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Built for work, play, and everything in between!   \(•◡•)/
Built for work, play, and everything in between!   \(•◡•)/
39,560 backers pledged $2,071,927 to help bring this project to life.

All about Open Source

Posted by Next Thing Co. (Creator)

Howdy Backers!

As we've mentioned, we built C.H.I.P. to make tiny powerful computers more accessible and easier to use. A huge part of making C.H.I.P. accessible is making sure that it can change to meet the needs of the community.

We've fielded a lot of questions about C.H.I.P.'s open source software and wanted to give some more detailed information and share some exciting news. If you love the guts of open source software and want to hear the latest, read on!

Mainline C.H.I.P. Kernel Changes

We want C.H.I.P. to be a happy and healthy member of the Linux open source community for many years to come. That means C.H.I.P. needs to run the official and current version of the Linux kernel.

Getting the official version of the Linux to run on C.H.I.P. requires making changes to the Linux kernel and building entirely new drivers for some of C.H.I.P.'s onboard hardware. Once all the updates are complete, they need to be added into the kernel's source tree in a process called "Mainlining."

Mainlining the kernel changes necessary for C.H.I.P. is no small task. It will take a huge and ongoing community effort. Luckily we're standing on shoulders of giants: The amazing Linux-Sun-Xi community has made great progress on kernel support for Allwinner SoCs over the last few years. If you're interested in the inner workings of the SoC's that power C.H.I.P., take a look at their wiki -

We're incredibly excited to announce that we've partnered with one of the premier contributors to ARM Linux: Free Electrons! We will be collaborating with their amazing team of ARM Linux engineers, and of course our Kernel Hacker backers to help us test and mainline C.H.I.P.'s kernel modifications as we move forward.

Bottom line: Wynter, Alex, and Dave will be working very closely with Free Electrons and the C.H.I.P. Kernel Hacker backers over the next 6 months to make sure C.H.I.P.'s software is open, standard and most importantly FREE.

Binary Blobs, GPL Violations and Moving Forward

As members of the open source community, we take license violations very seriously. We've had a productive and active dialog with our friends at Allwinner about the GPL violations present in the released CedarX drivers and are commited to helping them resolve the issues.

Allwinner's engineers have already spent hundreds of hours doing static analysis to locate and repair GPL violating components of their drivers, and are continuing to dig through, line by line. It's a time-consuming process complicated by intellectual property restrictions inherent in the SoC business.

Allwinner's most recent code release addresses GPL violations in three ways:

  • New code architecture: Driver has been split into several plugins, one plugin per video format. 
  • GPL-compliant: We have scanned and analyzed the code to ensure that there is no GPL code used or called. 
  • Partial CedarX video decoder source code release: MPEG2, MPEG4, MJPEG, and H264 drivers source code available. 

There is a long road ahead, but we're extremely excited at the progress made already, and the good-faith effort shown by partners on all sides.

Ultimately, our goal is to have as few binary blobs present in the source tree required to use C.H.I.P. as possible. Presently, binary blobs are required for 3 parts of the R8 SoC software stack:

  • ARM Mali 400 Driver (3D graphics acceleration)
  • C2D (2D acceleration)
  • CedarX (Video Hardware Encoding/Decoding)

Our plan is to mainline support for user-space drivers for these binary blobs. But we're also actively exploring ways that we can eliminate the need for these binary blobs altogether. We will also provide Chipsters who want a completely FOSS C.H.I.P. OS builds that are blob-free!

¡Viva C.H.I.P.!

- Dave, Richard, Thomas, Gus, Wynter, Vanessa, Alex, Sharps, and George @nextthingco

Luneki, Jon Beige, and 102 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar


      Wow! That's pretty awesome that you (and they!) are putting so much effort into resolving the real problems and move forward positively with the community.

    2. Missing avatar

      ricky roberson on

      I've been doing some homework on the Allwinner A13 / R8 hardware. Which of the PB / PE / PF / PG lines are you using to control the APX209 power subsystem and F23BSDM25 wifi subsystem on CHIP? Are you routing all remaining unused PX lines to your 80 socket edge connectors? The answers to these questions are of course critical in determining expandability of CHIP for add-on peripherals. Thanks for your response!!!

    3. Missing avatar

      Don on

      I definitely require a completely blob-free FOSS C.H.I.P. OS build. Do I need to do anything special to acquire it? How large are the "footprints" of the blobs? Are they presently necessary for the Pocket-CHIP's display or for composite video?

    4. Dave Gauer on

      This is a fantastic update. Thank you for being so "open" about your efforts (pun intended). I'm even more excited to be backing this project now that I know it's making a real commitment to furthering its open source ecosystem!

    5. Missing avatar

      Luke Ong on

      What about the shipping? You *said* there would be a shipping price update at the beginning of this week. However, well done on upholding the Open-Source goodness that we all love about Linux!

    6. Walter Lapchynski on

      This was one of the things that made me initially hesitate about supporting this campaign. I am so elated that you guys take open source seriously.

    7. Guy Veyer on

      I'm not quite sure I clearly understand all what you'r sio kindly en openly mention ! But : waow !
      It's give me the feeling participating at the "new" world ! Go ahead boys ! I'am a very big supporter of your work. It's a great step for our humanity !

    8. Missing avatar

      Oliver Keller on

      How awesome that you addressed this! It really matters to me and I guess quite some others. May this give the final kick to reach above 2M...

    9. Missing avatar

      Aaron Newcomb on

      Kudos to you for taking this approach! It isn't always easy to push for Open Source when their is an "easier" alternative at hand, but it is the right way to go. I am much more excited about this project now.

    10. Joe Strout on

      Can you tell us whether CHIP will support Mono? The Raspberry Pi doesn't support Mono (nor Java, nor pretty much any other JIT compiler) in the default distro because of some confusing regarding floating-point ABIs. I'd be happy if CHIP had the correct ABIs to work with Mono, and ecstatic if it had Mono installed right out of the box!

    11. Missing avatar

      2bluesc on

      +10 for an organization that gets it! This course of action speaks volumes about the leadership of the engineering team. Great product fueled by great community. Great community fueled by great product.

    12. Missing avatar

      Steven weil on

      Thank you . I am looking forward to receiving my CHIP . Question Power source.
      Yes I understand the battery pack when mobile however when hooked up to your monitor and key board I did not see any outside source of power. Does it retrieve the power from the monitor ? Also as seen the CHIP is exposed. Will the final version be encased in a plastic housing or will it be as demonstrated ? Should it be protected and will you be selling a protective housing ? Thank you looking forward to receiving my CHIP

    13. Missing avatar

      shazzner on

      Thanks for the update, I'd love to see a group effort to reverse engineer all acceleration aspects (3d, 2d, video). Some of work seems to have started then died off (Lima hasn't been updated since 2013?).