[Arm-netbook] Some Pine64 Experiences (via Planet Debian)

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Tue Oct 11 19:16:37 BST 2016

On Tuesday 11. October 2016 19.48.43 Wookey wrote:
> On 2016-10-11 19:11 +0200, Paul Boddie wrote:
> > 
> > I saw this on Planet Debian today:
> > 
> > "Once more this is where, once again, the story turns bleak. We find a
> > very pretty website but no obvious link to the software (hint scroll to
> > the bottom and find the "support" wiki link) once you find the wiki you
> > will eventually discover that the provided software is either an Android
> > 5.1.1 image (which failed to start on my board) or relies on some random
> > guy from the forums who has put together his own OS images using a
> > hacked up Allwinner Board Support Package (BSP) kernel."
> > 
> > http://vincentsanders.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-pine-stays-green-in-winter
> > - wisdom.html
> Vincent Sanders (kylikki) is a fairly high-level 'some random guy'.
> He's part of the 'Debian digerati' in Cambridge and a _very_ long-time arm
> kernel developer, so he does at least have plenty of clue.

Not arguing with you there. Given his apparent involvement with NetSurf, I 
start to wonder whether he was in the RISC OS scene at some point - the name 
is familiar, certainly - but perhaps I shouldn't say such unkind things in 
public. ;-)

> Doesn't mean he'll keep looking after this board with new images, of
> course. Which is perhaps what you meant by 'random... OS images'.

For the record, I'm quoting Vincent here, so the "random guy" is actually 
someone else. Going to the forums to find out who he means is one of those 
infuriating experiences involving some phpBB clone, lots of forums and 
"subforums", zillions of multipage threads, and presumably lots of people 
"hanging out" on "the boards" while useful information drains away through the 
cracks. However, it appears that Simon Eisenmann is the "random guy", in fact.

> > I wonder what the licence compliance situation is with the vendor's own
> > software. And some of the other experiences, particularly involving
> > reliability, give a depressing sense of déjà vu to anyone with any
> > moderate amount of experience with ambitious single-board computer
> > efforts where the vendor shipped hardware without proper software
> > support, arguably to get "bottoms on seats" and to drum up business.
> I don't really know about the pine people specifically, but having
> recently met with a guy from Allwinner (who is paying Luke to educate
> his engineers :-) Allwinner are definitely trying to improve things so
> that we hackers get a proper experience (either docs or code with a
> suitable licence), at least for some 'annointed-for-use-by-developers'
> chips to start with (which is still missing the point rather, but them
> concentrating efforts on selected products to start with probably
> makes practical sense, and maybe one day it'll apply to everything, as
> it should). One fight at a time...

With regard to the vendor, I was referring to the Pine people, and I think 
Luke had a rant about them in the context of ordering products from Allwinner 
and not using that as leverage. After all, the Pine people are on the hook for 
any copyright infringement at the point of delivering products as part of 
their campaign.

> They have noticed the persistent bad press/poor reputation and have
> understood that what geeks think does actually matter in the long
> term, as does upstreaming. It's a big company of course and not
> everyone gets it yet, but I think we'll see progress over the next few
> months, and hopefully be in a rather better place this time next year.
> If we can get Allwinner to DTRT then a) it's much easier for board
> manufacturers to DTRT and b) we care less because we can fix things
> ourselves and mainline stuff can be used.

DTRT is "do the right thing", I guess: nothing to do with device tree. ;-)

I guess this is something that more established companies figured out a while 
ago. I hope that they see that getting out of their own way actually creates 

Meanwhile, significant international partners should be doing their part, too: 
I noticed that Imagination had managed to prise the jz4780 SoC programming 
manual out of Ingenic for public dissemination around their Creator CI20 
product, albeit without any documentation for Imagination's own technologies 
embedded in that product. Not everyone finds reverse-engineering new stuff a 
rewarding use of their time, especially when there's plenty of other new stuff 
out there.


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