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Surveying the Challenges of Linux On Cortex A9-Based Laptops

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the multiple-fronts dept.

Handhelds 119

Charbax writes "In this video, Jerone Young, lead partner engineer at Canonical, explains some of the challenges facing Canonical and other companies who are part of the new Linaro project, in preparation for the now imminent release of a whole bunch of ARM Cortex A9 Powered laptops and desktops likely to be manufactured by giants of the industry such as HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba, as well as lesser names such as Quanta, Invetec, Pegatron, and Compal, all of whom have been showing tens of early prototype designs of these ARM-powered laptops at trade shows around the world during the past year and a half. They're working to standardize the boot process, write drivers to use graphics and video hardware acceleration, optimize the web browser (Chrome and Mozilla), and implement faster DDR3 RAM and faster I/O bus speeds, as well as to optimize the software to use the new faster dual core ARM Cortex A9 processors."

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119 comments

Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" screens (2, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810156)

Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" screens and not just 10 and under.

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32810368)

I mean it'd be nice to have all that space for flush battery cells, but 10 hours is already more time than I know what to do with with my netbook. I'd much rather a larger screen come with a real CPU and GPU.

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (2, Insightful)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811108)

10 hours is already more time than I know what to do with with my netbook

Not traveling much, are you? A flight from Los Angeles to Sydney takes 14-15 hours.

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811494)

And the planes don't have electrical outlets?

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32812482)

No, they don't. Not in Economy on any of the international flights I've been on.

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (3, Informative)

whizzard (177251) | more than 3 years ago | (#32813268)

Not in Economy on any of the international flights I've been on.

A number of airlines actually do have limited in-flight power in economy these days, such as Delta [delta.com] and Continental [continental.com] . A good website for finding out which airlines have this feature on which equipment is SeatGuru [seatguru.com] .

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 3 years ago | (#32813732)

A 14-hour flight in economy? I think my sanity would run out before my battery!

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32815672)

Drown "that kid who kicks the back of your chair every 1.2 seconds for the entire duration of the flight" in the bathroom sink shortly after takeoff, and you'll have a much better flight.

Plus, altitude causes alcohol to hit harder. Between that and the duty-free, it's like happy hour!

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | more than 3 years ago | (#32814678)

Not traveling much, are you? A flight from Los Angeles to Sydney takes 14-15 hours.

and the percentage of flights that are 14-15 hours? i dont need to check to know that this is quite a small percentage of the market.

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (1)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 3 years ago | (#32815744)

Really? You think that flights from major US hubs to Australia or Japan are an insignificant fraction of the market?

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (1)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 3 years ago | (#32812198)

10 hours is already more time than I know what to do with with my netbook.

Watch YouTube and the 10 hours become 5.
Play a game and the 10 hours become 3.
Do any of the above over 3G wireless and they become even less.

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#32814550)

According to this [pcworld.com] review, the iPad can loop a movie continuously for 11 hours and 25 minutes while connected to wi-fi. I can't imagine that using a full on netbook with a larger battery and an arm processor won't be able to duplicate this feat.

Tablet Design (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810468)

I'd like to see this in an open source hardware project to create what we all thought was going to be the crunchpad. This would be so cool.

Re:Tablet Design (2, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811208)

I'd like to see this in an open source hardware project to create what we all thought was going to be the crunchpad. This would be so cool.

Unfortunately, the hardware is just a part of the equation. The other side is really solid, touch-capable software. And, despite being a Linux user for, oh, 15 years now, there's one thing I can say about the open source community: in the 15 years I've been involved with Linux, OSS developers still can't seem to get a handle on building intuitive, user-friendly, clean, fluid user interfaces.

Re:Tablet Design (2, Informative)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 3 years ago | (#32812236)

Is Android OSS enough for you? People seem to like its user interface.

Re:Tablet Design (2, Interesting)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#32813188)

Anyone who's seen an iPhone and an Android phone side-by-side will tell you that the Android interface, while okay, pales beside the iPhone. The latter is just far cleaner and smoother. The touch interface is more responsive. The browser works better. It's just a far better experience. Of course, the iPhone has a ton of other problems (not the least of which is Jobs' intention to keep the software ecosystem a walled garden), but as a general rule (save for a few places, like the alerts system), the UI is not one of them.

Besides which, Android, while its source is open, is not what I would call an open source project. It's developed primarily by a single company paying their developers to build Android full time. And yet it's still behind iOS in terms of usability.

Re:Tablet Design (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 3 years ago | (#32813474)

A lot of OSS projects are so tightly controlled by a primary sponsor that the same applies. OpenOffice.Org for instance

Re:Tablet Design (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32814842)

While this may be true on older Android phones, I've just had the opportunity to use a HTC Incredible side by side with an iPhone 4.
There is no difference in UI responsiveness.
The browser on Android is at least on par with the one on the iPhone. The screen flipping is clearly faster on the Incredible, and the iPhone's multitasking is no match vs Android. I'd be hard pressed to find things where the iPhone offers a "better experience".
Of course that's just my personal experience as of yesterday. Best go and see for yourself.

Re:Tablet Design (1, Interesting)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#32814852)

Anyone who's seen $PREMIUM_PRODUCT and $MASS_MARKET_PRODUCT side-by-side will tell you that the $MASS_MARKET_PRODUCT, while okay, pales beside the $PREMIUM_PRODUCT. The latter is just far cleaner and smoother.

People like choice. There is room in the market for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, and the list goes on. I'm not even sure what point you are trying to make. And the GP was not even talking about the iPhone. You were apparently trying to argue over his comment about people liking Android's user interface. Personally, I like it. And, yes, I've used it and an iPhone side by side.

Besides which, Android, while its source is open, is not what I would call an open source project.

This is just pure FUD.

It's developed primarily by a single company paying their developers to build Android full time.

So, Google is developing the Linux kernel now? Somebody better let Torvalds know so he can quit wasting his time.

And yet it's still behind iOS in terms of usability.

Debatable. But even if it is, it must be ahead in other areas if sales are anything to go by.

Re:Tablet Design (2, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#32815432)

People like choice. There is room in the market for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, and the list goes on. I'm not even sure what point you are trying to make.

Then go re-read my post, as clearly your reading comprehension is failing you.

I stated that OSS projects build shitty UIs.
The responder said "Hey look, Android is awesome and it's OSS."
I responded with "And yet the UI pales compared to a closed-source project like iOS, and it's still a single company driving development, unlike your average OSS project, so it's not even that good an example."

Do you get it now? Do I need to use smaller words?

This is just pure FUD.

No it's not. I invoked no fear, created no uncertainty, nor implied any doubt.

Aside from the kernel (which has fuck-all to do with the UI), does android have a large community of volunteer developers? No. It's no different than, say, Java: virtually all development is done by a single, commercial organization, that then releases their work for free. That's extremely commendable, and I would never claim it's a problem. But it does mean that most of the development is being done by a focused group of paid developers, directed by a company with a unified vision, and that makes it *very very different* from a traditional OSS project like, say, Gnome or KDE. As such, Android can achieve, in the UI, what a typical OSS project seems incapable of.

Now, please, Android-fanboy, leave me alone. This discussion was never meant to be focused on Android versus iOS, it was simply an example, and one I didn't even bring up. It's a broader discussion about the drawbacks of the open source software development model, *specifically in the area of UI development*. If you can't handle that, move on, I have better things to do than deal with the hate-on you have for Apple and the woody you get from Android.

Re:Tablet Design (2, Interesting)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#32815942)

I responded with "And yet the UI pales compared to a closed-source project like iOS, and it's still a single company driving development, unlike your average OSS project, so it's not even that good an example."

Do you get it now? Do I need to use smaller words?

Why use small words when I can sum up my thoughts in 2 letters? Here they are:
bs

This is just pure FUD.

No it's not. I invoked no fear, created no uncertainty, nor implied any doubt.

Yawn. You said Android isn't an open source project. It is. [android.com] Look up the word uncertainty.

Aside from the kernel (which has fuck-all to do with the UI), does android have a large community of volunteer developers?

Unbelievable. Yeah, aside from that kernel that has been continuously developed and refined for almost 2 decades and has had billions of dollars pumped into it, Android is just pure Google. I'm sure it took much more effort to come up with the DalvikVM and bionic than that one little kernel. It's just out of the kindness of their hearts that they decided to go with Linux rather than just whip up their own in their spare time.

No. It's no different than, say, Java: virtually all development is done by a single, commercial organization, that then releases their work for free.

See my previous statement.

Now, please, Android-fanboy, leave me alone.

Wow. Name calling. Your arguments just get better and better.

Re:Tablet Design (0, Flamebait)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#32816052)

Unbelievable. Yeah, aside from that kernel that has been continuously developed and refined for almost 2 decades and has had billions of dollars pumped into it,

What part of "UI" don't you get? I'm assuming it's the "interface" part, though maybe the word "user" confuses you...

Either way, I'm done with you. You're clearly incapable of remaining focused on the actual topic at hand.

Re:Tablet Design (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#32816202)

Either way, I'm done with you. You're clearly incapable of remaining focused on the actual topic at hand.

Yeah, it must be terrible when people won't play into your trolling.

Re:Tablet Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32817656)

I wouldn't call neither GNOME nor KDE shitty actually...
There exist OSS projects with shitty UIs, and there exist proprietary projects with shitty UIs.

And on Android... well it does have a number of corporate contributors. It also does have a huge number of app writers.
The core developers are from it's founding entity (Google), but how's that different from GNOME (GF+Novell), OpenOffice, Xorg, Apache, Blender and so on?

The GP has stated valid criticism of your assertations. You respond with insults and arrogance.
How can this inflammatory namecalling appear insightful to anybody?

Re:Tablet Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32817764)

How in the bloody hell does this qualify as flamebait? Seriously, I'd really like to know. Is prosaic debate flaming now? This is just ridiculous. People, we are witnessing the brave new world of Slashdot.

Re:Tablet Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32818370)

Don't be so thin-skinned mate. He obviously had a friend who happened to have mod points and agreed to downmod you while modding up his comments.

Re:Tablet Design (3, Insightful)

l0b0 (803611) | more than 3 years ago | (#32812668)

There seems to be a very common notion that the study and implementation of usability is for wimps and people who should have kept out of science, real nerds/geeks don't need no stinkin' GUI, user testing is boring and expensive, you see where this is going. And the really sad thing is that managers don't care much either, as long as the result is below their personal pain threshold. So we end up with interfaces which are barely usable to computer literates, and thus unusable to anyone with less experience. This has nothing to do with OSS, it's an industry thing.

Re:Tablet Design (2, Insightful)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#32813300)

Just to amplify that, there is no acid test for when a gui is a good gui. In addition, what's a good gui for a novice is not necessarily a good gui for an experienced person. The only way to get a good gui is to do user testing, and not just any group of users will do. So a company either whacks together something an engineer thought was a good gui, or relies on a gui guru who knows how past guis work so the next one must be just like the others.

Add to those problems that a good gui can easily take over 50% of your development time. And it won't really work unless the underlying system it is abstracting is already there. So you can spend more time doing a Potemkin village for your gui developers so they aren't waiting for the underlying system developers to finish. But now you have the problem of combining the underlying system with the gui using more time. The consequence is the system gets drawn up first, and now it is time to draw up the gui. But Sales is climbing on your back saying they need it yesterday because they've already sold one. So system developing starts up before the gui gets drawn up. By the time the gui is being developed, time is already short and so anything that half-way works get shoved out the door.

Re:Tablet Design (1)

rawler (1005089) | more than 3 years ago | (#32815578)

Just a tangential thought. The terminal interface is fluid and clean. It is also "user-friendly", depending on definition. What it isn't, is intuitive.

The Cisco CLI, for those familiar with it, is actually really "intuitive" (as intuitive as complex multi-protocol network configuration ever gets), by introducing contextual hints. "What could you type here"-type help.

Personally, I've for years been hoping for a keyboard-driven terminal-like interface, that is actually intuitive, but doesn't limit itself to 80x25 (or whatever) text-mode.

I think http://www.hci-matters.com/blog/2007/06/16/archives/9/ [hci-matters.com] has a very good starting point.

Re:Tablet Design (2, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 3 years ago | (#32816392)

: in the 15 years I've been involved with Linux, OSS developers still can't seem to get a handle on building intuitive, user-friendly, clean, fluid user interfaces.

That's okay... Neither can the closed-source world.

As a counter-example, I submit MPlayer. And I don't mean the GUI that comes with it (though it doesn't affect the point). With MPlayer, if I want it to go full-screen, I hit "f". If I want to pause, I hit "p". If I want to seek forward, I hit the right-arrow key. If I want to seek backwards, left-arrow key. Mute: "m". Quit: "q". Audio-sync delay: "+" and "-". How dammed simple is that?

With Windows Media Player, Full-screen is "ALT-Enter". Forward-seek is something like right-bracket. Quit needs Alt+F4 or similar. et al.

And sadly, it's not just Microsoft's media player. Just about all use similarly obtuse keys for their functions. And don't get me started on the user-unfriendly implications of media players that support encoding and playback of several codecs and container formats, (eg. MPEG-4 audio/video) but ONLY in specific combinations of codec and container, and NOT in any others (eg. AVI). It makes no sense on either a user-interface or technical level.

Re:Nice to have them with 13.1 14-15 and 17" scree (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811016)

I thought the same when I had an Acorn A4 back in 1994. Please bring a 15 inch model. Never happened.

Unreadable. Sometimes un-accessible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32810194)

Memo To armdevices.net: Line Spacing. Increase it.

And a video? Sheesh. What ever happened to text. Or even text and pictures. Don't just show a video, put some effort and create an article. Gah.

Re:Unreadable. Sometimes un-accessible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32810232)

also, don't host your website on an ARM based server, they're just not powerful enough.

Slashdotted, or ??? (2, Insightful)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810296)

Here we go again. I'm getting an "Internal Server Error", but who knows exactly why the page is down.

Coral Cache link is here, [nyud.net] , and it'll theoretically work, well, that is if I can ever get the page to load...

Too bad about RTFA, I guess, for once it looks like I can base my post solely on the summary and not feel an ounce of guilt. Let's see...I don't know much about Pegatron, but if their laptops don't come with a pair of wings and a horse head attached I think I'm going to feel let down.

Re:Slashdotted, or ??? (3, Funny)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810580)

Here we go again. I'm getting an "Internal Server Error", but who knows exactly why the page is down.

Because it's hosted on an ARM Cortex A9 Powered laptop. doh!

Don't Worry, Be Happy it Works At All on ARM !! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32810346)

ARM is a little processor for little girls, peewees, and stupid peeps. Are you any of those? No? Then don't worry, be happy !!

Re:Don't Worry, Be Happy it Works At All on ARM !! (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811248)

I bet you enjoy the energy-wasting power of your awesome Pentium 4.

Video with a different Canonical engineer? (3, Informative)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810370)

As their main webserver quietly melts in the background, please direct your attention to a video here [pirillo.com] (Coral Cache [nyud.net] ) that has the exact same title as the url in this article.

This link/video mentions Jerone Young, one of the "main engineers at Canonical" responsible for ARM development.

Oops, nevermind -- it's the same engineer... (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810540)

Maybe I could have used another hour or two of sleep....

ARM vs Geode (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810384)

Can anybody tell me why ARM won the battle vs AMD's Geode processor?

Re:ARM vs Geode (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32810476)

It can be licensed and stuck in your SoC.

Re:ARM vs Geode (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32810660)

Ewww, why would I want to stick things up there? My SoC is just for shitting!

Re:ARM vs Geode (4, Informative)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810518)

AMD Geode is a series of processor models implementing the x86 architecture. ARM is a whole architecture with multiple manufacturers and a bazillion different models. ARM CPUs tend to be extremely power efficient, so they are the natural choice for mobile and many other classes of computers.

Re:ARM vs Geode (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 3 years ago | (#32816474)

ARM CPUs tend to be extremely power efficient, so they are the natural choice for mobile and many other classes of computers.

Except for the fact that ATOM CPUs can now meet or exceed the power efficiency of many ARM CPUs.

Re:ARM vs Geode (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 3 years ago | (#32816816)

ARM systems tend to be systems on chip. AFAIK, the power advantage of Atom is easily negated by its supporting chipset. Look at the huge heatsink on the northbridge of an Atom system, then look at an ARM SoC with on heatsink at all.

Moreover, whereas x86 often provides good performance per watt, ARM tends to have much lower idle consumption, which is pretty important in mobile devices.

Re:ARM vs Geode (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810832)

A few reasons: With Geode, you have your choice between the two main branches of the family: the original Geodes, descendants of the embedded x86 line that AMD bought from National Semiconductor; and the AMD-designed Geode, which is basically their 32 bit athlon design with some modifications to make it embedding friendly.

The first are genuinely low power and heavily integrated; but those suckers are slow. The second are pretty zippy by embedded standards; but only low-power by the standards of the desktop/laptop athlons they were derived from(ie. not very). Neither is an especially compelling choice. The former is slow enough that x86 compatibility doesn't really help you in the consumer market(virtually nothing remotely modern will run fast enough, and if you are going to roll a custom ultra-zippy OS and application suite, x86 isn't a huge feature) and the latter is power hungry enough that you can't really get it into anything smaller than a netbook(where, if it weren't for the fact that it tends to get paired with a fucking SiS chipset, it would actually be OK).

Second, "ARM" gets to piggiback on development work done for contemporary high-end smartphones. The board going into a "smartbook" will be virtually identical to that going into a high end smartphone, just with a bigger screen, battery, and keyboard, and quite possibly some bumped clock speeds made possible by the larger battery and greater heat-dissipation capacity of the form factor.

Re:ARM vs Geode (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 3 years ago | (#32816744)

With Geode, you have your choice between the two main branches of the family

Actually, there are three: GX, LX and NX.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geode_(processor)#AMD_Geode [wikipedia.org]

The first are genuinely low power and heavily integrated; but those suckers are slow. The second are pretty zippy by embedded standards; but only low-power by the standards of the desktop/laptop athlons they were derived from

The GX's are brutally slow. The NX's are ULV Socket-A Athlon-TBirds, (and the power consumption isn't bad for a DECADE-OLD CHIP that can still beat the fastest new embedded CPUs from ARM/Intel). The LX's, however, are a pretty good balance. The LX900 w/TDP of 5.1W isn't bad at all. I'd certainly like to see some benchmarks of it next to a recent ATOM, considering how low the MIPS/MHz are on those.

Re:ARM vs Geode (2, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810846)

Because it's been winning the battle since the Psion 5 came out. Or the Apple Newton came out. It beat MIPS and SH3 and SH4 before Palm switched from Dragonball CPUs.

And in the past few years, it's because it's licensable, cheap, can be integrated with other components in your own SoC, works well, has a nice ISA, has the features that you need for a mobile platform, doesn't have cruft like x86, didn't need x86 compatibility anyway, etc, etc.

I did use a Geode based tablet back in 2000 or so. It was running QNX. Rubbish.

Re:ARM vs Geode (5, Interesting)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810994)

A previous poster already answered, on a nice manner. But to make things clear, x86 is a bad architecture, and to make it run any fast, you need to create a very power hungry chip. ARM is a much better architecture, leading to smaller and less power hungry cores.

There is also a problem of scale here. It is cheaper to make an ARM that everybody uses than to make a x86 that will fit only a ninche. But that doesn't completely apply to the current situation, since the A9 is also ninche. (For the A8 things are different.)

Re:ARM vs Geode (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32811682)

But to make things clear, x86 is a bad architecture

Isn't it odd how the Mac platform jumps from CPU to CPU and somehow ended up on x86. If we could get the PC to jump just once, we'd be so much better off (and the Mac would be kinda screwed).

Re:ARM vs Geode (2, Insightful)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 3 years ago | (#32812308)

Nah, if it's truly a better platform then Apple will jump again. They've spent quite a bit of effort / time / money in the processes needed for this type of switch and performed very well in their previous jump. If anything Microsoft will have a far harder time doing this because of the backwards compatibility needs.

I wonder if Apple patented any of the central ideas needed for this when they did Rosetta. It's pretty transparent the way it works under OS X -- I'm using Tiger (soon to be upgraded) and there are several PPC processes running right now.

Re:ARM vs Geode (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 3 years ago | (#32815312)

Actually an A9 is an out-of-order, superscalar implementation of the same thing they're used to with the ARM9 and ARM11, with a few embellishments you might/might not use.

As far as the software people are mostly concerned, it's the same thing- and it's most definitely not niche as it'll run your stuff quite a bit faster than the older ARMs would.

Re:ARM vs Geode (1)

doofusclam (528746) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811148)

Because Geode was crap! In a previous job we used embedded Geode boards in shops. They were useless - the hardware was some virtualised nonsense, the watchdogs didn't work, throughput was awful and documentation non-existent. Definitely the worst boards i've ever used.

Re:ARM vs Geode (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32812154)

I'm not going to say that it was good; because it was "built right down to price" back when good hardware cost a lot more than it does today; but the Geode's virtualized hardware was actually rather clever.

It's a sordid tale going back to the Cyrix MediaGX(a cost and heat-optimized cutdown of the already cheap-seats Cyrix 6x86 line). The MediaGX creatively abused x86 System Management Mode to emulate the presence of a hardware VGA and sound card that did not actually exist. Working in concert with a specially modified BIOS, the chip would drop into SMM whenever the VGA or sound hardware was supposed to be active, do the job on the CPU, and then pop back into normal execution mode. The fake VGA also used system memory rather than dedicated video RAM, just to keep things even cheaper.

You have to admire the pluck and creativity of this approach; but not the performance it resulted in.

When Cyrix was sold to National Semiconductor(their designs went to Nat Semi, their trademarks to VIA), the MediaGX became the National Semiconductor GeodeGXm. Traces of the MediaGX design persisted through the GXLV and GX1. The GX2 might have been a clean break.

Then AMD took over. They issued the GeodeGX and GeodeLX, both of which were direct descendants of the National Semiconductor designs, though the LX was speed boosted a fair bit. Because this was insufficiently confusing, the GeodeNX appeared, which was derived from the Athlon XP-M. To complete the confusion, the GeodeNX 2001 was, in fact, just an Athlon 2200+ with a different label.

Lesser names? (5, Informative)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810406)

as well as lesser names such as Quanta, Invetec, Pegatron, and Compal

They may not be household names but I would hardly call them lesser names. In fact I would be shocked if hp's Slate offering wasn't built by Quanta.

Quanta Computer Incorporated [wikipedia.org] (TWSE: 2382) is a Taiwan-based manufacturer of notebook computers and other electronic hardware. It is the largest manufacturer of notebook computers in the world.[1] Its customers include ACER, Alienware, Apple Inc., Cisco, Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, Gericom, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Maxdata, MPC, Sharp Corporation, Siemens AG, Sony, Sun Microsystems, and Toshiba. It was founded by Barry Lam in 1988. Lam continues to head the company.

Compal [wikipedia.org] is the second largest notebook manufacturer in the world

3 January 2008: Asus [wikipedia.org] formally splits into three companies: ASUSTeK, Pegatron [pegatroncorp.com] and Unihan

Re:Lesser names? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32811662)

You beat me to it as well. "Lesser" indeed... It's like calling MSI, SuperMicro or Foxconn "minor" players in the mainboard field. Subby needs to do more research!

Re:Lesser names? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32812126)

it says lesser names not lesser companies. So ultimately it is 100% correct.

mo3 0p (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32810734)

numbers. The loss conversations where and enjoy all the They want you to myU bedpost up my and easy - only were compounded real problems

The real problem is not one platform (5, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#32810982)

These are ARM based platforms, but unlike the PC, there's not one single platform.

On a PC, you know where everything is - and if not, the BIOS helps you. A lot of basic peripherals are at well-known locations (serial ports, keyboards, mice, etc). And for PCI, it exists in a well-known location as well. The BIOS does offer a memory map, but it's just to map physical RAM (which also exists at a well known location - it starts from 0).

If you wanted to write a basic OS, you can accomplish a lot since you know RAM starts at 0, BIOS puts tables at well-known locations (ACPI, memory, etc), and where to expect a video adapter (already set up for you by BIOS), serial port, basic I/O. Add in a little code to do a little PCI probing to discover other adapters (mass storage, USB, etc), but that can wait since the basics are there. Heck, you can often guess a network controller might be placed at IO 0x300.

On ARM, there's no such thing. You can't buy an "ARM Processor" - they don't really exist except as SoCs with onboard memory controllers, display controllers and other peripherals. And each chip can have different addresses for them. And while the ARM cores start at well-known location (0 - reset vector), there's often ROM there that does security boot, or just boot from NAND/SD/etc. And each peripheral exists in a different location - serial ports may be at 0x80000000 physical on one SoC, 0x80108000 on another, etc. RAM isn't based in any standard location - 0x40000000, 0x80000000, 0xC0000000 or other locations are possible. Ditto a PCI(e) bridge - it's somewhere in the memory map, but where you need to read the SoC manual to find out. End result is the OS has to be customized per-SoC and per-hardware because people can put things anywhere (for Linux, this just means the kernel since the POSIX abstraction layer hides the rest - provide a nice userspace and devices don't care).

We don't think of it much, but the PC hasn't differed that much since IBM released their version of a desktop nearly 30 years ago. Heck, Intel's Pine Trail isn't PC-compatible, but it's an x86-based platform. Which is why Linux runs, but not Windows (desktop - you can probably get Windows CE running on it).

That itself is a huge challenge. It's akin to consoles - all three consoles currently out (PS3, Xbox360, Wii) all have PowerPC processors inside them, but you can say none are compatible with each other, even though the lowlying ISA is the same.

Why is ARM like that? (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811186)

These are ARM based platforms, but unlike the PC, there's not one single platform.

Is there any particular reason why there isn't a standard way of doing things?

I mean, is there a competitive advantage to the chip makers who license the ARM tech if they decide on their own addresses for various components? Or is it just that it hasn't been as big an issue with embedded systems in the past, and nobody large enough has stood up and said "here's the standard way of doing things"?

Re:Why is ARM like that? (3, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811482)

Is there any particular reason why there isn't a standard way of doing things?

I mean, is there a competitive advantage to the chip makers who license the ARM tech if they decide on their own addresses for various components? Or is it just that it hasn't been as big an issue with embedded systems in the past, and nobody large enough has stood up and said "here's the standard way of doing things"?

Becvause it's embedded, so each manufacturer has a different way of doing things that they feel is "better". It's why there's no standard for network cards - Intel, Broadcom, Marvell and the like all have differing ideas on how to do things that they feel will give them the edge.

Compatibility itself was never a consideration for embedded - at best you had source code compatibility, and some SoCs maintained memory maps for next-gen chips (so developers of previous-gen chips can reuse stuff like drivers). Intel's StrongARM and PXA25x chips come to mind (and Marvell has continued, which results in oddball placement of registers in the memory map these days, and things like "compatible small memory" and "large memory" maps when things have to be moved around).

And in embedded systems, since the OS and applications (even if they run Linux) tend to be heavily customized anyways, the real need for cross-SoC compatibility is pretty minimal. The customer says they want an Samsung processor in their device (because they have a good deal with Samsung, for example), you use a Samsung processor. Next guy wants a Marvell one, you use Marvell. Third guy wants Freescale, etc.

Re:Why is ARM like that? (3, Interesting)

imgod2u (812837) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811666)

There's just very little reason to do it. Consider the modern PC. Consider that it won't boot if you don't have an archaic PCI bus and legacy peripherals. Consider that well before the 4GB memory limit was hit, the 4GB addressing limit was really hampering the OS due to the fact so many memory address spaces are "reserved" for peripherals that may or may not be there.

There is a lot of waste in the PC from a hardware/software standpoint all in the name of conforming to this "standard way of doing it" that dates back 30 years. I doubt you want this in your cell phone.

ARM has been able to evolve significantly due to this level of flexibility. The AMBA system bus itself has almost kept pace with the rate of CPU speed increases. Not only that but a lot of SoC vendors use their own proprietary bus architecture depending on the application. A company named Sonics provides packet-style memory access IP for SoC vendors that allows highly efficient memory bandwidth sharing amongst multiple heterogeneous cores. You'll never see this in a PC.

Re:Why is ARM like that? (2, Interesting)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | more than 3 years ago | (#32814992)

The issue is that the SoCs have different internal components for which there is no standardized interface. The SoC is a complete system, but the definition of what a 'complete system' is depends entirely on the feature set -- the feature sets vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and even chip to chip for a single manufacturer as the SoC solutions are tailored for specific applications, the memory maps change based on what features are available which are in a lot of cases just 'cut and pastes' of system components on the chip.

Some SoCs have real time clocks built in, some don't but provide external connections, some SoCs have not only a full ARM processor but also a dedicated DSP chip (TI OMAP-L137). The ethernet device for a SoC varies from mfg to mfg because it's their own device on die.

Most of this never becomes a problem for end-users of embedded systems as any system producer that utilizes SoCs will have to build a custom u-boot that kickstarts the chip and starts the components in the correct order, then you need Linux kernel drivers for each of the features.. It's a pain in the butt if you're a company developing a custom SoC based product (I work for one and had to do u-boot and kernel porting for two ARM chips now, and it's not fun)

The awesome fall-out of this is that u-boot essentially replaces BIOS, so there's no need to plumb for what devices are part of your system, so you can get insane boot times (1 second from power up to login prompt) if you do it right.

Re:Why is ARM like that? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32815864)

And u-boot is arguably the best case scenario. I just Love the guys who decide that they are too cool for u-boot and decide to roll their own obscure custom bootloaders. That makes life a lot easier...

Re:The real problem is not one platform (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811280)

Heck, Intel's Pine Trail isn't PC-compatible, but it's an x86-based platform. Which is why Linux runs, but not Windows (desktop - you can probably get Windows CE running on it).

Tell that to everyone running Windows 7 on their netbooks.

You probably meant Moorestown which doesn't have a PCI bus. The next version, Oaktrail will be able to run regular Windows however.

Re:The real problem is not one platform (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811714)

Tell that to everyone running Windows 7 on their netbooks.

You probably meant Moorestown which doesn't have a PCI bus. The next version, Oaktrail will be able to run regular Windows however.

Ah you caught me, thanks. Yes, Moorestown was what I was thinking. And less so because of PCI, more so because if you want a phone, going through the BIOS and ACPI startup routines means you can lose the call before your OS can resume. (It may take "seconds" to come out of sleep, but on a low-power low-frequency platform, it can easily be 30+ seconds, and by then, you lost the call. The modem wakes you up, and you have to run through the BIOS, which calls the OS resume, which then has to run through the ACPI resume stuff and wait for I/O to be ready before userspace is ready to be able to handle the call - you can delay things like WiFi startup, but you must have things like PCI and USB bus ready )to talk to modem), audio (to play ringtone and map the audio path to the modem), display, and you have to do this so the user can decide if they want to take the call or not).

Treating the x86 as a SoC can enable the 1-2 second wakeup times required for a phone, and eliminates all the legacy crap that really slows you down. At the expense of well, now you have to build your Linux kernel specially and you can't just install Ubuntu and the latest kernel - you need the patches brought forward.

I'm sure you can do that on more PC-like platforms, but it's going to be a lot more work since you'll have to re-do the BIOS to literally be non-existent and hard code a lot of things handled by ACPI, etc. At which point, you might as well start over, and just get rid of all the junk you don't need, adding in the stuff (controllers) you do, and avoiding the whole overhead of things like PCI when the devices are at specific I/O or memory addresses.

Re:The real problem is not one platform (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811298)

Ditto for MIPS. It's practically impossible to write code for some random MIPS chipset without being provided with the full build config, patches, drivers etc. That's probably a symptom of the space MIPS lives in - embedded devices where every chipset maker and their uncle produces a MIPS variant, some with bespoke hardware.

The PC is lucky that it's development has been so linear. Occasionally the path might branch off down a few competing technologies but usually one of them hits a dead end or they converge back together or they both become legacy and stable.

false: Intel's Pine Trail isn't PC-compatible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32811362)

What are you talking about? The Pine Trail models are completely "PC compatible". Netbooks using the N450 have been netbooks shipping since the beginning of the year with XP or Windows 7. HP ships N450 netbooks with a shell customized standard version of SUSE.

Re:The real problem is not one platform (4, Informative)

david.given (6740) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811392)

These are ARM based platforms, but unlike the PC, there's not one single platform.

Having worked on this sort of thing... you are so right. (Aside: there are some non PC x86 devices. SGI made some non-PC x86 workstations at one point, and the new generation of Atom phones won't be PCs.)

However, all is not lost: this is exactly the kind of problem that Open Firmware [wikipedia.org] was designed to solve. Each machine has an Open Firmware interpreter on it that acts as a boot loader. Once loaded, the OS can query Open Firmware to find stuff out about the machine. What's more, Open Firmware has the ability to find basic device drivers written in bytecode on the devices themselves. Plug in a PCI mass storage device and you can boot from it --- regardless of your machine's architecture! And since Open Firmware is based around a Forth interpreter, you have a complete programming environment out of the box, which is fantastic for troubleshooting.

Anyone who's used a Sun workstation, a PowerPC Mac or an OLPC will have been exposed to it. Unfortunately, Intel's adoption of EFI as the official next-gen PC boot architecture pretty much squashed Open Firmware's momentum.

You can find a BSD/MIT licensed version here [openfirmware.info] ... and yes, there is an ARM version.

Re:The real problem is not one platform (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811696)

Mod parent up! I wish OpenFirmware got more press, it's a really beautiful system. One of the really nice things you can do with it is compile the OFW drivers once you've booted. Each card comes with a little Forth program describing how to control it. The firmware interprets this, but an OS can compile it for the target CPU at boot time (or later) if it wants. Or it can replace it with its own driver. EFI seems pretty backwards by comparison, and LinuxBIOS (or OpenBoot, or whatever it's calling itself now) is just incredibly bloated. I'd love to see ARM systems ship with an OpenFirmware implementation.

Re:The real problem is not one platform (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32811732)

Fuck the BIOS and fuck Open Firmware. Give me device trees or give me death.

Ubuntu (2)

helix2301 (1105613) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811240)

After the recent release of Ubuntu I have much more faith in there engineering team. Canonical is definitely showing promise in being the #1 desktop Linux distro.

resources (2)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 3 years ago | (#32811364)

Instead of chasing every new fad device, why doesn't Ubuntu focus more resources on QA of existing hardware support? Three of the four WiFi cards I have don't work with Ubuntu 10.04. And they aren't broken due to some manufacturer's folly: the drivers to make the work exist, they are just compiled with the wrong options by Ubuntu.

Ubuntu needs to spend those resources on TESTING their new software to make sure it works with common hardware before it is released.

Re:resources (1)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 3 years ago | (#32812422)

I could not agree more with you. I wish they spent more time testing (or just hired more guys for testing purposes).
Especially regression tests. Its not uncommon for someone to update from version X to version Y and suddently some hardware part stops working..

Re:resources (1)

extrasolar (28341) | more than 3 years ago | (#32812888)

You know, at the end of the day, Canonical needs to concern itself with *its* bottom line too, you know.

Sorry, but I hate it how people think they can tell companies how they should allocate their resources to fix their own personal problems. FWIW, I haven't had any problems with wifi on the computers I've installed Ubuntu on, so obviously they're doing something right.

And I *really* want an ARM based GNU/Linux laptop,tablet, netbook.

Certainly not insurmountable (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32812248)

Since I'm currently running Ångström linux on a brilliant cortex A8 machine (the pandora) - and yes, it runs chrome and ff3.6 no problem and has 3d drivers that make Quake 3 perform really well - I can't believe that these 'challenges' are going to be insurmountable.

Re:Certainly not insurmountable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32813994)

But how well does it do with Duke Nukem Forever?

mod do3n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32812254)

As one of the metadiscuusio8s Very sick and its

Where can i buy? (2, Interesting)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#32813104)

But how soon can i buy these laptops?
It's all well and good talking about it and showing prototypes, but i want to buy one of these ARM based laptops... The only ARM based laptops i see for sale right now are older models, usually running windows ce with very little memory or storage and pitiful battery life (usually because of a tiny battery rather than inefficient design)...

I have an EEE901 right now, 2gb ram, solid state 20gb drive, 9" screen... something with similar power to this, but significantly better battery life and perhaps a little thinner/lighter would suit me just fine.

Re:Where can i buy? (1)

butalearner (1235200) | more than 3 years ago | (#32814784)

But how soon can i buy these laptops?

On /. we've been asking the same question for *years* now [slashdot.org] . But it always comes down to one fact: big laptop manufacturers don't make laptops when there isn't a version of Windows to fall back on. So the answer to your question has almost certainly not changed: you will be able to buy them as soon as Windows 7 (or some version of Windows CE) and Microsoft Office runs on ARM. Yeah, it sucks ass, but it needs to be said. Don't get your hopes up until you see an actual release date (yeah, it was "imminent" when they showed them over a year ago, too).

Re:Where can i buy? (2, Interesting)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 3 years ago | (#32817606)

I'm optimist. Today we have Android, and every day we see some new kind of gadget running it.

We see a bunch of major laptop manufacturers forming a consortium for the sole purpose of easing the development of linux-based ARM devices. This means that they must have something cooking, otherwise they wouldn't be investing that money.

We also have MeeGo shaping up, which will be even more open than Android, and is championed by the world's biggest phone maker and CPU maker - and it will run on ARM too.

Even on the closed source front, millions of people are now familiar with using Apple's devices instead of Windows-based hardware. And Windows Mobile simply disappeared from existence.

As for Office, well, I know people who are more used to OpenOffice.org's old-school interface rather than MSOffice 2007's advanced next-generation ribbon. And IIRC Nokia is funding the development of KOffice so I think we can expect some nice office applications on MeeGo in the near future.

My conclusion: Windows has never been so weak as it is today. So 2011 might be the year of non-Windows on the netbook. Or, to be more politically correct, the year of fair competition on the netbook.

vaporware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32816748)

does anyone else see the duke nukem forever problem happening here?

And Microsoft will... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819966)

..write a shitty ass port and the majority of the public will buy it.

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