Future of Older S8xx Based Boxes

If this post is in the wrong area please move it to a more appropriate area.

Anyway i am just curious as to what the thinking is in reqards to the older S8xx based boxes going forward, In particular the S812’s as for most general use that box still makes a excellent kodi and emulator based machine.

I realize that the development community is kinda split between the whole “mainstream” debate and the when and ifs of when it will happen and don’t want to start a whole re-hash of the subject but i am interested in whats going to happen to some of the older boxes that really still work fine. The current issue i see is basically the lack of a more active development scene as everyone’s more entrenched in the newer boxes and sbc’s.

I am curious as to the state of the kernel on the older S8xx boxes and wondering why there has never been any real public attempt of dragging the S812 as a example up to a newer kernel as its for sure doable but for some reason never seemed to get into the public.

I understand all of the issues (mosly gpu stack related) with all of the current devices and the lack of any real hardware support and all of the why’s and understand people are supposedly working on fixing that stuff but as someone thats been around for along time also am aware of the reality and theres no quarantee of if and when any of these actually complete and materialize out in the public as this cycle has been going of for years.

Looking forward i agree that all of that stuff is great but in the meantime as new devices keep appearing a lot of the development seems to once again move off to the new devices before any real solid software is created on the existing devices creating this loop of buy/hope for the best/buy something newer which has now compounded with the emergence of a much more active sbc market catering more to the high end users.

I get it as i am in that area myself but still i see value in the older boxes for the average user just looking to stream regular content without having to break the bank. This isn’t about being cheap but more in seeing usable boxes not end up in the recycle dump while still being usable.

I have been around pretty much since the advent of the box scene doing my own thing and watched as things went from OpenELEC and a few other projects to the current level with the current Spin-offs but never quite understood why the idea of moving the older boxes up off the 3.xx kernels never got any traction publicly and seemed to stay in the realm of non-public developers.

Anyways i am just interested in what peoples thoughts are on moving those boxes off the old kernels and up to more current levels are, even it if means those kernels are non-mainline because they contain fixes and binary blobs to fully enable the hardware. With the older S812’s that mali core is alot closer to full hardware support then the newer mali’s are so its not as big a deal as the newer 9xx box issues are. To be honest the only real reason to drag them up to a newer kernel is more routed in being able to support the newer versions of Kodi in the coming years and who cares if those kernels are mainlined or not. I get LibreELEC and their developers attitude about the mainline thing but to be honest i think its mostly driven by the fact that LibreELEC is now a product thats trying to cater to as many devices as it can because its now become a business for some of the people involved which is fine with me but in the meantime it leaves a big area now uncovered while they Hope for solutions to fix the whole main-line thinking going on over there.

Anyways hopefully i have not offended or overstepped any boundaries here but would truly be interested in what peoples thoughts are as i am currently working on a project that will see the S812’s up on 5.1 kernel even tho it won’t be mainstream.

I am hoping with the release of kernel 5.2 which will have GPU support for 400/450 (see below from Phoronix) that desktop linux will work with accelerated video. I have a couple S805/S905 sbc’s that work great but would be nice to have full mainline kernel support. It also would be nice to run current Kodi instead of older versions…

CoreELEC has never supported S8xx based devices.

None of our team has any S8xx based devices, we can’t add support for something that we do not own, there is a community build on our forum for such devices.

I guess the main reason that there has been no traction in lifting these boxes from the ashes is that newer, much better hardware is available very cheaply, these devices are 5 years old now and nobody wants to waste their time with something that does not meet the needs of people in 2019, ie HDR.

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There have been a couple of projects over the last few years that got started but then abandoned without any real results, I will agree that since people like Neil have spent more time seriously looking at things that panfrost has finally started making steps forward but personally i think things are still a ways off from providing a real properly working solution. I have been testing the various gits and code now since that project became active and its still a ways off from being a real world usable solution.

Hardware support for the Mali 400/450’s has been done in private circles now for a couple of years but still rely’s on binary blobs that are revision specific to the linux kernel. Those were reverse engineered shortly after the S812’s came out but at that point in time there really weren’t that many interested in Linux so everyone using the Android on the box were ok with just using that. A similiar solution has been available for the T820’s in the S912’s for awhile as well.

Reverse Engineering is something that has some really entrenched issues when it comes to creating open sources and as such has kept some from releasing things like binary blobs and some of the methods of creating them. GPU IP Technologies are extremely competitive and there’s already a long list of legal challenges in that area which has kept others doing RE work private for safety reasons.

I don’t really care about any of the newer boxes as i already have had solutions for along time but privately there is a few of us that are interested in seeing the S812’s kept usable for another few years as a bottom line solution for people just looking for cheap streaming without a lot of the high end stuff.

The market is slowing shifting to SBC setups as they just are a better all around solution. but in the meantime I see no reason the older boxes can’t be kept usable for cost reasons, After all whats the point in people having to keep buying the newer cheap boxes to keep up with the jones when the reality truly is that Unless your only running the onboard Android on the box your not really gaining any of the real benefits of the GPU on the box if your using Linux. Its ok i quess if the enduser is going to use Android but for anyone running Linux most of those new boxes really aren’t all that better then the older S812’s. There just making money for the Amlogic as people rush to buy new.

A S812 based box running Linux with hardware acceleration is a better performing and more stable solution then any of the S9xx based boxes trying to run Linux. And if your just interested in Kodi or Games then why not just use a cheap S812/S802 as a Linux box while you save up to buy a better solution like a SBC.

I disagree about your S812 vs S9xx comparison.
I have several S905X devices, and they all feel quicker than a S812 I had (with LE installed on it).

As Adam said, none of the developers are interested in tinkering with such outed hardware, which not many users still have. We prefer to work on supporting upcoming devices.

We have nothing against making it work, it’s just not on our list of goals. So there was someone on the forum who got CE working on a S8xx device, using the 3.10 kernel.

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“I disagree about your S812 vs S9xx comparison.
I have several S905X devices, and they all feel quicker than a S812 I had (with LE installed on it).”

Obviously tho its because you don’t have real Mali userland so it would be expected to what your saying. Thats the real issue with all of these Amlogic boxes whether looking at older or the newer generations. Its all about the lack of proper userland drivers (api/abi) to enable the full hardware on any of the SoC’s. Amlogic never licenced the Mali DDK so all they have ever done is release a binary blob in Android that enables all of those abilities. unfortunately that blob’s tied to the core kernel so the best anyones publicly done trying to run the hardware on license is try and wrap the Android blob and use it under Linux which isnt really a solution tho i do give kudo’s to the one that came up with the idea in the 1st place. Unless you have a working method of truly enabling the GPU hardware acceleration under Linux you are incapable of truly making that comparison. That actually the issue with ALL the Amlogic box’s as under Linux NONE of them are hardware accelerated, So all that extra horsepower and resources on the newer boxes basically is being used to Software Render most streams. To be honest the S912 really flies when it has its hardware fully enabled as well.

I agree the box is old but whats really changed over the years. the only thing i see so far is the continued selling of newer boxes (that still have the same basic issues} and I agree things are progressing but i still think things are a ways off.

As far as I remember, the S812 is a quad core A53 chip. The S905X is the same CPU.
There is also a proper mali driver, and there is no wrapping the mali blob to run on Linux.
So it does work pretty well, albeit it’s not the fastest thing around.
Obviously the S912 does require this “wrapping”.

I’m not too sure what your point is, though. Since there are no proper open source drivers for these GPUs, things are as they are. We are not going to fix that.

S812 vs S905X: http://browser.geekbench.com/geekbench2/compare/2673595/2673440
S812 vs S912: http://browser.geekbench.com/geekbench2/compare/2673595/2673483
So it’s right in the middle. It’s faster in most single threaded operations, so that’s nice.
But it’s not that much faster than a S905X.
I’m not saying that these things are useless, I just think that you can get LE 8.2.1 running on some of these, and it’s plenty for this type of box.

I have a S812 box and run an obscure LE version on it. I find it to slow for practical use as it frequently gets bogged down on multitasking and hangs. The real issue with these boxes is that they came before the advent of dtb’s so each box needs a tailored build with device specific optimization. The workload is significant and for such weak hardware its simply not justified.
I am currently working up to retiring mine and replacing it with an Intel based Atomic Pi box.

Shoog

I use TV Box amlogic since 2012, the first with AML8726M processor (1x750 MHz) and 512 MB of RAM lasted a short time and ended his days as OpenVPN server, today it still works but I do not know what use to give it. The second one with AML9726MX processor (2x1200 MHz) and 1 GB of RAM lasted only two years because it was impossible to load large applications like Kodi with only 2 GB of internal storage, and it just broke down. Since 2016 all my TV Boxes have the excellent S912 processor (8x1500 MHz) and they allow me to use old technology televisions (the oldest is 12 years old and the most recent is 6 years old) as if they were the latest generation 4K and enjoy television Satellite even when I’m in my second home or out of my country thanks to CoreELEC and tvheadend server. Not even my 2017 mobile phone is capable of playing 4K channels, but S912 can, even through WiFi 5 GHz without any problem. For me the S912 processor is, without a doubt, the most successful of Amlogic and I think it still has a future despite the fact that more powerful processors have recently appeared. The life of S812 was finished when the S912 was born.

That may be the way with what one finds normally but theres no reason that can’t be fixed if someone understands linux and creating drivers. Some of use had those boxes running on 3.14 and then 4.6 a long time ago. The dtb thing is specific to Linux Kernel version not the Amlogic Hardware.

To be honest part of the reason i started the post was just to see where those devices sat with the current group of public coders as from even earlier days on places like FT i just took it for granted others would have made those software transitions as well. Now that i poked my head outta the ground a couple of months ago to play catchup with whats going on i realize i was wrong as it never happened and people just moved up to the next Amlogic crippled box which was the S912’s…

Anyways my bad, and one should learn to never assume…