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Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS Images for Le Potato with UEFI

Happy Presidents Day for those in the United States! Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS was recently released and we have packaged up some new images with some of our work as well.

Major Improvements

  • Linux 4.19.23
    • eMMC 5.x speeds up to 180MB/s and eMMC 4.x speeds up to 90MB/s
  • u-boot 2019.04rc1
    • Libre Computer boot logo
      • custom boot logo support via u-boot.bmp in EFI partition
    • Integrated configuration loading via u-boot.ini file in EFI partition
      • sd_uhs=1 #enables SD UHS mode
      • cvbs=0 #turns off cvbs output
      • emmc=4.x #modifies device tree to support eMMC 4.x modules
      • efuse=rw #enables writing to OTP efuses
    • EFI application support
      • Ubuntu’s GRUB EFI application for chainloading instead of fixed kernel image directly

The purpose of this work coincides with the release of La Frite. We needed to have a standardized bootloader logic so we dropped the use of u-boot script and opted to merge the code directly into u-boot.

You can now use standard GRUB to set kernel boot parameters as well as detect other operating systems on other devices so that you can boot to them.

We will have a demo video of u-boot operating from SPI-NOR for La Frite booting standardized Ubuntu/Debian images.

The images are located on the AML-S905X-CC product page under the Download tab.

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Linux 4.19 LTS Images for Tritium

Happy Chinese New Year! 2019 is the year of the pig and we are pigging out with quite a few new images for the H2+, H3, and H5 variants of Tritium. You can find Tritium on Amazon.

Major Improvements

  • Linux 4.19 LTS
    • CPU Frequency Scaling
    • Thermal Support
    • HDMI CEC and DRM Support
    • 30% Performance Improvement
  • u-boot 2019.01
    • Video Output support
    • USB Keyboard Support
    • USB Mass Storage support
    • EFI Support
  • Userspace
    • Desktop Images Autologin as default
    • GL4ES integration
    • armhf OpenGL ES support for legacy applications
    • Headless armhf Userspace images
  • Image Variants

EFI Support

We are moving towards having standardize boot by supporting EFI. Like Le Potato, Tritium does not have onboard SPI NOR to hold u-boot, so the images must have the bootloader still in the image. However, the bootloading process is using the EFI facilities and you will now have a EFI-based GRUB GUI that lets you control boot parameters where as it was hard coded before.

This allows you to have second operating systems on attached USB devices and booting to them through GRUB’s normal detection method. When we release the 18.04.2 images for Le Potato, they will be using these same facilities. There are bugs with the GRUB-ARM-EFI 32-bit packages in Debian and Ubuntu Xenial that prevents us from generating working images for Tritium H2+/H3. We hope the packages gets updated so we can push out those images as soon as they work.

Unified Kernel for ARM64

We are well on our way to having a unified Linux kernel for all of our ARM64 boards. ALL-H3-CC H2+/H3 variants will not share this since they are 32-bit armhf but all of our other platforms including Le Potato, La Frite, Renegade, Renegade Elite, and future 64-bit boards will share a single kernel in the future.

Distro makers are working towards this as well but they are not as familiar with this space as we are. By our estimates, it will be 2022 before their unified Linux kernel work will match or exceed our internal efforts.

30% Performance Improvement

With the new thermal code and frequency scaling, we have individually tuned performance in these images for the different Tritium boards. After the dysmal performance results from the last Phoronix review due to lack of frequency scaling and thermal support, you should see much improved performance at load and lower power while idle. The new performance numbers can be found at the latest results using Phoronix Test Suite. For best performance from your board, we highly recommend a heatsink and active cooling case because the chips can use up to five watts at full load. You can find appropriate ones through our distributors or on Amazon.

Shoutout to Sunxi Community

Today, Tritium is by far the most FOSS platform we have. Nearly everything from the bootloader to the video decoder has been reverse engineered. Unlike Le Potato and La Frite, Tritium support comes nearly entirely from the sunxi community around Allwinner SoCs. These community members contribute valuable time to upstream support for chip features in Linux and u-boot. They hang out in IRC and are one of the most active and helpful communities. Without them, it would not be possible to release these upstream images today.

Next Up

We have La Frite launching at the end of February and we are sorting out our business there. La Frite will be the first board to boot standard EFI images without bootloader. We are working on Renegade and Renegade Elite in parallel and hope to deliver our standard upstream images in March for those platforms. Both Renegade boards suffer from legacy-u-boot-syndrome from the SoC vendors not bothering to do upstream. Our message to these SoC vendors is: you are going to miss out on a lot of opportunities.

The images are located on the ALL-H3-CC product page under the Download tab.

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Linux 4.19 LTS Images for Le Potato

Happy 2019 from the Libre Computer Team! In our never ending march towards full upstream support, we have setup another basecamp at Linux 4.19. This release culminates in nearly nine months of work from BayLibre, community members, and our internal efforts.

Major Improvements

  • Linux 4.19 LTS
    • HDMI 2.0 support
    • H.265 and H.264 V4L2 M2M support
    • Device Tree Overlay support
    • ~10% Performance improvement
  • u-boot 2019.01
    • Video Output support
    • USB Keyboard Support
    • USB Mass Storage support
  • Userspace
    • Desktop Images Autologin as default
    • lc_overlay Utility for Device Tree Overlay support
    • GL4ES integration
    • armhf OpenGL ES support for legacy applications
    • Headless armhf Userspace images
  • Image Variants
  • Images Coming Soon
    • Debian Stretch – xfce desktop, lxde desktop
    • Raspbian Stretch – desktop armhf

Consistent LED Indication

Many end-users do not have UART cables for debugging various issues from bad SD cards, bad flash, bad power, and more. We created a consistent indication that we plan to follow. This will hopefully solve question about what the LEDs mean.

  • Power-On: Green LED is off, Blue LED is on
  • u-boot Loaded: Blue LED is off
  • Linux Loaded: Green LED is heartbeating, Blue LED is linked to CPU activity
  • Userspace Loaded: Green LED is linked to root media activity whether eMMC or SD
  • Kernel Panic: Green LED is blinking at consistent rate

This will allow us to know at least which stage there was a failure for those without an UART cable. We will highly recommend one because it is the best way to debug problems.

Video Output in u-boot

With our La Frite project, we will be moving u-boot to SPI-NOR in preparation for ARM EBBR. As part of that initiative, BayLibre added video output and USB mass storage support to u-boot on our behalf. This provides visual access to u-boot. You still need an UART cable to change u-boot behavior. USB keyboard support was added so that you can access the u-boot command line to get the full capabilities.

Device Tree Overlay Support for HATs and Expansion

The 40-pin GPIO header was limited to controlling GPIO unless the end-user know how to modify device trees. People have requested SPI, I2C, PWM, and various HAT support and we have made the implemented our first revision of this capability.

Utilizing the out-of-tree device-tree code from Renesas, we have combined it with an userspace script called lc_overlays. There are some basic device-tree-overlay for things such as SPI, I2C, PWM, Raspberry Pi Sense HAT (limited features), and SPI display already included in the images.

HDMI 2.0 and Video Decoder Support

Before, only resolutions up to 4K30 was supported since the HDMI 2.0 protocols were not supported in the upstream Linux kernel. This is our first image incorporating HDMI 2.0 protocol support for true 4K 60FPS support. However, this is only usable for projects like LibreELEC.

Don’t expect X11 to perform well at 4K60 but things like LibreELEC (Kodi) has been updated to utilize the VPU’s hardware decoder to display 4K 60FPS videos on overlay planes. Another note about X11 performance is that the bit-blit capability within the 2D and mali engines are not upstream in kernel space or user-space so GUI is done through software rendering.

Note that not every feature of HDMI 2.0 is supported yet such as 10-bit metadata, frame buffer compression, and many others that the hardware is capable of. There’s still extensive work in this area. Accelerated video decode in X11/Wayland is still a bit away due to the length of the software pipeline that need to be updated. The kernel space APIs have experienced marked attention recently and it is a good sign since user space need stable work in this area. By our estimates, video decoding on Linux will mature around the end of the year as audio/visual becomes an important cornerstone of Linux.

If you using Le Potato strictly for 4K media, we highly recommend using CoreELEC.

OpenGL Support via GL4ES

ARM Mali GPUs only ship with OpenGL ES support in their binary drivers. The open-source lima project is continuing at full steam in delivering a Mesa driver. Most Linux applications are targeted for OpenGL so we have added the GL4ES shim in order to emulate some OpenGL functions for those programs to run.

10% Performance Improvement

We optimized numerous small things and you should see a 10% performance improvement across the board. The performance numbers can be found at the test results using Phoronix Test Suite. For best performance from your board, we highly recommend a heatsink and active cooling case because the chip can use up to five watts at full load. You can find appropriate ones through our distributors or on Amazon.

32-bit ARM Hard Float Userspace Headless Images

Some people use 32-bit armhf exclusively so we are now building both 64-bit aarch64 and 32-bit armhf images including Debian, Ubuntu Bionic, and Ubuntu Xenial. The kernel is still 64-bit but all the user space applications pull from their respective armhf repositories. We also include 32-bit user space Mali binaries.

Autologin

For desktop images, we have enabled autologin since a lot of users complained that they could not figure out the username/password despite it being in the README when they download the file.

Just to re-interate, all the images we release use “libre” as the username and “computer” as the password with the exception of the Raspbian images. Please be security conscious and change this by typing “passwd” into a terminal as soon as you log in.

Additional Notes

First time booting a desktop image is slower than subsequent boots since some initialization has to happen for most desktop environments.

For best results, please use a high quality MicroSD card. Poor quality card will exhibit read and write errors resulting in crashes or slow experience. Do not trust the brand that is marked on the card if purchasing it from sources like Ali-Express or Amazon Third Party Sellers. Use reputable retailers and MLC-based MicroSD cards for best results. We have seen numerous cases of TLC data corruption over time on even brand name MicroSD cards.

Many people have asked us why they can’t play 4K videos in a browser on Linux. The browsers and underlying libraries do not support utilizing the hardware acceleration. This is slowly changing with work by numerous groups but it is a slow process. Currently, browsers like Chrome/Chromium and Firefox can only utilize software decoding which works for up to 1080P videos. We will be releasing Wayland-based images since the display stack is faster than X11 and will playback videos better.

Next Release for Ubuntu 18.04.2

The next point release of Ubuntu is coming out soon and we look forward to improvements specifically in the display stack. Hopefully they adopt some improvements in Gnome 3 for Wayland so that the desktop UI performance can utilize the upstream work. According to Ubuntu’s schedule, it is due around Febuary 7th which is just after Chinese New Years. We will be making another set of releases then with some additional internal improvements we have been working on but that didn’t quite make it into this release cycle.

 

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Kickstarter Live: La Frite – Open Source Fries

La Frite is our latest product offering starting at just $5 on Kickstarter! This quad-core 64-bit ARM board has great open source software support since it is based on Le Potato. It features 1080P video output and decode of H.265, H.264, and VP9 on a 6.4cm (~2.5 inches) x 5.5cm (~2.2 inches) board. La Frite can run the latest upstream Linux as well as Android 8 Oreo for the 1GB model. Other open source software support include LibreELEC, Kodi, RetroPie, RetroArch, and more. Back now on Kickstarter!

 

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RetroPie Released for Le Potato and Coming Soon to Tritium!

Fresh off the tasty build server is some RetroPie for Le Potato! After a 10 day hiatus in the software trenches, we have modified the RetroPie installer to utilize the latest software technologies we’ve enabled upstream. Some big terms like Kernel Mode Setting, Display Rendering Manager, EGL, and SDL2 were used. But solder on we did through undefined references, missing packages, blank screens, and more to bestow this wonderful img after six hours of build time.

This image runs on MicroSD cards and eMMC since it uses our upstream software foundation. It stays away from proprietary APIs like dispmanx like the Raspberry Pi does and is probably the first images for RetroPie to utilize the latest Linux display infrastructure APIs instead of the fbdev hack. Yes, standards are important! You can use lc_redetect_emmc and lc_distro_transfer to move the factory image from MicroSD card to eMMC just like our regular images.

With this image, we must let people know that they can really give back to the community with time and money. The libretro project is one much similar to ours with a community ethos. They have spent 8 years building the foundational layers necessary to preserving gaming history. They are the basis for RetroPie and Lakka but don’t receive as much press. Without them, it would be difficult for there to be a retro community. We have been a patron of the libretro project and have donated more than $5000 to their effort. If you really enjoy retrogaming, we highly recommend supporting these guys through Patreon.

We should have the Tritium image up within two days after some building and testing. The H2+ and H3 variants of Tritium will support more emulators since the 32-bit armhf dynarec engines for various architectures are in better shape than their 64-bit aarch64 equivalents. There are efforts to build a new dynarec for aarch64 for N64 and this is where you can help too by contributing either time or money. Needless to say, we have contributed monetary funds as well since we have no ability in this respect. You can also support this type of funding through purchasing our boards!

Look out for our La Frite Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday! It shares the same architectural basis as Le Potato in a smaller form factor.

You can get the image here. We hope you have a joyous Columbus day.

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Android Release for Tritium and Le Potato

Fresh off the build server are new image releases for Tritium and Le Potato. H3 and H5 variants of Tritium are receiving Android 7 Nougat while Le Potato is receiving Android 8 Oreo. These images require eMMC modules in order to work so make sure to grab the right eMMC modules for each respective platform.

Please note that Google does not license Google Apps such as the Play Store for single board computers. There are alternative app ecosystems such as Aptoide which you can use. The images come rooted so you have unrestricted access to the underlying OS for tweaking and installing APKs.

Make sure to follow the README.txt and use the appropriate vendor tools to flash the images. Android ROM flashing is not standardized so everyone has to rely on these proprietary tools unlike normal Linux images.

You can look for new Raspbian, Lakka, and RetroPie images coming for these two platforms in the next month.

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Tritium and Le Potato Ubuntu and Debian on Linux 4.18.8 and eMMC Support

With the completion of phase 1 of our image infrastructure, we have pushed out eight new images for Tritium and Le Potato based on the latest mainline Linux 4.18.8. These images include headless and desktop images of Debian and Ubuntu with LXDE, XFCE, and MATE flavors on X11 with OpenGL ES 2.0 and 4K support (even on Tritium H2+).

Please note that Tritium H2+/H3 images are named all-h3-cc-h3 and H5 images are named all-h3-cc-h5. If you are using the incorrect image, your board will not boot. Tritium H2+ does not have enough memory to run MATE desktop or full 4K desktop. It will work with static 4K content.

We reworked the filesystem layout as well as added a new tool for assisting flashing eMMC modules. The new tool is called lc_redetect_emmc and it re-detect the eMMC module by unbinding and rebinding the driver. You can do the following to flash the eMMC modules with the operating system you are currently running.

  1. Flash a MicroSD card with the desired image using Win32DiskManager or Etcher
  2. Boot up the boards via MicroSD card and without the eMMC module attached
  3. Attach the eMMC module while the board is running and be careful of short circuit
  4. Run sudo lc_redetect_emmc
  5. Run sudo lc_distro_transfer and follow the prompts for appropriate flags
  6. Shutdown and remove MicroSD card

This process only works on the Ubuntu and Debian images we release. This is not for flashing Android, Armbian, or anything else and it will not work on Armbian since it is not using our systems. We did not release the Gnome 3 Wayland variant for this release cycle.

You can find the download links under the Downloads tab for Tritium and Le Potato product pages.

Below is our software roadmap for the next 4 months. This is a guideline and not set in stone.

  • Phase 2 – October 2018: Raspbian and RetroPie images for Tritium and Le Potato
  • Phase 3 – November 2018: Automatic Update Infrastructure, Linux 4.19 LTS
  • Phase 4 – December 2018: Android 9 and Linux V4L2 for Le Potato and La Frite
  • Phase 5 – January 2018: Linux V4L2 for Tritium, Overlay Support for HATs

There are some interesting software efforts making the community more interesting including our sponsorship of the Amlogic V4L2 upstream work by BayLibre and Allwinner V4L2 upstream work by Bootlin, LibreELEC/Kodi 18 based on the aforementioned V4L2 work, RetroArch/Lakka, and PanFrost. We highly encourage people to look into those efforts and find ways to contribute.

 

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Le Potato Ubuntu and Debian with Linux 4.18

Linux 4.19 is a LTS release so we went ahead and created a spectrum of images for Le Potato based on Linux 4.18. These images come with three months of upstream Linux enablement by our partner @BayLibre. Some of this work will be showcased at @KernelRecipes and @EmbeddedRecipes along with free #LePotato boards for attendees.

These images are based on Linux 4.18.7, X11 up to 4K30, and Amlogic Mali (for non-Headless). When Linux 4.19 is tagged by Linus, we will work on final images with automatic package upgrade for Linux, u-boot, and user-space that is currently done through scripts.

  • Debian 9 Stretch Headless (Server)
  • Debian 9 Stretch LXDE
  • Debian 9 Stretch XFCE
  • Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Headless (Server)
  • Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic MATE (Gnome 2)
  • Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic XFCE
  • Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Headless (Server)
  • Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial MATE (Gnome 2)
  • Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial XFCE

You can grab them here: Ubuntu Debian

In other news, BayLibre is working with LibreELEC to get mainline hardware decoding working for Le Potato. This work will eventually make it into Kodi and we are very excited about it. The upstream V4L2 hardware video decoder work by Maxime Jourdan of BayLibre will not land in Linux 4.19 but will be backported. This work will coincide with two new products due in the following months: La Frite and Les Puree. These designs share the same underlying architecture as Le Potato to re-use the software technologies we have invested in.

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ROC-RK3399-PC (Renegade Elite) Crowdfunding Begins

Renegade Elite is the first mass-market SBC built specifically to tackle modern applications in artificial intelligence, stereo computer vision, neural-networks, robotics, and general purpose GPU compute. It also revolutionizes traditional markets like digital signage, high density micro-server, and connected edge devices at its $99 price point. All of this is enabled by a device slightly longer than a 2.5″ drive.

Together with revolutionary standards-compliant technologies like USB Type-C and Power-over-Ethernet, Renegade Elite offers what no other competitor can match.

Find out more @Indiegogo.