|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] free software video drivers and hardware
Open source HD video drivers for Allwinner A10 chips on the way
Folks have been running Ubuntu, Fedora, and other GNU/Linux operating
systems on devices like the MK802 mini PC for well over a year. While
the Allwinner A10 processor that powers those devices isn’t the most
powerful ARM-based chip around (not by a long shot), it’s
inexpensive and provides enough power for basic tasks such as web
browsing or editing documents.
In other words, you can pick up a tiny device for under $40, plug it
into your monitor, keyboard, and mouse and use it like a computer. Or
you could just run the Android software that comes with the devices.
Unfortunately up until recently there’s been limited support for 3D
graphics and HD video playback when running Linux. Now a team of
developers has started reverse engineering the VPU drivers, which means
that limited support for HD video playback is here.
At this point, the project is still very much a work in progress, but
the team has released some code as a proof-of-concept, along with a
video showing HD video playback in action.
While the team has managed to play a 1080p H.264 video, they haven’t
managed to resize the video windows to fit on a lower resolution
display, which is why you can only see part of the action in the demo
But video playback looks pretty smooth, and what’s nifty here is
that it’s powered by open source drivers, not proprietary blobs.
Meanwhile, there’s also work underway to build open source drivers
for the 3D graphics core used in this chip.
Of course, by the time we see full support for HD video and 3D graphics,
the Allwinner A10 will look even more outdated. It’s a 1 GHz,
single-core ARM Cortex-A8 processor with ARM Mali-400 graphics.
But if you’re more interested in using and supporting free software
than in using the latest hardware, this is all pretty big news. It’s
also good news for bargain hunters. Since the MK802 isn’t exactly
state-of-the-art technology, it sells for about half the price this year
as it did when it launched last year — and it was already pretty
cheap way back then.
And the MK802 is just one of many mini PCs, tablets, and other devices
powered by the Allwinner A10 chip.