Rasperry Pi: Now mostly open source

If you’ve been following the developments of building Android, Chromium, and other OSes for the Raspberry Pi, you’ll come across a common theme. The drivers for the Raspi’s chip are closed source and protected by Broadcom with an NDA. This limits the ability of devs to take on projects that involve messing around deep inside the CPU.

Today, this is no longer the case. The CPU on the Raspberry Pi is now the first ARM-based system with fully functional, vendor-provided drivers.

Previously, the drivers for OpenGL ES, OpenMax, and other goodies inside the ARM chip have been closed source, available only to the Raspberry Pi foundation and those willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Broadcom. With this release, the drivers are open source, allowing the devs behind the Android, Chromium, Haiku, *BSD, and the RISC OS to dig deep into the Broadcom drivers and get their projects working.

The new files are available in the Raspberry Pi git, just waiting for devs to take a look at it.

An appeal to Microsoft to consider the hackers

[PT] is climbing up on his soapbox again to make an appeal to Microsoft. We think his editorial is well-aimed; appealing for better support for hobby electronics in Windows 8.

This is of course not strictly a hobby electronics feature request, but deals with how a lot of USB devices are treated by the upcoming operating system. Specifically the Communications Device Class, which is a protocol used by most hobby projects (and boards like the Arduino) that take advantage of the Universal Serial Bus. The way communications are handled by OSX and Linux makes this a snap, but not with Windows 7. [Phil] post specifics about how the former two operating systems handle these communications, and how Windows 8 could be tweaked to fall in line with them.

It means not installing drivers. Drivers…. for a USB device. Think about that for a while and then ask yourself which decade Windows 8 is being developed in. Thanks for pointing this out [PT]. We often get spoiled using a Linux box and don’t realize the hassles sometimes found on other systems.

Grinding down your computer to just 8.5 watts

What can you do to make sure your system is running as efficiently as possible? Take a page out of [Mux's] book, who went to great lengths to measure and adjust his system for ultimate efficiency (translated). What he ended up with is 8.5 Watts of consumption at idle and about 50 Watts under load. Luckily he posted a six-part series with all of the details.

Some of the changes he made were in software, like reducing voltage to certain hardware by adjusting BIOS settings, and installing display drivers that put the screen into the proper sleep mode. Others were hardware changes like swapping out the power supply with a hacked PicoPSU and removing unnecessary parts from the motherboard like the MAX232 com-port chip. Looks like we need to audit our always-on MythTV box and see if we can apply any of these power-saving techniques.

[Thanks Gijs]

Reverse engineering USB drivers

luxeed_keyboard

When [Jespersaur] purchased a Luxeed LED keyboard, he was disappointed to find that the drivers were not open source and didn’t support all the features he wanted. His solution? Hack the drivers that come with it, and implement his own. In his article, he gives a basic rundown of beginning reverse engineering by multiple methods and a brief introduction to libusb. For the Linux drivers, check out [Kurt Stephens]‘s site, where he supplies a link to the source code, instructions on building it, and a tutorial on sending commands to the keyboard.

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