Chinese military-derived, government-sanctioned Linux distribution Ubuntu Kylin has revealed plans to target a second RISC-V platform.
Ubuntu Kylin is the official version of Ubuntu for China and was developed in partnership with Chinese authorities, including the military.
In March 2022, an operating system version was released for the HiFive Unmatched board – a SiFive product in Mini-ITX format and containing a five-core Freedom U740 SoC.
In the RISC-V release announcement, the Kylin developers admit that the platform lacks broad software support. The release therefore includes a self-developed browser and productivity suite, among 20 packages coded just for the distro’s RISC-V debut. The distribution is available in English here and the rather capricious instructions to install it are here [PDF].
Last week, Kylin developers revealed plans to work on releasing another RISC-V product, described as a StarFive development board. StarFive is a Chinese RISC-V designer and packager and offers a dual-core Raspberry-Pi-like development board called HiFive Vision.
Work to bring Kylin to the board will be done as part of the Summer of Open Source project, alongside efforts to add custom theme downloads to Kylin, and a more interesting project to develop a conflict analysis tool. addiction.
China is keen to build a comprehensive computing stack that it controls, to reduce reliance on foreign technologies it believes could pose a security risk or access to which could be denied by trade sanctions. and/or safe.
Open source software and silicon such as Linux and RISC-V therefore have obvious appeal – perhaps more than ever in light of a recent report suggesting that the Chinese government and military users have been urged to replace all PC of foreign origin within two years.
Local champion Lenovo should take advantage of this edict and has gone to great lengths to preload Linux on its high-end PCs and workstations. But Lenovo is a x86 shop, and although China has national licensing of the architecture, its production would struggle to meet local needs, is not at the same level as Intel or AMD’s products, and could be subject to sanctions.
RISC-V offers the promise of an uninterrupted supply, but at the time of writing, it also can’t match the performance of the best from Intel or AMD – and will struggle to do so in the two-year PC replacement time in China.