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Re: Mips SOC, Linux

To: PhilipS <sphilip30@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Mips SOC, Linux
From: Ralf Baechle <ralf@linux-mips.org>
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 13:56:54 +0000
Cc: linux-mips@linux-mips.org
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On Sun, Mar 11, 2007 at 11:59:11AM +0530, PhilipS wrote:

> Hello All,
> I am looking for MIPS Development boards for my hobby projects like Linux
> Porting and Development, I am here by looking for an Expert suggestion to
> buy a MIPS custom boards, so far on Google I could come across
> vendor selling MIPS Evaluation target boards which is Obviously expensive
> which ,I cannot afford to buy. I hope I am asking this question at the right
> place, else please suggest me where I can post my request if one knows about
> it.

You're touch a big problem here, so I'm going to use this opportunity to
post a rant ...

Most of the eval boards are have very high price tags due to low volume and
esotheric components such as very large and fast FPGAs or pricey matched
impedance connectors for logic analyzers.  Another factor is that the
vendors making these boards usually target their commercial customers and
factor in a fairly generous markup for the post-sale support into the sales
price of the board.

From a Free Software perspective this is a bloody disaster.  Even if for a
moment I put on my dot com hat again, it's one.  Over the past years the
commercial contributions have primarily focused on hardware support.  In
many cases I received large code drops of lousy to medicore quality and
no maintenance at all after the initial code drop.  I won't go into the
reasons here nor do I think I need to name companies here - but it's a big
problem.

As usual exceptions proof the rule and also as usual there are alot of
grey shades between white and black.  Some companies seem to have tremendous
difficulty to be good open source citizens - but they throw some free
hardware into the crowd.  Not enough to satisfy the demand and usually only
a few key people are really able to take advantage of that.

Otoh many if not most important and highest quality contributions over the
years have come from hobby hackers, so in the end the lack availability of
modern hardware is making everybody suffer.  Meanwhile the importance of
Linux as OS for MIPS is continuing to rise ...

I hear similar complaints from other, mostly embedded architectures such as
ARM.  But that's not an excuse - this problem wants some remedy.

But let's also look at the options you have right now:

 o Eval boards end on ebay relativly rarely, but you can try anyway.
   Another option is something like a surplus MIPS workstation.
 o A bunch of wireless routers and other devices such as some the Linksys
   WRT54 models have been recycled for hacking use with good success.
 o Routerboard which is not yet supported out of tree (working in cleaing
   the patches) would be another reasonably priced option.  Generally you
   may want to look at the list of platforms supported by
   http://openwrt.org/ - many of their platforms have friendly price tags.
   Of course alot of those are purpose built hw so may be a bit quirky to
   use.
 o Apparently AMD Alchemy boards used to be fairly cheap, on the order of
   $100.  I have not idea this is true or still true for the new owner of
   Alchemy Raza Microelectronics.
 o For the meager investment of a few megabytes of disk space Qemu is a
   really nice and well performing system which also is rapidly improving.

  Ralf

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