The Allwinner A31 processor is a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor with PowerVR SGX 544 graphics. Like other Allwinner chips, it’s proven popular with budget tablet makers in China, as a low-cost quad-core processor that offers decent performance.

Allwinner also has a decent reputation with some folks in the Linux community, since the company’s earlier (and much slower) Allwinner A10 chip can easily run Ubuntu, Fedora, and other Linux-based operating systems.

Now Allwinner has released the kernel source for the Allwinner A31.

Allwinner a31 dev board
Allwinner a31 dev board

Unfortunately it will probably take more than the kernel source to get a full-blown desktop operating system like Ubuntu up and running on devices with A31 chips. That’s because the PowerVR SGX 544 graphics core still relies on proprietary binaries which Allwinner cannot distribute.

In other words, don’t count on hardware-accelerated graphics or video while running Linux anytime soon.

But now that the kernel source is available, it should help developers write custom kernels for tablets, set-top-boxes, and other devices with Allwinner’s quad-core chip. And that could improve performance of custom ROMs like the unofficial CyanogenMod builds for tablets with this chip.

via, SlateDroid, and TabletRepublic

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20 replies on “Allwinner releases kernel source code for A31 quad-core chip”

  1. You’re never going to see open graphics code due to frivolous patents, patent trolls and the greedy trial lawyers that enable them.

  2. @Brad
    Closed GPU binaries may not be such a big problem in the future for desktop Linux.

    Canonical’s Mir display server will utilize stock Android GPU drivers on ARM and there has been news about a similar development for Wayland.

    Once Ubuntu starts shipping with Mir and others with Wayland, the porting situation improves a lot.

    Naturally, desktop applications will need to catch up to these two display servers but this seems to be on its way (at least for GTK and Qt)

    1. Better yet Intel’s upcoming Atom with HD 4000 graphics will give enthusiasts open source drivers and BIOS (read: no need for a custom OS for each individual device). ARM’s achilles heel is about to become obvious, even to the noobs.

      1. This sounds all nice but you would need to stomack buying from Intel (a monopolist company already caught red-handed).

        Intel is now desperately trying to gain market share in mobile. Once they gain a strong position we can forget about the open-source drivers.

        I for one trust the miriad competing ARM producers than Intel (for keeping up competition and giving us fair prices)

        1. I’m sure any of those ARM producers would do the same as Intel given the chance.

          1. While this is true, they are in no position to do so and won’t be for a long while.

            Intel however, has already proven that they are ready to stiffle innovation and competition (see the huge fines they received for their AMD-excluding “marketing contribution” agreements with Media Markt and other big-name shops)

          2. Don’t be naive, if ARM was so sweet and cuddley as you seem to think then where are the open source drivers!?

            ARM is cheap to license x86 isn’t. That’s the entire story, greedy companies are rallying behind ARM for the higher margins.

    2. That’s of course if you don’t care about freedom or long time support.

      Otherwise, you can just grab an A20, which sadly is only dual-core A7 but uses a GPU that’s more free (although only thanks to reverse engineering).

      1. Short support is still better than having no support at all.

        Desktop Linux with binary drivers is still better than no-dektop-Linux at all for a certain hardware.

  3. Do any of these low cost ARM boards come with dual Gigabit Ethernet jacks?

    1. Generally, Ethernet is a rare option for ARM devices and would be even rarer on the low cost models…

      However, there are some that would offer dual Gigabit Ethernet… but these tend to be for high end, industrial/Server usage, boards…

      1. Any links to these high end dual GigE Ethernet boards? I’d like to buy one or two.

        1. TI’s Sitara™ AM335x ARM® Cortex™-A8 Starter Kit is one such example… apparently based on the BeagleBone but features like the dual Ethernet ports instead of just one help raise the price to about $200… normal BeagleBone starts about $50 but only has one Ethernet port and a few other less features compared to the TI version.

          Generally, many of these are made to order and not generally sold to the public… So not many would just be listed for easy purchasing…

          1. An earlier dual ethernet board was the Guruplug Server Plus however their new Mirabox has these plus dual USB 3.0 for $149 from Globalscale – I did post links earlier but my comment was immediately removed 🙁

          2. GuruPlug Server Plus is weeeak.

            It’s ARM9 (That’s ARMv5), prehistoric.

            It would have been great a decade ago but they’re selling it right now.

          3. Thanks! Looks like some of the newer dual GbE plug computers are using Marvell Armada SoCs up to 2.0 GHz and compatible with ARMv7.

            This should be at least as poweful as Cortex-A8 based chips (Marvell makes their own cores like Qualcomm). That should be good enough for what I plan on doing. I need to look up for more information before getting them still.

          4. Awesome, been looking for a dual GigE board in the 5W total power range. I’m going to look into these to see what kind of power these consume under full load.

        2. I’m looking for these too. My target cost is $300 or less before taxes and shipping.

    2. Popular boards don’t have gigabit ethernet.

      Synology has an ARM board with GB ethernet in their NAS but I suppose you don’t want to buy a whole NAS for that.

      Try looking for Marvell SOCs.

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