Been lurking here for a couple of weeks; might as well do a proper introduction now.
Got a physics PhD years back, but working in the electronics industry now.
I'm your run-of-the-mill linux and FOSS enthusiast (for over 20 years now). Switched over to linux permanently a couple of years ago.
For some reason I seem to be running mostly ARM hardware these days (several RPIs, pinebook pro, pinephone).
@NonDroitable Hi, I really love the pinebook pro. It's been my main laptop for at least half a year now. I love the fact that it doesn't have fans and has a battery life of 6 to 12 hours (mainly dependent on the backlight).
I don't know if I would recommend it to novice linux users, though. It has some rough edges and limitations that can be worked around easily if you know what you're doing but would be severe roadblocks for novice users. But then again, that could be me tinkering too much.
Thank you for the response.
Another question: any quirks with ARM processors in comparison with AMD64, or is it mostly the same?
@NonDroitable The CPU/GPU itself seems to be pretty solid. The FOSS driver support is quite complete now, so it's a pretty solid experience if you get those drivers set up properly.
Stuff still breaks occasionally when updating to state-of-the-art packages/drivers, but that should not happen on e.g. stable Manjaro.
The main limitation is that you can't run stuff that only runs on x86. Like discord, steam, zoom, widevine (at least not without hacks) etc. But most of those have webapps.
Indeed, it runs almost all available FOSS software without any problem (might be a bit slow though). You just need to set your expectations when you get one: just don't expect it to run any proprietary software and don't expect a speed monster. In return you'll get a incredibly portable laptop with a battery that will outlast most others. And you're not tied to a limited ecosystem (chromeos, android)
@NonDroitable The pinephone is a different story. The software is progressing steadily, but it's nowhere near useable right now. It has a lot of potential though and it will get to a stage where it's actually going to be a real android/iphone replacement. But I'm afraid it will take at least another year to get to the point that it would be (barely) useable as a main phone.
I mainly got it to help out spotting bugs etc.
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@jrm @kev Ooh, difficult to capture in a short message. It's definitely not anywhere near daily driver yet. But it's come an awful long way over the last few months; it really is amazing.
I bought it to be able to follow the progress and maybe contribute with my limited skills.
The most important thing is that the phone *exists* in the first place (together with librem 5). That means that developers finally have a platform to work on.
It *will* get there, but it might take another year.
@pbanks It was fairly niche, but it wouldnt' be a PhD if it weren't. ;-)
It was about determining the locations of dopants in semiconductors (mainly GaN) using a technique which is kind of the reverse of electron microscopy. Instead of shooting a beam of electrons, you implant the material with radioactive dopants. When these isotopes decay, they emit electrons. By measuring the diffraction patterns of those electrons you can work back from which crystal lattice position(s) they were emitted.
@mogwai That's fairly out of my field but sounds pretty interesting. I understand the idea at least, as I used to play around with an SEM in high school.
@mogwai What's your most powerful machine using ARM and is it good enough for modern everyday tasks? For me the RPI always seemed to slow to properly handle web video for example.
@lx The most powerful one is probably the 8GB RPi4. The pinebook pro is also quite ok. But still only about as much CPU power as a very low-budget x86 laptop.
However, the CPU is not the main problem; the VPU/GPU linux driver support is. So (web)video needs to run on the CPU only.
It's a bit ironic because most of these SOCs were actually designed for TV set-top boxes. They have really powerful VPU/GPUs. It's just that the hardware and/or drivers are proprietary, so no linux drivers...
@lx Not everything is bad though. The pinebook pro (RK3399) has almost complete opengl2 coverage using the reverse-engineered panfrost linux driver. It will probably get opengl3 and vulkan support soon. A few months ago ARM anounced that they are officially backing the panfrost development.
So let's hope that newer SOCs will have better GPU support in the future.
@lx The VPU support is also tricky. The drivers themselves might be available (e.g. the proprietary RPi VPU drivers), but that doesn't mean that you don't have to jump through hoops to get it to work in applications. It usually requires compiling support for the VPU into mpv.
For browsers there's the extra step of implementing VA-API for the VPU.
All of that is being worked on, but it's slow.
Again, these SOCs should be able to handle HD or 4K video without any problems with the proper software
@lx BTW, I use the pinebook as my main personal laptop since a few months. It can perfectly handle kicad, freecad etc. It's a bit slow but perfectly usable. The only drawback is HD video (in browser). It can just about handle it, but it's completely unusable on widevine-encrypted HD content. The decryption seems to push it over the edge...
@Ristar Indeed 👍
Doesn't mean that you don't get other problems in return though. But on the other hand, that provides plenty of opportunities to tinker and learn new things.
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