Monday, 27 June 2011

Finally my Pandaboard gets a usable OS !

I had to spent a hell a lot of time trying to get my OMAP4430 dev board to boot a usable Linux. By "usable" I mean a Linux which has a practical value to me. Just to say I am neither a developer nor a programmer. I am just a hobbyist :D
I needed to have a Linux which:
a) Works and works well
b) Has a GUI and doesn't need a Serial cable + a PC connected to it
c) Runs fast enough

Most tutorials assumed that I have a serial cable and know how to use it. But I don't and don't need one, I am not a dev. So initially my idea was to simply install Ubuntu.
... Well, I tried both Maverick and Natty ... HDMI video out works, bluetooth & wifi & GPU acceleration work after installing OMAP 4 addons, etc ... But the speed is ... amazingly horrible. I can't believe, but it is even worth than running Linux on PS3 as OtherOS. ( And that thing didn't even had GPU access - unless someone hacked it of course. BTW you can compare PS3 Linux to high end G4 without 3d staff or some old 800 MHz Intel PC. ) I doubt this speed is only due running OS on a SD card. After all some OSs fly on Panda with 4 - 6 Class SDHC. I think it is the system itself. Ubuntu was never a Linux that you should run on embedded or old machines. I didn't expect it to use > 200 MB of RAM ( well, the high-end GUI gets what it deserves ). The CPU usage is strange - about 50 % for both A9 cores when doing anything in GUI without POWERVR drivers. ( My system must be fast enough even when running with bare frame buffer. ) That's a lot of wasted performance for moving windows or opening System Monitor. Sometimes the CPU load on one core goes to 100 %. What about SGX drivers ? Well, I can barely feel a little bit of insignificant acceleration when browsing menus. Everything is still slow, too slow with constant late responses. And how on earth apt-get ended up using 680 MB of RAM ? Is DDR2 that slow ? I guess not, it is just the OS. So in the end, I must say that Ubuntu is certainly not for Panda, unless you have a spare external HDD. But even then the performance wouldn't be that great.

Then, I have installed Angstrom. And it gave to me awesome performance. It is fast even at 300 MHz. The E17 ( or is it E18 ) GUI is incredible, moving/resizing/minimising/etc windows is easy and quick. All I can say is that it is much much faster then Ubuntu. Thanks to Angstrom developers for bringing up such a useful system !

Some Angstrom notes
( I will make a tutorial  sooner or later on installing Angstrom )
- I have used an online builder Narcissus to build rootfs
- Both pandaboard and omap4430-panda configs work
- I have chosen Enlightenment for GUI
- uImage = kernel from rootfs ( rename uImage-X.XX.X... to uImage )
- Both MLO and u-boot.bin were downloaded from here:
- SD card setup with mkcard script from the above link
- OS works fast and boots fast ( first boot is long )
- I don't have boot.scr ( highmem is enabled )
- SMP is working
- USB devices work ( mouse, keyboard and USB Thumb drive are verified to work )
- USB storage devices are mounted correctly ( had yet to see how external HDD will work )
- Temp indicator seems to work
- Power management is working ( at the first glance )
- You can change frequency of CPU: 300/600/800/1000 MHz
- Default mode: 1GHz
- I am not able to log-out or turn off the system with a GUI method when running as user. "Turn off" in GUI works when logging in as root.
- External HDD works and is mounted correctly ( but, damn, I have a hard time trying to unmount it )
- SD card used: LEXAR 8 GB SDHC 100x Class 6
- I can change power management settings only when running system as root.


  1. Hi, is the wirless driver working on Angstrom? I tried both the configs, but no wirless interface shows up. I also verified that the wirless drivers were indeed installed.

  2. Well, I couldn't get it to work. The driver: tiwlan_drv.ko is indeed installed, but not loaded. I have run: depmod -a -v and it gave to me some error messages, which suggest that this driver is looking for missing functions. I hope I will have some good news later...