debian/fso on freerunner

Timo Jyrinki timo.jyrinki at
Thu Jan 21 07:55:17 CET 2010

2010/1/20 Michael 'Mickey' Lauer <mickey at>:
>> IMO Debian will eventually assimilate everything, including SHR.
>> (Unless there is some major advantage of the OE build and packaging
> Well, I've been hearing that for almost a decade now, but still systems
> like buildroot, OpenEmbedded, OpenWRT, t2-project, etc. are being
> preferred on lots of embedded systems. Why do you think is that?

(I might be partially wrong and it's not so black-and-white most
certainly, but just trying to express why I love Debian over OE)

I think it's largely because embedded developers often come from a
different IT sector and tend to think the embedded device is something
special and small, and that the approach of doing one single image /
"firmware" fits the idea of embedded devices. But as FreeRunner is
really a full-blown computer, not a router or other "really" small
device by today's standards, Debian is something that removes the
limits of this thinking. Debian has working upgrades, no removal of
functionality wrt. i386 computers (unless you want it) and is simply
vast in its scope - the fact you can run 95% of the 20k+ packages on
FreeRunner and that they are all up-to-date is one statement of how
much work has been achieved to keep up the scope of the project for
all architectures. Of course most of those are not that practical to
use on touch screen, but I wouldn't give the flexibility away.

With the (in my opinion) "old way of thinking" towards this class of
embedded devices, Emdebian is probably behind OpenEmbedded. But I
think really it's becoming gradually less relevant, device class by
device class. The only thing FR is lacking is large enough integrated
flash memory, which is why a full Debian is usually used from SD card.
Given the storage space of next generation mobile phones, I'd guess
2GB of flash is not a problem and you can fit a full Debian with
compilation environment, documentation, office software etc. (and yes,
phone software) without any problems.

Partially OE is also about cross-compiling. Debian also supports it,
but mostly the automatic package building is done on powerful enough
ARM computers (512MB memory, >1GHz etc.). So in the old embedded world
of thinking, you couldn't/shouldn't also compile on the target
hardware (or target architecture) itself, but you have the development
machine separately and you simply target the so-called small hardware.

For an existing Debian/Ubuntu user, I cannot think of anything better
than using Debian also on embedded devices. I use it on FreeRunner and
my NAS device. With OE it very often seemed to be that when wanting
newer software, flashing was recommended. And OE is simply a much
smaller project packaging wise.


More information about the community mailing list