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Shifting Apps To ARM Chips Could Save Laptop Batteries

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the but-does-it-run-windows dept.

Portables 326

An anonymous reader writes "When is an Intel PC not an Intel PC? When it moves applications such as Internet browsing and email on to an ARM processor because it can get longer battery life. And according to a story at EE Times, this hybrid Intel-ARM processor approach is being taken by PC makers as prominent as Dell. The problem for Intel: Why would you switch out of 'all-day' mode and use the Intel processor? The problem for ARM: lacking support from Microsoft for Windows; the applications it runs for the PC have to do so under Linux."

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Not a problem (4, Interesting)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797185)

The problem for ARM: lacking support from Microsoft for Windows; the applications it runs for the PC have to do so under Linux.

Not a problem for everyone. I've already got an ARM-based Linux running on a NSLU32 NAS head - 32Mb RAM, 32 Mb flash. If I could get a lightweight laptop with a modern ARM chip, I would be over the moon.

Re:Not a problem (4, Interesting)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797213)

I completely agree. I haven't run Windows on my personal machines (outside of a virtualize instance) in five years. Windows software simply isn't a limiting factor for me, or for a lot of folks who want netbook-style computing devices.

Re:Not a problem (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797411)

You must like it in the ass, don't you?

Re:Not a problem (0)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797513)

WINE is portable enough to build on ARM, I am pretty sure. This solves some of the Oh-What-About-Windows problem, does it not?

Also, if Wine wont do it, maybe, just MAYBE, QEMU/kvm/Xen will ;-)

Really, Windows is just a stone, a stone so large nobody can seem to go around it anymore, but there are ways for those who wish strong enough. At least, why not try it? The whole x86 world is so boring. Even NASA uses ARM chips, and it seems to be good enough for them. What, it cannot decode an MP3?

Re:Not a problem (0)

kabz (770151) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797541)

What about WinMobile?

It's carrying on the portable tradition. Maybe 'Windows' laptops could start running WinMobile...

Re:Not a problem (4, Funny)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797831)

Have you used Windows Mobile? That's something I reserve for inflicting on only my worst enemies and only as a last resort. It's the Jack Bauer option of OSs.

Re:Not a problem (1)

joshtheitguy (1205998) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798457)

Damn, you beat me to it.

Re:Not a problem (5, Informative)

EvilRyry (1025309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797557)

WINE is just Win32 for POSIXy platforms. It's not able to rewrite x86 binary for ARM. You could perhaps take Windows software compiled for an ARM processor and run it, but that kind of defeats the point of using Linux for portability in the first place. KVM/Xen also do not rewrite binary for other architectures. QEMU could do it, but performance and battery life would drop dramatically.

Re:Not a problem (1)

dominux (731134) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797559)

WINE would probably run on ARM, but actually no, WINE doesn't solve the problem, unless you recompile the windows application in question for the ARM processor, then run it under WINE on ARM. QEMU would work, but I don't think the performance would be up to much. Best stick to Linux applications.

Re:Not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797587)

No, WINE isn't that portable.

First, WINE isn't really portable to non-x86 architectures. Winelib, certainly, but that would require recompiling the application. You'd end up with a Linux-native ARM binary that uses WINE's libraries as an implementation of the Win32 API.

Second... There's no Windows for ARM CPUs. Even if you could run WINE itself on an ARM CPU, there'd be nothing to run on it. There's not even an ARM ABI defined for Windows. Windows CE, maybe, but that has far less capabilities (and applications) than Linux on ARM does. And WINE doesn't support Windows CE anyway.

Maybe if you paired with with qemu, it'd work. You install the x86 version of WINE, and use it to run a x86 Win32 app using qemu. It'd be slow though, especially on an ARM platform. Plus you'd need to include half of an x86 Linux distro to get it to work.

Pocket PC (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798731)

Windows CE, maybe, but that has far less capabilities (and applications) than Linux on ARM does.

Citation needed that popular Pocket PC applications [google.com] are few and far between.

And WINE doesn't support Windows CE anyway.

Yet.

Re:Not a problem (2, Insightful)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798285)

It just begs a question, for WHOM REALLY is Windows and its software a limiting factor? It looks now as if the only people who just would die from not having access to Windows are those who put their whole commerce on it and people who sit and play the latest games. ALMOST everyone else has had choice for at least a year now, and that choice is rapidly improving. Heck, I did not know what Linux really was a year ago, and now I do not see which things is it that it cannot do. I have my text input app, a media player, a web browser (albeit with Adobe's Flash player), and a usable desktop. I even have a video editing application (Avidemux) that actually works. Anyhow, all it takes is some faith. But sadly, that is something that comes only AFTER hope, not before, and right now Microsoft is feeding the world.

Re:Not a problem (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797345)

Not a problem for everyone. I've already got an ARM-based Linux running on a NSLU32 NAS head - 32Mb RAM, 32 Mb flash. If I could get a lightweight laptop with a modern ARM chip, I would be over the moon.

I just ordered one of these. [openpandora.org] 256MB RAM, 512MB flash, ARM Cortex-A8.

Re:Not a problem (2, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797347)

If I could get a lightweight laptop with a modern ARM chip, I would be over the moon.

Can someone send a crate of these NSLU32 to NASA?

Re:Not a problem (2, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797515)

If I could get a lightweight laptop with a modern ARM chip, I would be over the moon.

Can someone send a crate of these NSLU32 to NASA?

Sure... now, how many bushels in a crate [cnn.com] ?

Re:Not a problem (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797677)

About half an aswey.

Re:Not a problem (3, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797351)

Not really even a problem for Windows, at least a long term one.

There have been some instances (PPC Mac I think?) where they ran a lightweight QEMU + Wine to get wine working on a non-Intel platform.

They may start a standard application layer that will determine if the binary is x86 or ARM, and shuffle it to the correct processor, they applications will only need to make ARM based variants. Either that or use something related to dynamic recompiling to put stuff on the ARM processor on the fly.

Now, the question is, do they want to spend the effort.

Re:Not a problem (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798331)

FTFA

...But really you have to talk to Microsoft about when they want to support ARM architectures. It's not up to us," answered East. "We're seeing a lot of activity in the Linux space so I don't think it's a serious brake on our progress into that new application area, right now," he concluded.

ARM notebook (4, Insightful)

ChristTrekker (91442) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797357)

Funny...I read the story and was going to ask on this thread, "Where could I get an ARM-based laptop to run Linux on?" All day on a battery would be fantastic.

Would you settle for a MIPS-based netbook? (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797669)

I think I'd get one of these Alpha 400 MIPS netbooks [elanso.com] although I'd prefer more memory.

Confusing name (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798801)

I think I'd get one of these Alpha 400 MIPS netbooks

That looks like similar CPU specs and price to Sony's PSP. But from the name only, is it a MIPS CPU or an Alpha CPU? I wonder if HP (owner of Digital) isn't already having its legal department draft a cease-and-desist for the maker of these netbooks.

Re:Not a problem (4, Interesting)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797707)

About 10 years ago I had an IBM z-50. It was about the size of one of the larger Eee's and sported a MIPS processor. At that time (with late 90s battery and display technology) it offered a decent computer (I made it run NetBSD later in its life) with a 10 hour battery life.

A decent laptop built around one of these low-power processors could last a week on a single charge and a big enough battery.

As for desktops, how many ARM cores, FPUs, vector units and cache can be put on a Core i7 die?

Re:Not a problem (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797757)

It may not be a problem for everyone, but it's going to be a problem for 98% of consumers.

The reason Teh Lunix fails when sold at retail is primarily due to returns. If you sell out all your computers, and 80% of them get returned because people don't want Teh Lunix... how are you supposed to make a profit? The profit margin on computers is very low, and if a company has to sell at a steep discount for "open box"... they've just lost money.

People need to face reality. The mass market just doesn't want Teh Lunix. Why do you think a FREE operating system can't even come close to being able to compete with Windows? It's all about choice, and people choose Windows.

Re:Not a problem (1)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798227)

Very true. My __belief__ in why this is true is because most computer users are not computer people. They want what they are used to and what they can get help with easily. They want a toaster oven. And I don't blame them for this at all.

Re:Not a problem (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797869)

The problem for ARM: lacking support from Microsoft for Windows; the applications it runs for the PC have to do so under Linux.

Not a problem for everyone.

Indeed. That's why the article says "The problem for ARM", not "the problem for everyone".

Happy though you are running Linux, ARM themselves would love for the other 99% of the market to be able to run their OS of choice on an ARM processor.

You could argue that it would be nice if this could be achieved by moving people to Linux. ARM, however, just want people to buy their chips in large quantities, and don't particularly care why they're doing it.

Re:Not a problem (2, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797985)

The problem for ARM: lacking support from Microsoft for Windows; the applications it runs for the PC have to do so under Linux.

Not a problem for everyone. I've already got an ARM-based Linux running on a NSLU32 NAS head - 32Mb RAM, 32 Mb flash. If I could get a lightweight laptop with a modern ARM chip, I would be over the moon.

Exactly, my first thought is that it sounds like a feature!

Re:Not a problem (3, Informative)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798161)

yep, Pandora fills this niche. 0.3kg, ARM, 10h battery, runs ubuntu just normally. But it's very small, only a 4.3" screen 800x480. About the size of DS. http://openpandora.org/ [openpandora.org]

It's just a startup now, people did preorders (by preordering it means that you are trusting them ;) and it will be delivered about March or April. I expect that by the end of the year they will be selling it in online shops in a usual way.

It's a perfect UMPC for me, a really "mobile" PC, smaller than my wallet, actually.

Re:Not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798739)

Put a real keyboard on that thing, and then we'll talk.

Re:Not a problem (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798687)

I don't see it a problem for windows. You use the ARM processor as an external device. When you Run an ARM app it will just switch to that processor for the bulk of the processing. It would be something like a MasPar setup where you have your Main Platform and OS then it uses additional processors as an other device.

Re:Not a problem (1)

chuck (477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798689)

Second that. A tiny laptop that's as powerful as an iPhone would be fine with me.

And this is how Linux will win. (5, Insightful)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797277)

And this is how Linux will win. Not with a bang but a whimper. Embedded appliances, dedicated purpose applications, and multi-platform compatibility.

Firefox, Thunderbird, and (hopefully) soon KDE.

MS users who don't know any better, will win this for us.

Geeks like us have already dominated the server-side of the Linux equation, now fools will win the desktop for us.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797373)

WindowsCE runs on ARM and x86.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (3, Interesting)

bucky0 (229117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797407)

windows CE is not windows. If the advantage of using windows CE is getting to use your old, familiar windows programs, good luck, because you're going to need at least a recompile if not a gigantic refactoring to get it to run on CE. If you're going to refactor anyway, then you don't necessarily have to choose CE.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797453)

True; but WinCE is pretty sharply dissimilar to Windows proper. MS has put a good deal of effort into making it look somewhat windowish; but it remains an alien freak. Similar enough to make you fall into Windows habits, odd enough to constantly frustrate those habits.

Honestly, an appropriately skinned version of Linux would probably be more familiar to most users than would WinCE.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (1)

Anthony_Cargile (1336739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797615)

WindowsCE runs on ARM and x86.

Well I'm sure we could care less about x86 ATM because we have enough operating systems that run on it, and also the article is talking about ARM, not x86. Also, WinCE != Windows, the underlying system is vastly different (they do, after all, release the source code under the "shared source" license, don't they?) and therefore the system calls are bound to be different unless an application is specifically designed (embedded Visual C++) to be run in that embedded environment.

So unless your favorite games/winapps are willing to be recompiled by their developers for the same Windows operating system but for a different processor architecture (not like enough of them do it for x64, anyways) then it won't make much of a difference. Open source and Java, on the other hand, would get a boost off of something like this.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797765)

Jobless depression-geeks like you will keep dreaming at your momma's basement while the last food stamps are running out.
Normal people want computers to play games and watch porn, and Linux can't give the games part... Besides M$ already got an ARM division working from Mumbai, India, so expect ARM support and ARM/x86 application switching to become a M$ feature soon...

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798195)

Also MS has been focused on the PC for so long. They have been relying on every successive PC generation getting more powerful so that they could stuff in more features. Thus there is no true Windows (CE or Mobile is not the same as XP or Vista) that can fit on a smaller device like this and with every successive generation MS gets further away from this.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798265)

No, sorry, it's still easier to port all of Windows to ARM than to move everyone in the world to Linux.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798629)

Yes, Windows is easy to port. I'm quite sure they have ported it to both PPC, mips and arm already in their labs. The applications running on top of Windows is a completely different issue, and that is what matters here. People want Windows to run Windows-only software, and unless every company will convert their programs to run on the other processors, running Windows on ARM doesn't help you a bit.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798463)

And this is how Linux will win. Not with a bang but a whimper. Embedded appliances, dedicated purpose applications, and multi-platform compatibility.

Firefox, Thunderbird, and (hopefully) soon KDE.

MS users who don't know any better, will win this for us.

Geeks like us have already dominated the server-side of the Linux equation, now fools will win the desktop for us.

Given the differences between the two markets (server and desktop) I wouldn't write off MS so quickly.

A different scenario - Intel uses it's Atom as the pathway to a combo setup - develop the Atom to run a low power mode and switch to another processor as needed. Intel's advantage is that they can build the bridge into the design - and work with MS to adapt Windows to use the design.

Do not underestimate Wintel's ability to take on challengers and adopt good ideas to their own ends.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798503)

Geeks like us have already dominated the server-side of the Linux equation, now fools will win the desktop for us.

Huh? http://news.cnet.com/2100-1016_3-6041804.html [cnet.com]

I really don't know why you think Linux on embedded OSes will help it in other markets; I know my cable box runs Linux. That has no impact on me though and my desktop OS. I doubt I'd change my desktop due to what my phone runs, or what my Zune runs.

Re:And this is how Linux will win. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798719)

I often wonder where "geeks like you" actually work, and if you actually make decent money (six figures). I've been in the industry 10+ years and maintained basically the same position at two different large corporations (5000 plus workstations and 500 plus servers) and guess how much linux is in the server-side of this equation. I'll tell you the answer is none.

Linux is an enthusiasts OS, and some small companies with little to no capital can get by on enthusiast platforms. However the big reasons linux won't win, which linux zealots always overlook, are services and training. I'm fairly certain to Joe Schmoe business owner, being MS certified means a lot more than being Red Hat or Canonical certified. I also think the other real issue is that no corporation worth a shit (read: privately owned, multi-billion dollar) will ever be willing to run their business on a system that any hacker in the world can download the source code for, and thus, write customized attacks for.

This is not meant as a troll, though I'm sure it will be taken as one... I think the facts speak for themselves looking at the sheer number of attack vectors for an up to date Linux system over an up to date Windows system.

I proudly place my trust in a patched proprietary system over a patched open system, mainly because of the ease of creating a new hack for the patched open system.

Options (2, Funny)

BloodyIron (939359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797299)

Or... you could just switch to linux.

Nah, too easy.

Re:Options (1, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797385)

Hasn't been easy for me in my dozens of attempts over the past couple of years.

Re:Options (3, Insightful)

painehope (580569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797613)

Out of curiousity, not hostility, can I ask why?

I work as a systems architect/administrator (whatever you want to call it) for UNIX/Linux-based large datacenters, but also use Linux personally and for non-technical tasks (e.g. Word, Excel, and assorted other files), without any difficulty. And I've been using Linux for almost 10 years now - back when things were difficult for users that weren't highly technical.

The only things I ever find myself using Windows for is to run Visio (if someone could recommend a F/OSS replacement for it, it would be greatly appreciated, but I have yet to find one as full-featured - or even close) or to play games (which I do rarely, I prefer other forms of entertainment). And Flash rarely works to my satisfaction, but I don't really consider that a great loss either.

I just don't understand it when people say that they can't switch over to Linux. Or at least dual-boot. Not to insult your intelligence, but most modern distributions are simple to install and productively work in. Maybe it's my background, maybe it's your choice of distributions, but I fail to see what the fuss is about. Especially when there are distributions (Ubuntu, for example) that are specifically geared towards non-technical users. While I personally find Ubuntu to be over-simplified and (as of my last use, about 3 years ago) not secure enough, I don't see why it wouldn't be easy to use as well as a vast improvement over Windows.

Re:Options (2, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797855)

Of the operating systems I've used and administrated (Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS), I've had to spend more time administrating Linux than the others (FreeBSD might take more administration time, but short of mergebastard 'administrating' it involves me typing a make or portupgrade command, and leaving it along for a couple hours, or at least not performing a relatively small set of tasks).

Starting in 02 or whenever I first tried it, I had to deal with the usual dependency hell. I found out about yum later, but it didn't fix the issues.

I moved from Fedora to Ubuntu as some people suggested. Performance on the two machines I used was lackluster (6.x and 7.x versions) compared to Windows and FreeBSD. It managed to prevent X from starting after a recommended update of KDE. I had a few other issues with the updater breaking itself or other apps, and gave up after a week or two each time (no other OS took that much time to get functional - I have limited patience). Also it usually crashed on shutdown. Not a big deal, but EXT2/EXT3 takes forever to check. It also crashed when I tried to play Boson.

I then tried Gentoo. It worked mostly well, but I couldn't get open office installed, an app I really needed. So eventually, after some effort in that area, I gave up.

Recently I went to try Arch. After installing and then installing X, it no longer wanted to boot from my HDD (SATA), it complained about not being able to start/initialize/mount (forgot the proper term) the root partition. It suggested I add rootdelay=8 to the kernel params in Grub. I did, and it didn't fix the issue, I tried rootdelay=30, but still no fix.

I went to KUbuntu, the installer froze on me each time I tried to install (same spot each time, right after accepting the choice for the default keyboard).

XUbuntu was next, XFCE is ok too. It installs, but it won't boot, with the same issue as Arch-Linux.

Typically, each time, I spend a few days working on the issue, and if I can't find the resources to get it solved, I give up for a while, and go back to other OSes that suit my purposes sufficiently, namely Windows and FreeBSD. I'd like to give Linux a good shot, and use it - it's got better hardware support than FreeBSD, and a few apps that aren't properly ported that I'd like. As for Windows, it's not had any issues short of bad hardware, since Win2000 (note: Linux and FreeBSD refused to use the bad hardware, I guess they were smarter than windows on that machine).

Re:Options (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797921)

Addendum, I can complain about windows lack of a decent command line. For file browsing and management, I prefer bash+cp+mv+ls to most gui utilities any day...

Re:Options (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798587)

I'll just say "me too." I found I was spending more time trying to keep Linux up to date than I did using my computer. Everything was a fight, so I ditched my Linux server of 10 years, and removed Linux from my desktop after using it for two or three years, I think.

Re:Options (1)

dragonjujotu (1395759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798633)

I'm going to be an obnoxious one and suggest a distro: PCLinuxOS. The only issue I've had is getting the usual notebook broadcom wireless chip running. At least the whole distro fits on a CD still.

Hybrid machine just like Acorn Computers (4, Interesting)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797317)

Reminds me of the days when Acorn Computers were around with their RISCPC - A machine that was ARM powered, but you could also attach an x86 processor.

This is so 1990's!

Re:Hybrid machine just like Acorn Computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798259)

The Commodore 128 has a 4MHz z80 CPU in addition to its 8510 (6502 variant) chip. Combined with the multi-format abilities of the 1571 disk drive, this allowed you to boot into CP/M and run all kinds of software originally developed for other systems.

Not that anyone did. Most people would just boot in to c64 mode and play all the games that companies wouldn't write c128 versions of, since everyone with a c128 had c64 mode to use.

Later

Re:Hybrid machine just like Acorn Computers (1)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798787)

Or an Apple II with a CPM card. Quite a lot of people used those...

Acorns (BBC Micros) with co-processors date from 1984-ish, CPM Apple IIs from earlier still. Someone below has already mentioned the DEC Rainbow from a similar timeframe.

The were probably other hybrids too - especially in the minicomputer area.

Good but.. (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797341)

Frankly I would love an ARM based notebook except for just a few issues.
1. Flash. Like it or not Flash is everywhere and I have not seen a Linux ARM version.
2. Java. I need it and JavaFX could be a nice alternative to Silverlight/Moonlight.

I see Flash as the big issue for most people. I would love to see ARM back on the "desktop" even if it is on the laptop. A ARM with a good GPU really would be a nice netbook system.

Re:Good but.. (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797375)

I'd like to see the x86 chip just sort of sit there unused most of the time... fire it up when a Windows app gets started. Windows could run like the old OS9 compatibility layer in OSX before the switch to Intel. It had a nice mix of usability, but being *just* irritating enough that you wish you didn't have to do it. Paired with a "battery" warning of some kind, it could be usable.

Re:Good but.. (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797509)

Flash 7 is already available for Linux Arm(see Nokia N770, and possibly Chumby), but it is an OEM licenced embedded thing, not just a download(if you look, Adobe is quite clear on the fact that desktop/laptop flash is free as in beer; but embedded flash very much isn't). Adobe seems to have plans to improve Flash on newer Arm chips, so I suspect that this issue will improve with time.

Re:Good but.. (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798063)

Chumby uses Flash Lite 3, same as cellphones. It is supposedly compatible with Flash 8.
200MHz ARM easily handles standard Youtube quality vids

ARM and Flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798119)

Uh, er, I'm reading /. on my N800 now. And later, I'm going to youtube to watch flash content there.

mplayer has been ported to the N800/N810 platform.

The big drawback to these portable platforms are:
  - screen size - er 800x480 resolution and about 4" across
  - keyboard options - bluetooth is working
  - mouse
  - general USB peripherals (usb does work)

For what it is, mine runs apps fine. I'll be using the GPS later today on a hike. Tomorrow I'll use skype to chat with my business partners. Normal internet surfing, listening to mp3s, and rss feeds work fantastic.

It isn't a full PC, so editing gnu spreadsheets - while possible - isn't practical. Neither are video or graphics editing. There's a huge list of apps that were ported - all free. Search for "Maemo" as that's the gui toolkit. Underneath, it runs linux.

Battery life is fairly good. 9 days of standby, I normally get about 2 days of regular use between charges.

The best thing is the price has recently dropped to around $220. Don't buy a GPS or an iTouch. Get a Nokia N810 general purpose device.

Re:Good but.. (4, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797577)

Frankly I would love an ARM based notebook except for just a few issues. 1. Flash. Like it or not Flash is everywhere and I have not seen a Linux ARM version. 2. Java. I need it and JavaFX could be a nice alternative to Silverlight/Moonlight.

Then put your name down for one of these [engadget.com] .

ARM licensed Java from Sun years ago, and include hardware acceleration for Java apps via Jazelle. In addition, Adobe have said they will have a version Flash 10 for ARM sometime this year. So get your wallet out.

At $199, these netbooks won't cost you and arm and a leg...

Re:Good but.. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797753)

At $199, these netbooks won't cost you and arm and a leg...

Just two hands damaged from having to use that keyboard :)

Re:Good but.. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798571)

Well we will see if flash 10 ships. Flash 7 just isn't good enough anymore. Now if we can get Java 6 sdk as well for ARM I would be a happy customer. Now if we can get inexpensive ARM mother boards with on board GPUs and SATA drives then we can really start moving away from X86 for things like NAS and MediaPCs.

Re:Good but.. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797821)

Java works on ARM, kind of. Sun and ARM both seem to want to charge for ARM-based Java implementations.

Sun's KVM (used on many phones, can only handle J2ME, very slow) is proprietary, and only available for large-scale embedded use. Some ARM CPUs can actually execute Java bytecode directly, but they won't disclose any information about how to actually write a JVM that uses it. JVMs that use this feature cost an arm and a leg. Sun had a full J2SE JVM for ARM at some point, but again it was targetted at embedded developers, and the only reference I could find was for an evaluation version.

The icedtea VM apparently made some progress towards a CPU-independent version (the zero assembly port). Not as fast as a native port, but at least it should work. Since everything else is open source, you could at least get a fully working (if a bit slow) JVM running on ARM Linux.

I don't know about JavaFX though.

Mono supports ARM. It even has a working JIT. So a Moonlight port isn't out of the question. I guess you could probably even use IKVM to run Java on ARM Linux, but I doubt that'd get you JavaFX either. It doesn't even get you a working version of AWT or Swing.

Shame about Flash though. That's not likely to ever be available on ARM Linux.

Re:Good but.. (1)

nicodoggie (1228876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798737)

Shame about Flash though. That's not likely to ever be available on ARM Linux.

People seem to have forgotten about Gnash [wikipedia.org] since Adobe made Flash 10 on Linux x86. According to this [gnashdev.org] , Gnash code can be compiled on ARM

Gnash is hardly complete, though (they're still working on Flash 7 and 8 compatibility), and I guess development slowed down ever since Flash 10 came out, but once Linux on ARM gets more "geek-popular", it may get the attention it deserves.

Re:Good but.. (1)

hweimer (709734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798667)

Frankly I would love an ARM based notebook except for just a few issues.

1. Flash. Like it or not Flash is everywhere and I have not seen a Linux ARM version.

2. Java. I need it and JavaFX could be a nice alternative to Silverlight/Moonlight.

Both Gnash [gnashdev.org] and OpenJDK are available for ARM.

You insensitiPve clod. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797415)

A complex solution ... (2, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797417)

So what we're talking about here is a Linux running on a decent ARM SoC most of the time... which I agree with, it's enough for the common case.

If we need performance for any reason we switch on an attached x86 and run that performance application (which of course is an x86 binary).

Or we run a VM on the x86 into which we put Windows, for compatibility.

Or we create a Mac OS X like fat binary system for Linux that includes both ARM and x86 variants, but imagine the pain in switching between the two! I think it's far far easier to make a quad-core ARM Cortex chip to get some performance for the ARM binaries than to switch them to x86 with all that pain if they need performance.

Of course eventually you drop the x86, connect the x86-attached GPU to the ARM and move on from there.

VM sucks, and here's what you need to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797505)

No point in running a VM. Too slow on arm, which generally are sub GHz, closer to half that. And even then, the processor is but a small part of the power suckers on a device. It doesn't matter if the CPU uses 0.5 W versus say 2 W of an Atom if the whole device is running 10 watts (9.5 vs 10 watts is not worth the expense and complexity of this).

I rest my case. (Case dismissed)

Snapdragon (1)

olddotter (638430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797429)

Qualcomm has an ARM based processor (several links about it posted here [blogspot.com] ). From the performance/power point of view I think these ARM based approaches is the future for mobile computing. I can see a big Linux future for it in small do-it-all always one home "IT" infrastructure.

But would it actually run Linux?? (2, Interesting)

mustrum_ridcully (311862) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797437)

Would such a system actually use ARM Linux? The reason I ask is that the ARM processor is commonly used PDAs and therefore has Windows CE (or whatever they call it now).

So I wouldn't be surprised if M$ just renamed it Windows 7 Green Edition and rolled it out for such netbooks. Joe Public would be all oooh it runs powerpoint and word and IE and they'd be happy.

Re:But would it actually run Linux?? (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797727)

Yes it can run standard linux like ubuntu. Angstrom is a more popular distro for processors like ARM Cortex-A8, but can be a real pain in the neck to get up and running. To make standard linux run on an ARM you just have to recompile it for ARM arch. Take a look at the beagleboardhttp://www.beagleboard.org/ [beagleboard.org] and the pandora handheld console, and you'll see what ARM is now truly capable of doing in the near future for mass consumers.

Does it matter still ? (4, Interesting)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797451)

I'm wondering if, the the overall scheme of things, the price we pay for the x86-ness of Intel and AMD's CPUs is that high. All their CPUs are basically RISC things, with a very optimized x86 compatibility layer running on top. Is that layer that expensive performance-wise ?

Re:Does it matter still ? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797617)

Is that layer that expensive performance-wise ?

That was the bet IBM and others made with RISC. It still seems like the way to go, but Intel and CISC is still here...

Re:Does it matter still ? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797717)

I don't think x86 has much overhead performance-wise or power-wise, so the premise of this story and most of the the comments is a canard. If the laptop had a super-slow single core x86 chip, it would run all day, too. Though perhaps Intel doesn't price their slowest ULV cpus competitively with these arm chips. Perhaps Intel should use a tiny corner of their current chips for a 386 that can run with the rest of the CPU powered down.

Re:Does it matter still ? (2, Interesting)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797751)

ARM kicks the crap out of Intel/AMD when it comes to performance per Watt. That makes it great for embedded work (10bn, yes 10e9 CPUs shipped) and looks like it might be starting to migrate into netbooks.

Re:Does it matter still ? (2, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798057)

Are you sure? Have you compared a 33Mhz ARM to a 33Mhz x86 chip? Is the performance that different?

There is no way to do an apples-to-apples comparison here, because I don't think anyone makes x86 chips that are as slow as ARM chips. The instruction set doesn't have that much bearing on performance. But power use goes up according to the square of the voltage, and voltage increases when clock speed increases -- so it is all about the megahertz.

Re:Does it matter still ? (1)

savuporo (658486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798171)

looks like it might be starting to migrate into netbooks.

Look up the recent announcement of ARM and Canonical throwing their weight behind a fully supported ARM Ubuntu version for MID-like devices.

They were supposedly launching something in march or so.

I Approve.

Re:Does it matter still ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798037)

Yes it is.
But as we can see by reading your message, most people has drunk their cool aid.

Re:Does it matter still ? (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798251)

If you look at the brazillions of transistors they throw at caches, execution units and now multiple cores, it's pretty clear that the designers don't really know what to do with all those transistors. The x86-to-micro-ops translation unit is just a very small part of the CPU. I see it as a real time decompression engine, with x86 code somewhat more compact than RISC. Given that RAM bandwidth is always a major limitation, this even makes sense.

Re:Does it matter still ? (1)

Efreet (246368) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798349)

Since the layer is implemented in hardware its performance impact isn't much, just a pipeline that's a bit longer resulting in a higher penalty for a missed branch prediction. The fact that they've decoupled the instructions they use inside their chips from the instructions people put their programs in is actually a big advantage in one sense: they get to mess with their internal instructions whenever they can gain some advantage by doing so and not worry about the compatibility implications.

I'm sure the instruction translation does have some impact on power, but I'd be flabbergasted if it was as expensive as, say, branch prediction or scoreboarding. So for the Atom (which I'm pretty sure has a scoreboard, but no register renaming or out of order execution) x86 is still competitive, but x86 would probably have big problems moving to a lower performance/power architecture.

Re:Does it matter still ? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798615)

On the other side of things, I'm wondering if, in the overall scheme of things, the value of x86-ness is all that high. I've been hearing that it's somewhat inferior for years, and the main reason that sort of architecture is still in use is mainly for compatibility reasons. OSX and Linux seem to be agile enough to switch between architectures with relative ease, so is the only hold-up Windows?

The CPU is not the biggest consumer (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797457)

The display uses far more power than the CPU, so the benefit of adding a second low-power CPU will only be realized with a different display technology that has much lower power consumption for a static image.

Re:The CPU is not the biggest consumer (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797591)

OLED, we're looking at you. Hurry up and become mainstream already.

Re:The CPU is not the biggest consumer (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798771)

What's the current state of OLED? Electronic paper? Maybe that display from the XO?

I like it (3, Interesting)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797473)

When traveling, most of the time, I really do want a long battery life and don't need much compute power. But when I arrive at my destination, give a presentation, and demo some software, then I want compute power.

So, as far as I'm concerned, having a high power and a low power CPU sharing the same keyboard, screen, drive, and power supply is actually very much what I want. I hope it becomes standard.

Re:I like it (2, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797741)

Why can't you give your presentation in Vi?

Re:I like it (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797803)

How about 8 ARM cores with FPU and vector capabilities (that can be used for 3D acceleration), along with hefty caches, on a single chip? Now, imagine all parts can downclock themselves to a full halt when idling or even power down when the OS asks them. IIRC the hotplug stuff in the Linux kernel can already deal with that kind of stuff.

The tech is all around. All we need is someone who is willing to do it.

Re:I like it (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797949)

Why make it so complicated? Why not stick with tech that we know works right now: ARM + Intel + nVidia chips, where the ARM chip can power off the other two when they're not needed?

8 ARM cores may seem cleaner and more symmetric, but it's a lot more work to take advantage of.

Re:I like it (1)

mambru (224456) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798201)

Because with different architectures you need different OS and apps?

I love the ads. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26797493)

I love all the BSA "Blow the Whistle" ads you've got up. Slashdot has got to be the most.. BSA/**AA hostile site out there. Way to go Taco, you sellout hack!

Windows-proof computing (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797495)

It's actually great. An ARM-based PC would not only be Windows-free, it would be Windows-proof.

Not really. There is still Windows CE, but one can dream...

Shifting to paper could save laptop batteries (1, Funny)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797529)

An anonymous reader writes:
  "When is an Intel PC not an Intel PC? When it moves applications such as word processing on to a piece of paper because it can get longer battery life. And according to a story at EE Times, this hybrid Intel-Paper approach is being taken by PC makers as prominent as Dell. The problem for Intel: Why would you switch out of 'all-day' mode and use the Intel processor? The problem for paper: lacking support from Microsoft for Windows; the applications it runs for the PC have to do so under pen or pencil."

Apple / BSD (3, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797575)

Don't ARMs also run BSD ? It would seem that Apple might have a solution for their laptops, if they decided to go that way.

Re:Apple / BSD (3, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797729)

Apple has shown no interest in playing the netbook game; but the iPod touch and iPhone are already (mostly) OSX on ARM.

Re:Apple / BSD (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26798023)

Yep. Apple wants to keep itself differentiated from PC makers like Dell. They'd gladly give up the high volume/low margin low-end of the market for the lower volume/high margin higher-end. Netbooks would be on the low-end.

Re:Apple / BSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798173)

Trying to figure out what you just said... ah, got it! Not...

lacking support from Microsoft for Windows (1)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797625)

Shouldn't that be, Microsoft doesn't produce a cross-platform OS ..

Sounds like a job for Windows NT 3.51 (1)

thered2001 (1257950) | more than 5 years ago | (#26797675)

This sort of problem takes me back to those carefree days when Windows supported processors dramatically different from those made by Intel. It used to support applications written for other operating systems, too (well, OS/2.) Gone are those halcyon days of HAL openness.

Let me fix that for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798159)

os/2 v1, which was sort of like a glorifed quarterdeck xm. Can use say 80286, 16-bit words, 64 KB segments, and "what passes as state of the art in russia today"? There you go, man, I fixed it for you.

Is Linux the new monopoly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26798213)

The problem for ARM: lacking support from Microsoft for Windows; the applications it runs for the PC have to do so under Linux.

A hundred ARM-compatible operating systems just cried out in pain.

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