[Nix-dev] A few questions about ARM support and NixOS on a Chromebook

James Haigh james.r.haigh at gmail.com
Fri Jan 30 16:48:33 CET 2015

    Well, I'm on the first leg of my train journey to Brussels. I've
managed to pack these devices: BeagleBone Black; PandaBoard ES;
Raspberry Pi; Chromebook; Archos tablet; Optimus 3D; as well as an
Arduino Duemilanova and some other electronics (and a whole bunch of
power adaptors!). I don't plan to go to many talks, so much of this
hardware will be available to others to mess around with and see if we
can get stuff running on them.
    Please note though that *I haven't brought an external screen* with
me because I only have what I could squeeze into 2 large panniers and a
rucksack (plus my bike). I've packed a couple of keyboards, 1 of which
has a pointing stick mouse, but I could really do with at least 1 screen
with an HDMI input (I have the needed HDMI cables: HDMI, MicroHDMI,
MHL). *If you're going to FOSDEM, you haven't set off yet, and you're
able to bring a screen with HDMI input, please do!* Sorry for the late
notice on this issue.
    The challenge is to try to get at least one ARM device supported (or
updated in the case of the Raspberry Pi) and for me to try to get
up-to-speed with doing this kind of thing as I can see that I'm going to
have to be doing a lot of this myself. I want to help break this
catch-22 where there are a few people who want to do use Nix on ARM and
know a bit about how to make that happen but who perhaps don't know not
enough or don't have enough time to get it going. I know almost nothing
about cross-compiling or compiling whole operating systems, so I'm going
to need some help from some more experienced Nix people.

Hope to see you there!

Best regards,
James Haigh.

On 28/01/15 00:46, James Haigh wrote:
> Hi,
>     I forgot to say, that was my first email to the list. So hi
> everyone! I was told about NixOS by Doaitse Swierstra at Summer School
> Utrecht 2013 on the Applied Functional Programming course. I went to
> FOSDEM for the first time last year, seeing Domen's excellent talk,
> and I've been in Freenode/#nixos since the previous Saturday night. I
> subscribed to this list in June. I'm going again to FOSDEM this year,
> so hope to see some of you there!
>     I immediately realised the significance of NixOS and knew straight
> away that I was eventually going to use it as my primary OS, but I
> didn't get round to trying it until last year. However, so far I've
> only installed it on one device and the majority of my hardware is
> ARM, especially if you count in cores or computational performance.
> Here's a list:
> ARMv6 hardware:
>   * ×1, 700MHz: Raspberry Pi (Broadcom BCM2835)
> ARMv7-A hardware:
>   * ×1, 1GHz: BeagleBone Black (open hardware; Sitara AM3358/9, ARM
>     Cortex-A8)
>   * ×2, 1GHz: LG Optimus 3D (runs Android; TI OMAP4430, ARM Cortex-A9)
>   * ×2, 1.2GHz: PandaBoard ES (open hardware; TI OMAP4430, ARM Cortex-A9)
>   * ×2, 1.5GHz: Archos 101 G9 Turbo 250GB (runs Android; TI OMAP4460,
>     ARM Cortex-A9)
>   * ×2, 1.7GHz: Samsung Series 3 Chromebook (Samsung Exynos 5250, ARM
>     Cortex-A15)
>   * ×4, 1.3GHz: Acer Iconia Tab A500 (runs Android; Nvidia Tegra 3)
>   * ×4, 2.2GHz: Sony Xperia Z1 (runs Android; Qualcomm Krait MSM8974)
> That's 18 ARM cores in total! (Not counting those embedded in whatever
> other devices such as hard disk drives, and I think even my old Nokia
> 6300 has an ARM9 processor.)
> x86 hardware:
>   * ×2, 1.66GHz: ThinkPad X60 Tablet (L2400, Intel Core Duo)
> x86-64 hardware:
>   * ×2, 1.5GHz: ThinkPad X60 Tablet (L7400, Intel Core 2 Duo)
> Total 4 x86(-64) cores.
> I have had other x86 devices, but they either broke or I gave away my
> working x86 hardware to family. The ThinkPad X60 Tablets are the only
> x86(-64) hardware that I actually intend to keep on using and that I'm
> willing to replace if they break, and even then, that's only until I'm
> eventually in a position to design an ARM-based motherboard for them.
> I'm also rather fond of the PowerPC I-Mac G3, despite having never
> owned one, so I may aquire one of those at some point and attempt to
> install GNU+Linux on it (NixOS?). I have a couple of 680MHz MIPS
> routers installed with OpenWrt, but they're probably not worth the
> effort or suitable for NixOS due to having only 64MiB of RAM
> (comparable to personal computers of the late 1990s or early 201st
> decade) and I'm unlikely to buy any new MIPS devices anyway, instead
> opting for ARM devices.
>     I intend to eventually install NixOS on all of the devices listed
> above. However, for the Android devices, that would preferably be in
> the form of a chroot so that I still have Android on those devices.
> On 26/10/14 01:26, Mateusz Kowalczyk wrote:
>> [...] You'd have to find an ARM machine strong enough to build
>> nixpkgs, even if only sometimes. I believe machines of that power are
>> very expensive. I might be wrong. Or maybe you know someone who would
>> be happy to donate such a monster ;) [...]
> So, that monster you speak of. I have 18 modern ARM cores, and
> counting – that is a fairly beastly amount of computational resource.
> But can it all be pooled together as a distributed build farm? It
> surely makes it easier if NixOS is installed or chroot'd on all of
> those, right?
> On 08/11/14 10:43, Tim Barbour wrote:
>> [...]
>> I also would prefer to avoid x86 PC hardware in the future, the
>> problem being the power consumption (100-200W per box). ARM seems
>> much better in this regard. From a very rough estimate, I think an
>> MK802IV has about 10% of the processing power of a PC, for about 2.5%
>> of the power consumption (5W max). I think we will see the day when
>> ARM will out-perform x86, because it will be able to process more
>> instructions per second without melting.
> Indeed. And this year will see the introduction of a plethora of
> ARMv8-A 64-bit processors, not just from AMD. Nevertheless, I'm
> actually pretty content with the typical computational performance of
> 201st decade PCs (as long as the OS can be chosen!), so I think
> ARMv7-A processors should still be supported. I'm likely to be with
> ARMv7-A for quite some time as I am boycotting nonlibre hardware. The
> open hardware scene will no doubt move to ARMv8-A but I really have no
> rush for this; I'd rather wait for open hardware to get there than to
> buy a nonlibre ARMv8-A device.
>> [...]
>> It would be really helpful if Hydra could do ARM builds, even just
>> for the small channels (e.g. nixos-14.04-small).
> If packages are built for small, will those packages also be available
> from the main channel as a subset? That would at least give me a head
> start which would make the initial installation a lot easier.
>     I'm going to try to bring along at least my BeagleBone Black,
> PandaBoard ES, Series 3 Chromebook, and Xperia Z1 to FOSDEM. Please
> can people help me get going with NixOS on some or all of these?
> Best regards,
> James Haigh.
>> I would also like to know whether nixops can work cross-platform.
>> Tim

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