Long-term Acorn user dipping his toes in Linux

Hope you all don’t mind but I’ve taken the liberty of writing a small introduction as I’m new to the forum, so here’s a little about me.

I’ve been an avid user of Acorn’s marvellous RISC OS operating system all of my life, starting with RISC OS 2 on an early A310 Archimedes, I witnessed the death of Acorn Ltd, seen the recent split in the OS (commercial RISC OS 6 vs open-source RISC OS 5), used many post-Acorn Acorns (if that makes any sense) and supported the scene by attending regular shows, usergroup meetings and buying software. But ultimately, I’ve had to look for another other Operating System to use for things my shiny new RISC OS 6 system cannot do, which at the moment is web browsing (lack of decent flash and javascript support. Hence I am here on this forum, introducing myself to the UK Linux community.

I’ve browsed around a little for the Linux distribution that suits me, and I’ve settled with a variant of Puppy Linux, Macpup, for me it’s all I need, it’s lightweight, simple to use and very easy on the eye. I’ve managed to aquire an old Pentium 4 desktop machine and an EeePC 701 netbook, both are now running MacPup.

There’s one question I have, how’s the situation as regards Linux distributions running on ARM machines? As I have many ARM-based machines (the architecture required for RISC OS to run natively), both old and new (1989 - 2011) that I wouldn’t mind dual-booting between RISC OS and Linux, if that’s at all possible?

So that’s all about my computing experiences, I’m very much looking forward to our future discussions!

Welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

To tell the truth, I haven’t really spent much time looking at ARM support… I do know that a lot of distros used to maintain ARM versions, but most seem to have abandoned it, though the Linux kernel has always been capable of being compiled for ARM… I’d expect the level of distro support to change soon, with the rise and rise of ARM :slight_smile:

Debian still do an ARM port:

if that helps ???

Sorry to seem like a noob here, but can someone shed some light on what ARM is? I know, newbie but hey the more I ask, the more I learn right? ::slight_smile:

It’s a CPU architecture (Advanced RISC Machine) :slight_smile:

see here:

Being used a LOT now in everything from smartphones and tablet PC’s, to routers and NAS boxes etc… there are even plans for ARM cortex A15 processors in the server market:

Ah right, I never knew that. So are all 32-bit processors ARM RISC? or is it just a proportion?

NO… there are MANY 32bit x86 CPU’s too, amongst others… ARM are planning 64bit soon anyway… I read that nVidia are working on an ARM 64bit:

ARM is a COMPLETELY different CPU architecture and instruction set to the x86 (or x86_64) CPU’s such as the Intel and AMD CPU’s used in most PC’s ATM.


There have been MANY (semi) mainstream CPU architectures in the past, such as the Motorola 680x0 series that powered the Commodore Amiga’s and early Apple Mac’s

DEC Aplha

Some of which are still around… but the OS has to be designed to run on the architecture.

Lately M$ have announced they will be doing an ARM version of Windows soon, as at the moment it can ONLY be run on x86

Ok, this is all new to me so some of the stuff won’t click until I’ve read it once or twice. Haha. So, is ARM better than x86 then? or are there just some different ways of how it handles things?

Better… depends what for, ATM x86 tend to be more powerful, but ARM are cheaper and use MUCH less power, which is why they are used in smatphones etc. and why they could be a good idea in the server room.

I see, I see. So in small terms, ARM is more “eco-friendly”? I’m user Greenpeace will love this. ::slight_smile: I’m guessing ARM can read ATM x86 data right, or am I just being a noob at best? By data, I mean things like; Website files, Pictures, Music, that sort of thing. Stuff the “daily” user would use?

Using what you are calling data (ie. file types) yes… but that is a function of the OS, not the CPU/instruction set.

After all, you can view websites, and listen to MP3’s etc. on Android phones, which tend to be running ARM processors

But you CANNOT run Windows on an ARM CPU if that’s what you meant… well I think there are earlier versions of WinCE for ARM, as ARM used to be used in PDA’s that ran WinCE and/or Windows Mobile 6 etc.

Yes, if the Operating System that is being run the ARM architecture can support web browsing, music, videos etc. Essentially, the ARM excels at being extremely efficient, hence why it is now being used in most smartphones, tablets, netbooks, STB nowadays. x86 are far more powerful on paper, but a lot of that power is lost and/or is never utilized.

A little example of this is my friend’s Windows XP computer, running on a Intel Core Duo laptop, compared to machines of several years ago, it boots up to the main desktop extremely fast at almost 1 minute. My ARM-based Acorn computer from 1989 boots up in 2 seconds, and my newest ARM-based computer, only released in April and running the latest version of RISC OS, boots up in 5 seconds. Of course, that little test is quite trivial but it does give you a good idea of ARM’s advantages over x86.

Ah I see. So we can expect to see a lot more ARM-based computers in the years to come then? I may read further into this later on, sounds very interesting. I’m keen to get as much knowledge as possible. >.<

If I’m right, part of the reason for such quick boot times on the Acorns was because AFAIK they booted the initial part of the OS from ROM rather than hard drive… not to mention how unbelievably bloated Windows is by comparison.

@ cortextrip

If I’m right about the boot ROM … I have no idea if it would be possible to to dual-boot on an Acorn, and in any case you’d obviously need a bootloader that can boot both Linux and RISC OS … I seem to remember reading there was a GRUB(2) RISC OS port.

You’d obviously know a lot more about RISC OS bootloaders than I … you’ve definitely peaked my interest though :wink:

Yes, RISC OS historically has booted from ROM and still does in some new RISC OS machines, although most newer machines, post-2005 do not boot from ROM as such. Without going into too much detail, every 32-bit RISC OS computer (post-2002) can dual-boot RISC OS and Linux. A friend of mine actually has a Beagleboard running about five types of linux, RISC OS and Android, which is pretty impressive.

I’d be interested to know what he uses as a bootloader… I’d never really considered this until you mentioned dual boot RISC OS / Linux.

Is it a Linux/General purpose bootloader, or something from the RISC OS world ?

Technicaly, a general Linux bootloader should work, although in practice I believe people have had problems.