With the collapse of my vpsland archive, Neko has become lost once more again. Thankfully I had some fragment backups so I have been able to bring Neko back from the grave. again.
First I dumped everything I had over on sourceforge. With a bit more digging I found the old RISC versions as well. I even found the Itanium version, although I lost the ARM version. Im not sure I have an 8gb pi4 anymore, but I’d like to get one when/if prices stop being insane. Anyways I also uploaded the source to github, since it’s more hip and acceptable for zoomers. I do have to say the git mirror command was everything I’d hoped it’d be.
I had gone over the install a while ago, but I wanted to re-install on a newer machine. And going from GCC 7 to 11, well a number of things changed. And I found with experience that letting Qemu select as much as it wants leads to numerous dependencies that end up being problematic.
Another fun think is that there is submodules from other servers, and it seems their certs have expired.. Which also means it’s inevitable at some point this will become impossible to build. Be sure to set this environment variable in order to build:
As always Qemu will try to sneak a few things in there that we don’t need like audio support. As an example here is what I trimmed from config-host.mak:
and with that all in place we can compile a simple hello world!
# cat mt.c
printf("hi from C\n");
# xlc -v mt.c -o mt
hi from C
xlC is also capable of building a running GNU Chess. And I updated the git so that book building works. Not that I expect anyone to care.
Chess book Compiling book, please wait… 186 games added, 3384 positions added, 3383 total positions in book
It has the same desire to move pieces back and forth for thousands of moves, but it’s doing a heck of a lot more than any modern C compiler.
Since we don’t have any networking, Everything is on the console. I’ve found making CD-ROM images being a much easier way to get data in, and I’m still using uuencode to get data out from the console. I guess I should setup Z-modem at some point but that’s very futuristic. Or just break down and learn how to use C-kermit.
With all the controversy over 64bit pinball, and where and how things appeared, then disappeared to the discovery that the x64 version was a thing, but it was left off the install manifest but shipped on CD, along with my simple script to just extract it, the problem was that ARM32/64 users were left in the cold.
Don’t get me wrong, the original 32bit exe runs fine under emulation, but who wants emulation when you can have NATIVE CODE?! You’d have to try to find the source code (lol good luck!) or reverse engineer the program. And that’s what happened, enter:
I’m using Visual Studio 2019 to build this, and it was great it *just worked*. Hurray!
There is also a rebuild going on for SDL to bring Space Cadet Pin Ball to Linux and beyond. The only downside is that it uses a number of ‘new C++ features’ locking out older platforms. I’d done some work to dumb it down although there is a bit of this new fangled C++ I’m unsure of what is going on. So that means, unfortunately Itanium users are left in the dark, as Visual Studio 2010 is too old.
With all the talk of 64bit versions of Pinball I thought I’d share simple script to extract Pinball from an XP x64 CD-ROM so you can take it with you. It’s portable so thats nice too, although it doesn’t use any wad/pak/zip files so all the assets are loose files:
Naturally you’ll want to substitute F:\ with whatever drive letter your CD-ROM/ISO file is mounted on.
And thanks to a long needed feature in Windows 10 you can verify that yes indeed it is a 64bit version.
Isn’t that awesome?! Obviously ARM64 users are left out in the dark, as far as I know there was no ARM64 versions of Windows XP. As a matter of fact, was there any public versions of Windows XP for ARM? Naturally the Surface RT shipped with 8.0
Anyways at long last we can have our 64bit pinball despite the weird bugs, and how the plunger is mostly hidden no doubt due to yet more weird floating point/integer size inconsistencies
So yes, it’s most certainly built from a MacBook Air looking frame. But it’s not the same build materials, which of course is to be expected as these are far cheaper. Unlike the other ARM book I have, this one doesn’t have a GPRS modem, and as of this moment doesn’t natively run Windows. Which with it’s paltry 4GB of RAM and 64GB of disk space is just as well.
adding a 32bit runtime
Just as the MIPS64 had it’s weirdisims, the ARM64 is in the same seat. I didn’t see anything all that clear on Manjaro, and 32bit, at the same time debootstrap is available in the repo, allowing you to quickly install a 32bit Debian userland to chroot into. It’s pretty much the same steps as before, with the only real change being to use the armhf processor family giving a 32bit tree.
Maybe it’s my overall familiarity with Debian, but I find the environment far easier to deal with. Well that and of course many things just build so much nicer in 32bit mode, than 64bit mode sadly. It’s a shame that many distros don’t seem to include a matching 32bit/64bit libset but here we are.
Another plus is that Debian has far more robust mirrors world wide, and downloading components and updates is FAR faster than Manajro.
In the first week however disaster struck as I had it ‘sleeping’ one night and plugged in to charge, and when I opened the lid, I got nothing. The charging led showed RED for some reason like it was still charging, and no matter what I tried on the keyboard it just would not turn on.
Searching online didn’t give me much other than people saying that they were replacing the built in flash and didn’t seat it correctly. Did my kids or cat knock it over when I wasn’t looking? Was it on the edge of not being seated from shipping? I have no idea.
Well as much as I love opening new stuff, it was acting dead so I guess nothing to lose. That said the screws come off pretty easily but there is 2 sizes as the ones up front are super short. With the lid off you can see that the battery is 2x the size of the motherboard. And yeah of course it being ARM, its very raspberry pi – ish. And I guess it’s really no surprise.
On the mainboard there is 2 push buttons, and 2 sliding jumpers. One is hidden beneath the black tape. I hit the reset button, and slid both sliders up and down and then pressed down on the 64GB chip. I flipped it over to see if that did anything, and surprisingly it’d turn itself on!
I quickly shut it down, and screwed it back together. And I’ve been using it daily over the last week without any further issues with it powering on. Again I have no idea what was wrong but at least it seemed easy enough to open up and hit some buttons. Which brings me to the overall feel:
It’s really hard to slam the PineBook Pro. It has incredibly lofty goals, and for the pricepoint it’s absolutely insanely good value. The body has been molded from what at best could be called an ‘inspired by the Mac Book Air’ but it’s the keyboard and trackpoint where it falls short. The keys have too much travel for their own good, and seem to twist a little giving a klunk as they don’t depress quite right. I have had issues with the arrow keys trying to play DooM via DOSBox. And I’ve become so spoilt with backlit keys, that although I know how to touchtype I still look from time to time.
The trackpoint is miserable, it’s constantly jumping the mouse (no palm detection)? and it just doesn’t glide or click ‘right’. But I know I’m being 100% unfair as I’m comparing this to a laptop that is 5x the price. I’ve written this and other stuff on the laptop and it’s just been so jumpy at times for seemingly no reason when I type it’ll jump and click at the worst possible moments.
The flip side is that FPS stuff is impossible as the keyboard and trackpoint won’t deliberately work at the same time. And I have no idea how to go about dealing with that. I guess use an external mouse.
Another stupid low point is the speakers. They are so tinny which I guess is to be expected, but they are so quite. I guess I should play test tones, and get some app to measure dB, but comparing it to anything else again just seems so unfair.
That said the screen is AMAZING. I had worried that the screen was going to be terrible, but no the screen is an absolute high point of the machine.
Battery life has been pretty good, and from opening it up, it’s no surprise as it does have a massive battery. They do include clips to bypass the battery all together if you want to run it from DC mains 100%. The only issue I have had with battery life is that Manjaro doesn’t seem to have hibernation support. And many times I put it to sleep when I go to sleep it’ll wake up with zero percent remaining. I don’t see that as a fault of the physical build, rather the OS.
Software and FSF flailings?
I don’t know much about Manjaro but it’s default setup sure feels a lot like the way Debian felt when they were under pressure to keep all non-free stuff segregated and partitioned away from users. The problem as it’s always been is that popular software has almost always been commercial, especially for normal uses. Turning on Community and Contributions should really be the default setting with people who want to be FSF pure having to click the button giving normal people the best possible experience. As an old person who’s been hearing about the ‘year of the Linux desktop’ is at hand back in 1997 (Va Linux et al), and been an on and off user since SLS, it’s always about the users. All the plugins and bookmarks and shared data stuff I have is on Chromium and having to hunt down how to turn it on sucked, as I was moments away from just doing the usual ‘user’ thing of wiping the install because I can’t find an app.
Distro shopping has been the worst thing to plague Linux since it was apparent that Linus wasn’t going to bless us a userland, unlike BSD. I know some see it as a strength but it’s always been such a critical weakness for the user. Oddly enough the circle has come around to bite enough people that Docker is a thing to deal with dependency and distro hell.
Well without a doubt visit astr0baby’s blog and enjoy some good hand holding to get a bunch of open stuff built. It’s toally worth it. And incredible to play 64bit Duke Nukem 3D!
Is it worth it?
Well if you want non x86 on the go, the price simply cannot be beat. However the default Linux install is alien to me, but I’m trying to learn to deal with it. And of course the weird power on issue really precludes this from normal people. I’d recommend it to anyone comfortable with Linux and a screwdriver. If you are 100% hardware focused it’s a laptop, no GPIO so it’s going to be a little bit of a bummer. If you are scared of opening it up, you may find like I did that you very well might have to. However for anyone in the middle absolutely.
“Normies” this isn’t the laptop you want. .. I’d say “yet” as I’m sure that build quality will only improve, just as software will hopefully get a bit more friendly for adding stuff like Chrome (what a mission to get it installed!).
Years ago in college we joked that 30 years in the future you could get a quad processor Dec Alpha as a bundle in with a box of cereal. That a computer would be an impulse purchase at the supermarket. It seemed so laughable but a given as manufacturing and acceptance of that internet thing was a given. But that was the future from 30 years ago.
AKA what happens when your OS is from one Debian like distribution and lags behind the rest of the world, but you want to run a parallel infastructure. Obviously for people who have sane setups their stuff is in sync and this doesn’t apply.
HOWEVER for people who use USO they will find out quickly that it’s a Debian derived MIPS64EL based distribution, but they don’t keep any MIPSEL (32bit) binaries. So I was thinking add in the dpkg arch, and some deb sources and I’d be good to go, right? Except the stuff is out of step so what happens is that UOS decides it wants to replace the OS with what is on the mipsel repos. Even when specfiying the arch’s directly.
deb [by-hash=force arch=mips64el] https://professional-packages.chinauos.com/desktop-professional eagle main contrib non-free
deb [arch=mipsel] http://deb.debian.org/debian buster main contrib non-free
So the good news is that I asked around and found a solution that I’d never heard of, “debootstrap”. The general page is here:
What it boils down to is that it’s a script set that will download enough DEB’s and extract them onto a directory and prep it out as a chroot/jail. And you can specify whatever architecture you want, you can even use qemu to run totally alien stuff! I’d never heard of this before, such a shame.
YES it’s that simple! Although there is some house cleaning to be done:
apt install makedev
mount none /proc -t proc
Making the devices sure took long enough, but now I could do the regular update, add in some compilers and stuff, X11, and whatnot and get things going. Remember to mess around with xauth to get X11 forwarding from chroot working
While discussing various non x86 boards the topic came up about the Chinese government MIPS based processors, namely the Loongson-3A4000. I’ve tried several times on the past to buy one with no success however 2020 would make up with it as 2 separate leads yielded boards.
To me, there is a great deal of confusion around this setup as it goes by different names, and is sometimes spelt in English, other times Chinese (Simplified & Traditional) with different part numbers and vendors making it kind of confusing.
Various names include, but not limited to:
ICT Loongson-3A R4(loongson-3A4000)
I don’t want to sound like I’m going to just shit all over this thing, but it’s not free, it’s not subsided, and it’s not cheap. Weighing in at 元3,500 RMB the LX-6901 is not a machine for the masses, however it is a non x86 machine for the classes.
Thanks to my day job I was able to get my buyer to trace down several companies, and ads placed on TaoBao and another from AliExpress. Last time I tried both routes, along with the board manufacter Lemote, I was unable to get anything. This time however both leads would work out so now I have 2.
I was told that it would take upwards of 2 weeks for the order(s) to be fulfilled and I should have them in 3 weeks. However 4 business days later this box arrived in my office:
I suspect they need to temper people’s expectations on shipping, but luckily for me I’m not over seas, although shipping from China to Hong Kong does require a special permit for electronics.
Clearly the tape had been opened several times for various inspections as this shipment was destined to be exported. But props on the dragon tape!
As expected, two boards! Oddly and confusing enough both suppliers insist the boards are different.
Natrually, they are of course identical.
Here is a better glimpse at the board.
The Lemote LX-6901 is not without faults however, it has a memory controller issue and cannot operate correctly with 2 sticks of ram. Luckily my DDR4 extras are 16gb so it’s not bad for messing around. The board also can post ATI boards. However it doesn’t like my Asus Radeon R9 380 Strix board, although it posted fine. I have a few of the FirePro W2100 cards, not a remarkable card, but it does work.
In addition you do need a specific OS for the board, on vendor on AliExpress was unwilling to send me anything, while another on TaoBao was willing to send me UnionTech’s UOS.
the M.2 slot works fine and I was able to boot from USB, and install UOS. The BIOS is very ‘PC’ like, pressing ENTER will enter the bios, and you can change boot priorities, or drop to the UEFI shell if you so please.
Installation is pretty easy and straight forward. There is only a few options during install, the desination, if you should accept the default layout (why not)? and a language
The USB stick is slow, but it didn’t matter as I only needed to install twice. The first time I had both memory slots populated, and the board crashed at 5% of the install. I was able to do some searching around and found out about the bad memory controller, so popping out one of the DIMMs and I was able to install and use the machine.
UOS for the MIPS however is a seeming commercial product that is very difficult to buy outside of China (it may very well be allocated only for certain circles as you need a Chinese cellphone number, government ID, and some kind of project id?), although I’m still trying.
The phone support was useless, and I’ve had a few email exchanges on asking if it’s available for purchase, and if so how much. I’ll update if I can figure it out.
What does suck is that while UOS is not authorized you can’t get any OS updates, nor can you enable to root user. So yeah you can’t effectively own the machine with UOS. There is a ‘trial’ mode to enable a 90 day ‘grace’ period so at least I can add GCC and at least build software. Clearly if I can’t sort out UOS I’ll have to dump the kernel / initrd and restore another MIPS64EL Linux distro over the filesystem. Debian has MIPS64EL, and seems to be working to mainline the LX-6901.
UOS bills itself as a Windows replacement, and I have to say that I do enjoy using it. It has some rather ‘Windows’ qualities to it, like the sound mixer, and ease of installing apps from the ‘store’ however if it’s not in the store and it’s Not authorized you are out of luck. As much as I dislike distro of the week nonsense, I do like the idea of thousands of people being hired to flesh it out to make Linux usable, but only time will tell how much of it is translation to Chinese, and how much is developing software.
When it comes to performance the 3A4000 running at 1.8Ghz is faster than a Raspberry Pi 4, however not significantly faster CPU wise. However the big plus the MIPS does have is that it has a far more capable bus with M.2 and PCI-E slots along with SATA giving the board much better IO than any SOC solution like the Pis.
I built the BYTE Benchmark 5.1.3 and did this graph with data from running on a Zero for comparison. I had to adjust scales for some of this so its more visible, however the important data is here that CPU wise they are close together, but in the area of IO the Dragon pulls far ahead. For those who like the Linux boot score, the CPU ‘clocks’ in at 3594.02 BogoMIPS per core.
It’s been a large ‘discovery’ thing, and a long time since I’ve tried to make Linux a ‘daily driver’ and of course the scarcity of MIPS binaries on Linux is going to be an issue, but I’ll have to explore the apparent ARM/x86 compatibility as I can find more information about it.
Since this has been such a learning curve for me as I learn more things I’ll add them to this list:
What started as a spriling out of control build of SLiRP for User Model Linux (UML) I had so many issues with GCC 8, I figured I’d try v4 where I recall it building easily. Well that was. Fun.
Anywas I’m using Linux (Debian 10.5), and the build tools currently has me running GCC 8.3.0. Anyways a straight build introduces this fun:
../.././gcc/toplev.c: At top level:
../.././gcc/toplev.c:524:1: error: redefinition of ‘floor_log2’
floor_log2 (unsigned HOST_WIDE_INT x)
In file included from ../.././gcc/toplev.c:59:
../.././gcc/toplev.h:175:1: note: previous definition of ‘floor_log2’ was here
floor_log2 (unsigned HOST_WIDE_INT x)
../.././gcc/toplev.c:559:1: error: redefinition of ‘exact_log2’
exact_log2 (unsigned HOST_WIDE_INT x)
In file included from ../.././gcc/toplev.c:59:
../.././gcc/toplev.h:181:1: note: previous definition of ‘exact_log2’ was here
exact_log2 (unsigned HOST_WIDE_INT x)
make: *** [Makefile:2064: toplev.o] Error 1
make: Leaving directory '/home/jsteve/src/gcc-4.1.2/host-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu/gcc'
make: *** [Makefile:3905: all-gcc] Error 2
make: Leaving directory '/home/jsteve/src/gcc-4.1.2'
Ugh isn’t this fun. Well it turns out it’s largely from the confusion from how GCC now handles inline functions.
I’ve uploaded the patch here. It’s not great, I know but I got a working C compiler out of it, however I had to manually place xgcc/cc1/cpp from gcc-4.1.2/host-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu/gcc
I did see further hints on this ‘gist‘ that also boils down to using GCC in 1989 mode for inlines:
And also this ‘stack exchange‘ that mentions that toplev also has issues with the same inline issues. Naturally if you just define inline to nothing you’ll end up with two floor_log2 and exact_log2’s from libiberty. And both are different. Fun times ahead!
As for slirp, well I took the version from the Debian source project, and manually applied all the patches and I ended up not only having to manually create some missing headers, but after getting it to build it’d just crash immediately. Bummer.
I rebuilt it as a 32bit exe, and wow it ran just fine. Go figure. For anyone crazy enough to want to build it on it’s own, this patch take slirp-1.0.16 to a ’17’ with all the current Debian patches, and my sad patch, was what I did to get it to compile with GCC 4. Note you will want to save aside the ‘.p files’ which are the headers, as the configure will remove them and either save them as empty files, or files that don’t work. … Well at least they didn’t work for me!
The whole thing started as a ‘oh wow Linux is now in 5.1.0 release’ and I figured the easiest way to check it out was to use UML. I found this page with a quick ‘how to build and roll’ your own UML’s, although the SLiRP config is a bit off in the host, as it should be 10.0.2.15 for the UML kernel.
The new killer feature is UML can mount a directory as a filesystem so you don’t have to mess around like crazy to make disk images. It makes the experience more docker like, which I enjoy.
And well it’s a Mac. I did the Windows Key + R to boot into recovery mode and install some old version of OS X over the internet. Nice.
I updated to Catalina and kind of forgot about the break with the ‘awesome world of home 32bit computing’ as it’s all 64bit now.
Needless to say none of my favourite stuff runs.
I’ve been maintaining a subscription to Crossover for a while, as I really like to support the future of Wine. I know a while back they too had the 64bit freakout, but they apparently found some shim to keep on running Win32 apps. And sure enough I loaded up my old Fortran Power Station bottle and it actually run!
Sadly SQL Server 4.21 seems to lock up, but it has been doing that under Wine when I last gave up on OS X a few years back. I tried some Win16 games (SimCity) and it bombed out. Looks like there is no support for Win16 apps. Pitty.
Steam is 64bit now, however none of Valve’s hits that have 64bit versions for Windows have made the 64bit leap for OS X. I have a feeling it’ll never happen as OS X users are so few and far between they are literally outnumbered by Linux users.
I did fire-up Subnautica, and of course the PC with the RTX 2070 blows this thing away. Although it’s hardly a fare competition. But who wants to play fare?
It’s far too early to really tell, and who knows I might just wipe this thing and install Windows. In my opinion OS X 10.6 was the greatest release ever bridging the divide from PowerPC to x86, just as 10.2.7 on the G5 was the greatest PowerPC version to bridge that 68000 divide. I still have that G5, but now my 2006 machine is dead. I’ve seen them in the used stores for around $100 USD. Although I don’t know if I can be bothered as they are incredibly heavy. And I’m pretty sure 10.6 will run on VMWare thanks to hackintosh efforts.
Also I should add as a personal note, my 2006 MacPro 1,1 died. I let someone else use it, and she broke it in one day. I’ve had it for years, several moves in the USA, then to Canada, then to Hong Kong. It died with only one day on the job. Sad.
So after the crazed purchase I made a few weeks ago, I returned from Japan, and was able to unbox and use the machine I’d been wanting for a while, a non x86 Windows laptop!
The NovaGo has a Snapdragon 835, and my phone, the ASUS ROG phone has the 845. Yes for this week, my cellphone actually has the stronger processor than my computer. Honestly this is almost an unthinkable situation! Although I haven’t been using my phone as a desktop substitute this week. It’s amazing how MS screwed up 10 on the phones, and Continium.
By default it comes crippled with this ‘S’ mode Windows, which hearkens back to the Windows RT launch, with the difference that it’s a quick trip to the application store to unlock Windows 10 Professional. It’s a free download as it should be, and it doesn’t even require a reboot!
Build quality isn’t so bad, the screen folds all the way back to make the machine into a ‘tablet’ although I don’t like that mode so much, it just feels wrong to wrap a keyboard around a monitor. However if you have rambunctious young kids, it’s great as when someone went running by me flailing their arms around like a while animal, when they struck the laptop the screen could easily fold back 180 degrees. Yay.
My first thing to do after setting up Office and VMWare VDI was to install the Linux subsystem, and Ubuntu. it’s exactly the same as it is on x86_64, which is great. And this let’s me have the best of both worlds, just like x86_64. As much as I dislike stumbling around with that aborted child of Pascal & Fortran (Python) at least I can run it under (mostly) Linux to get something close to like the production environment.
The C/C++ compiler is actually all cross tools. I wanted CLI only stuff because I like torturing myself, and it required a few GB of downloads. The good news is that the latest Windows 10 SDK does support GDI/CLI apps, so no crazy SDK hacking required, unlike back in the Windows RT days. Oddly enough the Taskforce 87 interpreter runs fine, but nothing else does.
I did a horrible job at hacking up SDL 1.2 to at least run (kind of, the audio doesn’t work, and it’s all WinDB*EDIT I got it fixed!!!) I got a few things up and running, including DOSBox and FrontVM. One thing that greatly helps is that i386 binaries ‘just work’. Honestly you wouldn’t even know you are running them when you are. Which made hunting down the ARM64 version of Chromium Edge kind of difficult to find. There really needs to be a more apparent way to tell them apart, if anything for battery efficiency.
Again the audio in my crap SDL build doesn’t work, so DOSBox is silent, and without Direct X, the text mode is tiny. Oh also, there is no OpenGL in this version of Windows dev kit for some reason. Running ssystem is ungodly slow. Also the default optimizations seems to be Os, optimize for space, and on this ASUS I have to say /Ox is way way faster. DooM is quite playable on DOSBox when build with /Ox, unlike /Os.
For me, I spend most of my day to day in Office, and VMWare VDI, connecting to secure networks. So I’m just one step above a terminal. Which I guess is kind of sad, but this machine more than fills that roll for me. The 120GB of storage is tight. This isn’t a development machine persay, nor is it something to download tonnes of data to, it’s a lightweight machine where it’s strength is the built in 4G modem, and when running ARM software the longer battery life. To me the biggest drawback is that the keyboard isn’t backlit. Even though I touch type, I didn’t realize how much I’d grown used to it for casual use.
I guess it’s a hard toss up from this and a PINEBOOK Pro, I think most readers here would prefer the Pinebook, for all it’s openness, although I still like the idea of being able to copy over the Win32s version of Lemmings, and it just running. For me I kind of like this thing, although once I switch back to an x86_64 with more memory, better GPU and disk options, maybe this just feels like some kids toy.
I don’t know how I didn’t think of this, but I also ported Neko98! Although the STL is having an issue with the ‘control panel’ so Neko is on autopilot.
As for the emulation, it is 32bit only, so expect to see this stupid message quite a bit. The neckbeard is a nice touch though.
Also built into the thing is a cell modem. I guess it’s really not a surprise as the 835 really is a cellphone SOC. I have a ‘wifi egg’ as they are called here, a WiFi hotspot with unlimited internet from CLS, which is on the old 4G network. I popped the SIM in, and it picked up the APN settings on it’s own and I was connected in under a minute. I have to say that it’s about time that SIM cards have this stuff programmed into them for a plug & play experience. And thankfully the ASUS is unlocked, although from what I understand these were sold in the USA bundled with some cell service plans.
For anyone with one of these rare machines that cares to play along you can find my built stuff on my ‘vpsland’ archive: