A few years back the Lemote Yeeloong made a splash in the open source community as the world’s first completely “open” system requiring no proprietary software. Even its BIOS is open source. It wasn’t long before pictures of Richard Stallman hugging his Yeeloong started popping up throughout the Internet, further boosting its popularity. I became interested because the Yeeloong involves everything that’s near and dear to my heart: 1) Its loongson2f processor is a mips64el system and I love the slick nature of RISC architectures. I can actually make sense of its ISA and the assembly. 2) As a 64-bit mips, it supports multiple ABIs, and I love playing with different ABIs. The images I push come with o32, n32 and n64. 3) While other distros, like Debian, have ported their wares to the Yeeloong, these don’t have the hardening goodness that Gentoo does and so this was an added challenge. Thanks to Magnus Granberg (zorry) for getting his hardened gcc patches work in mips. 4) Finally, it is “free” as in “libre”. It is manufactured by Lemote in China, and I like to fantisize that hackers at the NSA curse everytime they encounter one in the wild, although the reality is more likely that I’m owned by the Chinese government :/
So here was the possibility of creating a free and secure system on my favorite architecture! A couple of summers back, I took on the challenge. I updated some older stages3 that Matt Turner (mattst88) had prepared and went through the process of seeing what desktop packages would build, which needed patching and which were hopelessly broken on mips, usually because of dependance on x86/amd64 assembly. The end result was a minimal XFCE4 desktop with full userland hardening. Unfortunatley, I still don’t have a PaX kernel working, but the issues do not appear to be insurmountable.
Building the initial images was more fun than maintaining them, but I’ve been good about it and I recently prepared release 20140630. I even started to feel out the community more, so I announced this work as a project on freecode.com, just before the site closed down 🙁 If you get a new Lemote Yeeloong, give these images a try. It’ll save you about 4 days of compiling if you want to bootstrap from a stage3 to a full desktop, not counting all the broken packages you’ll probably hit along the way. If you’re already running one of my images then you can try to update on your own but expect a lot of conflicts/blockings etc since mips is not a stable arch. Perhaps the next step to making this more user-friendly is for me to provide the binpkgs on some host.