Open source project aims to make Ubuntu usable on Windows laptops powered by Arm

The first steps towards Linux on Qualcomm-powered laptops from HP, Asus, and Lenovo could deliver a more capable experience than Windows 10.

In December 2017, Microsoft and Qualcomm announced a partnership to pair Windows 10 and Snapdragon Arm processors for ultra-thin LTE-connected netbooks with over 20 hours of battery life. This Windows-on-Arm initiative encountered several obstacles, the first generation HP Envie x2 and Asus NovaGo criticized for its poor performance and application compatibility in Windows 10, largely because of an online x86 emulator for applications written for Windows on Intel or AMD processors.

Today, a group of programmers and hackers are working to bring proper Ubuntu support to Windows laptops equipped with Arm, starting with first-generation Snapdragon 835 systems, such as the HP Envy. x2 and Asus NovaGo. the aarch64-laptops project on GitHub provides predefined images for the aforementioned laptops, as well as the Lenovo Miix 630.

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Although Ubuntu and other Linux distributions support aarch64 (ARMv8) by default, various hurdles, including the design and configuration of Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, make these default images unusable in practice. The developers of the aarch64-laptops project aim to resolve these difficulties, although work is still in progress. Currently, the touchpad doesn’t work properly on the Asus, with all three of them not supporting built-in storage and Wi-Fi, which rely on UFS support. According to their documentation, this is being worked on upstream.

Likewise, accelerated graphics are not yet supported, but the Linux benchmarking website Phoronix Remarks that this should be provided by the freedreno project. The components should be successfully integrated into a daily working driver “within a few months”.

With this available, it’s conceivable that Arm-powered laptops running Linux will perform much better than Windows, as the open source applications available through Ubuntu’s package repository will run natively on the Arm processor, rather than running on the Arm processor. rely on an online x86 emulator.

Meanwhile, Mozilla announced a partnership last December with Qualcomm to develop a properly optimized version of Firefox for use on aarch64.

The main points to remember for technology leaders:

  • A group of programmers and hackers are working to bring proper Ubuntu support to Windows laptops with Arms, starting with the first generation Snapdragon 835 systems.
  • This is still a work in progress, as UFS support needs to be completed to support internal storage and WiFi, similarly accelerated graphics will rely on freedreno integration.

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Image: Jack Wallen

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