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 and Donations progress, winter Activities

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.

debian buster/sid ppc64

debian buster/sid ppc64 multiarch ppc32

debian buster/sid ppc64 multiarch ppc32

debian buster/sid ppc64

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.

Custom PPC Yocto PowerPC

Custom PPC Yocto PowerPC

 

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 5.4.5.1 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.

Gentoo ppc64 on NXP T4240QDS

Gentoo ppc64 on NXP T4240QDS devikit

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

 

Les journées du Logiciel Libre

Les journées du Logiciel Libre

BSD Mag

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.

Our PowerPC Notebook project on BSD magazine

Our PowerPC Notebook project on BSD magazine

FunkyPrize participation

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 🙁

Here you can find more info about our participation in FunkyPrize.

Funky Prize

Funky 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.