i.MX8 SoC Support Might Be Introduced In Linux 4.17

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel on 4 February 2018 at 09:08 AM EST. 10 Comments
With this week's ARM SoC/platform updates for Linux 4.16 it was revealed the next kernel cycle might introduce i.MX8 SoC support.

ARM SoC/platform maintainer Arnd Bergmann wrote in this week's pull request, "the 64-bit i.MX8 has finally seen the light of day and will likely get added in the next merge window." In other words, potentially seeing the initial NXP i.MX8 SoC support in the mainline Linux 4.17 kernel.

Why this is interesting is the i.MX8 SoC has been receiving more attention recently with the hardware finally becoming available and Purism's plans for using this SoC in the Librem 5 smartphone.

Initial support for the i.MX8 SoC is a step in the right direction but obviously doesn't mean there is magically then support for the yet-to-be-determined Librem 5 developer board/kit and obviously not the Librem 5 smartphone itself that has yet to be designed up. It's also not clear from the communication right now if this i.MX8 support for Linux 4.17 would include the newer i.MX8M and i.MX8X SoCs and to what extent all the functionality will be in place.

The Linux 4.17 kernel will likely debut in June. Obviously Purism doesn't need to use a mainline kernel for their phone and most ARM vendors sadly don't, but being closer to mainline will help them in trying to get the support for their hardware upstream when ready.

Still I have serious doubts about the ability for this privacy-minded GNU/Linux smartphone to be ready for shipping by early 2019 considering the developer kit isn't even known yet, the phone is yet to be designed, and they still are in the early stages of figuring out their software stack.

Besides the initial SoC hardware enablement there is also other low-level work still to be done. The Etnaviv reverse-engineered open-source graphics driver they hope to use has some initial i.MX8M DRM patches for getting the display working and that code might be ready for around Linux 4.17. But they still need to get the Gallium3D/OpenGL bits working. Etnaviv itself is still only at OpenGL 2.1 compliance currently and without any OpenCL or Vulkan support at this time: a lot of work ahead if they want attractive GPU support in 2019.

Regardless, it's sure to be a wild ride in the months ahead and we'll see what comes of this latest Linux smartphone effort for 2019.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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