Episode 23 - Special Qt Developer Days Edition

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
  • Qt Developer Days 2011 Munich
  • Raspberry Pi + Qt 5

Mark Hatch and Roland Krause

Mark:  Hello this is Mark Hatch from ICS.  I run the Qt business at ICS and today we’re in Munich, Dev Days 2011. With me is Roland Krause who runs our California office and heads up all of our consultants in the west coast.  Roland, thank you for being with me.  Today we’re talking about Raspberry Pi. Roland, tell me about what that is. 

Roland:  Yes, Raspberry Pi is a small form factor embedded device board consisting of an ARM611 chip.  It’s most prominent feature is that it comes at a price point of $25.  It’s a system on chip, has 128 MB of RAM, or 256 MB of RAM for $35.  It has OpenGL ES2 hardware enabled support.  It has an HDMI output that delivers 1080p video quality.  

M:  Wow, $35 for 256 MB and hardware OpenGL, that’s an even better deal than a BeagleBoard, and I know all of us bought a BeagleBoard at one point. 

R:  Yes, it is really an excellent value.

M:  What is kind of special about this too, is the fact that we’re previewing Qt 5, correct?

R:  Yes.

M:  Why?

R:  We at ICS decided, in collaboration with Nokia, that it was time to port Qt 5 to this exciting platform.  Specifically because the platform provides OpenGL ES 2 drivers and the new QT 5 architecture allows it to make this port very easy for us.  All we have to do is instantialize the correct windowing drivers and the OpenGL initialization.  Because of Lighthouse, we already have a display output port using the EGL FS display driver.

M:  Well, that’s pretty amazing. So basically, with minimal amount of work you have a hardware accelerated board at $35, that’s the size of a credit card.  

R:  Yes, the size of a credit card, and the exciting feature is that as soon as you have that you can immediately run the QtQuick 2 examples.

M:  So how fast do they run?

R:  Hardware accelerated, they run very well.  They get 40 to 50 frames per second in high resolutions so you won’t see any artifacts in the pictures.  The transitions are very smooth.  Everything works as it should. 

M:  Wow!  I’m watching the demos that we had in the booth here and they are certainly a lot smoother than other non - accelerated ARMs that we’ve see.  So it’s only 700 MHz? 

R:  Yes, I believe that’s what the frequency of the chip is, but what’s important again is the hardware acceleration of the OpenGL makes the graphics that fast and the only thing you didn’t get out of the box is the keyboard support.  So we did actually spend a little bit of time and implemented a keyboard plug-in that we actually backported from the old Q Windowing System that is deprecated at this point.  But we were able to put the old input plug-in to the new architecture and integrate it to the point where we can now merge it to the newly founded Qt project.  

M:  Wow, that’s really cool.  So how did this come about?  Can you share with us the process of where we got involved at ICS?

R:  Yes, the motivation was that this was brought to us as a challenge from our partners at Nokia who were very interested in this.  We started off with a cross-platform development tool chain.  We then compiled the Qt 5 libraries from Gitorious, cross-compiled it with that tool chain, then tested it and added the missing functionality.  

M:  So Nokia also helped a lot on the driver area.

R:  Absolutely.  Nokia supplied the drivers because Nokia partners with a hardware manufacturer again and also had access to the original tool chain for this, the cross-compiling tool chain, and then Nokia went on and provided as a custom distribution to run on this board which actually boots in 7 seconds.

M:  7 seconds for Linux?

R:  This is a 7 second boot from cold start to command line.

M:  Wow, that’s pretty amazing in itself.  It’s almost worth getting just for that.  So if someone wanted to get more information about this, where would they go?

R:  Well obviously the website raspberrypi.org has a lot of information and is a very good landing point.  

M:  ...and that’s the word raspberry with a “pi.”

R:  Yes, the number “pi”, not the desert.  Yes that is the starting point and from there, there are various links to various wikis.  The eLinux, the embedded linux website elinux.org also has a wiki page that outlines and specs the entire hardware for this board, which is very interesting.  And then on the ics.com homepage, you can find a link that specifies our work.  

M:  Right, and there is Donald Carr and the Qt…

R:  The Qt developers blog, right… 

M:  So those are great resources for people.  And when is this going to be available?  Do we have a date yet?

R:  I believe that the hardware should be in its final state and available for pre-order by mid November.  

M:  Wow, and so if anyone is interested, there is a mailing list they can sign up for at the Raspberry Pi site.

R:  Yes, there is a mailing list that can also be found on the raspberrypi.org website.

M:  If any of you have tried to get a hold of a BeagleBoard, you know that they are continuously undersupplied at $150 each.  So you can imagine how quickly $35 Linux boards that run Qt 5 are going to disappear off the shelf.

R:  We are expecting these to sell like ‘Raspberry Pie’.

M:  Right, its going to be gone in an hour.  So make sure that whatever you do, sign up, watch for when it becomes available and don’t wait to jump on it ‘cause we’re going to put an order for about 100 of them right away.


Thanks everybody, and thanks Roland for updating us on this.  We hope to have several other podcasts from Munich, so be on the lookout for those.  Thank you!