New Ports Bring Linux to Arm Laptops, Android to the Pi


Like life itself, software wants to be free. In our increasingly open source era, software can more easily disperse into new ecosystems. From open source hackers fearlessly planting the Linux flag on the Sony Playstation back in the aughts to standard Linux apps appearing on Chromebooks and on Android-based Galaxy smartphones (Samsung’s DeX), Linux continues to break down barriers.

The latest Linux-related ports include an AArch64-Laptops project that enables owners of Windows-equipped Arm laptops and tablets to load Ubuntu. There’s also a Kickstarter project to develop a Raspberry Pi friendly version of Google’s low-end Android 9 Pi Go stack. Even Windows is spreading its wings. A third-party project has released a WoA installer that enables a full Windows 10 image to run on the Pi.

Ubuntu to Arm laptops

The practice of replacing Windows with Linux on Intel-based computers has been around for decades, but the arrival of Arm-based laptops has complicated matters. Last year, Microsoft partnered with Qualcomm and to release the lightweight Windows 10 S on the Asus NovaGo convertible laptop and the HP Envy x2 and Lenovo Miix 630 2-in-1 tablets, all powered by a Snapdragon 835 SoC.

Reviews have been mixed, with praise for the longer battery life, but criticism about sluggish performance. Since the octa-core, 10nm fabricated Snapdragon 835 is designed to run on the Linux-based Android — it also supports embedded Linux — Linux hackers naturally decided that they could do better.

As reported by Phoronix, AArch64-Laptops has posted Ubuntu 18.04 LTS images for all three of the above systems. As noted by Liliputing, the early release lacks support for WiFi, on-board storage, or hardware-accelerated graphics, and the touchpad doesn’t work on the Asus NovaGo.

The WiFi and storage issues should be solved in the coming months and accelerated graphics should be theoretically possible thanks to the open source Freedreno GPU driver project, says Phoronix. It’s unclear if AArch64-Laptops can whip up Ubuntu builds for more powerful Arm Linux systems like the Snapdragon 850 based Samsung Galaxy Book 2 and Lenovo Yoga C630.

Liliputing notes that Arm Linux lovers can also try out the Linux-driven, Rockchip RK3399 based Pinebook laptop. Later this year, Pine64 will release a consumer-grade Pinebook Pro.

Android Go to Raspberry Pi

If you like a double helping of pie, have we got a Kickstarter project for you. As reported by Geeky Gadgets, an independent group called RaspberryPi DevTeam has launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop a version of Google’s new Android 9 Pie Go stack for entry-level smartphones that can to run on the Raspberry Pi 3.

Assuming the campaign meets its modest $3,382 goal by April 10, there are plans to deliver a usable build by the end of the year. Pledges range from 1 to 499 Euros.

The project will use AOSP-based code from Android 9 Pie Go, which was released last August. Go is designed for low-end phones with only 1GB RAM.

RaspberryPi DevTeam was motivated to launch the project because current Android stacks for the Raspberry Pi “normally have bugs, are unstable and run slow,” says the group. That has largely been true since hackers began attempting the feat four years ago with the quad-core, Cortex-A7 Raspberry Pi 2. Early attempts have struggled to give Android its due on 1GB RAM SBC, even with the RPi 3B and 3+.

The real-time focused RTAndroid has had the most success, and there have been other efforts like the unofficial, Android 7.1.2 based LineageOS 14.1 for the RPi 3. Last year, an RTAndroid-based, industrial focused emteria.OS stack arrived with more impressive performance.

A MagPi hands-on last summer was impressed with the stack, which it called “the first proper Android release running on a Raspberry Pi 3B+.” MagPi continues: “Finally there’s a proper way to install full Android on your Raspberry Pi.”

Available in free evaluation (registration required) and commercial versions, emteria.OS uses F-Droid as an open source stand-in for Google Play. The MagPi hands-on runs through an installation of Netflix and notes the availability of apps including NewPipe (YouTube), Face Slim (Facebook), and Terminal Emulator.

All these solutions should find it easier to run on next year’s Raspberry Pi 4. Its SoC will move from the current 40nm process to something larger than 7nm, but no larger than 28nm, according to RPi Trading CEO Eben Upton in a Feb. 11 Tom’s Hardware post. The SBC will have “more RAM, a faster processor, and faster I/O,” but will be the same size and price as the RPi 3B+, says the story. Interestingly, it was former Google CEO Eric Schmidt who convinced Upton and his crew to retain the $35 price for the RPi 2. The lesson seems to have stuck.

Windows 10 on RPi 3

As far back as the Raspberry Pi 2, Microsoft announced it would support the platform with its slimmed down Windows 10 IoT, which works better on the new 64-bit RPi 3 models. But why use a crippled version of Windows for low-power IoT when you could use Raspbian?

The full Windows 10 should draw more interest, and that’s what’s promised by the WOA-Project with its new WoA-Installer for the RPi 3 or 3B+. According to Windows Latest, the open source WoA (Windows on Arm) Installer was announced in January following an earlier WoA release for the Lumia 950 phones.

The WoA Installer lets you run Windows 10 Arm 64 on the Pi but comes with no performance promises. The GitHub page notes: “WoA Installer needs a set of binaries, AKA the Core Package, to do its job. These binaries are not not mine and are bundled and offered just for convenience…” Good luck!