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China's Ubuntu Kylin Targets Second RISC-V Board

Ubuntu Kylin
(Image credit: Ubuntu Kylin)

Ubuntu Kylin, China's official fork of Ubuntu, which is named after a mythical part-dragon, part-horse (maybe part-giraffe?) beast, is now targeting a second RISC-V platform following its release for the five-core HiFive Unmatched (opens in new tab) Mini ITX board earlier this year. According to The Register (opens in new tab), the new port for an unnamed StarFive development board will be part of a Summer of Open source in the highly populated country.

The VisionFive V1 SBC

(Image credit: StarFive)

China is keen on the open-source RISC-V architecture as it attempts to scrap foreign PCs within two years (opens in new tab). We first reported on the team-up between Canonical and the Middle Kingdom back in 2013 (opens in new tab), when Android was the target that needed to be shut out as phones and tablets became more popular, with its first release being 13.04 in the same year. Now, China’s focus appears to be changing to removing X86 from its computer systems, and Ubuntu Kylin has reached 22.04 LTS, the same version as the mainstream product (opens in new tab).

The board being targeted by this new development drive could be the dual-core VisionFive V1 (pictured above). The V1 is modestly powerful — approximately equivalent to Arm's Cortex-A55 designs. While it's not threatening the i7s of this world, it makes a good starting point to build out from — though we don’t expect it to be rivaling Intel and AMD within China’s two-year deadline. The release contains a browser and productivity suite developed in-house to get around the current lack of software support for RISC-V.

Ubuntu Kylin should not be confused with Kylin, a Linux-based OS with a proprietary license developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology since 2001. It began life as a FreeBSD fork, moving to Linux with version 3, and in 2010 spawned an offshoot named NeoKylin which has become the standard operating system for entire cities. In September 2015, Dell reported (opens in new tab) that 42% of PCs it sold in China ran NeoKylin, and China’s Tianhe supercomputers also run on Kylin.

The push for a locally controlled computing architecture in both hardware and software will be a boon for local manufacturers such as Lenovo, which already offers Linux as an option on many of its PCs. The open source nature of RISC-V also means it wouldn’t be affected by any future sanctions or boycotts in the same way Russia currently is (opens in new tab) following its invasion of Ukraine.

If you want to try Ubuntu Kylin, you can download both X86 and RISC-V versions of 22.04 here (opens in new tab), with installation instructions available as a PDF (opens in new tab). Developed in partnership with Chinese authorities, including the military, it remains open-source.

Ian Evenden
Ian Evenden

Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.

  • artk2219
    I guess they're seeing how being tied to a global market for components is working out for Russia and their invasion. I'm sure they're watching very carefully and seeing how they can adjust their plans for Taiwan.
    Reply
  • tomscomments
    China already have Loonggarch ISA; maintaining compatibility with mips, arm and x86 (loongarch is not mips, as mentionned by some documents on the bet) you find loongson in banking systems, and all type of machines in China. Above all, they use it in space station and satellites since more than a decade now. Chineese have a great expertise in MIPS since they work on it for years now.
    They have SW isa too for supercomputers as well as others based arm (phytium or hisilicon, alibab's pingtoug), hardware, not forgetting zhaoxing. They also design homegrown GPU and all types of microcontrolers (BYD)
    And they are willing to couple this new hardware while working on an entire opensource ecosystem (openEuleur, Openharmony)
    They conceive own bios code, own memory (YTMC)
    But they still lack many foreign technologies, above all, chip
    Kylin have been used in military based on bsd than on linux. US do the same, they are not going to use windows for their military or space, they use redhat instead.
    Risc V is just another brick in the wall (not the great one) :)
    I think they are 6 years years from being totally independent. China is the only country that can achieve an independant semi conductor ecosystem.
    We should note that huawei have been with intel the major linux contributor in terms of written code.
    I still can't say what homegrown hardware will be used, i don't see zhaoxing doing it but rather a homegrown RISC cpu. Maybe further evolutions of loongarch, integrating code from risk v. Loongson is opensource. (at least for some cpu)
    Reply
  • tomscomments
    artk2219 said:
    I guess they're seeing how being tied to a global market for components is working out for Russia and their invasion. I'm sure they're watching very carefully and seeing how they can adjust their plans for Taiwan.


    i don't think china waited for russia to see that they should work and invest on semi conductors. It is their main obcession since some years now and us's obcession to block them too. But as the two economies are dependent on each other, thinks are not that simple. That's mainsteam media who have 10 years of lateness or people not specifically knowing this particular industry. China never reacts, they plan
    Reply
  • artk2219
    tomscomments said:
    i don't think china waited for russia to see that they should work and invest on semi conductors. It is their main obcession since some years now and us's obcession to block them too. But as the two economies are dependent on each other, thinks are not that simple. That's mainsteam media who have 10 years of lateness or people not specifically knowing this particular industry. China never reacts, they plan

    I agree (also nice PLAN pun :LOL:), that being said I'm sure they've had a bit of an extra impetus to keep to their plans or maybe move up some target dates given that they've seen the worlds reaction to overt aggression, and that was for a country with no defensive pacts. If they're patient they could slow roll the entire area over the next 100 years with minimal fall out from everyone else.
    Reply
  • tomscomments
    artk2219 said:
    I agree (also nice PLAN pun :LOL:), that being said I'm sure they've had a bit of an extra impetus to keep to their plans or maybe move up some target dates given that they've seen the worlds reaction to overt aggression, and that was for a country with no defensive pacts. If they're patient they could slow roll the entire area over the next 100 years with minimal fall out from everyone else.


    taiwan are ethnic chineese, and taiwan needs continental china for its economy. They are the same people. I really don't see china trying something there, unless there is a provocation. There are millions of taiwan and continental china sharing same media, same entreprises, same food etc. Military operations around taiwan is aimed against nato, not the island.

    As for loongarch, i remember phoronix saying out loud that chineese were liars and used only MIPS instructions. Very strange from them to be so quick trying to sell to everybody the buzz they want to hear. China already developped enhanced MIPS (loongISA), they had no interest in annoucing loongArch if it wasn't new Isa. They juste had to wait because it's code will be opens source.
    Reply