Yet More Pi

So I got a at work, making for a grand total of four in the house (and 300 in my office closet for a few hours, but that’s a story for another time).

I’ve had one acting as an for a year now (which I never mess with, lest it break), keep one around with a Wi-Fi dongle to use as a sort of plug-in server, and recently got a PiFace to use another as a controller for a few doodads I’m planning to build someday.

It feels like I’ve been messing about with the things for ages, really. I have a side project at work where I routinely try to coax the things into becoming more or less reliable digital signage clients of , and I’ve tried pretty much everything1 out there to get them to render web pages while taking advantage of the GPU, which makes me sort of a resident expert on what doesn’t work on the things.

Routinely going up against that particular brick wall for a while now has tempered both my enthusiasm for the platform and my expectations of what can realistically be done with it, but even so I felt compelled to re-visit the state of the art.

As it turns out, there’s this nice project called nix that is building a WebKit2 port atop OpenGL/ES. It works fairly well already, but there’s a catch: You need to build a working browser (i.e., a lot of the event handling), and it currently can’t render most “common” web pages due to various missing bits.

Serendipitously, it looks the folks behind uzbl (the browser I currently use for my solutions) are looking to adopt it (which would be awesome), but it’ll take a while yet.

The best part, however, was finding their SDK, which has rendered all my previous -inspired cross-compiling setups obsolete – it provides a chroot environment on desktop Linux that thinks it is a and (this is the genius bit) lets you run a tidy mix of native (x86_64) cross-compiler tools and standard ARM binaries.

So far I’ve built around half a dozen packages on it without any issues whatsoever – I toss the resulting binaries into the and they just work – and am quite happy with the prospect of finally having a working low-level SDK that doesn’t entail waiting hours for stuff to compile.

Now all I need to do is remaster the Debian-fu of .deb packaging…

  1. Seriously. I’ve built Qt5, tried FirefoxOS, installed JavaFX, the works. Every time I look into this I end up swearing bitterly at Broadcom, who’ve been sitting on their prototype for over a year now. ↩︎