested amount thanks to more than 100 donors. If you would like to receive the Electrical Schematics as a present for the New Year’s Eve, please help us adding the remaining 4600 euros. Meanwhile we continue doing our best in all areas to push the project forward, so please, have a look at the following activities demonstrating how seriously we pursue our goals.

Electrical Schematics as a present for the New Year’s Eve

Electrical Schematics as a present for the New Year’s Eve

Open Source Summit, France

We participated at the Open Source Summit in France where Fadi Osman was attending the event. The Alionet (OpenSUSE) group kindly hosted us, we were able to distribute many flyers, as well as give out a printed version of our presentation, and we answered many questions at their booth.  People were curious on why we were with the OpenSUSE group, and Fadi explained the scope of our association, the notebook project and the need for a Linux distribution.

OpenSUSE booth with Power Progress Community at Open Source Summit Paris December 2017

OpenSUSE booth with Power Progress Community at Open Source Summit Paris December 2017

A funny thing occurred during the event: a laptop was just next to our printed presentation, and people mistakenly thought it was our PowerPC notebook and started going crazy questioning us!

Fadi also had a fruitful discussion with a guy who knew and used PowerPC. He started questioning why we stick to PowerPC, as ARM 64 was more interesting, more easily available, cheaper, and equipped with enough power. Fadi explained to him that Power Progress Community is open to other hardware, but firmly stated that PowerPC still is an interesting platform in terms of computing power, energy consumption, reliability and costs. It just totally lacks any visibility, as big firms are not using it in their famously branded products, and the mainstream public is not aware of its existence. Just count the number of companies, association and groups dealing with the mainstream ARM platform: there is way too much competition in this field, and surely there is no need for new supporters.

Finally, Fadi had the chance to contact a student in industrial engineering and this is quite interesting if you continue reading the next point.

 

Unveiling our new project

A new project just kick off in the Power Progress Community: an open source laptop chassis design. The objective is to create a 3D printable notebook chassis that, of course, will fit our PowerPC Notebook motherboard and any other similar motherboard projects. Take a look at the website (still in an early status), and contact us if you want to collaborate. We would like to invite any 3D enthusiast, such as designers, industrial engineers, students, or simply anyone capable of 3D modelling to be part of this new adventure.

Obviously at the moment this is not the only chassis option for our future PowerPC notebook motherboard but it is better to have this option 😀

Final words

As you can see, we are moving towards our objectives and involving more and more people in our activities. The engineer is getting close to a finalized schematic design. We do really need the help of everyone, do invite your friends and other people who might be interested in donating, and spread the idea to attract new contributors.

If you have not done it yet, it is a perfect time to make a donation and actively contribute to achieve the €12,600 final goal by the end of 2017, and finally make the schematics design a reality!

We really want to make it happen: a PowerPC notebook released as Open Source!

PowerPC Notebook Block Diagram done!

Three months have passed since the kick-off of our campaign, and it is now time to share a status update.

We reached the amount of €7100 thanks to more than one hundred donors that contributed, in some cases with more than one donation. We are thinking about how to boost the donations to achieve the €12600 final goal. We have seen that a good number of donors are new followers of the project, so it seems that our communication activities successfully attracted new people. We now want to go even further, so we kindly ask everyone to share more and more our project, for example supporting its advertisement in online tech magazines and forums, websites and other media. To promote these activities, the project was presented last week end at two Linux Day events in Italy, one in Milan by Roberto I. and one in Bolzano/Bozen by Diego M. The very same week-end ACube advertised the project at the very successful Amiga32 event in Neuss (Germany) and many people have shown their interest. On November 11th, Philippe F. will give a presentation at the Alchimie 12 event in Tain l’Hermitage (France).

Do you want the electrical schematics to be ready by Christmas? The solution is only one: prepare yourself for an active contribution, either by donating, and by involving more people!

PowerPC Notebook block diagram

PowerPC Notebook block diagram

Regarding the work in progress, ACube is working on the electrical schematics design and sent an early block diagram that was extensively discussed with our hardware core team of volunteers. After this discussion, in particular regarding an NDA component, we have arrived to a final version agreed by both sides: almost all components are identified. We are including PowerPC Notebook block diagram a block diagram of our PowerPC Notebook motherboard (without integrated circuit names). We will disclose all integrated circuit names when we will reach the required amount of donations to complete the electrical schematic, as agreed with ACube. Then, we will publish design files when a design phase is completely finished and tending to be error-free and fault-free. Before that, anyone wanting to actively collaborate in the design review can join and participate in our project and association.

In a nutshell, we are working hard to promote the campaign, and ACube is on track to accomplish phase one of the project. We see the light at the end of the tunnel! Keep it up!

Lastly we want to remember the importance of small recurrent donations. The possibility of having many people helping with a small amount of money monthly is very interesting for us as this will guarantee the constant work of the hardware designer.

The fundraising of the PowerPC Notebook reaches a 20% of its goal in six days

The fundraising of the PowerPc Notebook has reached a 20% of its goal in six days. This is a good starting point but we need you to spread our project to achieve our target.

Remember this campaign is trying to lead to a fully open source hardware. Releasing a complete laptop product as Open Source is an important step that people will forward across the globe. So this project is important to spread the open source philosophy. Do not miss this opportunity. Donate now!.

In another vein, we are tracking the campaign and following what people says in social networks. Some of you have expressed some concerns because there is no refund if the campaign fails. As we have explained in the FAQ of the campaign page, if we cannot reach the sum of 12600€ we will use the money to fund a similar project in the scope of the association (Power Progress Community) mission. As is stated in the statutes (ART 3):

“The Association promotes and disseminates software (especially open source software), and open hardware (with focus on, but not limited to, PowerPC and OpenPower architectures) with the aim of sharing knowledge and expertise.”

There are also discussions about the final specs of the machine. We cannot give all the details because is the objective of this stage to determine what components to include. So what we can do right now is to clarify that we want to have an MXM connector for the graphic card but we cannot guarantee that it will be finally included.

We are in the good way! Just remember that everything will start after we reach the 12600€ goal and we are very close to that. Do not hesitate to contact us to ask or comment whatever.

The PowerPC Notebook campaign has just started

We are very happy to announce that our funding campaign has just started. Starting today, we will accept donations through our campaign page with the objective of collecting funds to establish a contract with Acube Systems to design the PowerPC Notebook motherboard.

It has been a long way and we feel we are only starting. We wanted to reach this point many months ago but we found some difficulties and we tried to find solutions for all of them. In this time we have created our non profit association (Power Progress Community), we started a preliminary task for selecting hardware components, we have identified people to maintain a Linux distribution, we contacted companies and organizations and of course, we received you support in our website, in our facebook page, in the forum and other social networks.

The PowerPC Notebook campaign has just started

The PowerPC Notebook campaign has just started

After all this work and solving all these issues we are ready to collect the money required to start the engineering process. In the end, it is not the intention of this blog entry to explain all the details here so, we invite you to find all the information in the  campaign page: https://fundraising.powerpc-notebook.org/

Thank you very much for your support and enthusiasm.

Debian 9 and PowerPC

As you probably know, the PowerPC Notebook team had already selected Debian 9 (Stretch) OS, as it seemed to offer a lot of advantages (DFSG, Altivec, compatibility etc…). Because of this, the Debian team has recently decided to remove powerpc (Big Endian) from its release architectures for the upcoming Debian 9 (Stretch) and Debian testing (Stretch) powerpc repositories have been removed. Besides that, they will keep ppc64el (Little Endian) as a release architecture (For those of you who don’t know the difference between powerpc, ppc64el (and ppc64) – check the short summary on the end of this message).

Debian

Debian 9 is coming

One of the reasons of this decision was an apparent lack of porters/maintainers/testers – Although the powerpc Debian team includes some very competent, motivated and reactive people.

Some of us are willing to take the Debian powerpc road,  but we need volunteers, people willing to give some of their time to the Debian powerpc community, to learn, test, fix bugs etc…

This does not suggest we don’t keep a “plan B” – by testing another distribution. It is just that Debian powerpc works well on current 32 bits and 64 bits machines, and we can try to keep this situation.

If you have a 32 or 64 bits PowerPC machine, and want to join us in keeping Debian powerpc alive, contact us on team@powerprogress.org.

Short summary about powerpc / ppc64 / ppc64el :

  • powerpc is the historical Debian PowerPC port (1997).   It works on 32 and 64 bits Big Endian PowerPC (G3/G4/G5 and newer freescale/NXP chips).  That’s what you would use on your PowerMac/PowerBook/Genesi/Amiga machines. Note that is supports Altivec, which accelerates greatly some applications (video, graphics, image processing).
  • ppc64 (Big Endian) was supposed to be used on 64 bits Big Endian PowerPC only (G5 and newer freescale/NXP chips). It has some advantages over the first but currently is not so well supported as powerpc.
  • ppc64el (Little Endian) started with Debian 8 Jessie. It works on newer Power chips from IBM (for servers). Despite some newer freescale/NXP chips can also be used in Little Endian mode  (but without Altivec) they can not be used with ppc64el as this version is compiled with VSX  (Vector Scalar eXtension) enabled.

 

The power of a team: the PowerPC team

GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook team

The power of the GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook team

It’s been over a month since our previous post so it’s time to report about our activities. Basically,  we are working on the same issues we discussed in the previous news. Anyway, in this PowerPC Notebook project update, we will try to go over all the areas that we are working on, just because our idea is to be as transparent as possible.

Status of the GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook project

Firstly, regarding the creation of an organization, we have evaluated to establish a foundation but the cost is too expensive for us. We have also tried to get the protection of an existing organization but, sadly, we have not been answered. Finally the most suitable and fast solution for us is to register a non-profit association in Italy. This association will promote the funding campaign for the motherboard design and prototypes.

On the hardware side, we have a first list of components to be used in the notebook. We are evaluating their suitability to our needs and also choosing them according to how much open they are. We still have to keep working on this, discarding some elements and adding new ones. We are doing this in collaboration with the designer of the motherboard.

Our software team remains in contact with the Debian community but again we move slowly and we need more feedback to be able to focus our efforts. The software team is thinking about an alternative approach to streamline this task.

Finally, we have to talk about obtaining a chassis for our laptop. In this case we can say that we are contacting several companies that supply barebone notebooks and some other laptop producers. Here again we must say that we are waiting for responses. Our preferred option would be to obtain the help of Iameco. We love its chassis and case concept for ethical reasons. The Iameco laptop is produced  using recyclable materials and producing a minimal carbon footprint. We would love to design our motherboard to fit one of its chassis.

Our spirit

In short, all the community  groups  are working hard and some progress has been achieved by all of them. In addition, our community continues to grow daily. We have new volunteers for translation, dissemination of our messages and for the computer software. Some of our new members apologize in advance for not having much time, we answer always saying that we are volunteers, we are moved by our principles and we try to  reach our objectives enjoying the project with passion and enthusiasm. If you miss the days when computers had more personality, join us and help us recover the spirit of the pioneers of computing.

GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook at “Fa’ la cosa giusta!” fair of conscious consumption

This saturday 14th March I will present to everybody our GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook project at “Fa’ la cosa giusta!” – The national fair of conscious consumption and sustainable lifestyles (Italy) 12th edition, Milan, 13-14-15 March 2015 – more info about “Fa’ la cosa giusta!”

Fa La Cosa Giusta - The national fair of conscious consumption and sustainable lifestyles

Fa La Cosa Giusta – The national fair of conscious consumption and sustainable lifestyles

I will be in the “padiglione 4” of Fieramilanocity, Peace and Partecipation, stand PP06 inside the stand of “computer solidarity” (Informatica Solidale) association.

I will be there trying to recruit volunteers for the PowerPC Notebook project; inform the wider Computer and FOSS community about the projects existence, I will provide updated information about how my endeavors go and I hope this time I will take more photos :D

We have opened a new board, Public physical Presentation , on the forum where everyone can share information about events where the GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook project makes an appearance or is mentioned. Continue reading