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Orange Pi Development Boards

Variscite DART-MX8M is a Compact NXP i.MX 8M System-on-Module

January 12th, 2018 3 comments

NXP has recently launched their i.MX 8M evaluation kit and released documentation, so we can expect multiple products based on the family in 2018. The new NXP i.MX 64-bit processors include three families with i.MX 8, i.MX 8X, and i.MX 8M, but so far it looks like many companies are launching products based on the latter.

The Embedded World Conference 2018 at the end of February should be the occasion for many product launches, especially systems-on-module and related development kit, but several companies have already posted information about their i.MX 8(M) modules minus pricing, and one of those is Variscite DART MX8M a company (55x30mm) module with i.MX 8M processor, up to 4GB LPDDR4, up to 64GB eMMC flash, as well as 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Variscite DART-MX8M specifications:

  • SoC – NXP i.MX8M with dual or quad core Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz, Cortex-M4 real-time core @ 266 MHz, and Vivante GC7000Lit 2D/3D graphics accelerator
  • System Memory – 1 – 4 GB LPDDR4
  • Storage – 4 – 64 GB eMMC  flash, 4K I2C EEPROM
  • Connectivity – On-module Wi-Fi 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n & Bluetooth 4.2 LE (via Sterling LWB5), and Qualcomm Atheros AR8031 Gigabit Ethernet tranceiver
  • Video Acceleration – Up to 4K HEVC/H265, H264, VP9 Decode plus HDR
  • Audio – Audio codec on-module
  • 3x 90-pin board-to-board connectors with:
    • Video Inputs – 2x MIPI-CSI2 (4-Lane, each)
    • Display
      • HDMI 2.0 up to 4Kp60
      • Display Port eDP1.4/DP1.3 up to 4Kp60
      • MIPI-DSI 1080p60
      • LVDS Dual channel support 1920×1080 60fps
    • Networking – 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet
    • Audio
      • Analog & digital microphone I/F
      • Up to x5 I2S(SAI), SPDIF
      • Line In Yes
    • 1x SD/SDIO/MMC
    • 2x USB 3.0/2.0 OTG
    • 4x UART up to 4 Mbps
    • 3x I2C 3x SPI, 2x QSPI
    • RTC (on carrier)
    • 2 x PCIe 2.0 (1-Lane, each)
  • Supply voltage – 3.4 – 4.5 V
  • Digital I/O voltage – 3.3 V
  • Dimensions – 30.0 mm x 55.0 mm x 4.7 mm
  • Temperature range – Commercial: 0 to 70°C; Industrial: -40 to 85°C

Click to Enlarge

The company will provide Linux and Android BSPs for the module, but Windows Embedded Compact will not be supported. A DART MX8M kits will also be offered to speed up the early stage of development, with a module, with/without a 7″ WVGA capacitive touch display (VAR-DVK-MX8M/VAR-STK-MX8M) …

VAR-DVK-MX8M Kit

and VAR-DT8MCustomBoard carrier board with the following specifications:

 

  • SoM Interface – B2B socket for DART-MX8M module
  • Storage – SD Card Socket
  • Display
    • HDMI 2.0a
    • DP 1.3
    • 18-bit / 24-bit LVDS connector
    • Backlight Driver (PWM Control)
  • Touch Panel
    • 4-wire resistive touch panel (4-pin FFC/FPC)
    • capacitive touch panel (6-pin FFC/FPC)
  • Audio
    • Headphone – 3.5 mm connector
    • Line in – 3.5 mm connector
    • On-board digital microphone
  • USB – 2x USB3.0/2.0 ports, 1x USB3.0/2.0 type C connector
  • Network – Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps, RJ45
  • Camera interfaces –  Serial Camera
  • Serial Ports
    • USB to serial bridge via Micro USB port
    • FTDI Header for debugging
    • 2x RS232 header
  • Expansion
    • 2x mini PCIe connectors
    • Headers with QSPI, UART, SPI, I2C, GPIOs, JTAG, SAI, S/PDIF
  • Misc – RTC Backup battery socket (CR1225), buttons, LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V DC input, 2.5 mm DC jack
  • Dimensions – 15 cm x 9 cm x 2.9 cm

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The kits also come with a micro USB cable, an optional Ethernet cable, optional 5V power supply, an antenna, a boot/rescure SD card, and a carrier board design package. There may also be a camera module offered in the future.

The module is shown as “coming soon” and we don’t have price information yet. More details may be found on the module page, where you’ll also find details about the kits and carrier board (Supporting Products tab). The company is also working on VAR-SOM-MX8 SoM based on NXP i.MX 8 Cortex A72/A53 processor, but less details are available for now.

Amlogic A113X1 6-Mic Far-Field Devkit is Designed for Amazon Alexa

January 11th, 2018 2 comments

Allwinner unveiled their SoC-Only 3-Mic Far-Field Development Kit for Amazon AVS last week, but they are now joined by another low cost silicon vendor as Amlogic has just launched their own A113X1 far-field dev kit officially support for Amazon Alexa Voice Service (AVS).

The development kit is powered by Amlogic A113X SoC designed for such applications with “an audio pipeline that supports high fidelity audio with soft DSP algorithms for both frontend and backend processing”.

 

Amlogic A113X1 far-field devkit specifications:

  • Mainboard
    • SoC – Amlogic A113X quad core Cortex A53 processor
    • System Memory – 512MB DDR3
    • Storage – 512 MB NAND flash
    • Connectivity – SDIO WiFi/BT (AP6356S)
    • Audio
      • SPDIF_IN jack
      • LINE_IN/LINE_OUT jacks
      • 2x Audio headers (MIC_Connector & SPK_Connector)
    • USB – 1x micro USB 2.0 OTG port
    • Expansion – SPI header
    • Misc – 6x ADC Keys, IR_IN/IR_OUT, UART Interface (RS232), LEDs
    • Power Supply – 12V/2A
  • Microphone board
    • 6x digital microphones in a circular array
    • Texas Instruments PCA9557PWR IO expander
  • Speaker board
    • Texas Instruments TAS5707PHPR 20-W Open-Loop Stereo Digital Input Class-D Audio Amplifier with Speaker EQ and DRC
    • Power Supply – 12V DC barrel jack

The solution is said to run “high-performance DSP algorithms for acoustic echo cancellation, beamforming, and noise reduction”.

 

Beside the three boards of the kit (main, speaker, and microphone), you’ll also get a power supply, a serial debug adapter, and a pair of generic speakers. You’ll find more documentation, a getting started guide (with a Linux 4.9 buildroot based distribution), and a purchase link for the $250 kit on a dedicated Amazon Developer page. The kit is currently demonstrated at the Amlogic suite in the Venetian (Suite #34311) during CES 2018.

We’ll also find the kit in company of the aforementioned $129 Allwinner Amazon AVS kit, a new $1,250 “Qualcomm Smart Audio 6-Mic Development Kit for Amazon AVS”, and as well as the $299 hands-free “Synaptics AudioSmart 2-Mic Dev Kit for Amazon AVS” on the System Dev Kits section of Amazon AVS Development Kits page.

 

Amlogic Far-field Kit Accessories – Click to Enlarge

 

Thanks to Theguyuk for the tip

MINIX NEO N42C-4 Pro Review – Part 3: Ubuntu / Linux

In the second part of MINIX NEO N42C-4 review (and on linuxium website), we looked at the device and the performance using Windows.  In this third part, we will look at how to install and the performance of using Linux (Ubuntu).

The BIOS does not include an option to select Linux as a boot OS and a standard Ubuntu ISO written to a USB will not boot. So to install Ubuntu to the eMMC as dual-boot first it was necessary to respin a standard Ubuntu ISO using my ‘isorespin.sh’ script with the ‘–apollo’ option, and which after creating a LiveUSB using the ‘dd’ command was used to boot and install Ubuntu.

First let’s remind ourselves of the hardware configuration by running some standard Linux commands:

This shows the memory will be dual-channel once the second slot (bank:1) is populated and also confirms that the eMMC 5.1 (mmc0) is running the faster HS400 interface. Headphones shows up as ‘Line Out’ in the sound settings and are selectable along with HDMI/DisplayPort and S/PDIF audio output:

Running my standard set of benchmarking tools shows performance is as expected:

and can be compared with other Intel Apollo Lake devices:

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Looking at real-world usage cases the first tested was watching a 4K video using Google Chrome was unwatchable with dropped frames:

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however at 1080p the video is watchable:

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Running Kodi videos encoded with the VP9, H.264 and H.265 or HEVC codecs used hardware for decoding:

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however some H.265 videos resulted in a blank (black) screen just with audio whereas others played without issue:

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The internal fan was inaudible but works and prevents the device from heats up playing videos:

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with the external surface temperature not exceeding 38°C during continuous video playback:

Ethernet throughput measured using ‘iperf’ shows 941 Mbits/sec for download and 940 Mbits/sec for upload. For Wifi connectivity the 2.4 GHz throughput showed 42.2 Mbits/sec for download but only 30.1 Mbits/sec for upload. However 5.0 GHz throughput is good with download measuring 133 Mbits/sec and upload of 146 Mbits/sec.

Power consumption for the device was measured as:

  • Power off – 0.5 Watts
  • Boot menu – 4.0 Watts
  • Idle – 4.1 Watts
  • CPU stressed – 10.0 Watts
  • 1080p video – 9.3 Watts

When I reviewed Windows on the device I also added 4GB of RAM and installed a 240GB M.2 SSD. The updated memory hardware configuration now looks like:

After successfully installing Windows to the M.2 drive I also installed Ubuntu to the eMMC:

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And then after successfully reinstalling Windows on the eMMC flash, I also reinstalled Ubuntu on the M.2:

with no issues booting either OS from the BIOS boot menu (F11) showing that there is flexibility in installing Ubuntu either as dual-boot sharing a drive or using a dedicated drive.

Power consumption increased slightly with the extra RAM and M.2 drive and was measured as:

  • Power off – 0.5 Watts
  • Boot menu – 4.6 Watts
  • Idle – 4.6 Watts
  • CPU stressed – 10.9 Watts
  • 1080p video – 8.5 Watts

Finally given the price it is clear that MINIX have positioned this device as a Windows platform as evidenced by the lack of a Linux option in the BIOS. It performs well under Ubuntu however if that was to be the only installed OS then an Intel NUC or similar barebones device should probably be considered because the primary selling point for this device is the inclusion of the activated Windows 10 Pro license.

$25 Orange Pi Lite2 Board Comes with Allwinner H6 Processor, 802.11ac WiFi + BLE Module, USB 3.0, and More

January 10th, 2018 13 comments

After Shenzhen Xunlong launched of the first low cost Allwinner H6 development board with Orange Pi One Plus at the very end of last month, we know more Allwinner H6 were coming, and the company has now launched Orange Pi Lite2 development board with 1GB LPDDR3, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth module, and a USB 3.0 port.

The board however does not come with an Ethernet port, so people wanting to get H6 with Gigabit Etheret and USB 3.0 will need to wait a little longer. Orange Pi Lite2 is sold for $25 plus shipping on Aliexpress.

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Orange Pi Lite2 board specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H6 V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor with Arm Mali-T720MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDCP 2.2 (TBC)
  • Audio – HDMI audio output, built-in microphone
  • Camera – Parallel CSI connector with support 5MP camera up to 1080p30
  • Video Decoding – 10-bit H.265 up to 4K @ 60 fps, VP9 and H.264 up to 4K @ 30 fps
  • Connectivity – 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 via Ampak 6255 module
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x micro USB OTG port (also used for power)
  • Expansion – 26-pin header
  • Debugging – 3-pin serial console header
  • Misc – Power & status LEDs, power button, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel jack, or micro USB port; AXP805 PMIC
  • Dimensions – 69 x 48 mm
  • Weight – 50 grams

The company provides Android, Ubuntu, and Debian for the board, but as mentioned for Orange Pi One Plus, Allwinner H6 is pretty new, so if you plan to use Linux, expect some initial pain… The images will eventually be one Orange Pi resources pages, and I can see the company release Android 7.1 firmware & SDK, tools, and a “user’s manual” for Allwinner H6. I’d expect Allwinner H6 to be supported by Armbian in a few months.

ASUS Tinker Board S adds 16GB eMMC flash, to sell for $79.99

January 9th, 2018 13 comments

ASUS Tinker Board generated a lot of buzz on this blog when it launched last year as a large company like ASUS entered the maker market with a Raspberry Pi 3 competitor with more powerful and 4K capable Rockchip RK3288 processor.

The company has now announced an update at CES 2018 with Tinker Board S with the same features, except for the additional of 16GB eMMC flash and a few other minor changes.

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ASUS Tinker Board S specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip 3288 quad core ARM Cortex A17 processor up to 1.8 GHz with Mali-T764 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0 /3.0, and OpenCL 1.1
  • System Memory – 2GB dual channel LPDDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Video output & Display I/F
    • 1x HDMI 2.0 up to 3840×2160 @ 30 Hz with HDMI CEC
    • 1x 15-pin MIPI DSI supporting HD resolution
  • Audio – 1x 3.5mm audio jack with plug-in detection and auto switch; Realtek ALC4040 HD codec with 192KHz/24-bit audio
  • Camera I/F – 1x 15-pin MIPI CSI connector
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB port (for power)
  • Expansion Headers
    • 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible header with up to 28x GPIOs, 2x SPI, 2x I2C, 4x UART, 2x PWM, 1x PCM/I2S with slave mode, 5V, 3.3V, and GND
    • 2-pin contact point with 1x PWM signal, 1x S/PDIF signal
    • 2-pin power-on-header
  • Misc – Button, unpopulated fan header
  • Power Supply – 5V/2-3A via micro USB port with support for low voltage detection
  • Dimensions – 85.6 x 54 cm
  • Weight – 55 grams

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Just like its predecessor, Tinker Board S can run Debian 9 + LXDE based Tinker OS, as well as Android Tinker OS, and Flint OS. The board also supports popular programs such as Kodi medi center or Lakka and RetroPie retro gaming platforms, as well as expansion boards like HiFiBerry sound cards or MATRIX Creator IoT / sensors board.

The Tinkerboard S will be available in Q1 2018 for $79.99 MSRP. Visit the product page for documentation (WiP) and more details.

Firefly ROC-RK3328-CC Development Board Now for Sale for $35 and Up

January 8th, 2018 8 comments

Remember Libre Computer Renegade SBC – aka ROC-RK3328-CC – based on Rockchip RK3328 processor, and launched last month on Indiegogo? The crowdfunding campaign successfully completed a few days ago with over $20,000 raised from close to 250 backers.

When we zoomed on the board we could see markings on the board indicated that it was made by Firefly team, the makers of boards such as Firefly-RK3288 Reload or Firefly-RK3399, and the company is now selling the board with 1 or 2GB RAM for respectively $35 and $50 plus shipping, but the 4GB version is not up for sale at this stage.

Firefly-ROC-RK3328-CC board specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1, 2, or 4GB DDR4
  • Storage – eMMC 5.x flash module socket (8 to 128 GB) + micro SD card slot
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10 and HLG support, 3.5mm AV port (composite video + stereo audio)
  • Video Codec – 4K VP9, H.265 and H.264, 1080p VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP6/8
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Expansion Headers
    • 40-pin (mostly) Raspberry Pi compatible GPIO header with PWM, I2C, SPI, GPIOs
    • 3-pin ADC Header with 2x analog inputs, GND
  • Debugging – UART header pins
  • Misc – IR receiver; button
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions –  85 x 56 mm

The board will ship with a micro USB cable, which will mitigate some of the micro USB powering issues some people may have had otherwise.

The company provides Ubuntu 16.04 32- & 64-bit, Debian 32-bit,  Android 7.1.2 firmware images, as well as the Android SDK and tools for download (Baidu links only for now). Android & Linux software and hardware documentation is also available.

Thank to Fran for the tip.

$129 Allwinner R18 based 3-Mic Far Field Amazon AVS Development Kit in the Works

January 4th, 2018 17 comments

Several companies are already offering development kits for Amazon AVS (Alexa Voice Service), but as we’ve seen in the past, those are rather expensive with far-field kits such starting at $349 with kits such as Synaptics AudioSmart 4-Mic Development Kit, or Intel Speech Enabling Developer Kit, and hands-free kits being barely cheaper at $299 and up.

But there will soon be a cheaper solution, as Allwinner and SinoVoIP (aka Banana Pi) are working on “SoC-Only 3-Mic Far-Field Dev Kit for Amazon AVS” that includes 3 microphones, and works without special DSP, relying instead on Allwinner R18 processor’s audio codec and capabilities.

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Allwinner SoC-Only 3-Mic Far-Field Dev Kit for Amazon AVS (aka R18-AVS-EVK) specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner R18 quad-core Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.15GHz with Mali400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio – 6x Microphones, 2x AEC, AUX and headphone output; GMEMS voice recognition algorithm
  • Connectivity – Dual band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB type A port, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Power Supply – 12V DC input
  • Dimensions – Mainboard: 100 x 100mm; microphone array board: 90 mm ∅

The board will support Linux operating systems at first, but Android is also being worked on. A ribbon cable is also included in the kit to connect the mic array to the main board. Now you may wonder why a 3-mic development kit comes with 6 microphones. Allwinner explains:

6 microphones are included on the board, while only three are used and qualified, providing flexibility to tune for 6/4/3/2 mic solutions and freely match with different product designs

I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I guess the kit only works for three for now, but in the future algorithms may support a combination of up to 6 microphones. We’ll have to see how the solution works compared to DSP based systems.

Allwinner R18 Block Diagram

The development kit is now found on Amazon website yet, but a page on Banana Pi website mentions they are 50 unit for pre-sale for $129 with shipping scheduled on February 5, 2018. The “Buy” link does not work yet. A few more details may be found in the product page on Allwinner website.

Companies Address Concerns related to Speculative Execution Exploits: Meltdown and Spectre

January 4th, 2018 17 comments

Yesterday, news surfaced about a “bug” in Intel processors that could be fixed at the operating system level at the cost of a decrease in performance for some tasks, from a typical, and barely noticeable 5% hit, to a more consequent 30% hit for some specific tasks, and as we discussed yesterday I/O intensive tasks are the most impacted by the changes.

While Intel (and Arm) are impacted, AMD claims not to be, and the issue was reported by major news outlets and likely impacting the stock price of the companies with Intel stock losing 3.39%, and AMD stock gaining 5.19%, so obviously every company felt the need to answer, starting with Intel’s response to security research findings:

Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a “bug” or a “flaw” and are unique to Intel products are incorrect. Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — are susceptible to these exploits.

Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available.

Intel believes its products are the most secure in the world and that, with the support of its partners, the current solutions to this issue provide the best possible security for its customers.

This looks like damage limitation, and I guess more info will be released once the fixes are all released.

But the most detailed report is by Google, since Project Zero found three variant of two vulnerabilities – Metldown and Spectre – related to speculative execution, a technique to predict (and run) likely future instruction in order to boost performance:

We have discovered that CPU data cache timing can be abused to efficiently leak information out of mis-speculated execution, leading to (at worst) arbitrary virtual memory read vulnerabilities across local security boundaries in various contexts.

Variants of this issue are known to affect many modern processors, including certain processors by Intel, AMD and ARM. For a few Intel and AMD CPU models, we have exploits that work against real software. We reported this issue to Intel, AMD and ARM on 2017-06-01.

The three variants:

Variants 1 & 2 are referred to as Spectre, and variant 3 as Meltdown, with the latter easier to exploit.

The Meltdown attack uses exception handling or suppression to run a series of transient instructions

Yesterday, we learned AMD was not impacted, but Google clearly mention they could exploit AMD processors too, and that’s because AMD is only subject to Spectre. So AMD responded too:

It is important to understand how the speculative execution vulnerability described in the research relates to AMD products, but please keep in mind the following:

  • The research described was performed in a controlled, dedicated lab environment by a highly knowledgeable team with detailed, non-public information about the processors targeted.
  • The described threat has not been seen in the public domain.

and provided a table showing how AMD processors are impacted:

Google Project Zero (GPZ) Research Title Details
Variant One Bounds Check Bypass Resolved by software / OS updates to be made available by system vendors and manufacturers. Negligible performance impact expected.
Variant Two Branch Target Injection Differences in AMD architecture mean there is a near zero risk of exploitation of this variant. Vulnerability to Variant 2 has not been demonstrated on AMD processors to date.
Variant Three Rogue Data Cache Load Zero AMD vulnerability due to AMD architecture differences.

So it looks like only variant 1 is a potential issue, and operating systems will have to be patched.

Arm’s turn:

Cache timing side-channels are a well-understood concept in the area of security research and therefore not a new finding. However, this side-channel mechanism could enable someone to potentially extract some information that otherwise would not be accessible to software from processors that are performing as designed and not based on a flaw or bug. This is the issue addressed here and in the Cache Speculation Side-channels whitepaper.

It is important to note that this method is dependent on malware running locally which means it’s imperative for users to practice good security hygiene by keeping their software up-to-date and avoid suspicious links or downloads.

The majority of Arm processors are not impacted by any variation of this side-channel speculation mechanism. A definitive list of the small subset of Arm-designed processors that are susceptible can be found below.

The currently popular Cortex-A7 and Cortex A53 cores are not impacted at all, but some others are:

Processor

Variant 1

Variant 2

Variant 3

Variant 3a

Cortex-R7

Yes*

Yes*

No

No

Cortex-R8

Yes*

Yes*

No

No

Cortex-A8

Yes (under review)

Yes

No

No

Cortex-A9

Yes

Yes

No

No

Cortex-A15

Yes (under review)

Yes

No

Yes

Cortex-A17

Yes

Yes

No

No

Cortex-A57

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Cortex-A72

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Cortex-A73

Yes

Yes

No

No

Cortex-A75

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Variant 3a of Meltdown is detailed in the whitepaper linked above, and Arm “does not believe that software mitigations for this issue are necessary”. In the table above, “Yes” means exploitable, but has a mitigation, and “No” means “no problem” :). So only Cortex-A75 is subject to both Meltdown and Spectre exploits, and it’s not in devices yet. Like other companies, Arm will provide a fix for future revisions of their processors.

Silicon vendors are not the only companies to issue answers, as operating systems vendors will have to issues fixes, and cloud providers are also impacted. Patchsets have been merged into Linux 4.15 as we’ve seen yesterday, Microsoft issued a statement for their Cloud service, Red Hat / Debian and others are working on it, and Google listed products impacted, and even Chrome web browser users need to take action to protect themselves. Android phones with the latest security patch will be protected, bearing in mind that all those Cortex-A53 phones in the wild are not affected at all. It’s worse noting that while Meltdown and Spectre make the news, there are over thirty other critical or high severity vulnerabilities fixed in January that did not get much coverage if any…