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StrongARM tactics


In recent times the Debian ARM port has had a few problems which we
have mostly put behind us; the big endian port has certainly been
interesting and added some fresh impetus to the little endian world.

However, we are in need of assistance! Recently ARM was "separated"
from testing as it is believed it was not keeping up. In fact, the ARM
buildds are generally keeping up well - the problem now is a large
pile of 131 "maybe-failed" packages [1]. To get back into testing, we
need some developer help to debug and fix these problems.

The port does have a large number of users and the porters are
determined that we will be a full port alongside the other
architectures, as we have been in sarge and woody before. The port
does suffer from a _perceived_ lack of users; perhaps what would be
more accurate is a lack of users who will install popcon! ;-)

Enough of the talk - action is required. I have persuaded my boss to
make an offer which we hope will get more ARM hardware into Debian
*developers'* hands which will hopefully help more developers to
understand the quirks of the architecture and understand we do have
real users of the architecture.

As noted in the Partners page [2], Simtec have already donated a not
inconsiderable amount of hardware for buildd and open access boxes to
replace the old failing hardware recently. These use our older but
well proven CATS boards [3].

Our offer is to make CATS boards available to Debian Devlopers for 99
pounds sterling (plus VAT and delivery); using today's exchange rates
that's about 175 US dollars.

The board is pretty self contained, the only additional items you need
are a PCI network card (DEC tulip, ne2k or realtek if you want to
network boot), a PATA hard disc to install Debian on, a power supply
[6] and an ATX case if you don't like open plan computers. The
bootloader will emulate an x86 BIOS so you can use any VGA card (128MB
graphics cards will take a *long* time to emulate - use an old 2MB
one). You may also boot from a CDROM/DVD drive if you want.

Also included is a 64MB compatible DIMM with each board until we run
out (see the website [4] for where to get compatible 256MB
sticks). You will also receive access to the schematic design of the
board, OK - it's not true open hardware but pretty close. Simtec are
subsidising the build on these boards extensively - we do actually
physically make them, see [5]. As the bill of materials for these
boards is more than the offer price, the only thing we ask is they
should be actively used to improve the ARM port and remove the "not
keeping up" problems.

The offer is limited to *one* board per registered Debian developer
until stocks are exhausted - there are about 1000 DDs and we don't
quite have that many!

To order, use our normal process[7] and we will contact you to ask you
to confirm via signed email. Contact us directly if you have special
needs, shipping requirement, are an NM etc. - we can be flexible! I am
*not* working out every corner case here... ;-)

[1] http://buildd.debian.org/~jeroen/status/architecture.php?a=arm
[2] http://www.debian.org/partners/
[3] http://www.simtec.co.uk/products/EB110ATX/
[4] http://www.simtec.co.uk/products/EB110ATX/faq.html#faqquestion_66
[5] http://www.simtec.co.uk/services/manuf.html
[6] http://www.simtec.co.uk/products/EB110ATX/faq.html#faqquestion_29
[7] http://www.simtec.co.uk/company/ordering.html

Regards Vincent

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