Road to ARM devices !
This ain’t news to anyone now cause, as announced to last ELC, the GeeXboX project is now focusing most of its efforts to support ARM devices and I’m glad to say that we made impressive improvements in this area. First, let’s be realistic, there are hundreds of different SoCs and ARM devices and it’s definitely not possible to support them all as one would do on x86 computers. Right now, we’ve decided to focus on OMAP3 from Texas Instruments. Why so ? That’s easy: it features nearly everything one can want to build a Media Center: an ARMv7 CPU (Cortex-A8), an OpenGL|ES compatible GPU (PowerVR SGX 530) and a 720p H.264 hardware capable decoding DSP. This SoC is also mature and has an impressive support from community. As a consequence, thanks to a few sponsors (CELF), the revenues from Google AdSense and generous donations, we’ve been able to get access to one BeagleBoard, 3 IGEPv2 boards and a TouchBook.
These brand new shiny toys really make wonders and thanks to a very hard labor, I’m proud to say that GeeXboX current development tree is now running fine out there. Of course, there are still many rooms for improvements but the basics are there and we’ve been able to run Enna on it by this week. While now working out of the box on these devices, we’re still using fully software methods (i.e. no DSP or GPU) which are, by definition, resources eating. But at least all of the infrastructure work has been done and we’ll now be able to focus on these peripherals.
When this will be achieved, we’ll have a complete out-of-the-box multimedia solution for very low-end devices that one can use to drive is Set-Top-Box. Speaking of that, we’ve decided to work, in the months to come, to the hardware design of our own motherboard (obviously based on ARM SoC), as to provide a full-featured STB, with Open Software and Open Hardware. More details will be available in the weeks to come.
In the long term, we also intend to support as much ARM chips as possible. I originally wanted to target at least ARMv7 architecture, due to its impressive NEON SIMD instructions set, but many devices still being based on ARMv5, we might possibly do some porting efforts. With a bit of luck (and very likely depending on Texas Instruments), we might also support OMAP4 architecture by end of the year (Cortex-A9, PowerVR SGX 540 and 1080p-capable DSP) and why not nVidia Tegra2. This can however only be done if we managed to get access to the hardware. So any interested developer or if you know any way to get sponsored some boards, feel free to join or to contact us at least.
Regarding GeeXboX itself, we also made very deep changes in the toolchain and our build system. I’ll make some announcement when the time will come but you may soon expect to have a impressively easy cross-compilation framework, with the possibility to create additional components through our SDK and package the whole thing using OPKG, which we’ll be using to have a fully packaged-based and upgradeable multimedia distribution.
So stay tuned