Breaking Eggs And Making Omelettes

Topics On Multimedia Technology and Reverse Engineering


ARM Netbook In The Works

November 16th, 2008 by Multimedia Mike

Apparently, I won’t have to revise the entire architecture of FATE in order to test FFmpeg on ARM via the Beagle Board. I have been reading some stuff about how ARM will release chips suitable for netbook devices, and how Canonical has signed on to make sure that at least one Linux distribution runs competently on said devices.

I’m excited about this for 2 reasons: I like netbooks (whereas no conventional laptop has ever managed to interest me) and because I retain an innate fascination with alternate (i.e., non-x86) CPU architectures, architectures that are often difficult to work with due to unavailability of hardware and appropriate tools.

Posted in FATE Server | 17 Comments »

17 Responses

  1. Kostya Says:

    There are also MIPS-based laptops out there (running Debian). Maybe you should buy one of them too?

  2. Multimedia Mike Says:

    Don’t tempt me… are they reasonably priced?

  3. Kostya Says:

    Yes, they are underpowered and should fit into hundred bucks or so.

  4. Mans Says:

    The Beagle board runs Ubuntu (and several other distros) just fine right now. If FATE can run in 128MB of RAM, there is no need to wait for another device. If not, maybe the upcoming (hopefully) 256MB Beagle board will work.

    BTW, the engadget article mentions the planned netbooks coming with “advanced video functionality”. Guess what will be powering that…

  5. Multimedia Mike Says:

    I did a little searching– I suspect the cheap, MIPS-based netbook is the HiVision miniNote.

  6. Mike Says:

    If you want to do ARM on the cheap, theres always rockbox. We’re slowly optimizing our codecs for ARMv4/5/6.

  7. Multimedia Mike Says:

    I wasn’t aware that RockBox is a Linux-based ARM platform. Now I’m really confused. I thought it was a program that played music on a variety of music players that are predominantly ARM-based.

  8. mat Says:

    Does mips works well with multimedia ? AFAIK ffmpeg got no optimization for mips.

    Also as i already said (I have forgotten if I got replies), qemu could be used to test most no-x86 arch. You don’t even need to get a full os : user emulation should be enough for ffmpeg.
    Of course real hardware is better (qemu could have bug, emulation could be slow, …), but could be harder to setup.

    PS : for arm (without fp) may be the android (audio) codec are better.

  9. Multimedia Mike Says:

    The Sony PlayStation 2 has a MIPS CPU (R5900) and FFmpeg has optimizations for PS2:

    However, I am not sure if these SIMD extensions are specific to the PS2’s CPU or are a more general feature of MIPS families. Also, I can’t find any data on what type of MIPS CPU will be in the miniNote (and MIPS is a big family).

  10. StefanG Says:

    The only netbooks I heard about with MIPS instruction set have
    the Chinese “Godson 2” aka Loongson processor on board like this one at

  11. Anonymous Says:

    The Razorbook/Alpha 400 used an Ingenic MIPS-clone. Apparently the manufacturer has switched to XScale now. The old ones sell on ebay for about $250.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    That Gdium sounds useful. Too bad the company behind it isn’t too eager to sell them. If a website has something to sell, they should really make the “Buy” link a little more prominent.

  13. Pandora Says:

    There’s also the Pandora, with a 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8

  14. funman Says:

    To clear the confusion: rockbox isn’t linux based but some codecs are based on FFmpeg, and it runs on ARM and Coldfire (other archs only have hardware based decoder)

  15. Multimedia Mike Says:

    Thanks, funman– that’s what I thought. It seems that there’s an outside chance that a cast-off iPod or other ARM-based MP3 device could serve as a FATE platform. However, something like the Beagle Board seems like a more reasonable candidate. Or perhaps that OpenPandora thing, though that seems to be a hot item right now.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    I’d be cautious of doing builds on these type of systems. I compiled a lot of code on my EEE PC, and destroyed the flash memory in only a few months due to the frequent write cycles. You will need a hard disk, or enough RAM to use tmpfs.

  17. Multimedia Mike Says:

    Between cheap HDs and other USB mass storage devices, and network shares, I’m not too worried about wearing out native flash memory. But thanks for the heads-up.