Is that Fedora running on a Raspberry Pi?

“Why, yes it is! To be exact, it’s a Fedora Remix running on a Raspberry Pi.”

That was a popular exchange at the Fedora booth during this year’s Ohio LinuxFest. The iconic Model B Raspberry Pi, running Fedora Remix and proudly displaying the Beefy Miracle fireworks on a XFCE desktop, was drawing lots of attention.

XFCE Desktop on the Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix

As OLF attendees quickly discovered, using the desktop requires a little extra patience since the libraries aren’t (yet) optimized for the hardware. But, don’t underestimate this board. It packs a powerful punch and future releases plan to take full advantage of its capabilities to speed up execution of the programs. (See this fedora-arm mailinglist post or search for “soft-float vs hard-float” for details)

Questions at the booth that followed were typically:

  • “Who maintains it?”

  • “Where do I get it?”

  • “How do I install it?”

First, let’s start with, “What is a Raspberry Pi?”

What is a Raspberry Pi?

A Raspberry Pi is a system-on-a-chip (SoC) single-board computer. In other words, it’s an incredibly compact general purpose computer. It even fits inside one of my mini pie dishes. Mmmm, pie!

Raspberry Pi as a Pie

Let’s back up and begin with the central component that makes this all possible, the ARM chip.

ARM chips are the most widely-produced processors in the world because they are small, cheap and require minimal power. They are found in smart phones, tablets, routers, embedded controllers, gaming consoles and streaming digital media devices. As the chips become more powerful and SoCs less expensive, consumer operating systems such as Fedora can be installed on them.

Several companies manufacture and sell ARM-based SoC computers priced under $100 that are specifically designed for you to install your Linux distribution of choice. The Raspberry Pi is notable for its $35 price tag, less than half the price of the next cheapest ARM-based SoC, the $89 BeagleBone.

The Raspberry Pi Model B is based on the Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and includes these components and ports:

  • ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor (ARM11 family, armv6 architecture)

  • VideoCore IV GPU, OpenGL ES 2.0, 1080p30 h.264/MPEG-4 AVC high-profile decoder

  • 256 Megabytes of RAM (shared between the CPU and GPU)

  • Two USB 2.0 ports

  • 10/100 Ethernet (RJ45) controller

  • HDMI and composite RCA video outputs

  • HDMI and 3.5mm jack audio outputs

  • MicroSD card slot

  • GPIO pins

  • 5V Micro USB power jack

Here’s how the parts are laid out on the board:

Raspberry Pi Model B Schematic

Single-board systems like the Raspberry Pi aren’t just miniaturized computers locked in a box, though. They’re open, development boards with general inputs and outputs (GPIOs) that allow expansion through add-on boards and external devices. Installing a Linux distribution like Fedora is just the first step of becoming a maker!

Who maintains the Fedora Remix for the Raspberry Pi?

It begins with the Fedora ARM project, an initiative to port Fedora to the ARM processor family. The group has successfully created Fedora 17 GA images for single-board computers including the BeagleBoard, SheevaPlug, PandaBoard, and Trim-Slice. However, the Fedora Project does not yet produce an official release for the Raspberry Pi due to certain licensing issues. Specifically, the Raspberry Pi relies upon a custom kernel (not upstream) as well as special GPU binary blobs which are not acceptable under the current firmware exception in Fedora.

But, if you want Fedora 17 on your Pi today, do not despair! There’s a Fedora Remix for that!

Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix Logo

Seneca College’s Centre for Development of Open Source Technology maintains the Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix. A Fedora Remix is a combination of Fedora software, with or without add-ons, that any community member can create at any time to produce interesting and compelling distributions. The Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix enables you load Fedora 17 onto the Pi and get updates for most software from the official Fedora yum repositories (armv5tel architecture). Watch the announcement video to learn more about how the folks from Sececa built and tested it.

The Fedora ARM group is working to make ARM a primary Fedora architecture for all future releases and to expand support to additional SoCs, including the Raspberry Pi. Until Fedora officially supports the Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to use the Fedora Remix.

How do I get a Raspberry Pi and the Fedora Remix?

Let’s take it one question at a time.

How do I get a Raspberry Pi?

You may have heard that you need to know the right people to get your hands on a Raspberry Pi or that there is a purchasing restriction. Neither of those rumors are true anymore, though you may still run into backorders. Numerous distributors sell the Pi, including http://www.alliedelec.com/lp/120626raso/?cm_mmc=Offline-Referral--Electronics--RaspberryPi-201203-_-World-Selector-Page[Allied Electronics], Newark, Adafruit Industries and MCM Electronics but be prepared to wait (last minute holiday shoppers, you’ve been warned!). MCM Electronics and Adafruit also sell an array of accessories like the clear case that houses my Pi, shown below.

Adafruit Raspberry Pi Case

How do I load Fedora Remix on it?

Once you receive your slice of Pi, the next step is to install Fedora Remix or one of the other Raspberry Pi (RPi) Linux distributions onto a MicroSD card and slide it into the board. The next blog entry in this series, How to Install and Configure Fedora 17 Remix on Your Raspberry Pi, will step through downloading Fedora Remix, installing it on your Pi and getting it up and running.

Does the Raspberry Pi have a handbook?

If you want to become more familiar with your Raspberry Pi and the story behind it, check out the Raspberry Pi User Guide, written by the Pi’s master chef. That’s the book I read before booting the Raspberry Pi for the first time (on the plane heading to Ohio LinuxFest :)). Having that background knowledge helped make the installation process a breeze.

We’re not endorsing any of the listed distributors of the Raspberry Pi or its accessories. The companies mentioned are just a sampling of results returned after executing a “buy Raspberry Pi” internet search. Sarah’s Pi was gifted to her by a spotted hypnotoad. Dan purchased the Adafruit case through MCM Electronics.

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.


Fedora at OSCON 2012, presented with a Raspberry Pi

At OSCON 2012 in Portland, OR the Fedora booth may have been small, but it packed a full cast of characters and crowd-gathering technology. Beefy Miracle waved from atop the Fedora marquee and Tux stopped by for a few hours each day. Few attendees could resist posing for a picture with Tux or snagging a Beefy Miracle sticker to embellish their laptop.

Deb and Gunnar at the Fedora booth
Ruth and Tux at the Fedora booth

Fedora on a Raspberry Pi

The Fedora booth showcased the features and capabilities of Fedora running on a Raspberry Pi (a cheap, low-power computer that features an ARM processor). People were in awe that a tiny system on a chip (SoC) could support a widescreen monitor and an external hard drive and run full length movies at 1080p resolution with no problems (except when I overheated the chip by leaving my laptop next to it (my bad!)).

Common Raspberry Pi questions included:

Is that a Raspberry Pi?

Yes

What operating system is it running?

Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix (armv5hl), maintained by the Fedora ARM team

What is the desktop?

XFCE

What is the graphics card brand?

A Broadcom VideoCore IV, OpenGL ES 2.0, that is capable of 1080p, 30 h.264/MPEG-4 AVC high-profile decoder. The output connections are Composite RCA or HDMI.

Does it have on board memory?

No. You have to boot from SD but a USB HD can “take over” after the initial boot. You cannot boot without an SD card. Supported card formats include SD, MMC, and SDIO.

How is it powered?

The device is powered by 5V micro USB. The device could also be run by 4 AA batteries.

Can it display at 1080?

Yes

Our setup used an external hard drive connected via USB because the SD card was only large enough to fit Futurama episodes (in 720), not the full length Tron Legacy movie Spot had on hand.

For more information about the Raspberry Pi hardware, refer to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s FAQs. Visit Fedora ARM to learn more about how Fedora is developing architectures for SoC.

Tux Photobooth

The Raspberry Pi ran the semi-automated photography booth. Hooked up to a camera and using a python script, the Pi snapped photos of the attendees posed with Tux. Attendees could then scan the QR code generated by the script and displayed in the web browser to retrieve their picture later.

Fedora photobooth

The first photobooth session occurred on Tuesday night, during the opening of the expo floor. During the ever-popular OSCON booth crawl on Wednesday night, Tux returned to the photobooth and later toured the expo floor to meet his fans.

Amazing fact: Tux can write python code with his wings! Prior to the session on Wednesday, Tux took a few moments to modify the python program that captures, scales, and posts the pictures when the usual Nikon was replaced with a Canon (new drivers had to be loaded). The equipment and instructions to host your own Raspberry Pi photobooth are being drafted on the new Raspberry Pi photobooth wikipage.

Tux touring the OSCON Expo floor

Fedora Packages Search App

I did field a few questions about Fedora 17’s development environment and got to point out the servers and frameworks packaged in Fedora 17. There was also a question about the latest KVM virt-manager instance. I’m just learning about virtual machine technologies, and version numbers are not my strong point. However, this allowed me to show off the Fedora Packages Search app (using Firefox on the Pi!). If you’re not familiar with the Fedora packages search app, you need to check it out. It rocks! You can quickly find out if the program you’re interested in is packaged, which version is packaged in which release, what updates are coming, and much more all within a clean, easy to use web interface.

I use the packages search app almost every day as I continue to learn more about Fedora’s features, release cycle, and the awesome people dedicated to adding new and improved programs and capabilities to Fedora.

Photographs

You can find more pictures from OSCON 2012 on my photostream. Mark Terranova (MarkDude) also took great photographs of the Fedora booth and Beefy Miracle’s expo floor adventures at OSCON.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the booth!


Fedora contributors will show off their BASH and GLUSTER at TXLF this weekend

Fedora contributors John Rose and Thomas Cameron will be speaking in San Antonio this Saturday at the Texas Linux Fest.

John Rose (inode0), a current Fedora Board member and the North American Fedora Ambassador leader, will explain how to rid your shell scripts of useless cats.

Texas Linux Fest 2012

Demoggification

Since the mid 1990s the Useless Use of Cat Award has raised awareness of a class of shell script constructs that make some laugh and others cry. Demoggification is the process of removing useless cats. This talk covers a variety of other useless stuff (including echo, grep, sed, nc, and more) that frequently finds its way into our shell scripts and shows how to demoggify each by using various features in bash.

Features covered include direct access to sockets, parameter expansions, brace expansions, here strings, and more.

Thomas Cameron (Tcameron), Red Hat’s chief architect for Canada and the central US, will show how scaling out with software based on Gluster will defy future data storage and transfer resource constraints.

Building Software-Based NAS Using Gluster

Gluster is a software-based, scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) appliance. It uses inexpensive internal or direct-attached (e.g. JBOD) storage and pools multiple servers into one storage namespace. This pooled storage is then exported to Linux clients via NFS, to Microsoft Windows clients via CIFS/Samba, or using the native Gluster client. In this session, Red Hat’s Thomas Cameron will explain the architecture of Gluster and demonstrate setting up a 3-node storage cluster, including setting up the NFS service, Samba, and the native Gluster client. He will demonstrate mirrored content, distributed content, and discuss geo-replication (stretch clusters).

Beefy Miracle Fedora 17 Also make sure to stop by the Fedora booth on the TXLF Expo floor and grab a Beefy Miracle button or sticker. More information about the Fedora booth and activities at TXFL is located on the Fedora event page.


Chronicling the Fedora Community Area in Millimeters and Pixels

Representing Fedora at the Summit sounded great when I was safely ensconced in my office, chatting on IRC, weeks before the event. But once I approached the booth at the Hynes Convention Center, a horde of heebie-jeebies streaked down my spine screaming, Run away! Run away!.

Face to face, live action conversation? It can’t be paused, reconsidered or erased. Answering direct questions without the luxury of composing my thoughts on paper? Why, oh why hasn’t anyone invented a delete key for my mouth!

During the first full day of booth activities, I retreated behind my cameras to document the constant activity in the Fedora Community area. I photographed attendees visiting the Fedora booth, hanging with Beefy Miracle, and enjoying the mid-afternoon hot dog snack hour. All of the photographs I took during the Summit are posted on my Flickr stream.

fedora booth friends
beefymiracle mustard

I also recorded two talks presented in the Fedora Community area: Ryan O’Hara’s Network Load Balancing for the 21st Century With Keepalived and HAProxy and Dan Allen’s JBoss AS7 on Fedora as well as the server and system installation for the next day’s Fedora ARM demonstration. Once I finish processing the videos, I’ll post them.

Ryan O’Hara Dan Allen

Jon Masters

On Thursday, after Jon Masters' crowd-gathering ARM demonstration, I forced myself to stow the cameras. I took position behind the booth, no camera lenses or laptop to filter my I/O. The gaps in my knowledge soon became apparent.

  1. No, I’m not familiar with the wide variety of acronyms applied to the hardware in the one laptop per per child computer or what version of Fedora it is running.

    Luke Macken saved the attendee from my panicky stare, and now I know it’s an ARM processor, running Sugar on a Stick, and the newest laptop has a much better keyboard.

  2. I don’t know what version of Apache httpd is packaged in Fedora 17

    Tom Callaway fired up a terminal and found the information. 2.2.22.

    And the most popular question at the booth:

  3. How did Beefy Miracle come to be named Beefy Miracle?

    After numerous attempts, I realized I couldn’t succinctly explain the Fedora release naming process steps in the correct order. Ruth Suehle, Sandro Mathys and Tom had to save people from my disordered explanations numerous times. They can iterate the naming process without blinking.

However, I did answer questions regarding one of the new items at the booth, the AS 7 on Fedora 17 flyer. I can recite the commands to install the AS 7 package, start, stop and deploy it, what is and isn’t currently in the packaged profile, what’s on deck to be in updated releases, and where to find help and participate with AS 7 and future packaging goals. I was stumped though when asked about the differences between Fedora and AS 7 versus another distribution and Websphere. I need to brush up on the features of other application servers.

I’m not a well-rounded Fedora representative yet, but manning the booth was a huge kickstart. I learned the answers to tons of questions from the other Fedora representatives and discovered the concerns of potential and current Fedora users. The best thing about volunteering at the booth was meeting so many great people: the conference attendees who visited the booth and the Fedora advocates I had previously only chatted with on IRC. I can’t thank everyone enough times for answering my questions or for sorting through my jumbled explanations.

Oh, there are two questions I can confidently respond to now without pause or consideration because Ruth wrote down the answers.

Yes, it is a Raspberry Pi. No, you can’t have it.

raspberrypi fedora17

If you’d like a specific picture from the Fedora booth in its high-resolution, mega-size version (some are available in large format JPG and some in RAW), just shoot me a message. I’m graphite6 in the Fedora IRC channels.