[Arm-netbook] Current status

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Tue Jul 21 22:36:28 BST 2020

On Tuesday, 21 July 2020 03:02:14 CEST David Niklas wrote:
> On Monday, July 20, 2020, George Sokolsky <sokolgeo at posteo.net> wrote:
> >  How people are moving forward with their computing needs?


> The RK3399 is a real winner of a processor, being sold on a lot of SBCs
> for as little as $50. It's getting better and better SW support as devs
> reverse engineer it's internal mali GPU and associated interconnect and
> power controls.

These Rockchip SoCs reportedly run pretty hot, don't they? That said, I 
noticed that the Raspberry Pi 4 has fan accessories available for it. So much 
for keeping up the pretense of Cambridge continuity with Acorn Computers 
unless the ultimate aim is to replicate products like the (unreleased) Acorn 
Business Computer with, apparently, a very noisy fan.

> AMDs laptop offerings are also very temping and I'm recommending them to
> normal people who want to purchase a laptop. Linux support is in great
> shape for the 4000 series AFAIK[1]. Supposedly, AMD is coming out with an
> APU even more amazing before the end of the year.

I just upgraded my system (after fifteen years!) to one using a Ryzen 3400G 
APU (if they still call them that). However, Linux kernel compatibility is 
such that I'm running a kernel from the Debian backports repository because 
system reliability with these parts was a long time coming. And you have to 
use proprietary firmware blobs because all these companies need to have their 
secret sauce.

So, upcoming AMD products could be decent, but I would be wary about stability 
for a while after their release. Following the Linux kernel bug tracker can be 


Searching for "amdgpu" is probably what you want to do. For quite some time, 
people were having problems with the 3200G, and that made me worried about the 
3400G, but it seems that even within product families there might be some 
parts that are better supported than others.


> MIPS was looking promising until you read it's "open source" license.

Since I've experimented with MIPS things for a while, I have to say that the 
custodianship of MIPS has been generally disappointing.

First of all, Imagination Technologies seemed to want to either compete head-
on with ARM by having a processor architecture and graphics technologies, or 
(when their Apple partnership collapsed) to broaden their offerings and to use 
MIPS as a vehicle into IoT and such. At that time, they had their academic 
programme to try and get people to experiment with the architecture. But RISC-
V was already on the runway at that point, so it was too little too late.

Then, when ImgTec was acquired, MIPS got acquired and quickly passed on to 
Wave Technologies (presumably making some people some quick and easy money). 
But the MIPS business seems to be in maintenance mode, at least if you look at 
their Web assets. And, of course, all the MIPS Creator stuff just fell off the 
desk. Any announcements about opening the architecture might well be perceived 
as just making some noise and keeping existing licensees on board.

Indeed, casually following Microchip over the last couple of years or so, I 
saw it said that Microchip's acquisition of Atmel would mean that Microchip 
would probably double down on ARM and abandon new MIPS product development. 
Various pundits/punters claimed that Microchip wouldn't look twice at RISC-V. 
But then I saw this:

"A low-cost dev kit for Microchip's PolarFire SoC, a low-power FPGA integrated 
with a hardened quad core 64-bit RISC-V microprocessor subsystem"


That is from the Microsemi part of Microchip's business, however, meaning that 
it is another recent acquisition: Microchip presumably buying in new 
technology to remain competitive.


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