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Arch-ing ARM: Running Arch Linux On The NVIDIA Tegra 2

Michael Larabel

Published on 13 January 2012
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 6 Comments

The CompuLab Trim-Slice is quite an interesting dual-core ARM Tegra 2 device. This nettop/desktop-oriented system ships with Ubuntu 11.04 by default, but it is also well supported by Arch Linux. In this article are some tests of the dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 1.0GHz system running under Arch.

In communicating with CompuLab about the Trim-Slice Linux support, they mentioned a variety of distributions are working on support for this NVIDIA Tegra 2 device. In fact, on the Trim-Slice Wiki is a listing of the distributions that are on there for working on Trim-Slice support -- either official support or community-spawned projects. The list at the time of publishing includes Android, Arch Linux, Chromium OS, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, Java SE, MeeGo, and XBMC.

While Fedora and Ubuntu work on the compact ARM system -- and Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" for ARM is what ships -- CompuLab ended up recommending Arch Linux. Igor Vaisbein, the Trim-Slice project manager at CompuLab, had a few words to say to Phoronix about the different Linux distributions supported.

"Arch Linux and MeeGo communities have been working very actively with the Trim-Slice. There is also some work done for Fedora, Debian and Gentoo," said Igor. More interestingly, he notes that Arch Linux for the Trim-Slice is built with the hard floating-point support. "The ARM Linux community is very keen on hardfp compiled code for performance. Ubuntu on Trim-Slice is softfp so there is probably potential for some performance improvement. As far as I know the best optimized hardfp distro for Trim-Slice is Arch Linux."

The ARM community around Arch Linux in fact is quite active and just not for the Trim-Slice device. At ArchLinuxARM.org is a site devoted to bringing up Arch Linux on ARM platforms. Besides the ARMv7 Trim-Slice, they also have guides for starting Arch Linux on other devices like the PogoPlug, TonigoPlug, and other storage devices like the Seagate DockStar. In terms of their ARMv7 coverage, with the Trim-Slice is also the BeagleBoard, BeagleBoard-xM, Gumstix Overo, and PandaBoard.

The information for setting up Arch Linux on the Trim-Slice can be found on this page, complete with an Arch Linux ARM build catered towards this CompuLab ARM device.

With the setup process being well documented for the Trim-Slice (as I've said many times before in the forums and elsewhere, I'm happy to run more "custom" test scenarios assuming the project clearly documents the steps for the public to provide greater reproducibility and recommendations as to some "defaults") and many Phoronix readers being interested in Arch Linux, I decided to give this ARM spin a shot.

The overall process of bringing up Arch Linux on the Trim-Slice was quite straightforward and easy. By default the ARMv7 Arch Linux build for the Trim-Slice doesn't ship with a desktop environment or even the X.Org Server, but one can be easily installed via the Pacman package management system, along with any other packages you may be after. The Phoronix Test Suite can also be installed from the Arch repository, but for this benchmarking I was running the Phoronix Test Suite 3.8-Bygland Git code for the greatest ARM hardware/software detection support via Phodevi.

On the software side of this dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 Tegra-2 platform was the Linux 2.6.38-3-ARCH armv7l Linux kernel, an EXT2 file-system, and the GCC 4.6.2 compiler as the key components.

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