The purpose of this page is to demonstrate that arm meets the archive criteria. Please note that we intend to become an etch release architecture again in the next round of qualification so there is more information on the etch recertification page.
Is port cursed?
No, not at all. The ARM architecture is being increasingly used in customer devices, especially in the embedded market (see for example the success of the Nokia 770 or the Linksys NSLU2 device which lets you hook USB storage to your network). Of the major distributions, Debian is the one which offers the best support for ARM. A number of upstream developers (kernel, libc) are involved in Debian and are contributing to the ARM port.
On the CPU level, there is major progress. While ARM is mostly an embedded platform, certain "high-end" (in terms of the embedded market) CPUs have recently been developed, e.g. CPUs with 1.2 GHz (Intel IXP2350s) and multiple CPU cores.
Are machines available to general public?
Yes, most ARM chips are in devices where you wouldn't run a real operating system but there are a number of machines which are a good target for Debian. These are available on the market without NDA. An example is the NSLU2 from Linksys, which features an IXP4xx CPU from Intel, 32 MB RAM, 8 MB flash and USB. There is currently work in progress to port Debian to this platform, and this work has almost been completed (it's in debian-installer SVN). Even more interesting are NAS devices (e.g. Iomega NAS 100d), which are now becoming quite popular. These are basically a hard drive plus a CPU. The idea is that you connect them to your network and they provide storage. Since they feature an ARM CPU, decent amount of RAM (e.g. 64 MB) and an IDE hard drive, it's an excellent platform for a silent box for a few hundred dollars running Debian.
There are also various development boards, such as the CATS from Simtec or the Loft.
Is full source available?
Yes, the ARM port uses standard versions of the Linux kernel, binutils, libc, gcc, and other packages. All of them have support for ARM, mostly maintained by CodeSourcery.
Is this architecture related to other architectures already in the archive, or that also should be considered, either now or in the future?
There is a port in progress to big-endian ARM (armeb). Newer CPUs tend to prefer big-endian mode. While most devices can be switched (e.g. the NSLU2 supports both, and Debian can run in both modi), newer, high-end hardware needs big-endian.
Are there 3 or more developers (or n-ms) actively maintaining the port? Who are they?
Yes, there are certainly more than three. There is great interest in the ARM port.
- Vincent Sanders (kernel)
- Phil Blundell
- Martin Michlmayr (debian-installer)
- Rod Whitby (NM, NSLU2)
- Lennert Buytenhek (NM)
- Kenshi Muto (buildd maintainer of d-i, experimental, non-free, etch-secure, sarge-volatile, and sarge-backports)
- Colin Tuckley
What sort of architecture is this?
ARM is mostly an architecture targeted at the embedded market. There are some desktop systems, such as the Rebel Netwinder (supported by Debian) and the Castle from Iyonix (not supported), though.
Does it have any users? If an embedded system are there real systems shipping that a Debian port will be useful for?
The distribution used in Nokia's 770 is based on Debian ARM. As mentioned before, among the major distros Debian is the one which offers best support for ARM.
Is there kernel and toolchain support? At what level? Are the latest versions supported, or are legacy releases required for compatibility with some hardware?
Latest versions are fully supported. Most work is done by CodeSourcery.
Has the ABI stabilised, or are there major ABI changes coming up?
The ABI is stable. There have been discussions about a new ABI (eabi), but a switch is not in sight in the near future. For now we'll continue with the existing ABI. Tests with eabi will be done and an upgrade strategy discussed, but this is at least a year away, possibly more.
How do you install a system?
Debian installer has full support for Netwinder, as described in the Installation Guide. Etch will additionally have full support for NSLU2 (almost done), the Loft (start working soon but should be trivial based on the NSLU2 work) and others.
Has a buildd been setup? How much of the archive has been built (count by source package, builds of old versions are fine for this case)?
Yeah. "Fill in more info here."
What hardware is potentially available as a fast buildd?
There are ARM chips with 1.2 GHz. There have already been discussions (e.g. with Intel) about getting such systems.
Castle's Iyonix is probably quite suitable. It is based on a ATX-style board, has a fast processor (600 MHz IOP80321), 512 MB of RAM (1x 200 MHz DDR slot), 2x 32 bit PCI slots and 2x 64 bit PCI slots, 2x IDE slots that support UDMA100, and gigabit ethernet. It is very much like a normal x86 PC. The only disadvantage is, that there is only support for 2.4 kernels.
Is there any corporate support of this arch, and the Debian port in particular?
Nokia, Simtec and Aleph One.
Is there an example box developers can login to to see if it works?
Yes, we have two developer accessible boxes.
It's also worth considering whether the port has any special requirements.
While debian-installer doesn't make sense for all ARM targets, we support it for a number of devices (e.g. Netwinder/CATS; NSLU2 almost done).