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Call for help: Slackware on an ARM Chromebook?

Well folks, the ARM-powered Chromebook built by Samsung can finally be bought in the Netherlands, and this raises a hairy question. Should I buy one and have a real-life target for my ARM port of Slackware which has been on the backburner for a year?

As you may remember, I started an ARM port of Slackware which is different from SlackwareARM.The design goals I have set for my own port are:

  1. it should have SlackBuild scripts which are compatible with official Slackware – i.e. Pat Volkerding should be able to just grab an unaltered script for the ARM port and build a 64-bit Slackware package with it
  2. it should target modern ARM architectures. SlackwareARM targets older generations of ARM CPU’s – notably without hardware floating point support. I want to create a port which can be used on “powerful” ARM tablets, and laptops.
  3. it should be a port from scratch and the process should be documented

I bought a TrimSlice ARM computer late 2011 but unfortunately that hardware did not live up to the promise.It is a nice developer box (meaning it builds packages faster than other ARM computers) but it has not become a consumer product.

I have been thinking about buying a tablet as my new target for the ARM port, but there are no interesting hardware choices really which warrant the effort I have to spend on making Slackware work really well on a touch device. There are some tablets which are catering for Open Source OS-es, like The ZaTab, but it is relatively expensive, not too powerful and this too, never became a viable consumer product. The Vivaldi tablet created by KDE developers is still awaiting its birth and I have no idea if this tablet will be more than a gimmick or even vaporware.

And here is that ARM powered ChromeBook! With 7 hours of battery life, no moving parts, fan-less design, a real keyboard and an exceptional screen (I have held one in my hands) it does not come with any local storage of interest… because it runs ChromeOS on a 16 GB SD card, and you are supposed to store and access all your stuff online in a Google Drive. But, if this laptop would run Slackware, you could add a larger SD card, or plug in a USB hard drive and have a very interesting laptop indeed!

Well, here is the catch. I do not have the funds to buy this laptop. Financially it is looking a bit bland here at the moment. There is some donation money coming in every month, but that is a trickle and does not even pay the electricity bill for the server (which is OK since this is not my job, it is my hobby after all).And this laptop has been eyeing at me from its Google web page, and I seriously like it, and like to have one. I know that Stuart Winter (creator of SlackwareARM) bought one for himself and is working on a SlackwareARM boot.

I decided that there is only one way in which I can revive my own ARM port, and build a hard-float ARM image of Slackware with KDE for that ChromeBook. And that is to ask you people for support.



Note that I already received those 300 euros I needed to purchase the ChromeBook… in fact I received three times as much! As explained on the ARM Port page, the additional money will go into the purchase of additional hardware after I finish the ARM port, or earlier if I need more ARM computers to speed up the compiling process.

Yes, a “donate” button. What I propose is that I try to collect the 299 euros in donation money that it will cost to buy the ARM ChromeBook in the Netherlands. The “donate” button above will lead to a PayPal page where you can contribute an amount of money that you can spare. I will create a blog page http://alien.slackbook.org/blog/armport on which I will keep track of the progress and will mention everyone who made a donation to this cause. If you do not want your name listed,  you can tell me so on the donation page.

In return for the donation money, assuming I am able to collect these 299 euros:

  • I will resume my ARM hard-float porting effort (yes, this may affect the update frequency of other packages I maintain).
  • That porting effort will not be “behind the curtains” like it has been so far. I will upload packages and scripts and will welcome ideas and feedback
  • The Chromebook will be the target hardware to build a bootable Slackware image.
  • I will upload the from-scratch cross-compiler and minirootfs which I created already, to start with
  • I am going to document on docs.slackware.com about porting to a new architecture from scratch.
  • I will also tickle Pat Volkerding’s interest in the ARM port.

I do think that this ARM ChromeBook might be a real viable consumer product worth buying by more than just developers and geeks, and if Slackware runs on it that would be awesome!

What do you think? Am I crazy to ask you for support money? And what if I do get money, but more than 300 euros? Should I try to buy another ARM product (like, a tablet) or return the surplus money? If I fail to collect those 300 euros, people will get their donations back in any case. Feel free to spread the link to this page so it gains some more attraction.

Eric

Comments

Comment from DEF
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 00:44

Call relayed:
http://boards.openpandora.org/index.php/topic/12412-call-for-help-slackware-on-an-arm-chromebook/

Comment from p431i7o
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 00:59

please consider another ways of payment like western union
countrys like mines (Paraguay )doesn’t have paypal or Google ones. but I want to collaborate with you.
Also a friend of mine has a chromebook where if we are lucky we can test your port.
Pablo

Comment from Thiago Silvino
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 01:21

Eric, it sounds awesome. I hope that you will get the money that is needed. If you surpass that amount of money you could buy another device.

Comment from jaycee
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 01:22

Unfortunately I’m not in a position to donate money at the moment, but I could try incessantly clicking the ads on this blog. Would that be helpful?

Comment from Silvio
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 02:01

I think it is well ok to ask for help to finance this product and if you get more invest it for your other Slackware activity.

Comment from weput
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 04:55

I’ve been teased by the chromebook… But I have to admit that I’ve stayed cool mainly because I have the asus 1005ha so i’m not really wining anything with the chrome OS; and i’m not quite sure on what to buy as the offer now is very overwhelming. I assume (haven’t got any on my hands) that the display is OLED (specs says LED but who knows); but what is appealing from this little machine is the oversized trackpad and the overall design…

I’ve been lurking on ARM based systems since last year as the platform is very promising. I’ve seen youtube vids where 600 MHz ARM7 procs kick ass in performance with no accelerated graphics; so a real linux port will make me very happy; specially if it will be a “hybrid” package (laptop/tablet device)…

anyways.. if you pull this off.. :D:D:D:D:D

I’ve send you my sand grain as I’m not swimming in money either around here… however, it is well worth the effort and if I where able to simply buy one and send it over…

I hope it wont be too hard. I’ve know about people running ubuntu and linux mint. I don’t know about performance but I’m sure slackware will kick ass in this one.

Comment from crond
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 05:06

“Am I crazy to ask you for support money?”

No, not at all :) . you made the slackers life easy with your packages.

“And what if I do get money, but more than 300 euros?”
No comments. I know, you make decision wisely.

“If I fail to collect those 300 euros..”

now, dont think about it. We, slackers, never put you down.

Pingback from Possible to run Slackware on a tablet?
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 08:13

[...] to android-type ARM devices which I referred to above, you might want to take a quick look at his recent blog post where he indicates a preference for a target device, not the zatab as he mentioned in that earlier [...]

Comment from Korneliusz Jarzębski
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 09:32

Great! I’d love to help – Donated.

Comment from Noryungi
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 12:06

Hey, Eric, just sent you 25€.

I may (please note *may*) be able to donate more at the end of this month if needed – I’d love to get one of these for myself and be able to run Slackware on it!!

Also

Comment from amigib
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 14:49

Still thinking about linux on my Transformer, wondering if this project will do

Comment from dubak – slacker77
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 15:19

donated – thanks for your great work for slackware community.

Comment from Thiago Silvino
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 15:21

Eric, I donated 50€. It would be great if we could recompile Slackware to run it in chroot in Android devices like the Galaxy SII. Even though it’s not your main target I guess that your cross-compiler tool chain would help to do this task.

Comment from weput
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 15:29

Thiago Silvino
I’ve been wondering the same; but the problem will be the user inteface… besides, if you root your device, a simple terminal emulator will do it.

i see more use on tablets than phone

Comment from zbreaker
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 16:47

Donated last night.
This would be a most cool thing!
Thanks for all of your work for us Eric.

Comment from Thiago Silvino
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 18:44

weput, there are some distros that manage to access GUI by using a VNC server on the chroor environment. You can even use HDMI to connect the i9100 to the TV and use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

Comment from weput
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 19:03

Thiago Silvino <– I've been watching that… the i9100 runs on arm7 platform.. at least that's what cyanogenmod kernel says it is..

wikipedia says arm9..
I'm not really sure which one is, however, if eric pull this off it is doable to have the phone running a desktop environment. There is also a 80 something developer board with the same exynos proc.

as far as i know, samsung hasn't release the source of this processor yet.. hence cyanogenmod not handling everything…. now i think it has to do more with yamaha drivers instead of arm kernel but i'm just explaining what i know.

i moved away from the project and currently i'm running the not so official 4.1.2 update on mine (i missed the videochat)

Comment from notbob
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 21:16

Hell yes i’ll donate! For all you’ve done for Slackware, you should be getting some compensation and I have no reservations about providing same. In fact, I feel guilty for not having done so till now. Granted, you’ll hafta wait till next week when the govt grouse grunts and it won’t be much, but I gar-own-tee it!

Thnx for everything you’ve done, A-bob.

Comment from alienbob
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 22:21

Hey guys and girls,

I feel humbled by the response, vocally as well as financially. In 24 hours’ time I have received almost three times the money I asked for.
I have left the possibility for people to decide on a refund if the amount of donations was going to exceed my initial request. Those of you who actually left a message, have all said that I should do good things with the surplus money, and so here is my promise: to spend it all on hardware which is going to be used for Slackware development – either that will be additional ARM devices, or a build-server upgrade if that would become unavoidable.
Those who want their money returned nevertheless, will get it back as long as I can pay it from the surplus. Additional donations are still welcome (I would lie if I stated I do not need the money) but do not feel obliged, and you might also consider buying some items from the Slackware Store instead!

Updates of my work will be documented on http://alien.slackbook.org/blog/armport/

Cheers, and many thanks, Eric

Comment from Thomas Løcke
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 22:40

Awesome news Eric. Go forth and do what you do best! :)

Comment from p431i7o
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 22:42

those are great news Eric!

Comment from gegechris99
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 23:42

I wish you the best in this endeavor. I’m confident you’ll make it!

Just donated. I’m sure you’ll make good use of it.

Comment from weput
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 00:35

Eric

one of these will make sense… http://www.engadget.com/2012/10/26/samsung-launches-arndale-community-board

just thinking..I talked to the wife and I got the green light for my own chromebook

Comment from TobiSGD
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 00:43

Nice to hear. While I am currently not really interested in ARM hardware (and sadly not able to donate) I am really interested in your documentation about porting Slackware to other architectures (some old PowerPCs here that need a purpose, maybe some other weird/exotic hardware in the future).

Comment from Chess Griffin
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 01:15

This is awesome, Eric! Good luck and I look forward to hearing more of your progress.

Comment from weput
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 03:39

I think is important to post this video here…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzmckw3fAQo

I’ve read on the comments something about links been mingle…

Comment from Nathan Weber
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 05:54

I am the creator and maintainor of PiBang Linux for the Raspberry Pi. If you would be interested in teaming up to make a Debian based arm distro aimed at the cromebook let me know

Comment from crond
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 11:08

Just FYI, the link to armport page in this blog is not re-directing correctly. the word, “blog” is missing in the link here

Comment from alienbob
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 11:48

Oops, will fix that right away, crond.

Eric

Pingback from Links 21/3/2013:Ubuntu to Halve Support Length, Valve Share for GNU/Linux Climbs | Techrights
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 18:11

[...] Call for help: Slackware on an ARM Chromebook? [...]

Comment from arm64
Posted: March 23, 2013 at 18:36

I hope there will be Slackware for ARM64 (ARMv8, aarch64) as soon as A-57 based systems will start appearing.. maybe stash some excess funds for that..?

Comment from alienbob
Posted: March 23, 2013 at 23:57

Hi arm64, that will depend on the hardware. I do not want to spend countless hours on a port for hardware no one’s going to buy.

Eric

Pingback from ARMedSlack and Raspberry Pi? – Page 14
Posted: March 25, 2013 at 16:17

[...] with the hardware floating point units — it'll be a great asset to Slackware. See his blog: http://alien.slackbook.org/blog/call…rm-chromebook/ [...]

Pingback from Lightweight laptops running Slackware – Post your model
Posted: September 3, 2013 at 17:34

[…] The most intriguing result I found was he Slackhat ARM project for the Samsung Chromebook: http://alien.slackbook.org/blog/call…rm-chromebook/ However, there doesn't seem to have been any updates on there for a while. So please, any […]

Comment from slackwarrior
Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:32

Hello, I just bought an Chromebook and seems like the last post here is made more than a year ago. Is development frozen or what?

Comment from alienbob
Posted: August 22, 2014 at 21:59

The economical crisis interfered, and I need to devote more time to taking care of my family. Development is basically frozen at this time, because the ARM port needs a time-consuming “reboot” to get back in sync with the latest Slackware.

Comment from Gerald Morris
Posted: August 23, 2014 at 05:19

All the folks clamoring for new developments on the hard floating point ARM port should go grab Stuart’s SOFT port, use his latest mini-root on a fresh SD card of at least 8 GB, build your Slack as I did on THAT, then START COMPILING WHAT YOU WANT TO RUN WITH HARDWARE FLOATING POINT! I can sympathize with Eric for having to support a family, I do too and commend him for his many contributions to Slack. IFF I get my Chromebook Slack running well enough with a few essential hardware floating point binaries like Chromium, VLC, glibc et al, I will turn Eric on to the SD card image and you all can play with that.

Stuart’s work is good. Already, his SOFTWARE FLOATINGPOINT Slack runs better on the SD card than Archarm’s HF did, so I say there is MUCH to look forward to. Thus, folk’s eagerness to see developments is understandable, BUT FOLKS GOTTA HUSTLE TO EAT AT TIMES!

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