FreeBSD distribution for ARM processors.

John W. Kitz John.Kitz at
Thu Oct 24 18:19:03 UTC 2013


Much appreciated.

Regards, Jk.

-----Original Message-----
From: Lowell Gilbert [mailto:freebsd-questions-local at] 
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2013 7:42 PM
To: Elias Chrysocheris; John W. Kitz
Cc: freebsd-questions at
Subject: Re: FreeBSD distribution for ARM processors.

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
>> ion/) 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

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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