What is it?
Cubox is a small cube-shaped computer with a variety of supported interfaces based on Marvell Armada 510 SoC (armv7). It is possible to purchase Cubox from the manufacturer in Israel or from the British distributor. We recommend the Cubox Pro model that features 2GB RAM.
Why we chose Cubox for our first supported ARM-based desktop distribution
We have chosen Cubox for several reasons:
- it is a fully-functional system in a box, not a barebone;
- it is shipped without a locked pre-installed system like most tablets and other ARM-based solutions available on the market;
- it is an ARM v7 system with hardware support for floating-point operations;
- very few devices of this class have 2GB RAM, which is an important advantage;
- very simple setting up and re-installation of a system: a system image is first copied on a SD card with the dd utility, and the SD card is then inserted into Cubox;
- it is built on the platform developed by our partner Marvell, and we are able directly discuss the problems and future plans;
- developers of Cubox are easily available (see their web forum);
- even when the cube gets really outdated and not exciting any longer, you can still install XBMC on it and continue to use it as a home multimedia center.
We are constantly working with a half-dozen of different ARMv7-based platforms from various manufacturers. For example, there are regularly rebuilt images for the popular Nexus 7 platform. For some of them we are preparing to release supported distributions for both servers and desktops .
Installing ALT Linux on SolidRun Cubox
In order to start the installation, it is sufficient to have a monitor (or a TV-set) with HDMI input and a microSD card of no less than 8 GB in volume and no less than 10 in speed class. You will also need Internet access in order to download and record a system image on it, for example:
wget -c http://ftp.altlinux.org/pub/distributions/ALTLinux/p7/images/simply/altlinux-7.0.0-simply-cubox-armh.img.gz gunzip altlinux-7.0.0-simply-cubox-armh.img.gz dd if=altlinux-7.0.0-simply-cubox-armh.img of=/dev/mmcblk0 bs=1M
The package selection in this system image mostly corresponds to Simply Linux Live DVD (XFCE, Firefox, LibreOffice4, Gimp, Parole etc.). After the first boot, the system will offer to perform initial configuration. By default, local network is configured via DHCP, while installation of additional software packages can be performed via the pre-configured apt utility.
In future, there will be images for Cubox with other desktop environments.
The base configuration of the Simply Linux distribution for ARM corresponds to the i586/x86_64 version. When using a SD-card the start-up speed for resource-consuming applications (LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, Gimp, Audacious) will be lower, however, the execution speed, especially on Cubox Pro with 2 GB of memory, is quite satisfactory, as well as playback of local video files with Parole video player. It is possible to increase the start-up speed of applications with an external SATA drive connected via the eSATA socket.
- Lack of CPU support for NEON.
- Hardware-accelerated video playback works on players based on gstreamer-0.10 (parole, kaffeine), but does not work on ffmpeg players.
- As in almost all ARM systems-on-chip, there is support for OpenGL ES, but not for full OpenGL. Therefore, there are currently no 3D games for Linux, while a version of compiz for OpenGL ES is still under development and cannot be supplied with a supported system.
- There is no Adobe Flash Player for Linux on arm v7 hard float. However, it is possible to view YouTube videos with parole having downloaded them youtube-dl in the flv format.
- HTML5 playback in Simply 7.0.0 is not hardware-accelerated (it is expected that this problem should be partially remedied in the new versions of Firefox).
- not to be confused with Cortex models; for example, ARM v8 is a family of 64-bit CPUs that are not yet available on the market
- when choosing a platform for such solutions, we consider it crucial to have hardware support for floating-point operations and at least 1 GB of RAM (preferably no less than 2 GB), that is why no ALT Linux distributions are planned for the currently most popular Raspberry Pi system.
- the higher, the better; the supplied 4GB class 4 will make the system run very sluggishly
- the last command should be issued by a user with write privileges for the card-reader device; usually the root user has these privileges