Free and Libre Open Source SBC List Thread


Recommended Posts

Hi,  I was just in the armbian matrix channel asking about FLOSS SBCs, SBCs which can be booted / operated without blobs or with as few blobs as possible.

I am not one of those purist Stallmanite zealots who refuse to touch anything which i deem imperfect in the freedom department. Instead I am just trying to be practical and figure out whats the best options for SBCs which respect users. SBCs whose security/integrity is verifiable and doesn't hinge on appeals to authority, like "just trust our secret sauce, it will be fine".

I want to know about any projects from the past, things that are in progress, and hear experiences from folks who are interested in open source firmware, bootloaders, etc.  I got the general idea from talking in the matrix channel that there are actually more FLOSS-friendly SBCs than a cursory google search might indicate, and I would like to discuss and put together a list.  Goal would be that this can perhaps be published somewhere, I'm not sure where would be the appropriate place on the Armbian documentation or web site, but I can also publish it myself and try to keep it up to date as this is something I'm keenly interested in.

So, without further adieu, I will start, these are the projects I know about which I'm interested in:

Bootloader software projects:
https://libreboot.org/
https://www.coreboot.org/

It's not an SBC, but there is this project to have an open source bootloader/firmware linux laptop based on this chrome book: Asus c201 with RK3288
https://github.com/SolidHal/PrawnOS

This old open source hardware board I believe can be run with open source firmware but its quite slow and less than 1 GB RAM
https://www.olimex.com/wiki/A10-OLinuXino-LIME

Someone from matrix said that the ROC-RK3399-PC (http://en.t-firefly.com/product/rocrk3399pc) can be run without blobs:
 

Quote

TRS-80 said "apparently roc-rk3399-pc is capable of operating fully blob free see piter75 comment here: https://forum.armbian.com/topic/15932-nanopi-r4s/?tab=comments#comment-114182 "

 


Please let me know about any other open source firmware/bootloader for SBC projects that you know about!!

Edited by forestj
Link to post
Share on other sites
Donate and support the project!

from https://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/single-board-computers:
 

Quote

Boards based on the FreeScale i.MX6 platform are almost entirely functional in freedom. The i.MX6 uses the free boot firmware U-Boot and does not enforce signature checks. The GPU, the Vivante GC320, has been reverse-engineered by the etnaviv project; its free software drivers are now mature and usable for most day-to-day cases.

 

Edited by forestj
Link to post
Share on other sites

i think you can run some allwinner socs (at least the h6) and some rockchip socs nearly blob free as they do the memory setup themself, have open source atf (and sometimes optee too) and u-boot. maybe a free usb wifi might be required as boards sometimes come with wifi requiring blobs. this way one might even be able to make a cheap h6 tv box into a blob free system :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, hexdump said:

but those are fixed ip cores in the hardware and not loaded later

The only difference here is the location of the persistent storage where the blob is located. I would prefer if all blobs I have to use be stored at a location I have control about, but this is not easy to get. In this way, I could at least control which blob is used and after a restart the device is in a known state. Where the blob is stored on the device, it is quite difficult to detect manipulations of malware that takes place at run time and then remains persitent.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Finally I get around to replying to your thread @forestj:)

 

I had started asking such questions on this forum back in middle of 2019 (which was one of my very first posts in fact) however I had been lurking and researching this issue for much longer (years?) before that.

 

On 12/10/2020 at 11:26 PM, forestj said:

I am not one of those purist Stallmanite zealots who refuse to touch anything which i deem imperfect in the freedom department.

 

Hey!  I resemble that remark!  :D  Do you have a moment to hear the words of our Lord and Saviour rms?  :D

 

All jokes aside, this is actually one of most common misconceptions about the Free Software movement.  There is actually an article I read not too long ago, right on FSF (maybe GNU) website (in other words, as "official" as it gets) that speaks directly to this point.  Unfortunately I could not find it after a brief search just now in order to provide a link.

 

However, the point was, that using free software is a goal.  You may have to use some non-free software (and/or hardware) especially in the current world.  At school, work or whatever.  Or, if you are just new to it all and still using Windows, etc.  But the goal is to move toward more free options whenever you are able to.  Even small, incremental changes add up over time, and each little one is a step in the right direction.

 

On 12/10/2020 at 11:26 PM, forestj said:

Bootloader software projects:
https://libreboot.org/
https://www.coreboot.org/

 

These are more for x86, but you probably know that already.

 

While we are talking about other arch, there is also libre-soc which was formerly known as libre-RISC-V (or something like that) but it turns out that RISC-V is not so open after all, rather just another consortium riding on the current wave of "open source" popularity whilst being actually nothing of the sort in reality (coughBroadcomcough).  They were moving towards POWER arch the last I read, as IBM have apparently really been opening up that platform much more lately.  So currently, this is my long term hope for the future.  As in my view, ARM is still a lot better than x86 (which is dead to me now) but still also somewhat locked down in a lot of cases.

 

As far as non-SoC devices, two separate F/LOSS Wi-Fi / radio projects have been mentioned right here in this very forum recently, one from Pine64, and another from openwifi project.  I even spoke to the main developer of the latter a bit in that thread and via PM afterwards.

 

Point being, there is quite a lot of concern about such issues, and various efforts / projects here and there, in addition to Armbian.  You are just not going to be hearing about them from the legacy corporate media.  ;)

 

In more recent news, I wanted to share some part of private conversation I was having with one of main RK3399 devs, @piter75 (and I hope he does not mind me sharing this publicly, because I don't see it as betraying any confidences, and I think it is generally very useful and relevant to this topic):

 

Quote

Regarding the blobless boot... booting ROCK Pi 4 with SPI/NVMe is also blobless out of the box already and changing SD/eMMC to blobless is simply a matter of changing this line to "BOOT_USE_MAINLINE_ATF=yes" and building an image. We don't do it oob however as it's not compatible with Radxa's legacy u-boot which may already be installed in SPI.

 

I run it blobless without issues but once again - not as desktop.

 

As always, I could write more, however I think that is enough wall of text for now...

 

Great topic!  Cheers!  :thumbup:  :beer:

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, TRS-80 said:

I wanted to share some part of private conversation I was having with one of main RK3399 devs, @piter75

I might have been a little bit too braggy (and tired) :P last night.

SPI boot for ROCK Pi 4 still uses a single blob file :(

 

The other part of the message is correct however - it takes a simple change to the configuration file to enable both blobless boot for both SD/eMMC and SPI and I run my ROCK Pi 4B this way.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, piter75 said:

I might have been a little bit too braggy (and tired) :P last night.

SPI boot for ROCK Pi 4 still uses a single blob file

 

I feel a bit bad now for quoting you publicly then.  :(  Thanks for the correction, at any rate!

 

---

 

In a more general sense, I cannot help but wonder how many more boards could be in "mostly / completely blob free" category if we are willing to forego some things like graphics and/or Wi-Fi, which I know are typically big sources of blobs.  In other words, "server" boards (which honestly, is mainly my interest anyway, and many others, too)...

Link to post
Share on other sites

According to this post (on Pine64 forum) we can add ROCKPro64 to the list.

 

I have not verified personally, yet, although I had taken a keen interest in this device recently, anyway.  Of course, learning this now only increases my interest.

 

What I am saying is, eventually, I probably will try it and at that point I will try and remember to report back here...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...