Snowball is a mobile development board based on ST Ericsson Nova A9500 dual core ARM Cortex A9 SoC , which was officially supported by Linaro (they still released Android and Ubuntu images), and designed by Calao Systems, but since ST-Ericsson venture fell apart, support for the board has been discontinued, and the developer’s community (igloocommunity) has recently been closed down.
Snowball PDK Lite
The last message of the mailing list (now not accessible) reads as follows:
A small team of passionate ST-Ericsson people have dreamed about Snowball and they makes it possible. Since December 2011 after a management change, it has been difficult to maintain the program, but with your support, we succeed until this time. Nevertheless, you have been able to demonstrate the pertinence of this program, and its great potential with impressive realizations.
In December 2012, STMicroelectronics announced a new strategic plan, where STM takes the decision to exit ST-Ericsson. Then both companies Ericsson and STM agreed to split-up the joint venture(JV) ST-Ericsson. Despite our effort, Snowball failed to be transferred to ST and therefore decision has been taken to discontinue it.
It‘s a big sadness for me to lose an European platform that was aiming to catalyze and boot innovation projects in an open way. I would like to thank all of you that have shared our vision, believed and contributed to this program. Two special recognitions, for Calao-System that invested deeply their company in Snowball and Movial that made the IGLOO community a living reality. Thank to them, the website will still stay open several weeks… Then we still have the opportunity to continue to share our open source spirit in other places.
Calao Systems has decided to maintain a stock and to continue the distribution of the Snowball board, at least until a new platform is developed. They currently have 1500 boards in stock offered at a steep discount. The cheapest option is SKY-S9500-ULP-C22 board (aka SNOWBALL-SDK-LITE) selling for 89 Euros (exc. VAT) instead of the original 155.73 Euros (exc. VAT). It has several sensors not found in most low cost boards, but by today’s standard the price is not that attractive, so I suppose it’s only really interesting if you already have project(s) based on the platform and you need some extra boards. You can find the discounted price for the different versions of the Snowball board on Calao Systems, and the company also provides links to development resources such as the schematics and a wiki.
Linaro release 12.09 has just been announced, and includes Linux Kernel 3.6-rc6 and Android Jelly Bean.
This release provides further improvement to Android Jelly Bean, Android benchmark characterization, an ARMv8 OpenEmbedded image, UEFI bootloader support for Vexpress, origen and pandabords, and some improvement to big.LITTLE and power management.
Here are the highlights of the release:
All Linaro patches are now available on Jelly Bean.
Accelerated graphics is now available on Snowball Jelly Bean build.
Foundation for the ARMv8 OpenEmbedded porting mostly completed, with kernel and a very minimal rootfs already available for internal usage.
Kernel and test components were updated for the big.LITTLE project, based on the requirements for the 12.09 cycle.
Substantial progress on the Debian/Ubuntu Perl and Python multi-arch/cross-build support, with enough data to be used and supported during the ARMv8 Debian/Ubuntu bootstrap.
Hwpacks for Vexpress, Origen and PandaBoard now also include the support for UEFI, which can be selected while flashing the image with linaro-media-tools.
Linux Linaro tree updated with the latest kernel development topics provided by Linaro (including big.LITTLE MP), and also against the 3.6-rc6 upstream snapshot.
The hardware pack v3 format now implements the “copy_files” directive, a list of files to copy from an optionally named packages to an optionally named destination.
Reordering and code cleanup of In-Kernel Switcher (IKS) is done.
Inter-Process Interrupt (IPI) for CPU wake-ups is done and the IKS code was adapted to use it.
Hierarchical cache flushing code has been submitted, waiting for acknowledgment and acceptance.
Forward porting of existing UEFI port on Origen to latest UEFI release of Linaro.
Version 8 of the big.LITTLE MP integration tree integrated into LLCT and in use in the TC2 builds. It contains:
Updated version of task placement patches for the scheduler.
Bug fixes to the mainline scheduler.
PMU patches for b.L from ARM.
Powertop rebased on upstream 2.1 release. Updated on Ubuntu and Android Linaro Evaluation Builds.
Linaro GCC 4.7 2012.09, updated to GCC 4.7.1+svn191123
Adds support for the NEON vext instruction when shuffling.
Backports improvements to scheduling transfers between VFP and core registers.
Backports support for the UBFX instruction on certain bit extract idioms.
PR54252 ICE with too wide alignment assertion on vectorised code – Fixed.
PR54212 ICE due to generating a predicated NEON vdup instruction – Fixed.
Linaro GCC 4.6 2012.09, updates to 4.6.3+svn191000.
Linaro QEMU 1.2.0 2012.09, rebased on upstream’s 1.2.0 release.
Linaro Toolchain Binaries 2012.09, updated to latest Linaro GCC 4.7 2012.09 and Linaro GDB 7.5 2012.09
gdbserver is stripped.
gdbtui is replaced by “gdb –tui”.
Versatile Express TC2 have been deployed in the Validation lab.
LAVA deployment tool now supports a non-interactive mode and can be completely automated.
LAVA test includes the validation test suite for TI ARM features on Linux.
Snowball boards have been added in the Validation lab.
Visit https://wiki.linaro.org/Cycles/1209/Releasefor a list of known issues and further release details about the LEB, Android, Kernel, Graphics, Landing Team, Platform, Power management and Toolchain (GCC / Qemu) components.
Linaro release 12.08 includes Linux Kernel 3.6-rc2 and is the very first release with Android Jelly Bean (4.1.1-R4).
The Android platform team has managed to port Android Jelly Bean to all their main development platforms: Versatile Express, Versatile Express RTSM, Samsung Origen, TI PandaBoard, ST Ericsson Snowball, as well as Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. They’ve also added TINY_ANDROID, a minimal Android build that can be used for kernel development, toolchain work and other development where users only need a console. It’s possible to get the source code, build it and access the shell within 10 minutes. U-boot-Linaro has been updated and is now based on the latest upstream release v2012.07.
Next month, we might be able to see a preliminary port of Android on 64-bit platform (ARMv8).
Linux Linaro is now tested and validated with CI, for all the supported flavours from the Landing Teams.
USB Host enablement testing is now available at LAVA, to help on USB support validation.
All packaged linux linaro kernels are cross compile tested and boot tested via LAVA before uploading them to Launchpad.
U-boot-Linaro is now based on the latest upstream release v2012.07.
Filesystem images are provided for Android builds to facilitate testing and streamlined deployment.
Graphics and Multimedia
GLMark2: display benchmark results log in the Android GUI.
GLMark2: users can save and load benchmark lists from the Android GUI.
Add the concept of max_power and current_power to the scheduler to tie in DVFS.
Fix partial-partial PRE since EEMBC bitmnp01 regressed significantly at -O3. Patch upstreamed and backported to Linaro GCC 4.7-2012.08
Ubuntu FastModel’s now executing big.LITTLE test suite in the lab.
OpenEmbedded images are bootable in LAVA.
WiFi antennas were added to the Snowball boards in the Validation lab to enable WiFi testing.
Visit https://wiki.linaro.org/Cycles/1208/Release for a list of known issues and further release details about the LEB, Android, Kernel, Graphics, Landing Team, Platform, Power management and Toolchain (GCC / Qemu) components.
Linaro has released version 12.07 based on Linux Kernel 3.5-rc3 and Android 4.0.4.
Some work has been done on Jelly Bean (but the port is for next month), several benchmark tools have been added to LAVA as Linaro wants to provide standard benchmarks for Android, Linaro ALIP image now uses LXDE by default with a smaller image and improved performance, and Open Embedded images are now available (minimal and LAMP stack).
Here are the highlights of the release:
Jellybean baselines for Galaxy and Panda with Linaro extra’s available
Android Benchmarking apps were deployed for pandaboard, snowball and origen in LAVA including: vellamo, quadrant, nbench, linpack, glbenchmark, geekbench, caffeinemark, antutu, andebench
Improved native Benchmarks variance on Android to 1%, working on Java variance
ICS “tests” builds now produced by default and test lists generated
Open overlay tarballs working
pm-qa’s cpuidle cpufreq cpuhotplug sched_mc suspend integrated into the Android builds
Linaro Android Snowball 4.0.4 is now in par with Snowball 4.0.3
Linaro ALIP is now using LXDE as the default environment, with a reduced image for better performance at ARM targets, such as Vexpress and FastModels (big.LITTLE architectures and standalone Cortex A15).
Kernel packages updated to reflect the latest development trees from Linux Linaro (lct/ll-3.5 and llt-3.4) and the Landing Teams
CI jobs for the Ubuntu Kernel Packages are now cross compiled at Jenkings once succesfull it’s pushed directly to the Kernel PPA, reducing the kernel package respin time considerably.
Linux Linaro updated on top of the latest upstream release (3.5), and also reflecting the latest changes and development available at Linaro, such as big.LITTLE MP.
OpenEmbedded ready targets for minimal and LAMP stacks compatible with ARMv7 are now available, generated automatically by ci.linaro.org and with images available at snapshots.linaro.org. If you are interested in trying to build OE Linaro, here are the instructions.
U-Boot-Linaro updated with fixes for Omap 4 (Pandaboard) and also with the latest PXE-related changes from upstream.
Cross toolchain packages updated at both Ubuntu Quantal and Toolchain Backports PPA to reflect the latest version available.
Linaro image tools now supports multiple boards and multiple bootloaders on a single hardware pack.
Build information can now be defined and exported for external use.
Create a skeleton Django-based web application for the CI dashboard with basic web serving, API framework, persistence layer and OpenID-based authentication and ACLs.
Click through license protection supports EULA versioning and branding and OpenID authentication.
Add Android GUI for defining and running benchmarks.
Add benchmark based on the WebGL jellyfish demo (scene ‘jellyfish’).
Add benchmark based on the WebGL dynamic terrain demo (scene ‘terrain’).
Extend texture scene with the option to compute texture coordinates in the shader (option ‘texgen’).
Add support for reading texture data from JPEG files.
Properly support options that have a finite set of acceptable values.
New ‘scale’ test to simulate window manager scaling effect.
Enhancements to test options for existing tests.
Kernel – No info available yet
Multimedia – No info available yet
b.L MP tree integrated into linux-linaro but not enabled for TC2 due to unrelated last-minute problems for ARM LT
Bug fixes to PM-QA tests to not run if feature is not found
Linaro GCC 4.7 2012.07 is the fourth release in the 4.7 series. Based off the latest GCC 4.7.0+svn189098 release, it includes performance improvements around choice of auto-increment based addressing modes for floating point values.
Updates to GCC 4.7.0+svn189098
Implements improvements to ivopts selection of addressing modes of floating point values.
Go to https://wiki.linaro.org/Cycles/1207/Release for known issues and further release details about the LEB, Android, Kernel, Graphics, Landing Team, Platform, Power management and Toolchain (GCC / Qemu) components.
Linaro has released version 12.06 based on Linux Kernel 3.5-rc3 and Android 4.0.4 (r2.1).
This release brings further multimedia enablement for Android as well as some improvement to perf for Android, improved instructions & scripts for multi-arch on Ubuntu, and lots of little improvements and bugs fixes.
Here are the highlights of the release:
Multimedia enablement on AOSP, patches are in review.
Most of the benchmarking applications have been automated via Monkeyrunner, working on PandaBoard and Snowball.
Update panda-ics-gcc47-tilt-tracking-blob build to the TI LT 3.4 kernel.
USB camera preview and still capture forward ported to tilt-tracking.
3D graphics and multimedia working on tilt-stable.
IOMMU for Origen’s Multi format codec (MFC) enabled.
IOMMU for Origen’s FIMC enabled. (FIMC stands for Fully Interactive Mobile Camera, and it’s used for camera input).
Kernel config fragments are now used by all the kernel packages available in the Linaro Evalution Builds, including one single fragment for the Ubuntu specific configs, which now allows all builds to behave similarly.
Pre-built images validation was improved for the supported Linaro Evaluation Builds flavors, including a html file that describe the image content, and displays the test results from LAVA.
Fixes for wifi-enablement, bluetooth-enablement, leb-basic-graphics and perf test cases. They should now be properly reflecting the Linaro Evaluation Builds images results.
Kernel packages updated to the latest development trees from Linux Linaro and Landing Teams.
A new Linux Linaro branch, called Linux Linaro Tracking, is now published. It contains the 3.4 Landing Team trees from TI, Samsung and ARM, delivering a single and unified tree which helps identifying conflicts and issues ahead of upstream.
Dmitry (omgfire), one of my awesome readers, compiled a great tabular list of Linux friendly boards and products that sells for less than $300 US (usually less than $200). This list includes technical details such as the processor, GPU, memory, NAND flash, connectivity, ports, supported Linux distributions… as well as availability and pricing information.
There are currently 39 Linux devices in total. The vast majority are ARM based boards, but he also included 2 x86 products by VIA, but those are relatively pricey ($265 and up).
Here’s a summary list with SoCs used, links to blog posts and product pages (if available), as well as price information.
Raspberry Pi Board Model B
Raspberry Pi Model B – Broadcom BCM2835 (ARM11) – Blog post (That’s my first post about the R-Pi last year, and the board is much different now) – Product page – Price: $35 + shipping
Rikomagic MK802 – Allwiner A10 (Cortex A8) – Blog post – Price: $70 to $80 inc. shipping
Mele A1000 – AllWinner A10 (Cortex A8) – Blog post – Product page – Price: $70 + shipping to $100 (inc. shipping)
The list is obviously not exhaustive (this would include hundreds of boards), but this still pretty good. Bear in mind, that is also included some recently phased out boards (e.g. Hawkboard) and devices (e.g. Genesi Efika MX Smarttop), but you might get one of those second hand on eBay or similar sites.
You can download Dmitry’s PDF file that shows side-by-side comparison of 5 devices at a time.
Linaro has just released version 12.05 based on Linux Kernel 3.4 and Android 4.0.4.
This release provides lots of improvement for Origen (Samsung Exynos 4) on Android, further work has been done on big.LITTLE processing and ARMv8 work appears to have started for Ubuntu and Debian. armel vs armhf benchmarks show a massive improvement (up to 15x) when using armhf for povray (3D rendering),. but for most other tests, there is little improvement, and in some rare cases armhf is slightly slower than armel.
Here are the highlights of the release:
Created a stable Google hangout build for Origen
Updated DS-5 and gator daemon to 5.10
Stress tests from big.LITTLE testing have been integrated into LAVA
Completed big.LITTLE Android tasks
Monkeyrunner tests for automating common Android usage have been integrated into LAVA
Ordered a new power measurement device from National Instruments
Updated and Origen 3.4 rc7
Completed Android HAL upgrades for mainline MM drivers like display, codec and HDMI
Android Kernel on Origen is now completely in-sync with mainline drivers
SIProp – Combat Scouter – How much your Combat Power? (SIProp)
Android Toolchain Improvements (Linaro)
Origen Running Awesome Code (Linaro)
Snowball with MM enablement (Linaro)
Tizen on Snowball (Linaro)
Google+ Hangouts on an ARM Board (Linaro)
Low-Cost Logic Analyzer (Linaro)
XBMC on Snowball – ST Ericsson Snowball (Linaro)
(Ubuntu) Unity 3D on Snowball (Linaro)
Ubuntu TV on Snowball (Linaro)
PCM (Phase Change Memory) : Linaro kernel meets with the PCM technology (Micron)
ARM DS-5 & Linaro (ARM)
Most of the demos will be organized by Linaro, but three others companies will also shown the “show”, namely SIProp, Micron and ARM. It’s always interested to see what happens at Linaro because it gives a view into the future to what may comes to the new products and developers can see what new features are available for ARM Linux and possible use Linaro’s work into their design.
ST Ericsson Snowball board seems to be the new favorite at Linaro, with at least 5 demos running on the board. The reason for the choice is that it’s 100% ARM, meaning that both the CPU cores (Cortex A9) and the GPU (Mali-400) are provided by ARM. Other processor like the AllWinner A10 also feature a Mali 400 GPU and it might be possible to make use of 2D/3D hardware acceleration developed on the Snowball for other Mali 400 platforms, although I’m not sure at all about that. Hardware video decoding is often proprietary so it won’t be usable on hardware not based on ST Ericsson Nova A9500.
I’ve been looking around to see if I could find some existing videos or information about the demos about to take place in Hong Kong.
Big.LITTLE in-kernel Switcher
This will be a demo of Big LITTLE (Cortex A15 / Cortex A7) kernel switching showing how it can switch between the 2 cores depending on the system load and reduce power consumption.
I’m not exactly sure what will this demo be. But SIProp is the team who showcased the Pandaboard Cloud last year, so I’m sure it will be interesting. Their latest project is a Treasure Hunting Robot based on Pandaboard and running Linaro Ubuntu and kernel, but I suppose they’ll show another interesting demo at Linaro Connect.
This will demo GPU hardware acceleration on Android 4.0.4 for the Snowball board. I assume MM enablement includes 3D support and hardware video and after 2D hardware acceleration was implemented and demo’ed last December in Android ICS.
Tizen on Snowball
Great! There are already a few video about this demo. Further details (including Tizen 1.0 image for Snowball board) are available on the IglooCommunity.
XBMC on Snowball
Linaro has already showcased XBMC on Snowball during Q1.12 Linaro Connect with software video decoding (accelerated with NEON instructions) as you can see in the video below.
Thanks to Snowball MM enablement discussed above, XBMC is now (probably) fully hardware accelerated on the Snowball, which could make a nice platform (although still a bit expensive) for this open source media center.
XMBC is part of linaro overlay ppa, so you should be able to try in any ARM board running Ubuntu 12.04, although many boards won’t support 2D/3D hardware acceleration and most boards won’t support hardware video decoding. I’ve installed XBMC on my Mele A1000 and the UI can start, but the menu is very slow (as in unusable) because it’s using software rendering. But don’t worry, XBMC developers are working on it.
Ubuntu Unity 3D on Snowball
Another Snowball multimedia enablement demo, that will showcase 3D acceleration on Snowball running Ubuntu 12.04. If you’ve ever tried to use Unity 3D on a board without 3D acceleration you will see your mouse pointer nearly come to an halt when you move it over the dashboard as a little program called “compiz” will take 100% CPU usage.
Ubuntu TV on Snowball
I’m not sure about this particular demo, as I cannot find any links related to Ubuntu TV on snowball, so it must be very new. You can check out Ubuntu TV in Pandaboard to see what you might expect.
Google+ Hangouts on an ARM Board
I could not find details, but I assume they will use Google+ app on Android which allows Mobile Hangouts video conference with up to 9 persons.
PCM (Phase Change Memory)
Phase Change Memory is a new type of memory apparently only available from Micro. It support bit-alterability, fast write and is non-volatile. Micron claims it merges the best attributes of NOR, NAND, and RAM. It is currently available in 32Mb, 64 Mb and 128 Mb density and targets embedded applications. For details visit http://www.micron.com/products/phase-change-memory.
Since it will be demo’ed at Linaro Connect, I supposed it’s now part of the kernel or some serious work is done on supporting it.
ARM DS-5 & Linaro
ARM Development Studio 5 is a development suite provided by ARM. Last year they released a Community Edition that can be downloaded for free by individual developers and small companies. You can watch some very short video demos on Freescael, Xilinx and Samsung boards shot at Design West 2012. If you want to know how to debug linaro image with DS5 check out this ARM blog post.