Starting up the HummingBoard Raspberry Pi clone

The Software Stack

The ARMv7 architecture instruction set makes it possible to install Debian armhf packets directly on the HummingBoard. I used the SolidRun image, the image created by Igor Pecovnik (referred to previously), and Debian 8.0 "Jessie" for my tests (Table 2).

Table 2

Debian Images for the HummingBoard*

 

SolidRun

Igor Pecovnik

Debian

Kernel

3.0.x

3.14.x

3.16.x

Debian

"Jessie"

7.x

"Jessie"

UART support

Yes

Yes

Yes

GPIO support

Yes

Yes

Doesn't work

SPI support

Doesn't work

Yes

Doesn't work

X11 driver

Vivante

Fbdev

Doesn't work

Automatically uses the entire SD card

No

Yes

Yes

Kernel upgrade capability

No

No

Yes

Most recent update

10.24.2014

07.04.2014

Daily

*Current as of November 14, 2014

The kernel and the graphic stack turned out to be critical to the software images. Freescale supports the 3.0.x and 3.10.x kernels for Vivante GC2000 graphics on the HummingBoard. The graphics driver consists of an open source part in the kernel and a binary part in userspace. Added to this is a lot of work flowing into a 3.14.x variant kernel that is currently used in the image created by Pecovnik. Debian itself works with the upstream 3.16 kernel.

At this time, the image created by Pecovnik represents the best choice for use with applications requiring good hardware support and, in particular, graphics support. Vanilla Debian with its excellent upgrade infrastructure is the best option when the applications to be used should offer the greatest possible flexibility and high security standards – but not necessarily hardware support. Debian is working on an installer for the HummingBoard for its upcoming version 8.0. Until then, you will have to use Debian and bootstrap it onto an x86 computer yourself [8] or work with the pre-release installer.

Conclusion

Most of the interfaces for the HummingBoard appear similar to their counterparts on the Rasp Pi, but in fact several differences exist in the working details. Moreover, not enough documentation exists for the HummingBoard, which in turn means that more effort is required to work with the SolidRun SBC. Therefore, you should probably first activate new components on the Rasp Pi and then transfer the knowledge gained and apply it to the HummingBoard.

The success of the HummingBoard family will most likely depend on the ability of SolidRun to rally a sufficiently large community around the hardware platform. The first signs of this have appeared. For example, OpenELEC recommends the CuBox-i as a hardware platform for its media center distribution [9]. Additionally, a number of users are bustling about in the IRC channel #cubox on irc.freenode.org. SolidRun offers fairly speedy help here in addition to on its own forum [10]. Additionally, the computer vision community uses the i.MX6 platform for its real-time video processing capabilities [11].

The Author

Rainer Dorsch is a system architect for Bosch Sensortec and has been working with Linux for more than 20 years.

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