Raspbian sneak peek from Dom – performance increases up the wazoo!

We’re hoping to release an official image based on Raspbian, the hard-float optimised port of the Debian operating system for the Raspberry Pi, over the next few days. Raspbian makes use of the floating-point hardware in the processor at the heart of the Raspberry Pi, an optimisation that we hadn’t been able to take advantage of in our previous soft-float Debian Squeeze and Wheezy releases.

Raspbian is so much faster than the images we’ve been using so far, and we’re really excited about it; we’ll be encouraging all of you Raspberry Pi owners to upgrade to it as soon as it’s available on our downloads page.

Here’s a sneak peek from Dom, one of our developers and a disgustingly clever gentleman. (This is the first time Dom has ever been called a gentleman.) He’s overclocked the Raspberry Pi he’s using to 1GHz; if you’re thinking of doing the same, check the Power Users section of our forums, and be aware that overvolting will void your warranty. Installations which aren’t overclocked won’t be quite as speedy as what Dom’s showing you here, but the performance increase over what we’ve seen with previous images is still very impressive with a non-overclocked Raspberry Pi. Over to Dom!


SergeantFTC avatar

Does Raspbian have full access to the Debian repositories? Are there any other disadvantages to Raspbian?

liz avatar

Raspbian has a parallel set of repositories. See http://www.raspbian.org – so that’s not a disadvantage, and no, there aren’t any others.

SergeantFTC avatar

Awesome! I will be looking forward to it then. :)

asb avatar

There are a small number of packages in Debian armel which aren’t yet in Raspbian. The list is rapidly dwindling though.

Martin avatar

where could we see this list?

Nick avatar

Shame xbmc isn’t working yet

Peter Green avatar

I wasn’t aware of anyone trying to actually produce such a list* so I decided to try and produce one.

The following set of commands will produce a list of such packages

wget -O Packages-wheezy-armel.bz2 http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/dists/wheezy/main/binary-armel/Packages.bz2
bzcat Packages-wheezy-raspbian.bz2 | grep-dctrl –field=Architecture ” -s Package | cut -d ‘ ‘ -f 2 > packages-in-wheezy-raspbian
bzcat Packages-wheezy-armel.bz2 | grep-dctrl –field=Architecture ” -s Package | cut -d ‘ ‘ -f 2 | sort -u > packages-in-wheezy-armel
wget -O Packages-wheezy-raspbian.bz2 http://archive.raspbian.org/raspbian/dists/wheezy/main/binary-armhf/Packages.bz2
bzcat Packages-wheezy-raspbian.bz2 | grep-dctrl –field=Architecture ” -s Package | cut -d ‘ ‘ -f 2 | sort -u > packages-in-wheezy-raspbian
comm -23 packages-in-wheezy-armel packages-in-wheezy-raspbian > packages-in-wheezy-armel-but-not-in-wheezy-raspbian

* someone posted a link to packages we have tried and failed to build but that is NOT the same thing.

Eggn1n3 avatar

Any news on the hardware accelarated X-windows drivers?

William H. Bell avatar


It is good news to hear that a Raspbian build is on its way. Did any of the other developments, e.g.:

make it into Dom’s setup?

Thanks and best regards, Will

asb avatar

Dom is using that memcpy+memset replacement in this video.

Rick avatar

(Sidenote: The link in your post to ‘view forum’ takes you to the wrong page)

Quick query on the overclocking. Is it fairly stable or is there a huge heat issue? I’m guessing with a nice little metal heatsink on the SOC it would allow for a small amount of overclocking with little to no issue, would it not?

Gert van Loo avatar

The amount of overclocking you can do will vary from board to board. No doubt users will post that “I can’t get to 1GHz, it does not go faster then xxx MHz.” Dom also found that (again) the quality of the 5V supply is a major! influence. Although the BCM2835 will heat up more at those high frequencies I don’t think it will be a major limiting factor. Adding a heat sink may help a bit but I don’t expect it to help a lot like on PC processors. Dom (and the other developers) are looking into a ‘recover’ mode so you can re-boot the board in a safe operating mode by placing a jumper on the GPIO connector. Then you can change your setting on the PI itself and re-boot again. Thus if you set your frequency too high you don’t have to re-flash the image on a PC.

liz avatar

Thanks – fixed. For legal reasons I’m not allowed to do anything which might be read as encouraging you to overclock. But I will point out that I overclock my own Raspberry Pi.

Jeff D avatar

There’s a warranty?!!

BTW – I had no idea FP wasn’t being done in hardware. It might speed up the SDR stuff I’ve played with — nice!

Gert van Loo avatar

Yes it has a hardware floating point accelerator. So for optimum performance you should use the hardware floating point option on the compiler command line. (I don’t know what the exact option is but I am sure somebody will soon reply to this post and tell you)

ukscone avatar

will asb’s raspi-config be in the raspbian image?

asb avatar

Yes, expect basically the same as the armel wheezy beta but faster. I’m putting it together using the same build scripts (spindle) etc. Softfp armel using the official Debian packages is still supported (and useful for verifying if any issues you encounter are hardfp specific), but I think most people will want to make the jump to the Raspbian-derived image.

ukscone avatar

i just went and bought a faster sd card (class6) & was going to put raspbian on it this evening. i’ll hold off for a few days now

Adam Armstrong avatar

I’ve been doing a lot of benchmarking of the Pi over the past few days.

Benefits from the hardfloat optimisations in Raspbian are easily quantifiable.

The media tests seemed to get the greatest benefit, up to 30% decoding performance for MP3s. This is significant because it might help XBMC decode DTS audio and fix some stuttering.

Interface rendering tasks within X were ~18% quicker, which should help make the GUI feel smoother.

Quake 3 gained 2.8 FPS (about 12%).

I’ll do a blog post once all of the results are final :)

asb avatar

Hi Adam, Thanks for the benchmarking you’ve been doing. Looking forward to the blog post.

liz avatar

I’ll echo that – would you mind dropping me a email when you do blog it? Thanks!

ukscone avatar

i’ve been running through various tests using fio http://git.kernel.dk/?p=fio.git;a=summary when the official raspbian is released i’ll run through them again. here’s an example of one of the tests http://pastebin.com/dFj2acC5

RMW5 avatar

FWIW I compiled and ran some pretty floating point intensive code (linear optimisation, lots of large matrix operations) and they showed a 30% improvement under Raspbian.

Adam Armstrong avatar

RE: “Debian vs Raspbian”: Raspbian is basically just Debian compiled specifically for the ARM version in the Pi, so there are almost no negative points. It is the natural evolution of running the ARMv6 armel version. It’s entirely possible that it’ll be absorbed back into Debian if the userbase gets large enough to justify Debian’s resources in maintaining another architecture.

The two existing ARM architectures supported by Debian are either too old (armel is ARMv4) or too new (Debian’s existing “armhf” is for ARMv7).

William H. Bell avatar

There are also a few fixes that have gone in or are going in, to speed up the OS beyond the recompilation. For example, the use of the graphics processor for X acceleration and the optimised libc.

asb avatar

In case anyone gets their hopes up – X will feel snappier in Raspbian, but we don’t yet have a solution ready for X acceleration.

pithonica avatar

Might be be useful on some other ARMv6 hardware:

From the FAQ:

Will Raspbian work with non-Raspberry Pi systems?
Yes. The packages are being compiled for the ARMv6+VFP CPU. If the hardware supports that CPU feature set then Raspbian should function well on that hardware. That being said, many newer hardware devices utilize a variant of the ARMv7 CPU which may be better served by the official Debian Wheezy armhf port.

Gert van Loo avatar

Strictly speaking there are two options: Over-clocking and over-voltage. Overclocking does not void your warranty but over-voltage does! The speed which Dom gets, is by doing both because you can run a lot fast at a higher voltage but the life span of your device will reduce. I know the next question: how much? There is no really good answer to that question. The estimate is that it reduces it by half. Disclaimer: the following is just a ball-park of an approximate of a guess of an estimate: Your normal BCM2835 lifespan is estimated to be about 40 years. No: you can not hold me to that if you manage to blow it up in two years or in two hours! As soon as you over voltage your warranty is void even if it blows up ten milliseconds later. (I am luckily not a member of the Foundation as they would never be able to say things like that)

Achilles avatar

I haven’t gotten my RPi yet so it’s hard for me to see the improvements without a comparison. Also, is loading external sites the best way to determine OS performance improvements? Seems like there are too many other variables (broadband speed, site servers, etc).

Small gripe aside, thanks for working on improvements! I guess I’d rather people like Dom’s time be spent on actual improvements vs a better benchmark video :)

John Sanderson avatar

Which kernel will it use 3.1.? or 3.2.?
In particular will it have I2C & SPI drivers in?
and DS 1307/1338 RealTime Clock?

asb avatar

We’re still on 3.1 for now, though do now have a backport of the SPI/I2C drivers written by Chris Boot. We do want to move to 3.2 in the not too distant future.

Nathanael Ramsey avatar

Sweet! Looking forward to a speed boost! Somebody should do a before/after video :)

Btw, approximately what % increase in performance does this mean?

Tom avatar

Hi, will the kernel have PPP filtering enabled? (I really don’t want to compile my own kernel – I don’t even know how :D )

PReDiToR avatar

It’s seriously easy to make your own kernel, it just takes a long time.

$ mkdir linux
$ git clone https://github.com/raspberrypi/linux.git
(wait, or read up in the wiki on how to download the sources as a zip)
$ zcat /proc/config.gz > .config
$ make
(wait about 6 hours)

That’s all it takes to make a copy of the kernel you’re running. If you want to add/remove/modularise features in your kernel you can run
$ make menuconfig
before “make”. Reading through the menuconfig options is a great way to find out what makes Linux tick (literally, unless you prefer a tickless kernel).
Not wanting to do this is one thing, but now you can’t say you don’t know how =)

pithonica avatar

Just read the 24 page forum sticky post of project history and some earlier history. Amazed to see what method and energy have wrought. Last link below is for shouting out that this is very “worthwhile and useful to people”.

Home: http://www.raspbian.org/

Forum: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=66

Ongoing dev history: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=4256

Defraying out of pocket project costs: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=7525&p=107812

Phil Atkin avatar

Nice, looking forward to it. What shape is ALSA in right now?

Ate avatar
AndrewS avatar

Congrats to Mike Thompson on all the hard work he’s done in getting Raspbian to this stage!

m0ntala avatar

I second that… he (and his ‘team’) have done a really great job!

Thanks Mike!

Slavko avatar

Gentoo is also available for the raspberrypi. Just write the available image to your sd card and there you have it!

Soon the binary repositories will be popping up like mushrooms and everything is ofcourse fully optimised for the pi.

Yup it has hardfloat from the start:)

Jim Manley avatar

Is this the definitive procedure, for now:


Slavko avatar

Yes it’s the procedure, but somebody already posted images based on this procedure, so a DD is enough:)


Good luck!

Keith Sloan avatar

Think you should do more to thank Mike Thompson for his efforts on creating Raspbian.

William H. Bell avatar

Sending him some cash for build hardware might be a good idea too.

liz avatar

Think we’ll have another post about it when we release the final version.

ElectroPulse avatar

I don’t fully understand what exactly the “floating point” stuff is… But will this affect everything speed-wise, or just certain applications that utilize this?

Jim Manley avatar

My reply got bumped by the next comment before I finished it, so, it’s after the comment below from Stan Chelchowski.

I forgot to add that any software that uses floating-point numbers and calculations will be significantly sped up in Raspbian, so, many 2-D graphics programs (especially “vector-drawn”, vs. “pixel-drawn”), spreadsheets with non-integer numbers (e.g., stuff with decimal points that are multiplied/divided), transcendental functions (e.g., sine, cosine, tangent, etc.), floating-point constants (e.g., Pi, e, Avogadro’s number: 6.022 x 10^23, etc.), and a surprising number of others. I don’t know if they’ve kept track of exactly what percentage of Debian files had to be recompiled, but, apparently, it was a large percentage – tens of thousands of files!

This is a very big step forward in making the Pi even more useful, especially in teaching computing concepts, and Mike Thompson deserves thousands of extra slices of Pi, at the very least! I don’t understand why he wasn’t mentioned in the original post, but, that really ought to be corrected.

At least Dom now has a surname courtesy of the tag: Cobley! :D Not a bad voice, either, although he seems to be afflicted with the same difficult-to-fathom pronunciation as Eben. I suppose it could be worse, and he could be a Scot! Relax, I’m part Scottish (doesn’t that explain a lot!) – “If it’s naught Scottish, it’s crrrrap!” (Mike Meyers as his father).

Gert van Loo avatar

It is good my last name is hidden!

liz avatar

Not a bad voice, either, although he seems to be afflicted with the same difficult-to-fathom pronunciation as Eben.

Unlike you Yanks, of course, with your boddles of wadduh, your tooohna fish and your tomaytoes. (Seriously. It’s a wonder I don’t starve to death when visiting.)

ukscone avatar

when i first moved to the states i got very good at the “point and gesture” method of ordering. now after 20 years the yanks i know have finally started to understand & speak proper english. i’ve even managed to get some of them to pronounce aluminium correctly

liz avatar

San Diego, 2010, dying of thirst.

Liz: Excuse me please; where do you keep the bottled water?
Shop guy: Huh?
Liz: The bottled water.
Shop guy: Whatchoosayin?

Peter Green (not the Plugwash one!) avatar

Drugs are bad, m’kay?

My Farnell Raspberry Pi arrived on Friday! (despite the Royal Mail’s best efforts to destroy the packaging).

Stan Chelchowski avatar

Fanatastic work! the results speak for themselves.
It’s a shame the cap is out for donations for expenses – surely the Foundation should chip in now.
On details of what has been done – could someone write a description of how and what was done – (maybe this would make a great article for magpi) – I’ll find it a lot more interesting than instructions on how to run XBMC..

Best wishes to all.

Jim Manley avatar

Floating-point is also known by its earlier incantation, “scientific notation”, a handier way to express very large or very small values without having to carry around a football field sized whiteboard full of integer digits (does anyone even use blackboards and chalk anymore?). For example, the distance from the Earth to the Sun is a mean value of 149,597,870,700 meters, or 92,955,807.273 statute miles. These can be represented in floating-point as 1.49597870700 x 10^11 meters, or 9.2955807273 x 10^7 statute miles. The up-caret (^) means “to the power of”, so, these are decimal numbers (base 10) raised to the power of 11 and 7, respectively. This makes multiplication, division, and other calculations somewhat easier, as you just move the decimal point right or left to make the exponent (7 or 11) the same as that of the other number, and then you can multiply/divide/whatever the mantissas are (the numbers with the decimal points to the left of the “x 10^”).

There are three kinds of numbers most commonly represented in your computer, binary (0 and 1), integer ( … -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, … ), and floating point (e.g., Pi: 3.14159 … , e: 2.71828 … , the aforementioned distance from the Earth to the Sun, aka one Astronomical Unit, AU, etc.). There are actually an infinite number of other numerical representations possible, but, these will do, for our purposes.

Everything in the computer is actually represented physically in binary – a voltage below a defined threshold represents a 0 and a voltage above that threshold represents a 1. If you string a bunch of these 0s and 1s together, you can start to represent other number systems. The Raspberry Pi has a 32-bit microprocessor, of which the CPU is only one part (others are the arithmetic logic unit, memory management unit, etc.). Integer numbers are typically expressed in chunks of 8, 16, or 32 bits (aka bytes, short words, and long words – there can be other names, but, let’s keep things simple). The range of integer values depends on how you interpret the bytes and words: an 8-bit byte can represent either 0 to 255 or -128 to +127, a 16-bit short word can represent either 0 to 65,535, or −32,768 to +32,767, and a 32-bit long word can represent 0 to 4,294,967,295 or -2,147,483,648 to +2,147,483,647. Notice in each case that 0 is one of the numbers, that’s why the negative and positive ranges are different by one – it’s taking up one of the values available. Representing integers is fairly straightforward in digital electronics.

Representing floating-point numbers is much more involved, and you basically have to keep track of the mantissas (the numbers with the decimal points in them), the base (10 in this case), and the exponents (the power 10 is being raised to – which can be positive, negative, or zero, BTW). There is a standard used called the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Floating-Point Standard and it comes in three flavors today: 32-bit (single-precision), 64-bit (double-precision), and 128-bit (quadruple-precision). The sign, mantissa, and exponents are encoded within these bits, and in the case of 32-bit single-precision: the sign, 1 bit, the
exponent, 8 bits, and the mantissa (aka significand), the remaining 24 bits (only 23 are actually stored, but, the extra bit allows for detecting overflow and underflow cases after a calculation). The special part of the microprocessor in the Pi that handles floating-point calculations is called, oddly enough, the floating-point unit (FPU), and this is where floating-point calculations are generally carried out. I will point out that the largest part of the microprocessor in the Pi is actually the graphics processing unit (GPU), and many more floating-point calculations are performed there, at a much faster rate than in the FPU, but, in a special format peculiar to 3-D graphics (x, y, and z coordinates, along with color values, transparency, and a bunch of other things we can cover in another lesson).

Up until Raspbian was created, all of the floating-point calculations in the Pi microprocessor (except 3-D graphics and video) were actually being performed in software on the ARM CPU portion, not the FPU. That means that the IEEE standard was being loaded into one, two, or four sets of memory locations and registers on the CPU and the bits were manipulated in many steps to come up with each answer. In Raspbian, they have recompiled the operating system and all other software that contains floating-point numbers and calculations from so-called “armel” code to “armhf”. “armel” stands for “ARM EABI Little, where EABI stands for Embedded Abstract Binary Interface (a way to perform complicated calculations in software). “Little” refers to “little-endian”, which has nothing to do with cowboys, and tells us what order bytes are loaded into the microprocessor, memory, etc. “armhf” stands for “ARM hardware floating-point”. So, floating-point calculations are executed in the FPU in Raspbian (“armhf”), which is much faster – tens to hundreds of percent faster than “armel” for common computations, and up to hundreds of times faster for more exotic things like sines, cosines, tangents, and many more even fancier math functions.

So, you may ask how is the Midori browser being sped up by using the FPU – isn’t text represented by individual bytes, which are sort of like fixed-sized integers? It turns out that the vast majority of text displayed in a browser is actually drawn as outlines that are then filled in with pixels of various shades, and the images are scaled to fit in the space available in the browser window, as defined by HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc. When you resize the browser window, or move the slider(s) along the browser window edge(s), the text and graphics may need to be “reflowed” to accommodate the change in window size, aspect ratio, and amount of scrolling. By using the FPU, every single letter of text is redrawn very quickly, possibly in a different position relative to other text than before. Also, the text and graphics can be expanded or shrunk very rapidly, especially if you’re zooming the page in or out. There are other things that may be happening, too, such as clipping where things overlap (e.g., another window on the desktop), but, we’ll talk about that some other time.

I hope this is of at least a little bit of help. Others will probably have additional comments, and I would just encourage them to not make things even more confusing than I may have.

Chris avatar

I skipped trough half of it then the Midori browser bit made sense.

Ben Wiley avatar

cool! that sort of makes sense

coppermine avatar

Arghhhh! There are so many exciting things going on and many ideas to test or just to follow the demos… and me I am still waiting those 11 weeks to get my Raspberry Pi! :angry:

Jim Manley avatar

Yeah, running Raspbian in the emulator isn’t going to be very exciting :(

On the other hand, we have five fingers (well, those of us who didn’t major in “Shop”, aka “Industrial Arts”) and just think of all the bugs you haven’t had to deal with. Well, TBH, there have been more annoyances than killer bugs, although the original SD card speed pothole was definitely insectasoidal. It’s been more a case of missing or partial functionality, e.g., no GPU acceleration of the X window desktops, no browser support for WebGL, limitations on what OpenGL ES can draw to surface-wise, no OpenCL support (and never going to happen, AIUI, but, not a big deal other than not being able to teach it on the Pi), difficulties getting many common WiFi dongles to just work after plugging them in once, no really decent, well-engineered case with all of the connectors on one edge (also providing stress relief on the board connectors), and other ponderables …

I’m not complainin’ mind ya! Noooo-sirreeeee! Not me! ;)

Hugh S. Myers avatar

You know the insurance commercial that refers to one of it’s customers as being on a ramen noodle budget? That’s me. So for the time being, I must withhold the pleasure of owning one of these—but as soon as I find the money or the job, then I place the order! :) The good news is that things keep getting better while I suffer and wait! Oh, by the way for those who don’t know the reference, ramen noodles are very cheap dried noodles that you boil up in a couple of cups of water and dump powdered flavoring over. Usually less than $1.00 per pack, sometimes on sale—money saved goes towards eventual purchase of much wanted if not actually needed tech like this!

Chris avatar

was wondering why my pi was slow… maybe I’ll pick up a larger SD card to load it onto… Suggestion, can the Distro startup expand to the full size of an SD card reguardless of size? I had to take out my 4GB card and move the swap partition and expanded the main partition to make use of the rest of the empty space.

Jim Manley avatar

You mean automagically running the new utility they provided in the Debian Wheezy beta that comes up in the menu on first boot? Not everyone will want to do that, although probably most beginners will.

Chris avatar

May need to add more setup options there as well like are you using HDMI or Composite? What screen size do you want? Do you want the sound initialized? Do you want to load the GUI on startup? I don’t think that you could research those options easily when you are only using the RaspberryPi for the first time as a main computing resource.

m0ntala avatar

Personally I think that the option to fully utilize the space on the SD card should either be built in, or at least quickly available as a menu option (as per the Wheezy beta) as the Pi is going to be used by a lot of folks who won’t want the hassle of having to do this sort of thing ‘manually’.

I look forward to the first ‘official release’ though!

Chris avatar

I’m crossing my fingers… I just bought a 16GB Class 10 SD card… I’m not too sure if the Raspberry Pi would take full advantage of the access speed but I’m sure that the extra space may come in handy.

EdwinJ85 avatar

Does this new build of Raspbian use the GPU fully or is that still a WIP?

Narishma avatar

What do you mean by “use the GPU fully”?

Jim Manley avatar

If you mean “Are X window desktops and applications running on them GPU accelerated?”, then no, at least not yet. See my comment to Edwin Jones three posts down.

Matt Hawkins avatar

Looking forward to this release. Didn’t quite get round to updating my SD cards with Wheezy so I’ll wait for this release and do them then.

joker159-France avatar

Does every linux (meaning for arm board, puppy and the like )can use this hardfloating thing ? :)

Jim Manley avatar

As long as the microprocessor has a floating-point unit (FPU), an operating system (e.g., Linux) can use it. Pretty much every modern 32-bit (and larger) microprocessor manufactured today (the Broadcom BCM2835, in this case) has an FPU built-in. Older microprocessors (e.g., 8-bit and 16-bit) generally did not have an FPU built-in (but, there were external FPU co-processors for some), nor do most low-cost microcontrollers (e.g., the Arduino, although there are FPU co-processors available that communicate with an Arduino via a serial port).

Chris avatar

Would that be the 8087 to the 8088 for the 8-bit CPU?(Understanding that it was a Co-Processor) Would be considered a FPU?

AndrewS avatar

Yup – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_8087

And similarly from the Amiga days – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/68882

And the 486SX didn’t have an FPU, but the 486DX did include an FPU.

Chris avatar

Great answer but just don’t mention the first production Pentium.

AndrewS avatar

I believe there are still some low-cost 32-bit ARM CPUs that exclude the FPU?

Chris avatar

I’m glad that the Raspberry Pi has one!

Edwin Jones avatar

Does this new update take advantage of the GPU now? The main reason I prefer Raspbmc over debian is because of this.

Jim Manley avatar

If you mean “Are X window desktops and applications running on them GPU accelerated?”, then no. There is an ongoing effort to make that happen, but, it’s apparently still months away … possibly many months.

The GPU can be accessed via OpenGL ES and OpenVG from the command line using software that runs directly from the command line that’s written in C/C++, Python, etc. If you’re familiar with the ancient pre-Windows days on IBM-compatible PCs, it’s exactly analogous to games that ran directly from the DOS prompt and took over the entire display.

Edwin avatar

Ah shucks. Thanks for the update though!

demis avatar

Please, please, please…include in the downloadable distribution all those packages needed in order to use as many different usb dongles and routers as possible.

A lot of people is having issues connecting the Pi to the internet.
Please consider this, all other packages can be downloaded once the user has internet access on the machine…but first you HAVE to have connection.

If you have to work on one single issue, it should be IMO, having internet working “out of the box”.

Edwin Jones avatar

I agree with this. Ease of use is king, especially for beginners.

Malcolm avatar

I’m happy to be learning linux with the Pi, but trying to get WI-Fi dongle working for a newbie (even with good community support) is very off-putting, so agree that getting online without too much stress is a priority – for kids and parents.

reiuyi avatar

The availability of drivers is more relevant for the educational release. Also, please note that adding drivers makes the disk-footprint much larger. If you start bundling large assortments of drivers, you might end up with requiring a >2gb sd card. One of the reasons modern operating systems such as OSX (7gb), windows7 (15gb), ubuntu (8gb) are so incredibly enormous is due to their offline drivers. Notice that windows7 is much larger. It has a lot of printer drivers included, while other operating systems don’t. It’s all about backwards compatibility

demis avatar

in order to have a smaller disc-footprint let’s take off the image whatever is not strictly necessary and then include wi-fi/router drivers. Whatever else in the world you may need can be downloaded…an offline device in 2012? a device for kids that needs tech-assistance in order to be setup and configured for normal use? Shall we justify this in order to have a smaller image? maybe the possibility to chose between different images depending on what hardware you have at home could solve the problem…remember this is for school kids and not for 30somethings working in IT.

reiuyi avatar

Yes, offline drivers are still preferred even in 2012. After all, harddrives are very cheap and the average internet speed across the world is still very low.

In the case of raspberry pi, there is the additional difficulty of being an ARM system. Many drivers would need to be individually looked at to remove any x86 dependencies. What I’m saying is that it’ll require some time. And I fail to see why modern-day children would have difficulties connecting to the internet. My first computer didn’t have internet and it served me fine for learning various aspects of programming. You’d be surprised what children can do these days. They’d have a wifi dongle up and running within a couple of minutes if the drivers are somewhere on the internet.

Chris avatar

I think that there is a “Supported Hardware” list in the Forums for everyone to see.

Bryan Crotaz avatar

Internet *is* working out of the box. There is a big silver square “internet” connector on the corner of the box. Spend $10 on a long cable and plug it into the back of your wifi router (which almost without exception has at least 2 ethernet ports on the back). DHCP is enabled by default so it will pick up an address and start working. That’s what I did, and it works bee hey yute if fully.

demis avatar

does not work for me and other users (see forum/troubleshooting) who do not have the “right” hardware. I know there’s a “supported hardware” list, but someone will have to explain me the use of a cheap box if a casual final user has to buy lots of new hardware to have it working.
@reiuy I guess even the smartest kid will have problem downloading stuff without an internet connection…they are surely capable of setting a dongle up, provided they have another option for connecting to the internet…i agree that they will anyway be capable of learning how to program, but an offline device in 2012 is not really appealing.
That’s why I think drivers for different connection hardware should be included.

Yeukhon avatar

Thanks for sharing. But this is merely a “demonstration” rather than a complete intense profiling / instrucmentation / benchmark whichever name u want to use, to show that it’s faster.
Although I agree that making it 1Ghz will be faster (no duh)…..

JamesH avatar

Really? Who would have thought it….on YouTube as well.

Outraged of Cambridge

ps. See posts above for actual data.

dokurnon avatar

Does Raspbmc utilize hardfloat?

Chris avatar

A Teacher back in school said that there is no dumb questions… Really true at this point. What it is being talked about here is the FPU(Floating Point Unit) built into the BCM(Broadcom) CPU(Central Processing Unit) and it is called a Co-Processor as it is built into the same Hardware now instead of being a separate Chip. CPU’s that don’t have a FPU may have to handle the Floating Point through software and may seem to take much longer to work.

Jesse Jaara avatar

Not exactly connected to debian. But I ran nbench app on ArchLinux on stock clocks aswell with CPU clocked to 1GHz and SDARM to 500MHz. Overclocking resulted in about 50% more speed. I do not know what code paths nbecnh tests so the 50% speed up might not apply to every application, ecspecially to those that depend a lot on file I/O.
Here are the results. Mayby someone could run the same nbench app on the current debian image aswell as in raspbian.

Here are the results

Graham avatar

May be dipping the PI in liquid nitogen may help with over clocking process!!!! :)

The password generater for this post seems to be getting abit rude ‘FUCkOkhSHW’

mlepage avatar

You can think of floating point numbers as a kind of decimal number or scientific notation. Now, just like any integers, there are algorithms (methods or recipes) for doing operations such as adding/subtracting, multiplying, dividing, etc. You know, add these two digits, borrow from that one, carry the two, and so on.

With hardware support, these operations happen pretty much instantly, because the hardware does them. With only software support, the operations must be carried out one by one by the CPU. This of course is slower.

As you can imagine, a lot of software uses floating point numbers. Not just math software, but almost any software you can think of. Therefore, it’s a huge benefit to get it supported in hardware.

Hope this helps!

Robert avatar


When I moved from Squeeze to Wheezy, I used a spare SD card and didn’t overwrite Squeeze. Now I’m thinking I’ll just get new cards for each big release like this so that I can go back and see how differently they all play out as the OS develops.

Mark avatar

Once an official release is made, will those of us currently running “wheezy” be able to “upgrade” to hard-float by means of the “apt-get update && apt-get upgrade” process?

I realise that depending on your installation there may be a lot of files downloaded by this process but it would make things easier for those of us who’ve configured their “pi” to boot from SD but have a USB drive for the rest of the “/” files etc.

I’ve got a feeling I know the answer to this already but I’m living in hope.

Also, does anyone have the relevant “sources.list” entries so that I can get the source code for some of the packages I’ve installed via “apt-get” and “aptitude”?

Thanks again,


Dgy Geezer avatar

Why are Raspberry Pi not baked here in the UK? You are selling out our manufacturing sector

JamesH avatar

No-one was able to make it to price or timescale. That may change in the future. There is a lot of information on this in the forums and comments, try a search.

[…] That’s exactly what Raspberry Pi developer Dom did before shooting this video showing the computer running a web browser. […]

Ben Wiley avatar

Wondering if anyone can think of a solid way to quickly migrate my debian system to raspbian? I’ve customized a lot of things and I’d like to be able to quickly transfer my package list/modified files/etc.

Joseph Brailsford avatar

Just got my Debian ‘Squeeze’ to run almost identical to this (I emphasize almost) by making various tweaks, plus I only overclocked to 900MHz, and no over volting. Oh, and I’m running it on a class 4 4GB SDHC card :P

Anton Hebb avatar

As a life-long MSDOSser, who considered LINUX to be a Portal to an Alternative Universe, now in my retirement I look forward to find out what all the noise is about. I hear lots of talk about Raspberry pi being the successor to the BBC computer, but I must warn that Linux had not yet been born back then, OS’s if you could call them that, were based on Z80, 8080, 6800, or 68000 microchip codes, and running with BASIC. I only mention this because people like myself may find difficulty in converting, and the youngsters may think they have been thrown in the deep-end. Never the less good luck on a worthwhile project.

Alan Parkinson avatar

The updated version of the Midori web browser with Raspbian not only improves speed with the FPU, you also get decent support for JavaScript. It can even handle some animation with JavaScript.

I built a Information Radiator with my Raspberry Pi (http://hindsighttesting.com/blog/2012/06/01/raspberry-pi-jira-information-raditor/), which just renders a lot of project information to a big screen using a web page and lots of JavaScript. The old version of Midori struggled to even load the page, let alone render or animate any information. I switched to Raspbian and it solved the problem and we even got some very simple animation working with JavaScript

David Lutton avatar

I have been enjoying my pi for a few weeks now, but am frustrated by not being able to figure out how to get Javascript running in Midori, or the ability to use any flash/html5 video links in Netsurf or chromium. Am I missing something?

JamesH avatar

Post something in the appropriate forum – you are much more likely to get a response.

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