Early days using ARM devices for daily computing

Until recently, I have been unable to maintain the use of an ARM computer as a daily driver. The reason for this is primarily because my college class (Android development) used Android Studio, which doesn't run on arm64 linux. I have since finished that class, so I have started to give the idea another try.

The devices I will be working with for the foreseeable future are the Pinebook Pro and the Raspberry Pi 400 with the occasional x86 computer in the event that I need one piece of software that doesn't run on the ARM architecture.

Things I can do using ARM devices

Some of you might be wondering why on this planet I would ever want to use ARM devices as a daily driver. To this I would respond: "because I can." The vast majority of the things I will need to do are absolutely possible on these cheap, low-powered computers. This includes things such as light video editing with kdenlive, writing in general, writing software, compiling software, browsing the world wide web, browsing gopherholes on gopherspace, and of course telnetting into BBSs with syncterm. Basically almost everything I do on a daily basis. That isn't to say that there aren't things I can't do, however.

Things I can't do using ARM devices

While many programs that I use on a daily basis run very well on ARM devices like the Raspberry Pi 4 or the Pinebook Pro such as Visual Studio Code or kdenlive, there are absolutely programs that I am unable to use because they are not compiled for the aarch64 architecture (usually proprietary programs, but also a few free software programs).

For example, I have to use Zoom to communicate with my local congregation (yes I am a man of faith). Zoom does not work on aarch64 without some translation layer such as Box86. Unfortunately, not all software will work with such a program. There isn't, as of this article, a functioning amd64 translation layer for aarch64. This means that any software compiled specifically for the amd64 architecture, as of yet, has no means of running on the aarch64 architecture. I am hopeful that someone (possibly myself if I can learn enough about processor architectures and instruction sets), will create such a translation layer in the future. My point with all this being that most basic (and even advanced advanced) things are possible with the ARM architecture, but not everything. Weather or not you attempt to use an ARM computer as a daily driver should depend on what you can currently accomplish with such a device.

My experience with ARM thus far

As my computing needs are rather basic, I really don't need much in the way of raw computing and graphics processing power for my daily-driving computer. This has resulted in my current ARM computing experiment yielding favorable results thus far. I sincerely hope that this positive experience will continue as I use my Pinebook Pro and Raspberry Pi 400 for my next semester of college classes. I will write follow-up articles to document my experience in the coming weeks and months.

If you have any comments or recommendations as to how I can more effectively enhance my ARM computing experience (or any other comments/questions), please see my contact page for information about how to contact me.