We are very excited to announce the availability of an Apple M1 machine running Linux natively! It is accessible over SSH to all current and future compile farm users at gcc103.fsffrance.org.
To our knowledge, this is the first publicly-accessible Linux host running on the M1 chip. We hope it will lead to interesting results. For example, it is now possible to do performance comparisons with other aarch64 hosts (gcc80, gcc185) or with our existing Apple M1 machine running macOS (gcc304). When performing benchmarks, please keep in mind that the machine is shared with many users: results may vary depending on the current load. The new machine should also help in improving free software support for the peculiar M1 chipset, especially its heterogeneous core architecture.
The CPU has 8 heterogeneous cores: 4 "efficiency" cores running at up to 2 GHz, and 4 "performance" cores running at up to 3.2 GHz. All cores can be used at the same time. This is similar to the big.LITTLE architecture from ARM. Don't be fooled by the 8GB of memory available on the machine: compiling GCC with all 8 cores is incredibly fast and peaks at less than 1.5GB of total memory usage.
Providing this machine publicly is only possible thanks to the hard work of the Asahi Linux project: they have been working for months on porting the Linux kernel to the new M1 chipset, with a focus on upstreaming the result of this work. We are running their kernel:
Linux gcc103.fsffrance.org 5.17.0-rc6-asahi-next-20220301-25570-gc09fe28af1d3 #1 SMP PREEMPT Thu Mar 10 09:33:48 CET 2022 aarch64 GNU/Linux
The userspace is a standard aarch64 Debian bookworm distribution.
Many thanks to Jeffrey Walton for donating the hardware, to Zach van Rijn for figuring out how to setup everything, to Thomas Glanzmann for his help with Debian support, to Adélie Linux for hosting it, and again to Asahi Linux for the hard work making this possible!
We are always looking for more hardware donations. In the case of M1 machines, that would allow us to provide more OS variants (Arch Linux, 4K pages...) and different hardware (M1 pro, M1 max...). If you have hardware to spare, feel free to contact us!
PS: For those interested in the full details, Zach has written up a complete installation walkthrough here: https://zv.io/blog/asahi-linux/
EDIT 2022-03-13: the machine is now running with a kernel configured for 16 KB page size, while it was 4 KB before. This should improve performance, but can also trigger interesting bugs in some software.