My take on Apple's move to ARM and the implications for Linux

These are my thoughts, admittedly there are many other ways to view this situation. But, this is what I expect.

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I’m a person that doesn’t code or do development, so a couple of questions.

What are your biggest challenges as an OS developer and, what will be your biggest challenges to release an OS in arm based technology?

Also, do you have to buy new hardware with ARM CPU’s just to keep up?

Inquiring minds want to know.

For me, the biggest challenge as an OS developer is both marketing the OS, and maintaining the infrastructure. Both take a lot of effort and time. Without those who have skills in these areas, I would be lost.

My biggest challenge with ARM is that ARM CPUs are designed to work with specific bootloaders. So I have to try to find a way to work around that, or otherwise have a different IMG file for each supported device.

As for having to buy ARM devices, I don’t technically have to. There are ways to use QEMU to work around the CPU architecture differences. However, I have encountered issues with apt that make it easier to use ARM CPUs. And, with those bootloader issues mentioned earlier, it’s smart to have some ARM devices to test on anyways.

Thanks for this, Thomas. I have a couple of questions also:

1) How much of a stretch is it, considering ios and android already run on arm architecture, to see linux gaming on arm?

I mean, yeah, not 550FPS A games, but on the level of whats already running in the arm space. Im asking. I ended up with an ipad somehow (OK. It was the verizon reps fault and the stupid sale and my teenage son - wrong place, wrong time), and I’m surprised at what runs quite nicely. Not quite gaming, but definitely multitrack audio. Can’t testify to games from the app store, but the few I tried ran fine at this scale.

I know you mentioned the copyright issues, and I know they won’t go away, but there’s no law against considering how cool it would be to have a tight Draugr Linux Slab with a library of retrogames.

Let not the impossible cast its shadows upon the great.

2) I wonder what exaxctly is Apple Silicon. I guess the fab is contracted by - and the (BoC) licence is purcashed by cupertino. Am I correct in assuming that the challenges in wrapping linux around that are similar to those involved with wrapping linux around an ipad these days? (oooHHHOOO…)

Just musing. We know apple will build a gourgeous lightweight 17" laptop that’ll battery 3 days straight and 3 nights straighter, and then go and jail it all up behind some evil (But equally attractive) grey magic sorcery that will take Louis Rossman 2 years to figure out how to get around.

Hey! I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can.

  1. I think that depends largely on how many people on Linux use ARM, but also on whether Windows and/or MacOS are largely on ARM. If everything is moving ARM, developers MUST recompile their code for the new CPUs so that it still runs. As it is right now, most of what you will see is emulation (as I mentioned), and some indie games made for Linux, or open-source games than can easily be built for other CPU architectures. A good example of this is Minetest. It wasn’t INTENDED to run on a Raspberry Pi, but you could set up a Raspberry Pi 4 as a Minetest server if you wanted.

  2. “Apple Silicon” is just Apple’s way of saying “the CPUs we make for our tablets and phones.” So while yes it would be similar to getting Linux on an iPad, it would also mean more work to handle slightly different hardware. So I would expect more work involved to get things going.

Once these devices release, if we can get Linux on them, it will be such a nice experience. Like a PineBook Pro, but 5 times the price for twice the power and a WAY more proprietary CPU, or something like that