Running Modern Linux On The CompuLab Trim-Slice
At the beginning of last year I tested the CompuLab Trim-Slice, which was a great ARM-based Linux desktop for the time. While the hardware now shows its signs of aging in the fast-paced ARM world, modern Linux distributions can still be loaded up on the platform.
The Trim-Slice is built around the NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC, which sports a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor clocked at 1.0GHz. The device has a built-in drive and supports SHDC expansion, bears 1GB of RAM, and 802.11n WiFi. With the Tegra 3 quad-core hardware now being widespread that's multiple times faster than the Tegra 2 and the Tegra 4 hardware being around the corner that's much faster with its use of the ARM Cortex-A15, the Trim-Slice is no longer competitive from a hardware point of view.
While the Trim-Slice won't win you any performance benchmarks, its Linux hardware support has improved since its debut. Officially, CompuLab ships the Trim-Slice with Ubuntu 11.04 using ARM soft floating-point support. Unofficially though is a new Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Trim-Slice image available from the Trim-Slice Wiki.
This Ubuntu 12.04 LTS spin is based upon the "Precise Pangolin" while incorporating the new Linux 4 Tegra drivers that support hard floating-point and the updated stack found in Precise. The armhf switch alone can yield some performance improvements as show by earlier benchmarks.
CompuLab also has an Android "Ice Cream Sandwich" image available for the Trim-Slice that was last updated in September. Outside of the CompuLab activities, Arch Linux continues to support the Trim-Slice and Fedora 18 ARM has been spun for the Trim-Slice.
Ubuntu benchmarking on the Google Nexus, I pulled out the Trim-Slice recently for some updated benchmarks. The Ubuntu 12.04 image installed cleanly on the Tegra 2 device. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS was running smoothly and I ran some benchmarks compared to my earlier Ubuntu 11.04 benchmarks from the same system.
I then attempted to load Ubuntu 13.04 on the device by switching over to the Raring repositories and updating the user-space while still running on the Linux 3.1 Tegra kernel. Unfortunately, the Raring updated caused problems for the Trim-Slice with the network interfaces and some other issues. As a result, the Trim-Slice will likely not be included in the next round of ARM Linux benchmarks due out on Phoronix in the coming days.
For those that may be current CompuLab Trim-Slice owners, embedded below are the benchmarks comparing the Ubuntu 11.04 soft-float performance to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS that is spun with the modern L4T support for hard-float. The benchmarks in full can be found on OpenBenchmarking.org via 1303046-FO-TRIMSLICE94.
Aside from softfp to hardfp, Ubuntu 12.04 has the Linux 3.1 kernel over Linux 2.6.38 and GCC 4.6 over GCC 4.5 compared with the original Ubuntu Linux for this CompuLab PC.
For not all benchmarks though is the Trim-Slice faster:
All of the benchmarks in full can be found on OpenBenchmarking.org, but overall Ubuntu 12.04 on the Trim-Slice does better for many of the tests, but in some computational workloads there are regressions compared to Ubuntu 11.04.
For those that like the appeal of the small form factor of the CompuLab Trim-Slice but want something more powerful, it's worth checking out the CompuLab Intense-PC.
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