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  • #21
    Originally posted by robclark View Post
    fwiw, the bootloader is open source.. I suspect what you are thinking of is the rpm (resource power manager) firmware.

    Anyways, at the end of the day, who wins the 'most open' prize depends on what you're priorities are. To me, the fact that there is a coprocessor sort of thing helping to control regulators and that sort of thing, it doesn't really get in the way at all. The board ships w/ the rpm fw, and in theory you don't ever really need to touch it. It is basically just BIOS.
    The same can be said about the proprietary graphics drivers. You have the OpenGL (ES) API and don't ever really need to touch the real hardware. Oh, except when we encounter bugs and want to fix them. Yes, BIOS is better to be open source too. Once you have one, you are not going to go back.

    Locked down system are only tolerated as long as there is no better alternative. Been there with the general purpose OMAP4 chips, where the boot ROM is dropping the CPU into the non-secure mode and prevents us from adjusting the braindead automatic prefetch settings.
    Where-as userspace blobs are a bigger impediment for running something other than the vendor provided android. With an open src graphics driver, you can simply install whatever distro (assuming it doesn't package too ancient of a mesa version) and you are good to go. Run whatever window manager you want, whatever games, etc. Hell, you can even run freecad if you want a credit card sized cad workstation :-P
    Or you can just get used to Android and only port the missing applications (if we resort to the systemd style of reasoning). It's a matter of perspective

    So on snapdragon, you have open gpu and video codec usespace stuff, but some firmware blobs. With allwinner you have more or less the opposite. If you are the type of person who just wants a serial console, then you'd probably favor allwinner instead.
    With Allwinner we have an open source video codec (which is not mainlined yet) in addition to all the basic essentials. There is definitely a lot more than just a serial console.

    And the 3D GPUs are seriously overrated. They are primarily used just for providing wobbly windows. And it is possible to run a perfectly usable Linux desktop system even without this stuff Yes, implementing the open source drivers for Mali400 got stuck a bit. But the progress is very far from being hopeless.
    (Although I guess eventually allwinner SoC's will get complex enough to split out a pm coproc and then you are in the same boat. If omap didn't go poof, later generations would have probably had something similar, afaiu.)
    Do you mean something like the OpenRISC core, which is responsible for power management in Allwinner A31? https://github.com/skristiansson/ar100-info

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    • #22
      Originally posted by ssvb View Post
      The same can be said about the proprietary graphics drivers. You have the OpenGL (ES) API and don't ever really need to touch the real hardware. Oh, except when we encounter bugs and want to fix them. Yes, BIOS is better to be open source too. Once you have one, you are not going to go back.
      *blink*

      Umm, I get that you are trying to play devil's advocate here, but this is kind of nonsense. I know you are smarter than that. Userspace components end up having dependency on which libc you use at a minimum. A graphics driver is much worse because of the tie in to the window system. It is far from a standalone/independent thing which you can kind of pretend is just smart hardware.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm in favor of open BIOS too.. if it had support for my laptop, I'd run coreboot/libreboot. But small/simple/welldefined firmware blobs are a *much* smaller headache than userspace GL blobs.

      Originally posted by ssvb View Post
      Locked down system are only tolerated as long as there is no better alternative. Been there with the general purpose OMAP4 chips, where the boot ROM is dropping the CPU into the non-secure mode and prevents us from adjusting the braindead automatic prefetch settings.
      yes, I remember this. But it was the *ROM* in the chip at fault here. Even if you had the src, it's not like you could change it without re-spinning the chip.

      Originally posted by ssvb View Post
      Or you can just get used to Android and only port the missing applications (if we resort to the systemd style of reasoning). It's a matter of perspective
      umm.. I guess I am *completely* missing the android<->systemd connection here, so not even sure what you are *trying* to say

      Originally posted by ssvb View Post
      With Allwinner we have an open source video codec (which is not mainlined yet) in addition to all the basic essentials. There is definitely a lot more than just a serial console.
      Maybe "serial console" was a bit of an exaggeration to make a point. But without a GPU you are pretty much missing out on half of the acceleration of the chip, so you are limited to pretty basic stuff. Maybe that is enough for some people. To me it sounds like a pretty serious compromise.

      Originally posted by ssvb View Post
      And the 3D GPUs are seriously overrated. They are primarily used just for providing wobbly windows. And it is possible to run a perfectly usable Linux desktop system even without this stuff Yes, implementing the open source drivers for Mali400 got stuck a bit. But the progress is very far from being hopeless.
      I guess the majority of the world differs on your opinion about the importance of the GPU. If you look at the transistor allocation for a lot of these SoC's (at least the high end ones), any of the recent ones I've seen xray'd the GPU is at least as big as the CPU, if not bigger. The GPU is used for not just "wobbly window" (and in general accelerated compositing). But web browser uses it. Games use it. Hell, even libreoffice can use it via opencl. And with HSA stuff coming down the pipe, you are going to see the GPU used for even more for everything.

      Anyways, it is certainly far more important than video codec, which is mostly just needed for reducing power consumption for video playback. (Well, even my several year old apq8064 devices can decode 1080p video on the cpu, so meh.).. fwiw, the linaro folks wrote a open source gstreamer plugin for using the vidc decoder on some of the snapdragon devices. I've seen it in action, but haven't played with it myself.

      I do sincerely hope we get open source drivers going on mali one of these days.. it is in too damn many SoC's to ignore. (Although I'd probably suggest to ignore mali 400 and focus on t600 and later.. one less ISA to write a compiler for, and a graphics driver is enough of a long term effort that by the time you have something working well, I guess mali 400 will be more rare.)

      Originally posted by ssvb View Post
      Do you mean something like the OpenRISC core, which is responsible for power management in Allwinner A31? https://github.com/skristiansson/ar100-info
      fair enough, that is interesting to know. (Ofc someone should probably take a peak at the rpm.bin binary.. it could well be an off the shelf core too, which would make it not so difficult to reverse.)
      Last edited by robclark; 03-25-2015, 10:15 AM.

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