[Arm-netbook] Anyone here made a "TV computer"?

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton lkcl at lkcl.net
Fri Nov 4 17:50:17 GMT 2011

On Fri, Nov 4, 2011 at 1:32 PM, David Given <dg at cowlark.com> wrote:
> Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote:
> [...]
>>  and, why would _any_ free software developer buy one of these
>> raspberry pi devices?
> Well, I know why *I* would get one: it's cheap.

 would you be interested in anything that has a higher bang-per-buck
ratio?  or just cheaper?  (or both)

 details on the allwinner A10 are emerging, but they include:

 * MALI GPU 400 (confirmed)
 * Cortex A8 (confirmed)
 * 1.5ghz clock speed (to be confirmed)
 * definitely 512mb DDR3 800mhz RAM (up to 2gb to be confirmed)
 * up to 2160p video (yes, twice the width of 1080p)
 * 4 SDIO ports (one of which at least is SD 3.0)
 * USB-OTG as well as a 2nd USB-HOST port
 * 10/100 Ethernet

 details are sketchy because even the company selling the chip has
been caught by surprise, is supplying a reference design which is
going straight into production pretty much "as-is" - nobody's asking
"can this do any better", except me! really really weird situation :)

 my contact in china _has_ obtained the GPL source code: as they are
not software developers i am working with them to get it out onto a
free software repository.

 we have 5 people interested already (but are going to do this "by the
book".  so, i get to take all the risk first, confirm it's all
working, then we go to 2nd stage release, _then_ we go wider release)

> Vastly cheaper than the
> alternatives, and for a lot of people, cheapness beats Freeness.

 so, what would you be prepared to pay for something with the above
specs, especially given that it will have the GPL source code
available in advance, and you'd have an indirect line to the
manufacturer and the factory to get relevant questions answered if you
wanted "in" at the very early stages.

> If the
> blobs are available to drive the exotic features, then I can make it
> work.

 the Allwinner A10 has the "usual" non-free MALI 3D driver arrangement.

 you're no doubt familiar with that, in that it gets qualified as
"system library" under GPL exemption clauses, and thus can actually
remain non-free, even though nobody likes the situation.

> If not, I could still get useful work out of it without those
> features --- I know someone who's considering a Pi Model A to build an
> battery-powered internet radio, for example.

 would a PCMCIA form-factor (85x55mm) work for them?  especially if it
could be powered by USB-OTG, and there were at least 16 GPIO pins?

> Of course, I'd rather have something that was properly supported by free
> software. But I'd rather have a Pi than not have anything at all.
> Incidentally, are there *any* GPUs of this grade that have Free drivers
> of comparative quality to the proprietary ones?

 *sigh* it's a matter of power.  the architecture of separate ICs
(usually northbridge/southbridge) simply doesn't work for this level
of ultra-low-power.

 i spoke to Via almost a year ago, now: the absolute best that could
be done was 6 (six!) watts, and that was with a 65nm CMOS "low-power"
GPU that would have to be ramped down in voltage and clock-rate in
order to _only_ use 6 watts... continuously.  excluding its separate
RAM, and excluding the main CPU and _its_ RAM!

there is one - _one_ sub-2watt GPU that i could find which was 2D,
it's the Volari Z11 - it's the one that's in the OpenRD Ultimate.
it's... rubbish, but it is slowly gaining free software driver support
thanks to the adoption of the OpenRD Ultimate.

you really _really_ don't have any choices, basically.  what's highly
amusing is that the companies doing the integrated 3D GPU macros are
now being bought up!  one company with a SoC becomes beholden to a
competitor for access to drivers and source code!

hilarious, really.


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