Saturday, 10 April 2021 09:16

Work to make Linux run on M1 still in early days, says Torvalds Featured

Work to make Linux run on M1 still in early days, says Torvalds Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Work towards making Linux run on Apple's M1 platform is still in its early days and to make the hardware useful it needs more of a GPU driver than the basic frame buffer, Linux creator Linus Torvalds has said.

He was reacting to a query from iTWire about posts by kernel developer Arnd Bergmann, who works on arm-based solutions at Linaro, and Hector Martin, who has a project known as Asahi Linux that aims to run Linux on the M1. Their joint efforts have been merged and are ready to be submitted to Torvalds who manages the kernel project.

The Register ran a story about the posts and claimed, in its usual overblown way, that "Linux overlord Linus Torvalds could banish the effort".

But Torvalds was more circumspect in his approach. "Actually, when it comes to something like this, the true authority ends up being the arm SoC guys who maintain the arm64 side of things," he told iTWire.

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"I end up trusting them to do the judgment call on whether the code is ready or not."

The Register speculated that M1 support could conceivably be present in the 5.13 kernel, given that release candidate six of the 5.12 branch came out this week. Each point release normally has eight weekly releases, with a further fortnight taken before the final release.

But as mentioned earlier, Torvalds was cautious about such predictions. "It's worth noting that it's fairly early days still, and to make the M1 hardware _useful_ it really needs more of a GPU driver than just the basic frame buffer," he said.

"So take that early code merge for what it is – initial support, not some kind of 'this means the hardware is usable'."

Torvalds said the fact that Bergmann had merged his code into the "for-next" branch was a good sign and meant that he would send it to him [Torvalds] during the next merge window.

"But it's by no means a guarantee – it could end up being delayed if it shows problems," he added. "Not that I see anything that looks particularly questionable in there."

The Asahi Linux project says of itself: "Our goal is not just to make Linux run on these machines, but to polish it to the point where it can be used as a daily OS.

"Doing this requires a tremendous amount of work, as Apple Silicon is an entirely undocumented platform. In particular, we will be reverse engineering the Apple GPU architecture and developing an open-source driver for it."

The first target for Martin and his fellow developers will be the M1 Mac Mini.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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