Single-board computer guide updated: Free software is winning on ARM!
Alyssa is a former intern at the FSF -- you can read more about her work here.
In many geeky circles, single-board computers are popular machines. SBCs come in small form factors and generally run GNU/Linux, but unfortunately, many boards like the popular Raspberry Pi are dependent on proprietary software to use. The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of system-on-chip families, sorted by their freedom status.
Free software is constantly improving, and today, more and more boards are usable with free software. On the graphical side, the Etnaviv project has reached maturity, and the Panfrost project, with which I have been personally involved, has sprung up. The video processing unit on Allwinner chips has been reverse-engineered and liberated by the linux-sunxi community in tandem with Bootlin. Rockchip boards have become viable competitors to their better known counterparts. Even the Raspberry Pi has had a proof-of-concept free firmware replacement developed. Free software is winning on ARM.
As part of my FSF internship, I have researched the latest developments in single-board computer freedom, updating the list. The revised list includes much more detail than its predecessors, groups boards by system-on-chip rather than brand name for concision, documents previously unidentified freedom flaws, and of course describes progress liberating the remaining elements.
The new guide is, I hope, clearer, more comprehensive, and more useful to free software users seeking to purchase a board.