Andrew Wafaa seeks funding for openSUSE ARM

Andrew Wafaa is hoping to make openSUSE the Linux distribution of choice for the growing number of ARM-powered devices out there, but the project has run into a snag: a lack of ARM hardware.

Like many open source projects, openSUSE has corporate sponsorship in the form of a partnership with Attachmate subsidiary SUSE - once part of Novell - which takes the open source openSUSE technology and bundles it with support contracts in a commercial format.

It's a partnership that allows openSUSE to host an annual gathering of developers - the openSUSE Conference - but it doesn't leave much cash spare for other ventures.

Usually, that's fine: contributors to open source projects either work for free or have their time paid for by a company hoping to benefit from improved support for their commercial products. When it comes to buying hardware, however, it's a whole different matter.

Developing for x86 is straightforward. Almost any chip from the past few years is compatible with any other chip, meaning that the oldest hardware and the cheapest upgrades will keep open source developers as close to the cutting edge as they need to be.

ARM, however, is different. It's only relatively recently that the British chip giant's designs have found their way out of the mobile space and back on to the desktop from whence they came - and it's caught software developers napping. With the news that Microsoft is adding support for ARM into its Windows desktop products, better Linux support is crucial.

While there are distributions that support ARM at the moment, they often lag behind their x86 equivalents. Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds has also bemoaned the state of ARM support in the kernel code itself, pointing to growing bloat as each ARM vendor adds extra proprietary cruft to the package.

Wafaa is hoping to help fix this, and give his chosen distribution a boost into the bargain. "The openSUSE ARM project is well under way," he explains, "but to complete the task ahead we require actual ARM boards to fix some packages, [and] crucially to verify what has been built also works."

Wafaa is turning to the public for help. Opening a project on fundraising site Pledgie, Wafaa is asking for €1,000 in donations in order to buy five PandaBoard development platforms.

Built as successors to the BeagleBoard, PandaBoards include a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore based Texas Instruments OMAP4 processor and support for 1080p video, wireless networking, and Bluetooth. It's a great choice for the sort of development work needed to ensure a good desktop-oriented ARM-based Linux OS, but they're not free.

Thus far, Wafaa hasn't had any takers volunteering to cough up a donation to the cause. With ARM licensees - and ARM itself - making money hand over fist as companies rush to create the fastest portable devices around, it's something that a corporate sponsor could fix quickly and easily.

If you're not willing to wait that long and fancy popping a few pence in the collection tin yourself, details can be found on the Pledgie page.