Trisquel on Arm? Pinebook Pro running Trisquel? Trisquel Touch?

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Thatoo
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Hello everybody,

I've just discovered the announcement of the Pinebook Pro, https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=7093 .
Reading on the forum, in thread from 2012 and 2014, I understood Trisquel was not supporting arm.
What about today? Maybe the coming Trisquel 9?

Do you think then, if Trisquel could run on arm, could it run on this specific laptop, the Pinebook Pro that could easily become an affordable free daily working station.
I have been lost in the reading and I didn't get if booting could be free (as libreboot for Intel CPU is). I understood that linux-libre would work on it as it works on the Pinebook (not Pro). If it's possible to have a free booting system, it could replace the aging ThinkPad X200...

And then, I was wondering that if it works on Pinebook Pro, then would it be possible to dream of a Trisquel Touch, derived from Ubuntu Touch as Trisquel is derived from Ubuntu? Thus, we could finally have a free tablet (PineTab) and free pocket computer (PinePhone), couldn't we?

With hope but no expectation,

Thatoo

jxself
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Joined: 09/13/2010

Trisquel 9 is supposed to support ARM.

"could it run on this specific laptop"

I stopped reading when finding that it has a Mali GPU and also RTL8723BS for WiFi. Both of these need proprietary software, which Trisquel wouldn't provide.

"would it be possible to dream of a Trisquel Touch, derived from Ubuntu Touch as Trisquel is derived from Ubuntu? Thus, we could finally have a free tablet (PineTab) and free pocket computer (PinePhone), couldn't we?"

The PinePhone seems to use the same system-on-a-chip and so has the same problems.

Thatoo
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Joined: 04/07/2016

Hello,

I'm not sure this answer is useful and it means something about freedom but I think it's fair I share with you the answer I got on Pine64's forum :

Thatoo, whats wrong with Mali (and its not really a choice - its on the SOCs)? there is both panfrost and lima in the works ...

I don't know panfrost and lima but you moight do.

Regards,

jxself
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Joined: 09/13/2010

"whats wrong with Mali"

Needing proprietary software it what's wrong. :)

To quote from https://libreplanet.org/wiki/Group:Hardware/ReverseEngineering#Mali:
"Mali GPUs are divided into three versions: Utgard, Midgard, and Bifrost. The Lima project is creating a free software driver for the Utgard series. Conversely, the Panfrost project is freeing Midgard and Bifrost. However, neither is ready for daily use at the moment. You can help!"

So Mali is not usable in freedom. The upcoming ARM version of EOMA68 was going to ship with the Mali GPU completely disabled because of that.

And: The WiFi needs proprietary software too. As far as I know, no one is working on that.

So: Circling back to your original question: "Do you think then, if Trisquel could run on arm, could it run on this specific laptop, the Pinebook Pro that could easily become an affordable free daily working station."

If Trisquel did run on it, you'd have no graphics or WiFi. Because those need proprietary software, which Trisquel won't provide. Even if, years from now, the graphics might work (and in the free software world there is never any guarantee of future success), no one is working on the WiFi so the idea about the Pinebook Pro becoming "an affordable free daily working station" is not promising.

Of course, I don't see that any of this is clearly pointed out on the pine64 website. You might want to look into other options.

CalmStorm

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MNT Reform Laptop/Eoma68 Laptop are the only good options if they ever get released that is...

;)

I am hopeful they will in the future, but I am not sure you will get any noticeable security boost in arm vs intel for this reason:

https://www.tomshardware.com/news/quantum-computers-encryption-decades-researchers,38819.html

https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/featured/will-quantum-computers-threaten-modern-cryptography/

https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/mit-five-atom-quantum-rsa/

Just a taste of what is to come...

Thatoo
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Joined: 04/07/2016

Understood.
Thank you for this clear answer.

leuqsirt
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Joined: 03/25/2019

GPUs in x86 (AMD/NVIDIA) have 3D, Video accelaration (encode/decode) and render/display together.
It is different from
GPUs in ARM SoC where these 3 parts are separate and independent Intelectual Property (IP) blocks.

Mali is the 3D (OpenGLES). It's NOT needed to have a working display/graphics, which is usually well supported.

Mali and the Rockchip VPU (Video Processing Unit) have fully FOSS drivers in the works.
Check Lima and Panfrost projects.

RK3399 is one of the best supported ARM SoCs out there.

For WI-FI just stick one tiny usb-wifi adapter.

PSA: I'm writing this on a ARM device running official linux kernel :)

TL:DR Pinebook Pro will probably work very well with mainline linux(-libre),
PineTab - Allwinner A64 too check linux-sunxi.org,
except for the LCD screen and touch panel/controller which may or may not need firmware.

I registered just to comment and I'm in no way affiliated with Pine64.

jxself
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Joined: 09/13/2010

"...in the works."
Which of course means they're not working presently, which is consistent with the earlier information.

"For WI-FI just stick one tiny usb-wifi adapter. "
This is also consistent with the earlier information about the built-in WiFi needing proprietary software. It's good that there can be ways to work around problems. There usually are workarounds for most anything. But the OP was asking about using the Pinebook Pro itself; not about how to work around the problems that exist.

Thank you for confirming them.

andyprough
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Panfrost does now work with support for EGL and OpenGL ES, as well as Wayland and media playback and has a driver merged in Mesa and is pushing for its kernel DRM driver to be accepted for mainline kernel inclusion.

leuqsirt
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Joined: 03/25/2019

Nope. Please.
Do you know any device that has soldered WI-FI chip that is not "needing proprietary software" ?
All such chips are PCI or USB. (If there is SDIO one I really want to know about it).

Graphics/display output is properly working presently.
3D and Video accelarion is a different thing for very specific tasks.
And not universally working amongs the various AMD/Nvidia cards.

All recent AMD/Nvidia cards REQUIRE proprietary software to have graphics/display! (no workaround)
Most ARM SoCs DO NOT REQUIRE proprietary software to have graphics/display.

All recent AMD/Intel CPUs REQUIRE various proprietary software to BOOT. (no workaround)
Most ARM SoCs DO NOT REQUIRE any proprietary software to BOOT. ( u-boot :) ).

Thatoo Pinebook Pro will work good with linux-libre ARM distro, except for the WI-FI. I want to get one for myself.
Finally I recommend Armbian, they play around with this.

jxself
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"Do you know any device that has soldered WI-FI chip that is not "needing proprietary software" ?"
Sadly, I don't. But: That it may be common among the various SoC as you say doesn't make it untrue of this particular one as well so I don't get the objection to mentioning it about this particular SoC. After all: The OP's question was about the freedom status of the device. The earlier responses provide that information; and I believe that "whitewashing" over it would have been dishonest of me, or at least misleading. It's good to talk about these problems and I wish that more people did that.

Thatoo
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Nice discussion, I learned plenty of stuff. Thank you to both of you.
So, if I understand well, the Pinebook Pro with a usb-wifi adapter could work without any proprietary blob. So for a first work from Pine64, if we forget the "experimental" Pinebook (not pro) which was quiet light for most usage, it is a good job.
Maybe Pine64 should explain that proudly. Pinebook pro can work natively with ubuntu and proprietary blobs and if you buy a usb-wifi adapter, it could even work 100% freely with Trisquel (for example).

Saying it this way, it could even push future design of Pinebook Pro to get rid of soldered WI-FI and exchange it by a PCI one (if that is possible of course). And thus do the same for PineTab and PinePhone.

If I'm wrong, don't hesitate to tell me. If I'm right on contrary, I'll be glad to expose that on Pine64's forum to invite others to talk about it and maybe push Pine64's team to take it in account in the future.

chaosmonk

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> Pinebook pro can work natively
> with ubuntu and proprietary blobs and if you buy a usb-wifi adapter, it
> could even work 100% freely with Trisquel (for example).

This has been true of every laptop I've encountered, so it isn't
remarkable. The only problems I often run into with laptops are WiFi and
3D acceleration. This laptop has both of these problems, so freedom-wise
it's about as bad as it gets. Still, I'm glad to see exploration of
non-x86 architectures.

Thatoo
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Joined: 04/07/2016

I thought there were no modern laptop that can boot on libreboot... Would it not be better to be able to install Trisquel on a computer you can trust from boot with the only compromise of using a usb-wifi adapter?
I might have miss something there.

jxself
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Joined: 09/13/2010

Linux-libre is already being built for 64-bit ARM: https://jxself.org/linux-libre/

My understanding is that it should work on any 64-bit ARM device where a) the kernel has support for the hardware and b) where an appropriate Device Tree structure exists.

A good freedom test might be for someone that already owns this board to test it out and see what happens. Of course, I am not suggesting that anyone get it merely for testing; only if someone already has one.

leuqsirt
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jxself you have my props and kudos and appreciation.

Thatoo don't worry, just have patience and we'll see.
Most (All?) chinese ARM SoCs "boot on" u-boot.

chaosmonk Doesn't every recent AMD/Nvidia graphic card require proprietary firmwares for 3D accel?
How this works out? "freedom-wise" every ARM device is better than Intel/AMD (no ME, PSP, FSP...)

Fun fact: that wifi chip in the Pinebook Pro may not work with any linux distro (android only).

EVERY device that runs Trisquel you stick PCI or USB card if you want WI-FI period.
And PCI or USB ports are designed to stick in and out peripherials.

There are Single Board Computers with the same RK3399
https://forum.armbian.com/forum/33-rockchip-3399/

chaosmonk

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> chaosmonk Doesn't every recent AMD/Nvidia graphic card require
> proprietary firmwares for 3D accel?

I think so.

> EVERY device that runs Trisquel you stick PCI or USB card if you want
> WI-FI period.

Yes, and I have had great results with PCI and very poor results with
USB.

> How this works out? "freedom-wise" every ARM device is better than
> Intel/AMD (no ME, PSP, FSP...)

It's true that x86 is a dead end. The decade-old laptops that support
libreboot are the best we're getting specification-wise. That's why I
said that I'm glad to see exploration of alternative architectures. I
hope to eventually see non-x86 laptops that are better than the aging
librebootable ThinkPads, but it doesn't seem like we're there yet:

RAM
- X200: up to 8GB
- Pinebook: 2GB

CPU
- X200: at least 2.4 GHz
- Pinebook: 1.2 GHz

Graphics
- X200: 3D acceleration works with free software
- Pinebook: 3D acceleration requires proprietary software

WiFi
- X200: PCI or USB with free software
- Pinebook: USB only with free software

To clarify, I'm not against ARM, or against buying a lower-spec computer
for the sake of freedom (I preordered* an EOMA68 computer card, which is
as slow as the Pinebook and will also lack free 3D acceleration and
require USB WiFi). I wish that the Pine64 were as freedom-focused as the
EOMA68 campaign, but I still hope that they, and other ARM (or PowerPC
or RISC-V) projects are successful, because in the long-term we do need
to replace x86.

* who knows if I'll ever see it though...

andyprough
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I'm assuming you've tried the full-sized USB dongles with the flip antenna, like this one?
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Atheros-AR9271-802-11n-150Mbps-Wireless-USB-WiFi-Adapter-for-Linux-Kali-Linux/302918103655?hash=item4687537267:g:NpsAAOSwAI9bv-wl

I've had a lot of luck with them.

chaosmonk

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> I'm assuming you've tried the full-sized USB dongles with the flip
> antenna, like this one?
> https://www.ebay.com/itm/Atheros-AR9271-802-11n-150Mbps-Wireless-USB-WiFi-Adapter-for-Linux-Kali-Linux/302918103655?hash=item4687537267:g:NpsAAOSwAI9bv-wl
>
> I've had a lot of luck with them.

No, I haven't tried these, but I'll look into them now. Thanks.

jxself
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"That's why I said that I'm glad to see exploration of alternative architectures. I hope to eventually see non-x86 laptops that are better than the aging librebootable ThinkPads, but it doesn't seem like we're there yet"

It's not a laptop but there's also the TALOS II. You'll never see POWER9 in a laptop. If I had to give up the laptop form factor in order to have a future in freedom then I could do that. I'm already there. Most of my computers are not laptops.

chaosmonk

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> It's not a laptop but there's also the TALOS II. You'll never see POWER9
> in a laptop. If I had to give up the laptop form factor in order to have
> a future in freedom then I could do that. I'm already there. Most of my
> computers are not laptops.

Portability aside, the TALOS II is extremely expensive, and overkill for
what most users need. It is good and important that there is a free
option for users and organizations who need and can afford something
like the TALOS II, but it is not a solution for everyone.

andyprough
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Raptor should be releasing the Blackbird Power9 mainboard soon, an ATX style board for under $1,000, making owning a personal Power9 desktop far more affordable.

CalmStorm

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What about MNT Reform?

leuqsirt
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PCI vs USB WI-FI results argument is totally void. There is no such thing.

Check stock TL-WN721N/TL-WN722N or what thinkpenguin/tehcnoetical have.

Pinebook PRO vs X200
size and weight x4
silent (no fans, no HDD)
Ram 4GB LPDDR4 dual-channel vs 4GB/8GB DDR3
Battery life
Number of cores: 6 vs 2
apps memory footprint ARM < x86
Screen: 14" 1920x1080 (Full HD) v 12" 1280x800 (WXGA)
USB TYPE-C

http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:X200

EOMA68 (A20) < Pinebook (A64) < Pinebook Pro (rk3399).

Btw what you people need 3D accel for? (games ?, CAD ?)
AMD/Nvidia FOSS 3D accel NOT possible. Mali FOSS 3D accell under way.

POWER don't have the adoption and scale of ARM.

I'm not advocating for the Pinebooks. As I said let's wait for it to ship.

rk3399 has PCIe, whether and how it is going to be routed I don't know.

WI-FI if you want, Graphics/Display, No boot fimware blobs, WiP 3D accel. WiP VPU accel; All check.

andyprough
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News just today that the community Mali 3D driver, Panfrost, is now running Tuxcart and Kodi: https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Panfrost-Gallium-Kodi-STK

jxself
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That is good news for Panfrost but seems to not matter for the Pinebook? Please let me know if I am following things correctly, with citations:

The Pinebook [0] will use the Pine A64 single board computer [1].
The Pine A64 single board computer is made using the Allwinner A64 SoC [2].
The Allwinner A64 SoC uses the Mali-400 GPU [3] [4].
The Mali-400 is part of the Utgard microarchitecture [5].
Panfrost only targets the Midgard and Bifrost versions of Mali, not Utgard [6] and so this news has no impact to the Pinebook.

[0] https://www.pine64.org/?page_id=3707
[1] https://www.pine64.org/?page_id=1194
[2] http://wiki.pine64.org/index.php/PINE_A64_Main_Page#SoC_and_Memory_Specification
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mali_(GPU)#Implementations
[4] http://wiki.pine64.org/index.php/PINE_A64_Main_Page#SoC_and_Memory_Specification
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mali_(GPU)#Variants
[6] https://panfrost.freedesktop.org/

andyprough
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Hi jxself, yes the Pinebook uses the A64, but from everything I'm reading the Pinebook Pro will have the Pine64 Rockchip RK3399 with MALI T-860 Quad-Core GPU when it is released later this year.

jxself
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Okay; so maybe it's relevant for the Pinebook "Pro" then, and not the original Pinebook.

andyprough
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Yes, I should have made it clear in my post about Panfrost working with Tuxcart and Kodi that it will be relevant to the Pinebook Pro, and not the original Pinebook. That could be an interesting laptop for $199, if Panfrost continues to develop quickly this year. This is all stuff I am learning about on the fly, I was not aware of Panfrost before your original comment.

chaosmonk

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> PCI vs USB WI-FI results argument is totally void. There is no such thing.
>
> Check stock TL-WN721N/TL-WN722N or what thinkpenguin/tehcnoetical have.

When I began migrating to free software, I bought several ThinkPenguin
WiFi dongles and used them for a year. It was extremely frustrating. I
lost my Internet connection every few minutes. Other users on this forum
have reported the same result.

I now install a $6 PCI Atheros card on every laptop I can and get far
better results. Many of my friends have MacBooks, and when I install
Trisquel on their computer and they see it take 3 tries to get through
the installer (for some reason the installer crashes on MacBooks if not
connect to the Internet at a certain moment), and several hours to get
through the first "sudo apt upgrade" they insist on the proprietary
firmware for their WiFi card, or Ubuntu, or they will return to macOS.

But maybe this has nothing to do with USB vs PCI, and the $30
ThinkPenguin dongles are for some reason of lower quality than the
$6 PCI cards. I'll try Andy's suggestion. If you have ever used a USB
WiFi card that wasn't crap, can you tell me what model it was?

strypey
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I got a USB WiFi dongle from ThinkPenguin that I suspect was part of a bad batch. After a series of emails where we triaged the problem and confirmed it couldn't be solved, ThinkPenguin offered me a replacement. The original dongle I ordered was this one:
https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/penguin-wireless-n-usb-adapter-w-external-antenna-gnu-linux-tpe-n150usbl

The replacement was this one:
https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/penguin-wireless-g-usb-adapter

... which worked and is a lot more convenient and portable than the big one. From what I remember, the problem I was having with the first one was similar to yours and the replacement worked fine.

chaosmonk

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> From what I remember, the problem I was having with the first one
> was similar to yours an the replacement worked fine.

I ordered a batch of five so that I could lend them out to people who I
set up with Trisquel. All of them perform poorly.

CalmStorm

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I hope someone will make better usb wifi adapters some day.

I wonder if Luke would be willing to make some if he knew the others were junk...

Moskito256
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This is kinda off-topic, but i'm running Trisquel on a Acer Aspire 5315 and it really surprised me that the laptop's wifi-thing just worked right away. I'm not saying that you should go buy one of these, but I'm not saying that you shouldn't either.