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  1. @Igor You quoted a thread that complained about how Amlogic firmware sucked. In particular it didn't honor cpufreq and also didn't report frequencies quite right (like 1506 instead of 1430). But - and please excuse me if I am convoluting your post with balbes150 post here, but it seems to agree with it and comes from the same corner - who on earth would put this out of context forward as "Amlogic is lying". If non-free and possibly buggy firmware is really the basis to make those claims of manipulation, lying and so forth how it has been said in this thread, then those are in my book empty words if not blatantly disinformation, engineered to scare less informed people away from "misbehaving" cheap vendors. I don't know if there is more and more to the story, but seeing that you have put the very weakes argument first and only, the claim looks totally inflated. Just as much of anything else negative said in that context. All you mentioned were non-free firmware and closed-source hardware as a reason. But Non-free firmware and closed-source hardware is a story as old as the PC itself. It is bad, yes, we should move away from it. But it is and always has been absolutely common practice. This is nothing new or nothing specific to ARM vendors, that would deserve a change of mind. Because the answer to it is clear: You either work with it or you have nothing to work with. If Linus Tovals had hesitated to develop for non-free hardware and firmware, we would all be using Windows today and Linux would not exist. Linux wasn't developed by vendors either, it was developed by software freedom fighters and people like us, the community. The same is true on ARM boards. Non-free firmware is so ubiquitous to the point that there hardly is just a single computer out there that operates without proprietary firmware. Not to mention things like the Intel Management Engine, a virtual machine with proven security holes in every Intel chip since 10 years or so, that can take over your PC via ethernet at any point in time without any ability to disable it. Does it make sense then for the Linux community to boycott Intel support now, because Intel chips are full of trojans and proprietary software? No, it would be utterly stupid. It would just hand over half the market to Windows. Nothing could be more counter-productive. Why are people trying to push others into it? The unfree bootloader is in essence just the same problem as the unfree IBM PC BIOS back from the 80s. And most BIOS are still unfree up to this day. It is again just about unfree firmware. You made it all sound like an Amlogic specific issue, when it isn't even specific to the architecture itself. Look like I said: It is a cheap vendor, they have crappy support and are cutting corners. We know that. And people like me are willing to work with that. But there seems to be a strong sentiment here, one that I believe is totally unfounded and what feels like instigated on purpose, that they aren't *just that*. But that they should be seen as 10 and 20 times worse and no one should even think about buying from them. This is very bothersome. And it is harmful to the community. Kernel support seems to be good, like you see on http://linux-meson.com/ - whatever devils in the details there were. With the images from balbes, it was easy to install the images for tech savvy people with a little bit of effort and fiddling. But like I explained, the real difference is to be made for ordinary, technologically helpless people to have the option. Currently if I am the average Joe, I have simply no access to self-hosting my data and Linux on a box that I use as a PC on my TV. We, who are willing to work and can work on such things for the greater good, are the missing link here. And this goes from making the best choice that everyone can affort, to making tutorials and images to performing installations to maybe even contribute to the Linux kernel. Things that are already done for Linux on normal PCs, for which they can already be answered by the community in open computer clubs or online. What good is a solution that mostly no one can access properly, or doesn't even understand? I made a lengthy discourse about internet and software freedom. This can only happen if there is a large enough number of people jumping on to the train. I care about that. This is where I set my priorities first.
  2. @balbes150 While I respect your work and can somewhat empathize with your negative sentiment about Amlogic, I must say that the destructive character of your post, directected against both Amlogic and the community trying to work on it, is fairly disappointing. If you don't want to work on Amlogic yourself, that is fine. For all I know you have done more than enough for us. But to try to invalidate or badmouth it, and even the validity of the efforts of others from the community is not. I am somewhat in doubt that you meant to say anything of constructive value here to help the project. But in hope of this being a misunderstanding, may I ask if you could elaborate on your points (if I understand them correctly): 1. By "controls the main part-the loader", do you mean that newer Amlogic chips have bootloader security features, like all modern smartphones have with fastboot, that could allow vendors to lock users out of the bootloader? 2. By "BSP shit" "stuffed with Trojans", do you mean that Amlogic has not switched away from the 3.14 kernel in their products for quite some time now and done their own vendor-only thing (the BSP kernel) off the mainline kernel? Do you believe they have written backdoors into that kernel, or do you mean other pieces of software? Can you provide evidence for the backdoors? I ask about details and evidence, because more than half of all smartphone vendors have been accused of putting in backdoors, when it weren't strictly backdoors. Most vendors simply provide automatic Android OTA update mechanisms. And with the OTA update, they could in theory put in trojans. This is what people usually mean by it. 3. What have they lied about? 4. With whom did they cooperate and is that even bad for us? Big tech companies are likely to cooperate with other big tech companies. There probably isn't a single smartphone manufacturer who didn't make some deal with Google. But what does it possibly matter, if you wipe the operating system? Even if their BSP kernel was full of security holes, or they shipped other bad software with Android, then it wouldn't matter to us because we just installed Armbian and a proper kernel. Don't forget: We are talking about going for very cheap hardware here on purpose. It is only natural that support sucks and that vendors sometimes only do poor patchwork on the software-side of things. The hardware is cheap, fast and stable though, and that is what really matters, what we want and what it boils down to, if we can make it work. From what I gathered, the linux kernel already supports the chips very well ( http://linux-meson.com/ ), and Amlogic has open source commitment and open sources their drivers (or at least they did fairly recently). I don't see that there is a problem here at all. From what I understand (and correct me if I am wrong), the reason that e.g. wifi drivers have not been working on some boxes is not because of proprietary drivers, but because you access the hardware on different SOCs with sometimes slightly different addresses. And no one had probed and fiddled on this specific SOC before. I don't really know how this works though. This is exactly the type of detail I mean, were a person like you with experience could quickly describe the nature of the issues in just a few words in a crash course, like I mentioned. With a crash course others have it easier to continue to work on it, without bashing their heads against it for days and weeks first. So it would be pretty sad, if all you wanted to contribute here was to sow distrust and reduce a 4-page vision about freedom, community the future of linux and converging technologies to "aml shit" advertizement, making endusers look like freeloaders who exploit community development. I don't need to say how poor that really looks.
  3. We are currently at a breaking point where cheap Android TV boxes become powerful enough and viable enough to do the following while running Linux: 1. Be a server: self-hosting data, fediverse, home NAS 2. Be a TV box: 1. web browser, 2. other multimedia options, 3. games 3. Be a makeshift PC replacement (run office applications, photo editing, etc) Concerning #1: If you have followed the news then you have witnessed that censorship is increasing and that the nature of it is most alarming. Over the next years, big tech and politics-driven manipulation of online information will only get worse, until the internet essentially devolves into a kind of TV program suitable for only silent, mindless and conformist consummation. In the wake of this happening, enough people are slowly waking up and realize: We can't just blindly put all our data and digital lives into the hands and dictatiorships of giant companies anymore. That is why we need to step back from those ill relationships and towards alternatives like the fediverse, that have already been worked on for the benefit of the greater good. As more and more ordinary and "technologically helpless" people are turning to the community for solutions, we should have all the answers. Concerning #2 & #3: Many people have smart TVs now. A lot of them aren't even running Android and they do not support any or proper web browsers in order to lock people into vendor schemes. But even on Android, many apps do only work in a makeshift shorthand manner, meant to be just barely enough to work with on a tiny phone when a PC is not available. Office doesn't work well and can't be used in a productive manner, most uncommon hardware addons like basic game controllers are not working for game emulation, if there are server apps they tend to be unreliable, there are not proper video/photo/music editors, etc. etc. This is absolutely not the case on desktop Linux distributions that run on x86 and ARM virtually all the same. The TV box has evolved away from a dumb DVD player-alike thing with classic remote controls and is moving towards being a mini-PC with mini keyboard remote or full keyboard and mouse as standard, that people need for things they just can't practicably do well enough with their smartphones. In fact nowadays, most ordinary people rather primarily use their smartphones and do not even want to have a real PC around. Like described, Android performs well on smartphones, but the entire ecosystem has always been and will always be far too misfit for the TV environment to exhaust the true potential and benefit a TV box could have in people's lives. Here is were Linux comes in, and this could turn the tide on Linux marketshare: We, the people from the Linux community, are not only providing a solution, with enduser-friendly server application environments like Yonohost or Docker, to the problem of big tech vs. our privacy, freedom and democracy. We also provide an operating system that fills an unfilled market nieche: the TV box as both a media center and mini-PC, a kind of "most things ordinary people often most need but nothing too serious" kind of solution. One that isn't controlled by big tech, and one that is born out of free choice and their choice for freedom. Never again has it been so convincing for people to switch to Linux by their own volition. The Rasperry Pi or similar boards are all in all a good option here. But unfortunately they are neither advertized, nor sold nor priced in a manner that would appeal to and convince the average Joe to buy it. In fact I would rather buy the Rasperry Pi, if I was only buying it for myself: to have it easier. But I am not thinking of myself here. I am thinking of the bigger picture and the greater good that would come from even lower cost. Think of this: Before the Rasperry Pi existed, you could have simply used an old notebook or a thin client with GPIO card to do the same job. Yet in the very long era of thin clients, no one was thinking of all the great magical things you can do now with the Rasperry Pi. That is because back then they weren't magical at all at higher price points. When you run the Pi now, it consumes barely any power. Hosting your own data or controlling the doorbell, heating or hydroponic garden over wifi feels like a delight. You have so many awesome possibilites to enriche your life. But when you pay $10 for powering the Pi per month, like you would have paid for an old thin client, all those great things feel rather unpleasant. They aren't so advantageous or helpful anymore and leave a very bad aftertaste. A $30 TV box is about as capable as a Rasperry Pi and the Rasperry Pi is about as capable as some thin client from back in the day. The lower cost is all there was that made all the difference. And it is what opened up widespread use, large communities sourrunding it and so many benefits that just weren't really good benefits at all when the technology was more expensive. That is how a $30 TV box running Linux will be cornerstone technology. And a thin client or Rasperry Pi kit for $100 sadly were not. $30 will currently get you a 4GB/64GB Cortex-A55 with Mali 31 GPU. Those specs are far than enough. Linux currently has (like it always had) 2% market share on desktops. Something needs to change, not to convince ourselves more that our own logic is sound, but to bring more ordinary "non tech" people in. who are not knowing the same things we do and make decisions based on different premises and imperatives. If we could push Linux up to only 15% market share, then most software companies that currently ignore Linux (like Adobe) would also develop for Linux to make more profit. At this point, Linux would snowball into widespread use because it had more advantages than using Windows. This wouldn't just be a great victory for software freedom and thus our freedom while using software, but it would also lay the foundation for a consciousness on digital freedoms and other cultural freedoms as well, where today only ignorance prevails. What catches ordinary "non tech" people is also impression and convenience. Like a phone just resets and you can sell it, you can plop out your SD card into the next TV box and merely use the internal user-storage of Android for backup files. You can dual-boot Android, just try Linux out, no harm done. It comes fully assembled and doesn't look weird. Believe me to ordinary people who basically know nothing about technology, things like this are huge. Not only but foremost because they can easily imagine how to move forward with and treat it like other things they already have used before (like a phone or TV). I didn't say it will be easy, just that this is how things are and could be. There are several problems to be solved and some are not easy to solve. Like on PCs, Linux doesn't ship pre-installed on Android TV boxes and it needs to be distributed afterwards. Here I could imagine, that people could turn to local computer/Linux clubs to have it done for them for free. Or they could, worst-case, mail their box to someone in their country who will install Linux for them. It is probably the biggest hurde to get people to make this first step. But as people are now losing faith in big corporations, the return to community-driven options is only logical. Then there is the technical side of things. And this is where we come in and I am asking for your help here: As I gathered, virtually all the cheap TV boxes with really good specs are (and always were) Amlogic devices. As you know there are hundreds of devices and they even often require reverse engineering, while the manufacturers don't play ball. So supporting Amlogic in general seems more like a fools errand. **However**, for us to support just one model every 2 years per generation is not: It absolutely is the smartest move we can make for everyone. We make the cheapest and fastest box work smoothly and as good as it gets, as a team effort. And this is the box we recommend as a community, that all people then can buy and profit from. I believe so strongly in the value of this vision and the power and potential of all the converging events described, that I want to create a seperate website, which will serve two purposes: 1. to coordinate the project, provide a better dedicated space for knowledge and development. 2. To describe the idea to ordinary consumer-type people, so that they can easily understand what it is, what their options are in software and hardware and and what advantages they get. There are many recent technologies from the fediverse and related, like Yunohost and docker, that even most tech-savvy people know nothing about and hence can't draw implications from. A dedicated site would quickly explain all those things, in a carefully thought-through manner to specific audiences, provide demos and tutorials and so forth and thus not be as convoluted and difficult to ingest as the post that you are reading right now on this forum. From what I gathered, there isn't anything happening like that here or elsewhere at all. But admittedly, I haven't searched for it days on end either. I know of Balbes who seemed to be the one-man-army for Amlogic devices but now it seems he has quit? And SteeMan kind of took his place? I have been reading some on the Forum, and learned a few things about the general situation and gained insight to very very few scattered technical details. But there are thousands of pages on this-and-that sourrunding the topic from the last years. And it is totally impossible to work through all of it. This forum is about enduser support mostly, and no seperate dev forum seems to exist there are just bits and pieces here and there. This is why it would be really really helpful if someone very experienced (like Balbes?) could write a crash course for other devs who have not worked much beyond the basics with TV box hardware. This crash course should contain all the endpoints where dev support is needed, the technical nature of the problem, some details around it and maybe even a quick guide how to possibly tackle them. Of course this shouldn't be a lengthy tutorial, and only be as long as the person has time to spare. In essence it should just be the insights and pitfalls in the deciding details that someone with experience has gathered. We could then expand on that crash course and work through all the issues. But let's first see how many people really jump on to this train, or if this will be a one man show. That would be kind of sad. Personally I don't have much experience in hardware hacking and I can't desolder SMD parts or read EPROMs or anything like that (I suppose that isn't required, ever?; hopefully). I did work in IT most of my life, so I have all sorts dev exeperiences and am a Linux expert. I worked with microcontrollers and kernel drivers before, but not much. I dived a bit into uboot and drivers 2 years ago for my current box, but I still have to learn quite some with the hardware specifics. I have a ttl serial dongle of course. I am willing to learn whatever it takes. As for the question of "which box?": Please make a recommendation. I believe the X96 max plus is the best candidate for last year and as a start.
  4. On Aliexpress $30 will get you a 3GB/64GB box somewhere along the lines of Mali750, which is quite impressive. But like others have said, you are likely to bump into issues. In my experience: I still own a Mali 450 device 2GB/16GB and run LibreELEC on it. I can't update because it needs 1-2 proprietary drivers that only run with the 3.14 kernel. The vendors made efforts to open source the graphics drivers and the hardware of my box is really really supported well, which it might not be on other boxes. Still on Armbian I would only get some guesstimated 1/3rd of the graphics performance I get with LibreELEC (uses framebuffer directly) or Android. From Firefox I could play 720p videos from the Youtube desktop website, while on Armbian Youtube only plays 480p acceptably and 1080p barely with a few framedrops directly without browser. So on the one hand you are likely to run into similar issues (or worse). On the other, $30 will get you so much horsepowers nowadays that it doesn't matter as severely as other people like me have experienced it before you. I believe though, your question is very important and maybe even the most important of all questions in this forum: Which box costs $30 and is well supported? And the answer of course isn't to just buy a more expensive box. We as a community and from a developer POV should be able to come up with a good answer. Maybe we can focus our efforts on just one type of box for every X gigabytes of RAM in the generations. $30 TV boxes running Armbian are a cornerstone to the Fediverse, P2P networks, privacy, self-hosting, press and information freedom. A $120 Rasperry Pi isn't. I came here to find an answer to the question as well and I hope there is one or that we can find one together.
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