Linux-on-an-SBC project Armbian releases version 22.02

It's not easy to run standard Linux on a lot of single-board computers, but Armbian can help

The latest update to Armbian brings a mainline-kernel based Ubuntu- and Debian-compatible environment to dozens of small single-board computers.

This includes both Arm and x86-based hardware UEFI booting – and 64-bit builds for Raspberry Pi hardware.

Armbian supports over 60 different single-board computers, including various models of Banana Pi, nVidia Jetson, Pine64 and dozens more.

The problem it addresses is similar to what postmarketOS is trying to do with smartphones. Your snazzy little SBC is shipped bundled with a Linux of some kind, customised for the hardware – but like a budget smartphone, all too often you will only get one update ever (if you're lucky), and then that's it. Soon the vendor has a new device to sell, and that device gets newer software versions, not last year's model.

Armbian isn't exactly a Linux distro, but you could confuse it for one if you squint a bit. Armbian is a framework that lets you build enough of a Linux system – a kernel, plus tools to get that kernel into memory, and if necessary the core of a root filesystem – to put the rest of Debian or Ubuntu on top.

Internet of Things book cover

Building the Internet of Things with Raspberry Pi et al, DIY-style


As well as this tooling, the project also publishes complete installable OS images – depending on the device, based on Ubuntu 20.04, or the forthcoming Ubuntu 22.04, or Debian sid, or some combination thereof. Armbian 22.02 includes kernel 5.15, with ZFS support, plus an "EDGE" version based on 5.16 for some boards.

It supports both Grub and u-boot, and for the first time, this release offers UEFI boot images for both Aarch64 and x86. Preliminary work-in-progress support for the Raspberry Pi means that it boots and runs, including Wifi, Bluetooth and 3D acceleration, but without sound for now.

On PCs, this stuff is easy, because there's lots of infrastructure that OS developers can assume will be present: firmware that will let you boot a disk partition, a VGA-compatible display, standard input devices and so on. By comparison, SBCs are a bit more Wild West, without even defined standards for firmware – a situation the Linaro project was established to simplify.

It's frequently not the vendor's fault. These devices are almost always based on some form of SoC: small, cheap, highly integrated devices which sell in huge numbers and so often have very short lifecycles. If the SoC vendor doesn't update its drivers or OS package, then it's very hard for anyone selling devices built around them to do so.

If you are running a small Arm box as some kind of headless server somewhere, though, you probably don't care about a GUI, or web browsers or other end-user apps and chrome like that. What you want is a recent kernel that boots and supports storage, networking and so on. This is where Armbian comes in.

The project puts together custom kernels for each supported device, along with drivers, bootloaders, and so on, so you can run a mainline Debian or Ubuntu-based Linux distro. Putting these things together means that your tiny machine remains useful, and can get security updates and so forth.

If you have well-supported, mainstream device such as a Raspberry Pi, you probably don't need it. If you have something more niche, though, Armbian could significantly prolong your device's lifetime. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022