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SubjectRe: getting allwinner SoC support upstream (was Re: Uploading linux (3.9.4-1))
[ please do try to remove debian-release from replies - my mistake
please try not to propagage it, even though it may be too late!]

On Wed, Jun 5, 2013 at 10:16 PM, Russell King - ARM Linux
<> wrote:

eyy, allo russell, long time since we last spoke, which was eek around
2004 for that cirrus logic 90mhz ARM when i was converting skyguard
over from 2.4 to 2.6.

> On Wed, Jun 05, 2013 at 03:00:13PM -0600, Stephen Warren wrote:
>> 2) Having U-Boot itself read a DT and configure itself, just like the
>> kernel does. This is relatively new, and only supported by a few boards
>> (all Tegra to some extent, and a couple each Samsung Exynos and Xilinx
>> boards). I suspect/guess this is the kind of thing that Luke was
>> referring to re: U-Boot fex integration.
> Reading what I have of this thread, this is just another case of
> $company runs of and does their own unique way of doing something,

he he - don't be too despondent, russell: they've managed to be
incredibly successful, and they're a young company, my role here is to
act as the go-between, to be able to say to them "can we help each
other out here please?"

> which is in a totally different direction from that path chosen by
> Linux kernel developers, and Linux kernel developers are _expected_
> to roll over and accept $company's unique way of doing it.

not at all. no. definitely wrong. you're thinking about this the
wrong way. i.e. you're imagining that they have some sort of agenda
which is to punish linux kernel developers.

the sunxi community however - those of us who have to act as
piggy-in-the-middle - those of us who are working directly with the
linux-sunxi kernel tree - are torn between going:

* damnit let's give those linux kernel developers a damn good kicking
for setting silly rules!
* oh blast. not a snowball in hell's chance of getting allwinner soc
code upstream
* i wonder if there's a diplomatic solution or a well-reasoned argument here

and so on.

allwinner? naah. they'll quite happily keep on taking linux 3.4,
3.5, 3.20e6 source code and forking it and throwing it back out there
until the heat death of the universe reaches zero.... all without
*ever* having expected a *single* linux kernel developer to roll over
any object of their personal choosing.

> $company could have assisted with the DT effort, helping to sort out
> the common arch issues (which haven't been all that much), converting
> drivers to DT and such like. But no, instead they've gone off and
> created their own thing.

yes, for very very good reasons, i feel. they have different
requirements and different goals from the stated [unachievable but
quite laudable one-kernel-fits-all-ARM-SoCs-everywhere] goal that the
linux kernel developers have set themselves.

* the markets that allwinner are targetting [their own SoCs in the
tablet and IPTV markets] are very much a subset of those which the
linux kernel developers are targetting [every single ARM SoC and every
single product based around ARM SoCs in existence, past present and

* the file format is standard DOS .INI format, so their customers,
instead of having to edit c code or understand DT, can just use a DOS
editor. remember: these devices are often being made by people who
decided "i'm fed up of selling socks, jumpers and handbags: i know, i
fink i will diversify and get my girls to make.... tablets. yes,
that's it! tablets!". so now you know what level of technical
computing competence most of these factories have: NONE. it's amazing
that they sell anything at all, to be honest, but sell they have, and
taken 40% world-wide market share of the tablet market.

* the ODMs can take virtually any device, from any customer,
regardless of the design, put *one* [unmodified, precompiled] boot0,
boot1, u-boot and kernel onto it, prepare the script.fex easily when
the customer has been struggling on how to start that DOS editor he
heard about 20 years ago, and boot the device up, put it into a
special mode where the SD/MMC card becomes a JTAG+RS232 and see what's
up... all without even removing any screws.

> I wonder how many more of these cases there needs to be before people
> get the message that Linux kernel developers *do* *not* like this
> behaviour, and if you do this, then chances are you're going to be
> stuck with having code which isn't able to be merged into mainline.

well... then the SoC vendor with a global market share totalling 40%
will carry on creating yet more code which isn't able to be merged
into mainline, and they won't give a flying fuck, russell - simple as
that. actually, they won't even give a flying fuck, they'll just
carry on happily making money.

and the sunxi community, who are stuck in the middle, will be forced
to shoulder the burden of the work in living between these two worlds.

plus, because debian and the many other linux distros only really
accept code from upstream rather than from self-appointed communities
(because it's damn inconvenient to do merging for just one SoC e.g. in
debian where they have *mostly* a multi-arch kernel i.e.
multi-minus-allwinner), the sunxi community will... no, actually, they
won't be burdened with that task, they'll just continue to advise
people where various people have created non-packageable versions of
the linux kernel, usually distributed as part of some god-awful
instructions that include "now download a 1gbyte pre-prepared root
filesystem from" - i'm exaggerating there but only

... am i making it clear that this is a dog's dinner mess, and setting
intransigent rules only hurts the end-users and reduces the acceptance
and availability of linux distros?

> And I don't buy the argument that we were still sorting out DT. DT has
> been well defined for many many years before we started using it on ARM.
> It has been used for years on both PowerPC and Sparc architectures to
> describe their hardware, and all of the DT infrastructure was already
> present in the kernel. What was left for us were:
> * converting our platform-data based drivers to use data from DT.
> * come up with ways of dealing with SoC issues such as clock
> representation, pin muxing and such like in DT.

yes. "what was left". in other words, when allwinner would have
been looking at this, they would have gone, "we can't possibly deal
with this. none of us speak english. we have to get a simple-to-use
bootstrap system out there, including something equivalent to a BIOS
all customisable *without* any recompiles... we have to do this
ourselves and we have to get it out *now*, not on the linux kernel
developers' schedule".

virtually all of the comments in the allwinner source code are in
chinese, russell.

> But no... all that had to be created in this custom fex stuff which now
> presents a barrier with getting support for something merged.

indeed. can i please ask people to consider how much of that barrier
is realistically achievable, and how much of that barrier should
remain in place given that it is clearly detrimental to the adoption
of GNU/Linux OSes?

if this was that cirrus logic 90mhz SoC we were discussing, russell,
i wouldn't even bother to raise it as an issue. but this is the
company that, when they first created the Allwinner A10 and undercut
the competition by a whopping 40% (that's excluding the reductions in
the BOM due to its high level of integration), actually caused a major
recession *in their own country* as everyone scrambled to adopt it,
leaving all those people with stock of components *not* based around
that SoC high and dry.

> And somehow people make out that this is _our_ problem...

no - i'm pointing out the scope of the problem, and i'm asking for a
discussion of proposals that i can take back to allwinner, and to have
a concrete but preliminary agenda that i can pass to the Director's
Assistant some time within the next two weeks.

more than that i cannot say but this is an opportunity to get things sorted out.


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