Anyone know of an ARM64 laptop that runs Linux well, is more powerful than the Pinebook Pro, and has good build quality and battery life? I'm taking a shot at convincing one of my Apple user family members to buy something other than an M1 MacBook, and unfortunately despite the ethical issues and lock-in it is a pretty good machine, so the bar is relatively high.

· · brutaldon · 2 · 11 · 6

@alexbuzzbee interested myself. I was about to suggest an ARM Chromebook but looks like it's not supported by GalliumOS, not sure about other distributions

@alexbuzzbee Apple's M1 SoC unfortunately outperforms all other ARM mobile chips I know of, including Qualcomm's newest SoCs. I would say their closest competition would come from either Qualcomm or Nvidia's Orin in a few months.

Both vendors are notorious for not being great with long-term software support (and they both require proprietary drivers).

I would keep an eye on the [ongoing Linux kernel port to Apple M1]( and keep a close eye on ARM64 news.

@alexbuzzbee There are some enterprise ARM SoCs that apparently outperform it but these are nearly impossible to get ahold of. I've never seen one for sale and can't even find a place to apply to get most of them.

These are also nowhere close to being in a laptop form factor, and if you were to get one it would probably lack documentation and/or software (unless you have contacts in the enterprise/corporate server space).

@polarisfm Building hardware and writing drivers are both way, way out of scope in this case, so it's largely irrelevant. I wish I had all the time and skills to do all these projects that pop up once or twice a day but I'm not magic... :P

@zladuric @polarisfm Unfortunately probably not for at least a few more years. I think it will get there, but not yet.

@polarisfm That's unfortunate, but about what I expected. Linux on M1 is unlikely to fly, but maybe it will be a solution when Apple inevitably obsolesces the M1 through software "improvements."

@alexbuzzbee Apple hasn't actually locked down the bootloader on the M1 Macbooks as much as I thought they would. Apparently booting works fine, it's just that a second stage bootloader is needed for most OSs as they don't expect iBoot (yes, that's the real bootloader name). There is one in development called pongoOS by a prominent iOS scene group.

Once the Linux kernel is properly ported to M1 SoCs I am hopefully that much of the work can be reused in newer chips.

@polarisfm Huh. Well, that certainly is better than I expected. I was assuming they'd take the opportunity to lock the Macs down as much as the iPhone. I remember reading that the old BootX (iBoot's predecessor) could actually boot ELF kernels, though I don't think anyone ever really used it, and indeed Wikipedia gives this document as a source, which appears to come from Apple and mentions that it supports ELF and ext2:

@polarisfm I wonder why Apple would leave it open? Maybe just to preserve a reputation as being better than Microsoft? Are they hoping to attract Linux users to their hardware without macOS? Why would they want that? Are they just trying to push the industry towards ARM?

@polarisfm Many questions, no answers. Well, thanks for giving me something to wonder about.

@alexbuzzbee My theory is anti-trust. Regulators have been convinced by lobbyists that phones and game consoles are somehow not general purpose computers but are instead "unique platforms". That is why many are openly agressive to modders. They can get away with it and are even aided by many governments.

By contrast, I think even the 80 year olds governing the US can figure out that a laptop is supposed to be a general purpose computer and would be subject to anti-trust laws (ex. US v. MS).

@polarisfm That makes some sense. Maybe I should get on the phone again to yell my representative's ears off about how locked-down smartphones are bad and dumb.

@alexbuzzbee @polarisfm my best guess is they're expecting a non-OEM version of Windows on ARM, and its open for that. possible linux support for the platform is just a bonus

@cinebox @polarisfm Another good theory. They might talk about how good virtualization is and say they're not bringing Boot Camp across but often what Apple says and what it does are two very different things.

@alexbuzzbee @polarisfm dark-future answer: they're making sure governments have the backdoors they demand, can run the "rescue" systems they insist upon.

i tend to think the actual answer is a little more charitable, that apple didn't want to seem like a bunch of jerks & face the merciless heat we would have blasted them with. the social-not-so-legal version of polarisfm's anti-trust concern, basically, but the two are joined at the hip anyways. but i also kind of expect, if shit starts going side-ways, apple may well slam the gates shut.

and this could all really be to appease the authoritarian state powers of the world anyhow.

@jauntywunderkind420 I understand that concern but I'd argue this decision would have little impact on Apple-made backdoors. iOS's version of iBoot is heavily locked down and is only supposed to allow the booting of software signed by Apple. But if Apple signed the software at the demand of a government, it wouldn't make a difference. This may make a company like NSO Group's job slightly easier, but they seem to be doing fine without signed software and locked down "secure" bootloaders.

@jauntywunderkind420 Mirosoft's "secure boot" implementation works the same way. They even leaked their own signing keys and had to revoke as many as possible. The only thing the signing keys being leaked really lead to was people having more control over their locked (WinRT) devices because it rendered "secure" boot useless. While it may have made the job of fiends ("defense" contractors) slightly easier, they've been getting along fine for years with bootloaders sealed shut.

@polarisfm i mean... Secure Boot literally mandated users have the ability to upload their own keys. which is... good. but yeah. it didn't mandate any way to revoke the microsoft keys on a device.

any device that one could not install their own software on to was not Secure Boot compliant.

i do not understand a lot of what you are saying about apple's bootloading system. this interest in stage2 security is confusing to me, given that most Linux install instructions for mac begin by installing alternative stage2s (grub, refind, &c). i'm not well versed here, i'm not sure i am equipped to understand, but i have been around the block a couple times, have some casual experience here.

@jauntywunderkind420 Microsoft Secure Boot **on x86** mandated users be able to upload their own keys. However, "Windows RT" powered devices mandated the opposite: the bootloader must be locked. Most of them are e-waste now. It was an experimental attempt to bring Windows 8 to ARM, but it died alongside Windows 8. MS also did the same thing with Windows Phones. Any Windows ARM device was heavily locked down until Microsoft's most recent attempt (Windows 10 on ARM).

@jauntywunderkind420 I think there was a miscommunication. I was saying that regardless of the bootloader being locked or unlocked, government backdoors are possible (made by Apple or not).

The Stage2 bootloader is a seperate issue and is only really needed for porting alternative operating systems.

@Stellar @polarisfm @alexbuzzbee gotta say, looks nice. Maybe we'll see a fully free solution for the m1 at some future stage?

@coyote I'm really hoping so, yeah. That's the benifit of getting no docs, you have to do write everything yourself so you can free everything.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Fosstodon is an English speaking Mastodon instance that is open to anyone who is interested in technology; particularly free & open source software.