GhostBSD on ARM

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GhostBSD on ARM

Postby Prince » Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:35 am

Greetings, ... for those of that want to explore the world outside of x86 (by taking a RISC).
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GhostBSD on ARM


Re: GhostBSD on ARM

Postby kraileth » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:29 pm

Hi Prince, sorry for the late answer. I was on vacation and now have quite a few things waiting for me (+ fairly little time).

To be honest, I thought about supporting ARM, too, and I'd really like to see this some time in the future. However I have not checked back with the others, yet, so I can only give my personal opinion here.

While it would certainly be nice to support other architectures, I don't see this happening in the near future because there are some big tasks that have to be taken care of beforehand:

As far as I know the ARM support for FreeBSD versions before 11.0 is rather poor in comparison. One goal for 11.0 was to make ARM a tier 1 architecture together with i386 and amd64 but this was obviously not met with success (if you don't know about FreeBSD's tier system you might want to read this: https://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/articles/committers-guide/archs.html).

Another thing is that GhostBSD is moving towards using its own binary packages (so that we can diverge from FreeBSD's default ports options and tune things more towards desktop usage). To support another architecture would mean to build another set of packages. That alone means more work but in case of an architecture like ARM we'd also have to make use of something like qemu to emulate ARM so that we can even build the packages!

And then there's the problem that you don't just do "ARM" once and be done as there are several variants out there. I'm not an expert on this, though, but I think that we'd never be able to support "everything ARM". We'd have to test various machines to see if it even makes sense to use it as a desktop. And things like this are pretty much completely out of scope of the small team that we currently are.

So the important steps that are currently being prepared are:
  • Upgrade GhostBSD to version 11.0
  • Create our own package repo for i386 & amd64
  • Change package options according to our own needs
Once these steps have been completed, we'll probably need some time to gain experience and do some fine tuning. And to be honest there are quite other things waiting to be taken care of... But IMO the main requirement is GhostBSD 11.0. Once that's out somebody with enough time and dedication could start playing with some ARM devices and see what works. I'd be willing to help with such experiments (my experience with ARM is pretty limited, though) and I'm pretty sure the others will be, too.

If you want to help making this happen, here are a few thoughts on that:

A good first step into making GhostBSD support some kind of ARM (at least in experimental state) would probably to make a list of devices that are known to run FreeBSD 11.0 well.
The next one would be to get one (or more) such devices, install FreeBSD and do some tests to confirm that things are indeed working well.
Then you could try to build X11. If everything works so far, it might make sense to try and build all packages of the GhostBSD Openbox spin. Should that work - then the device is definitely promising!
Try to build packages for the Xfce spin and finally of the MATE spin of GhostBSD. See which packages are broken (I have no idea what works on ARM currently and what does not).
Document everything on the wiki.

If you're willing to do some of the work I would expect that there are probably other people, too, who might give it a whirl and probably join the effort. ;)
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