Home > Chromium, Ubuntu > Blindly poking at ARM bugs with a stick

Blindly poking at ARM bugs with a stick

Ever felt like poking something unknown with a stick in the dark? that’s the feeling I have when I work on the ARM part of the Chromium package I maintain for Ubuntu.

I spend a lot of time preparing and polishing the Chromium package between the channels updates, so when a given release finally lands in the Stable channel, there’s usually not much left to do (packaging wise) to publish it in the official Ubuntu repositories. There are enough PPA users to cover most issues beforehand, weeks before thanks to the dev / beta / stable gradual landing, with most issues reported directly upstream and fixed there so I don’t have to do it myself downstream.

That seems good, but in fact, it’s only good for i386 and amd64, the only two arches for which PPAs currently build packages.

ARM (armel) is another story. I don’t own any ARM hardware, and so far, I don’t have access to any ARM box so I can’t build or test on this arch (also, no arm PPA means no user testing before it’s too late). The regular PPAs are of no use here: PPAs accessible to Ubuntu members are virtualized (xen instances) [1]. There is another type of PPAs, the native ones, that build on the full set of arches supported in the official repositories, including armel, but for security reasons, they are only available to Canonical employees.

[1] there are two virtualized armel builders, but they are not part of the pool. Of course, opening them to anyone is not realistic, it won’t scale, even with 20 and maybe not even with 50 builders (see below)

Even if I can find someone from Canonical to proxy those builds for me on a native PPA (which is not a very handy workflow, especially knowing that a full build takes ~21 hours on Armel vs ~2 on the other arches, and may need a few iterations to get it right), it doesn’t help for the testing part.

It’s a recurring problem. I’m facing it at each release, even yesterday with the last security update of Chromium v9 which failed to build, purely by lack of prior testing, or two weeks ago with the PIE hardening crashing on arm only. For arm specific crashes or bugs, I can simply speculate about the causes, blindly poke the package with a stick, respin a build and hope for the best, but most of the time, i’m forced to simply call for help and give up. Nowadays, those bugs receive an arm-port tag in Launchpad, and sit there forever; Chromium is in universe, and I assume the arm team have enough in its plate already with what’s in main. I’m not blaming anyone, but it’s frustrating to be relegated to a passive role. Now with WebGL (gles), and soon breakpad, it’s even worse for armel, more unknown territories..

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  1. Benjamin
    March 2, 2011 at 22:46

    Having a armel PPA would be a starting point. Then you can catch at least build failures earlier.

  2. Dmitrijs Ledkovs
    March 2, 2011 at 23:43

    Contact linaro team! I speculate they would be interested as a stress test of their toolchain.

  3. Tobias
    March 3, 2011 at 01:44

    Has H264 already been purged? I get a codec not available now on HTML5 youtube.

  4. Rune K. Svendsen
    May 16, 2011 at 16:36

    If you’re interested, Genesi has an ARM-based PC available for $130, with full Linux support (comes with Maverick):
    http://www.genesi-usa.com/products

    There’s also the Smartbook (Netbook) for $200. Both are based on Freescale’s i.MX51 platform. But as far as I can tell, they’re planning on releasing i.MX53-based devices soon – within a couple of months. But if these new devices will sell for $130 and $200, respectively, to begin with, I don’t know.

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