(Please note that the following comments are just thoughts and i may be wrong. You’re free to correct me)
-So whats this ARMv7 i keep talking about?
-Well, its just the latest version of the ARM processor.
-What’s so important about it?
-It contains some CPU instructions that the previous ARM CPUs don’t have. Those instructions provide a really good performance and more power efficiency on which the previous CPUs(ARMv5,v6) can’t provide.
-What are ARMv7 processors going to be used for?
-Mainly smartbooks and nettops.
Almost all the bigger distros have ARM support for a long time ago. Debian was probably the first distribution to offer support for it, back in 2001 or 2002. Gentoo started on 2003-2004. Ubuntu, for example, started working on its ARM support since last year.
There’s a problem with binary distros, though. For example, Debian and Ubuntu support i386. For doing that, they have to build everything to work for i386, meaning that all the performance improvement you could get using i686-exclusive CPU instructions is lost. I’m no expert and I’m not proving anything, i’m just using an example. As I said before, ARMv7 provides some cpu instructions that with Debian or Ubuntu won’t be used, since they build to the lower of the CPUs available. In the case of ARM EABI, that is armv4t(i think on Ubuntu the minimum was armv5te). I won’t say whether thats going to matter on the performance or not, as i can’t test it, but I’ve been told it does due to the following thing I’m going to explain:
The first release of Ubuntu “supporting” ARM was Jaunty. I wrote “supporting” because they only offered installation and support for a development board called “babbage”, which is a Freescale i.MX51-based Pegatron-built development board. Which at the time of the Jaunty release, it *wasn’t* available for purchase(it was a prototype), at least it wasn’t on its webpage.
Fortunately, all the users that had an ARMv5te processor could run Ubuntu on their boards, yet obviously with their own kernel, with no installer, and with no support from Ubuntu.
The next release of Ubuntu “supported” another prototype-not-public board, this time from Marvell, with the name “Dove”. And as of now, thats the boards they are supporting. Also, this release let the armv5te users with no upgrade, as Karmic(the release i’m talking about), is built with armv6+vfp as minimum requirement. That left out users of the Sheevaplug, which funnily enough, comes with Ubuntu. The next Ubuntu release will be Lucid, will only support armv7. So if anyone with a Nokia N800 was running Ubuntu on it, on the next release they’ll be alone in the dark as well.
By the way, Ubuntu doesn’t support the Beagleboard…I have no clue why.
Since we’re a source-based distribution, and we don’t depend on the minimum CPU, thats why we would like to have armv7 hardware capable of doing the kinds of build(like ubuntu are) we require. Unfortunately neither Marvell nor Freescale contacted us regarding ARMv7. Needless to say we also contacted them…
We’re also happy with just SSH access and non-networked storage of around 8GB.
This makes you kinda sad, as on Gentoo we don’t do this for profit, we only do it for our users, or at least thats what I do.
If anyone can or want to help us, you’re free to contact us at arm -at- gentoo.org.