My thoughts on Slackware, life and everything

Tag: port

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 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 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.


KDE3, KDE4 and Slackware 13.0

A bit of history… I realized that just a year ago, KDE 4.2.rc1 got added to Slackware’s “/testing” area.

With all the recent posts on this blog about KDE4 and me telling people how nice I think this version of KDE is, I realize that “liking” is a very personal expression of feelings. A feeling shared by many, fortunately, but there are still people who rather have the old KDE3 back, and the perceived stability that comes with it.

Those people should not read the next few paragraphs… instead do a fast-forward to the bottom half of this post 🙂

One of the reasons for the switch to KDE4 in Slackware 13.0 was that I did not want to build KDE3 packages for slackware64 during the time that I was “secretly” building the package set for it. I had been running KDE4 on my Slackware laptop for more than half a year when I kickstarted the 64-bit port in september 2008. Looking at my options for completing slackware64, I decided that I should jump straight to KDE4. It would probably take until somewhere in 2009 before the 64-bit port would be released to the general public. By that time, KDE 4.2 would be available which I thought would be the right time to replace KDE3 in Slackware.

In january 2009, Pat added KDE 4.2.0 to “/testing“, which was essentially a 32-bit “rebuild” of the KDE 4.2.0 packages the Slackware team members were already running on slackware64. Close inspection of the 32-bit KDE SlackBuild scripts would have revealed that something was cooking. The build scripts contained numerous hints to the non-public 64-bit port. By that time I think most of us were running slackware64 on a daily basis and were used to working with KDE4 (well perhaps this is not tru for Robby, our avid XFCE user ;-). The goal for going public with slackware64-current was set for may 2009. This meant that the package sets for 32-bit and 64-bit had to be synchronized before that time. The SlackBuild scripts for slackware64 were written with the philosophy that they should compile 32-bit packages just as easily, so this synchronization effort was not particularly hard, technically speaking… just a tedious administrative job (Pat might disagree here 🙂 The only big change of course, was that KDE4 had to move from “/testing” into the core “/slackware/kde” package directory.

KDE 4.2.1 was the actual version to finally replace KDE3 in Slackware. This was in march 2009, and got big publicity, because it was a revolutionary upgrade and therefore not welcomed by all Slackware users (but what major change is, really). The KDE team on the other hand, was quite pleased about this 😉

Note that I really like KDE4 – it has become so much more powerful a desktop than KDE3 ever was to me. There was just no way that we could keep everybody happy with the switch to KDE4. If Slackware 13.0 had shipped with KDE3, lots of people would have complained about “stale software”, since KDE3 was no longer maintained at that time (3.5.10 was the final release in the series). KDE 4.2.4 which did ship with Slackware 13.0, was good, with rough edges, but the best choice at that time. Since then, Vincent Batts has released a KDE 4.3.1 package set for Slackware 13.0: , slackware-current has moved to KDE 4.3.4 (stable and a joy to use) and my own packages for play-testing the KDE 4.4 prereleases (to be installed on slackware64-current) are mentioned in other blog posts of mine. KDE 4.4 is surrounded by some “political” issues involving the influence of certain big distros, which keep it from being included into Slackware in the near future. Perhaps I should talk about that in more detail, but I will spend another blog post on that.

However, many people have overlooked the fact that Pat actually did create a KDE 3.5.10 package set to accompany the Slackware 13.0 release. Its location is somewhat hidden and there was no publicity on the web site. Mainly because KDE 3.5.10 for Slackware was released with status “unsupported“. It was meant as a service to the Slackware users who required more time to make the switch to KDE4.

You can find KDE 3.5.10 for Slackware 13.0 (32-bit as well as 64-bit packages are available) here:

Cheers, Eric

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