FreeBSD distribution for ARM processors.

Lowell Gilbert freebsd-questions-local at
Thu Oct 24 17:41:48 UTC 2013

For the original poster, I should point to FreeBSD's ARM support list,

Elias Chrysocheris <elias_chr at> writes:

> On Thursday 24 of October 2013 17:14:57 John W. Kitz wrote:
>> Gilbert,
>> Thanks. Do you expect this current position to change in the near future?
>> The reason I'm asking is the fact that I get the impression that there may
>> be developments in the area of hardware development such as the cubietruck
>> (see
>> which move ARM based systems closer to general purpose platforms based on
>> architectures such as i386, AMD, SPARC, etc. and which might warrant such a
>> change provided that it is feasible from a perspective of distribution
>> packaging of course.
>> Regards, Jk.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Lowell Gilbert [mailto:freebsd-questions-local at] 
>> Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2013 3:24 PM
>> To: John.Kitz at
>> Cc: freebsd-questions at
>> Subject: Re: FreeBSD distribution for ARM processors.
>> "John W. Kitz" <John.Kitz at> writes:
>> > Can someone please explain the rationale behind not providing a 
>> > distribution for arm based systems, as it seems somewhat illogical to 
>> > me that distributions are available for ia64, powerpc, sparc64 (see
>> > which are considered Tier 2 
>> > architectures while the official reason for arm being a Tier 2 
>> > architecture is the fact that no distribution is provided for it (see 
>> >
>> The ARM port is mostly used for embedded work, for which a formal
>> distribution would not be helpful. There really aren't many standards for
>> peripherals beyond i2c, so it wouldn't be possible to support different
>> ARM-based devices with a single distribution.
>> Be well.
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> Well, there are a lot of ARM processors, hmmm... microcontrollers or SoCs, out 
> there. And the differences between them are a lot more... The only common thing 
> they have is the ARM Core. The addressing space, the way they talk to the 
> embedded peripherals and a lot more are different on each of them. There are 
> also no specifications for the peripherals those boards should contain and how 
> they communicate to the main chip. There are even a lot more GPUs embedded in 
> those chips that it virtually makes it impossible for a single FreeBSD ARM 
> release to be deployed to all of them.

One of the reasons for ARM's popularity is the fact that it can be
easily licensed. As a result, a lot of ARM processors share chip space
with specialized hardware. In other words, the whole point of using ARM
is often quite specifically to make nonstandard hardware.

> There are, though some very helpful tries to run FreeBSD in many of these ARM 
> boards. You can follow the FreeBSD-arm mailing list and the FreeBSD-embedded 
> list to keep track of what is the improovements on that area. Ganbold 
> Tsagaankhuu makes a great effort for some of them. And I really wish I had the 
> knowledge to contribute in this effort, as I own an ODroid-U2 that I would 
> really wish to see it running FreeBSD.

Sure. Dealing with the ARM instruction set and memory interface is no
big deal, but every new ARM system is essentially a different port,
albeit often a minor one. 

> Cubieboard, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone and BeagleBone Black (and many more) on 
> the other hand, I thing the effort of those teams is in a very good road to 
> success! So, I really urge you to follow these mailing list.

I think you missed a word in that first sentence, probably a verb. But I
assume you were pointing out that all of those platforms (and a bunch
more) do run FreeBSD now. It's just not practical to have a single
distribution that would run on more than just one type of platform.

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