Software

Linus Torvalds reveals the use of an Ampere ARM64 machine to compile Linux

Linus Torvalds reveals the use of an Ampere ARM64 machine to compile Linux

It has been known for some time that the father of Linux, Linus Torvaldshad abandoned the x86 platform to oversee and carry out the operating system compilation tasks.

After years of working exclusively on Intel hardware, Torvalds switched to an AMD Ryzen Threadripper workstation as his primary system. Starting from the publication of the Linux kernel 5.19, the Finnish computer scientist then began to compile le build ARM64 using a 2022 MacBook Air system, based on the Apple M2 SoC.

Torvalds publicly appreciated that machine, defining it as a valid ally in mobility and, above all, an excellent system for working for production purposes on the ARM64 architecture.

Linus Torvalds certifies his move to a powerful Ampere ARM64 machine

A year and a half later, in the release notes for kernel 6.9, the developer now reveals that he has switched to a ARM64 more powerful and thanked the manufacturer, i.e Ampere, for providing it to him. Torvalds says he spent the past week doing as much compiling work as he did on the x86-64 platform, and plans to continue doing so in the coming years. And he adds that his Apple laptop, based on the ARM-derived M2 chip, was mainly used for weekly tests rather than for compilation activities carried out continuously. The Ampere machine allowed this approach to be radically changed.

The Linux inventor does not specify which Ampere system he has in his hands, but it is highly likely that it is a workstation or server built on Altra chips. The processors of the family Ampere Other they have 32 to 128 physical cores; the AltraOne ones go up to 192 cores. The former are also more easily available: by setting aside a car ARM-based at just 8 cores what a 2022 MacBook Air system is, it is obvious that Torvalds immediately saw enormous benefits in the compilation and testing activities.

Significantly improves support for ARM chips on Linux

There are many Linux distributions specifically designed to run on devices that use ARM chips. Among them there are also the most famous ones such as Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and Arch Linux, as well as for example the Raspberry Pi distro. These distributions are optimized to make the most of the capabilities and features of ARM processors, offering a complete and functional user experience on this architecture.

But it is the Linux kernel which, under the pressure of Torvalds and the other “contributors”, integrates all the basic functionalities to support all the features of SoC ARM. Qualcomm itself collaborated in the maturation of the penguin kernel with a whole series of patch expressly oriented towards improving support for its chips, both old and new generations. The Snapdragon X Elite, for example, are designed for Windows on ARM but can obviously assist the loading and execution of any distribution compatible with the ARM platform.

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