Raspberry Pi Gets Open Sourced Down to the Hardware Core

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 24, 2012

Without a doubt, the Raspberry Pi has grabbed the most headlines as a tiny, ultra-inexpensive, pocketable computer running an open source operating system, but it's actually only one of many tiny LInux computers being heralded as part of a new "Linux punk ethic." Several others, such as the Cotton Candy device, have warranted attention as well.

Now, it looks like we'll see many more of these diminutive devices, because the Raspberry Pit itself is being open sourced down to its deepest hardware core. Project leaders have announced in a bog post that "all of the VideoCore driver code which runs on the ARM [chip] is available under a FOSS license."

According to the Raspberry Pi blog:

"The source is available from our new userland repository on GitHub. If you’re not familiar with the status of open source drivers on ARM SoCs this announcement may not seem like such a big deal, but it does actually mean that the BCM2835 used in the Raspberry Pi is the first ARM-based multimedia SoC with fully-functional, vendor-provided (as opposed to partial, reverse engineered) fully open-source drivers, and that Broadcom is the first vendor to open their mobile GPU drivers up in this way."

The post provides some analysis on what this may mean for users as well:

"Aside from being exciting to FOSS enthusiasts for philosophical reasons, it’s also going to make it much easier for third party developers to (for instance) implement Wayland EGL client and EGL server support, or to provide better integration of GLES/VG with X.Org. We look forward to working with the relevant communities on this. It should also now be easier, with appropriate cleanup, to get the vchiq messaging system integrated in to the upstream Linux kernel, which is another goal we are keen to work with the community on achieving."

For a $25/$35 device, the Raspberry Pi has continued to surprise. Trusted Reviews has come up with a collection of 10 places where Raspberry Pi might be headed. The editors imagine that Raspberry Pis might show up in "coding classrooms" where kids will experiment with it, and, since Raspberry Pis handle HD video, the credit card-sized devices might show up in very low-cost set-top boxes. The editors also forecast Raspberry Pi Internet Radio devices and in-car computers based on the gadgets.

With the Raspberry Pi's hardware core open sourced, the whole concept of it becomes portable and massively forkable. Look for many variations on the Pi to show up, which is a welcome trend.