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What demotivates debian-arm? [Was: Re: Bug#425011: gcc-4.1: FTBFS on m68k and arm, multiple definitions of ffi_prep_closure]


You know I luvs 'ya, so we can get all of this out into the open. Don't hold back anything, ok? :)

Lennert Buytenhek wrote:
The regular ARM port isn't in very good shape at all, and there is no indication that armeb or armel would end up doing any better.

Maybe I'm confused by the "armeb" and "armel" ports to which you refer. This one:


... seems to be pretty good. Maybe the internals aren't all that pretty (I haven't looked), but given that it's only been in existence since January '07, I'm willing to suggest that it's not really mature yet. But in the abuse I've been giving it, it's held up pretty well.

Well, I support dropping architectures that are not in good shape, and ARM is in that category.

Can you define the characteristics of an architecture that isn't in "good shape"? Sure, there are a lot of EABI-related patches left to deal with, but that's to be expected with really new stuff.

What arguments do you have for keeping badly maintained ports
around?  (Where arguments that involve the dependency of someone's
consulting business on the existence of a Debian ARM port do not

For the record, my "consulting business" doesn't depend on Debian. Period. But I happen to think that if debian-arm were to get even a fraction of the commercial attention that, say, Ubuntu gets, it'd be in a lot better shape than it is now and we'd all benefit. Which is why I try to use it wherever I can--- so I can participate in and materially promote that process.

Take Debian away, and I'll just go back to hand-building my runtime environments like I did for years before coming over to Debian. Debian will become irrelevant to me, and I'll apply my time, skills, hardware and other resources somewhere else. It's that simple, and I won't lose any sleep over it. But I think it would be a _major_ loss to Linux, Debian and the FOSS community to drop ARM.

The best argument I can think of for maintaining an ARM port is that by doing so, you make it a lot easier to keep the code in many, many projects a lot cleaner and platform-independent. Cleaner, more platform-independent code is more reliable and more easily maintained. Platform-independence as a requirement fosters more "correctness". And a 15,000-package, ten-zillion line code base can use all the correctness it can get!

If I read the annual report correctly, ARM-the-company sold 2.4
billion ARM core licenses in 2006, but now we can't find ARM CPUs

The limited resource hasn't been hardware, it's been the attention of people with the right skills.

True, it would be incredibly easy for ARM to fund a few Debian developers. But for some reason, they don't. Their customers, like Atmel, put a lot of money into Linux kernels. Maybe those guys are a better source for Debian dollars? (Who knows, they might already be funding some behind-the-scenes work).

Since we're on the subject of "things that demotivate people to work
on the Debian ARM port" anyway, knowing that someone else is being
paid to work on some issue or might be paid to work on that issue is
a very good motivator not to work on that issue yourself.

I fundamentally and completely disagree.

For the people who "don't know what to do", having someone consistently available to them who DOES know what to do is a real benefit. Whether that resource is getting paid to be there or not is of little concern. My opinion, of course.

It's tough to be doing anything consistently when you're constantly distracted by the need to also maintain a day job somewhere else. Which means you aren't there for the "don't know what to do" crowd, which means they stay in that state instead of becoming meaningful contributors.

(Which is incidentally also the reason why a Debian ARM EABI port took so long -- if there was no money involved we would have had an ARM EABI port 6 or even 12 months earlier.)

My read was that the reason the ARM EABI port took so long was because it involved a lot of code in a lot of places, which meant there was considerable effort required to reach the point where it was self-hosting.

As for your "if there was no money involved" comment, why did you wait to announce your EABI port (see above) until after Applied Data Systems sponsored it, and why did you credit their sponsorship in your announcement?

And in that announcement, which is dated January 10, 2007, you claim to have not started working on EABI until November 24, 2006. So I don't know where your "6 or even 12 months" is coming from. Sounds like you didn't make any meaningful progress until ADS made it such that you didn't have to get distracted by a bunch of other stuff for a few weeks. And when they did, you turned out work product in less than two months.

(Kudos to you and ADS, btw).

In that regard, I don't think that pitching your services on this
mailing list is helping to motivate people to work on the issues that
the Debian ARM port is currently facing very much.

... which is why I saved the motivation bits for the last paragraph. The rest was my vote against eliminating ARM, citing reasons I think debian-arm isn't getting the attention it deserves, and offering to help connect my resources (skills, time, but no funding) with others (no skills or time, but available funding) to come up with a way to keep debian-arm moving forward.

If you want to work on a volunteer basis, you're certainly free to do so (if you don't, that's fine too but it'd be a real loss and I for one would miss you greatly). Some of us would also love to come to the party, but can't for all kinds of reasons. Now everyone knows mine, and if they want to see me there more often then they know how to help. It pains me a bit to admit my shortcomings, but I won't apologize for being honest and realistic about myself here.

Finally, the fact that I get paid money to develop embedded systems puts YOU off Debian? That doesn't sound much like my problem. And I don't think you speak for the debian-arm community as a whole when you say that, either.


Bill Gatliff

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