Those interested in running Linux on a cheap Chinese “MiniPC” with an ARM SoC have had much reason for hope, and just as much reason for disappointment.
The hope springs from the low cost and rapid pace of development of these devices. Earlier this year, the state of the art were devices based on the Allwinner A10 SoC, which had a single ARM Cortex-A8 Core and a dual-core Mali400 GPU, which went for ~$100, now there are products well under $100 with single- or dual-core Cortex-A9 CPUs and a up to a quad core GPU.
The disappointment comes from the fact that these SoCs are targeted at Android, with terrible documentation, and that most of the manufacturers are terrible about complying with the GPL. Add to this the fact that important parts of the chip, like the GPU and the video compression accelerator are under NDA from the original holders of the IP.
Still, there is reason for continued hope. Over on the SlateDroid forums, “AndrewDB” has posted about his progress with getting Ubuntu running on the UG802, which has a RK3066 SoC.
Current status, to the best of my knowledge:
- Boots with Linux Kernel in Flash and RootFS on an SD card.
- Framebuffer video out over HDMI
- WiFi networking
Another ARM dev board, the Wandboard. This one with a Freescale SOC. There is a $69 single core model with 512MB for $69, and a dual core, 1 GB model with 802.11n WiFi for $89. Both of them have HDMI out, USB ports, among others. Unlike a some of the other ARM devices I’ve posted, this one has gigabit Ethernet, rather than 10/100.