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Demo Of The Lima Driver On The KDE Spark Tablet

Free Software

Published on 11 February 2012 09:10 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software
33 Comments

The recently announced KDE Spark Tablet has an ARM Mali 400 as its graphics processor, which right now is backed by a closed-source user-space driver but that's changing thanks to the Lima driver that's providing a reverse-engineered open-source ARM Mali driver. Here's a demo of the Lima driver's Limare stack running on the KDE Spark Tablet hardware.

The KDE Spark Tablet is interested in that it uses the Plasma Active interface and is one of the first mobile devices shipping this KDE-created interface. The KDE Spark Tablet features a 1GHz AMLogic ARM CPU, Mali 400 GPU, 7-inch capacitive multi-touch screen, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage.

This ARM-based KDE tablet hardware is nothing impressive and it's going to be selling for $270~280 USD with the KDE stack. But what most people haven't realized is that this KDE Spark Tablet hardware is nothing new or different, but a re-branded Zenithink C71 tablet.

Demo Of The Lima Driver On The KDE Spark Tablet Demo Of The Lima Driver On The KDE Spark Tablet Demo Of The Lima Driver On The KDE Spark Tablet
Early access to the KDE Spark? Nope, the hardware is already out there...

The Zenithink C71 is already available -- by default it ships with Google's Android. The Zenithink C71 sells for $180~200 USD in the US, which makes it $80~100 USD less than what the re-branded KDE Spark is set to retail for with its open-source desktop experience. Sure, some of the proceeds of Spark sales benefit the KDE project, but you might as well buy the unimpressive Zenithink hardware that's already available and you can always donate any amount of money independently to the KDE project (or any other worthy free software project) and load the open-source software yourself.

Zenithink is known to be a GPL violator and doesn't ship their kernel sources, but the KDE developers have reportedly managed to put together an AMLogic Linux kernel release that's open-source and will work on the C71 hardware. However, there will still be closed-up user-space bits on the KDE Spark, at least for the graphics.

Demo Of The Lima Driver On The KDE Spark Tablet Demo Of The Lima Driver On The KDE Spark Tablet Demo Of The Lima Driver On The KDE Spark Tablet
Hands-on time with several ARM-based tablets during dinner at Mirabelle in Brussels with various X.Org / Linux developers.

The Lima project didn't materialize because of the KDE Spark initative or vice versa. After the KDE Spark announcement was only when Codethink's Luc Verhaegen began communicating with the KDE camp. When the KDE Spark tablet begins shipping, the open-source Lima driver won't be ready. As already outlined, it will be some months before the Lima driver is actually working. There is ARM's open-source Mali driver and so far on the Lima driver side there is just the Limare application to show they know how to set various bits from user-space.

With Limare and at least the first-cut Lima driver, ARM's closed-source shader compiler library will still be used. Luc's planning on keeping around ARM's closed-source shader compiler to reduce his workload and to simplify Lima development efforts, even when it comes to possibly somehow plopping ARM's shader compiler next to a Lima Gallium3D/Mesa driver. ARM's kernel driver also isn't being touched, which isn't a DRM/KMS driver. He's ensuring not to break API compatibility with ARM's official driver. ARM would really need to join the party soon if the KDE Spark is to be completely open-source in the foreseeable future.

For those that didn't watch the Lima driver video from FOSDEM, above is an impromptu video of Limare running on the Zenithink C71 / KDE Spark hardware (on the Android software stack). This Phoronix demo was recorded from a noisy Brussels restaurant last weekend so unfortunately the audio didn't turn out well.

More information on the Lima initiative can be found at LimaDriver.org.

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