Maemo Leste - Lima works!

Merlijn Wajer, Fri 07 December 2018, News

aarch64, allwinner, arm64, lima, mali, mesa, pine64

This update is relatively small - but it does contain something huge: Lima now renders hildon-desktop!

Mali GPUs and the Lima Driver

As we documented in our November 2018 update November 2018 update, we were making progress trying to get the Lima driver to run on some Allwinner devices.

This is important, as a lot of ARM devices have a Mali GPU. Not all of them have a Mali-400 or Mali-450, but a big chunk of them does - especially the Allwinner single board computers and tablets. However, ARM does not provide a free (as in freedom) driver for their GPUs. Back in 2014, Luc Verhaegen presented his (and others) work on freeing the Mali - a talk that I also personally attended and got me excited about the possibility of using a free driver on my Allwinner devices. Some time later, he documented why he had stopped working on the driver - but eventually others (in particular Qiang Yu) have picked up the work, and the current code can be found here - the kernel side of this work has also been submitted for review to the Linux kernel.

Excited (once again) at the prospect of having a FOSS Mali driver, we set up (semi) automatic builds and added it to the lima component of our Maemo Leste Devuan/Debian repository of lima-mesa, the mesa code that supports lima. In our latest update, we stated that, unfortunately, lima cannot render hildon-desktop yet (and that we ran into (and fixed) an apitrace issue), but this is no longer true, with the last few commits to lima/mesa, it is possible to run hildon-desktop (albeit some render artifacts remain), and we have made a video showing it in action on our A33 "TurboX Twister" tablet:

(Kernel tree can be found here.)

This is also great news for the Pine64 project, who are developing a Pine64 phone and Pine64 tablet (and have been so kind to send us a "Project Anakit" development kit as well) - because now their phone will have a free software driver!

To be clear, the experience is not entirely smooth, and we've had the driver crash on us a few times - but it's FOSS, so anyone can attempt to fix it (as people are doing already). Onwards!


If you're interested in specifics, or helping out, or wish to have a specific package ported, please see our bugtracker.

Please also join our mailing list to stay up to date, ask questions and/or help out. Another great way to get in touch is to join the IRC channel.

If you like our work and want to see it continue, join us!