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One Step Closer To Speedier, Bootless Computers

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the sufficiently-advanced-technology dept.

Data Storage 249

CWmike writes "Physicists at the University of California at Riverside have made a breakthrough in developing a 'spin computer,' which would combine logic with nonvolatile memory, bypassing the need for computers to boot up. The advance could also lead to super-fast chips. The new transistor technology, which one lead scientist believes could become a reality in about five years, would reduce power consumption to the point where eventually computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices could remain on all the time. The breakthrough came when scientists at UC Riverside successfully injected a spinning electron into a resistor material called graphene, which is essentially a very thin layer of graphite. The graphene in this case is one-atom thick. The process is known as 'tunneling spin injection.' A lead scientist for the project said the clock speeds of chips made using tunneling spin injection would be 'thousands of times' faster than today's processors. He describes the tech as a totally new concept that 'will essentially give memory some brains.'"

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Just great... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943128)

Does this mean my Windows machine will catch viruses before they're even released?

Re:Just great... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943386)

Does this mean my Windows machine will catch viruses before they're even released?

Did you hear they're improving transportation in Harlem? They're planting the trees closer together.

Re:Just great... (3, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943504)

Does this mean my Windows machine will catch viruses before they're even released?

Well, 'spin computer' definitely sounds like a Microsoft product.

One step closer to SkyNet (0, Offtopic)

The_One_Ring (599329) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943136)

I, for one, welcome our new cyborg overloads. Please don't vaporize me with you plasma rifle!

Re:One step closer to SkyNet (2, Informative)

Rip Dick (1207150) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943324)

If you played Fallout 3, you would know that a plasma rifle wouldn't vaporize you. It would melt you into a puddle of goo. Now a laser rifle can vaporize you...

Re:One step closer to SkyNet (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943520)

Aaaand if you played Fallout 2, you would know that a plasma rifle would melt you, a laser rifle would cut you up and a pulse rifle would vaporize you...

Re:One step closer to SkyNet (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943782)

A pulsed laser rifle, on the other hand, would be used to write morse code on your corpse!

Re:One step closer to SkyNet (1)

g4b (956118) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944006)

oh c'mon nobody wants to play your educational games!

Wishful thinking... (4, Interesting)

Braintrust (449843) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943138)

Is it wrong that as fast as things as changing these days, part of me still hopes for one of these '1000x faster in 5 years' technologies to live up to its full promise?

I know it's coming; if not this tech than surely another one... I guess one hopes to live in interesting times, and I still dream for the day I wake up and there's a computer for sale that shatters Moore's Law. A computer 1000x faster than what was available the day before.

Faster, please.

(and thank you)

Re:Wishful thinking... (5, Insightful)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943358)

1000x in 5 years IS wishful thinking, but it isn't THAT drastically off from Moore's law, which predicts a 1000x increase every 10 to 15 years. And it's never happened overnight, but in steps every few months. Many of the "1000x-predicted" technologies that /. covered 10 years ago probably have been part of the 1000x-actual increase of the last 10 years.

Re:Wishful thinking... (3, Informative)

Katzhuu (1267952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943362)

It's not breaking Moore's law. Schedule was 5 years for getting first spin transistor and 10 more till they have been introduced to consumer products. That is 15 years. With performance doubling avery 18 months it would mean that in 15 years performace should be ~1000 times todays performance according to Moore's law. Of course the article talked only about speed and not performace. Performance may get additional boosts from other sources that just the speed of the chip.

Re:Wishful thinking... (1)

rhyre417 (919946) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943390)

I saw articles from 2006 about spin graphene, so hopefully working transistors in 2015 will be feasible.

Re:Wishful thinking... (1)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943534)

Actually moore's law doesn't apply to us anymore since technology doubles every 13 months or so and continues to increase. To see computers 1000x more powerful in 5 years in the lab is not doubtful with the right minds but to see a PC that is 1000x faster will likely be more or less around 8 years I'm guessing. Personally I'm hoping that those 1000x faster computers will be 1000x faster 5 years after they release :)

Re:Wishful thinking... (2, Interesting)

pacinpm (631330) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943856)

A computer 1000x faster than what was available the day before.

Faster, please.

(and thank you)

Isn't 1000x faster too fast? I heard we are already close to the limit of speed of light. If we go faster than chips would have to get smaller so signals can travel across them in one cycle.

Re:Wishful thinking... (1, Informative)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944222)

Isn't 1000x faster too fast? I heard we are already close to the limit of speed of light. If we go faster than chips would have to get smaller so signals can travel across them in one cycle.

The day that the speed of light is holding us back we'll be in pretty good shape technologically speaking. I'm not sure if our planet will last long enough for us to get there, but it's not like we've got any other choice. Damn the electrons, full speed ahead!

Re:Wishful thinking... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33944302)

5GHz means cycling every 0.2 nanoseconds. In 0.2 nanoseconds, light travels about 6cm. We're already pretty close to the limit for keeping processing synchronised over a large blob of silicon without using methods more cunning than just saying "feh, doesn't matter, light is fast"

Re:Wishful thinking... (5, Funny)

mrnobo1024 (464702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943900)

If history is any indicator, then the next version of every software program would then be 1000x slower.

Re:Wishful thinking... (2, Funny)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944036)

If history is any indicator, then the next version of every software program would then be 1000x slower.

Yeah, but they'll also be 1000x smarter, meaning that SpinFox will automatically mod down any messages it thinks you might disagree with - with automatically created, nursed and ripened sock puppets!

Seriously speaking, 1000x faster starts getting near the level of human brains in raw power, so it should be able to run a real artificial intelligence on it.

Re:Wishful thinking... (2, Insightful)

mrnobo1024 (464702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944206)

Again, let's just look at the history. Computers are about 1000x faster than they were in 1980. What does software have to show for it? It's often more of a pain to use (I hate it when software tries to be "smart". Don't second-guess me, just give me an easy way to express what I want to do), and it's buggier than ever.

Seriously speaking, 1000x faster starts getting near the level of human brains in raw power, so it should be able to run a real artificial intelligence on it.

Even if this were true, we would have no clue as to how to write one. I have yet to see anyone satisfactorily define "intelligence", let alone propose a plausible algorithm for it. As far as AI is concerned, don't hold your breath.

Re:Wishful thinking... (2, Informative)

B1oodAnge1 (1485419) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944226)

The problem of artificial intelligence is not one of processing power. Even given infinite speed we have no clue how to begin emulating the function of the human brain.

I'm assuming that by "real AI" you mean a self aware computer program.

Re:Wishful thinking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33944148)

Moores Law (Or rather Moores observation.) is about the number of transistors in a chip, it does not necessarily state anything about computational speed, that part is just an extrapolation made by others. Perhaps we should call the observation that computers get faster for Captain Obvious law instead?

Graphene Revolution (1)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943144)

My mobile phone already is on all the time. So are most of my computers.

Graphene is going to turn out to be a 'before graphene/after graphene' landmark in history.

Re:Graphene Revolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943244)

Yeah, seconded. Who the fuck turns their phones/computers off any more anyway?

Re:Graphene Revolution (2, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943514)

Windows update?

Re:Graphene Revolution (4, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943868)

Those of us who don't get our electricity bill paid by our parents.

Re:Graphene Revolution (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944140)

And still haven't got a job, and don't have people communicating with them?

Re:Graphene Revolution (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944298)

Nobody communicates via my computer when the house is empty or we're all in bed.

Where does a job come into it?

Re:Graphene Revolution (2, Insightful)

sempir (1916194) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943616)

'will essentially give memory some brains.'" Now if they can develop this for human consumption think what it would do for people with Alz........Aaahhhhhh......whassitcalled? ....

Re:Graphene Revolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943820)

With the way SSI, investments and retirement decay are headed for baby boom geezers, we'll have to wheeze into cell machines till we're 90 just to eat.

Re:Graphene Revolution (0, Offtopic)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944156)

"Now if they can develop this for human consumption think what it would do for people with Alz........Aaahhhhhh......whassitcalled? ...."

Teapartism. Currently the only treatment is euthanasia.

Re:Graphene Revolution (3, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944192)

When you start advocating the death, en masse, of your political opponents, you've moved outside the realm of civilized society. Stop. Even if it's "just a joke".

Re:Graphene Revolution (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943648)

Bad summary ....(Surprise)

Always on/Suspend mode already covers this and this has nothing to do with Spin/Quantum computing

Non-volatile logic could be built now with conventional electronics (it would be slower in use so it isn't)

This is not the major advantage of quantum computing .....and don't hold your breath the lead time on this is more than indicated here ...

spin computer (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943152)

am i the only one who read the title and thought that PR firms and politicians could be in serious trouble?

Bad summary again... (4, Insightful)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943154)

So, this is becoming a trend. Bad summary. It's not an outright lie, just misleading. From reading the article, one might get the sense that we might see this in products in 5 years. However, the article actually states that the guy said:
"I'm one of those researchers that really cringes at the thought of saying this [new technology] can be useful. I think for us, maybe within five years we can get one device working."

So, the guy is realistic, and not a douche. "We can maybe get one working in 5 years" is not the same as seeing it in devices in 5 years (which, again, wasn't explicitly stated in the summary, but i feel like thats what people would think).

In reality, we might get something in products in 10 years.
-Taylor

Re:Bad summary again... (1)

paulkoan (769542) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943278)

In reality, we might get something in products in 10 years.

And in general, predictions of "10 years" means anything from 10 years to infinity years. Much like fusion power is 10 years away, and always will be.

Re:Bad summary again... (4, Funny)

TopSpin (753) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943396)

Much like fusion power is 10 years away, and always will be.

The Standard Perpetual Interval for fusion is 50 years. Plan accordingly. The SPI for balancing the US Federal budget is 10 years. SPI to market for all exciting new microelectronic/quantum dot/spintronic/nanomechanical/etc. systems is 5 years. Duke Nukem Forever SPI is next year.

Re:Bad summary again... (1)

ian_from_brisbane (596121) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943640)

Duke Nukem Forever SPI is next year.

Next year?! That's going to be the year of Linux.

Re:Bad summary again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33944032)

Duke Nukem Forever SPI is next year.

Next year?! That's going to be the year of Linux.

That's perpetually cancelled out by the alternative SPI of the death of Linux on the desktop. The two always run in parallel until we find a method to collapse the state one way or the other.

Re:Bad summary again... (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943764)

And the SPI for me getting laid is always next week, that's what she said.

Re:Bad summary again... (4, Insightful)

Zouden (232738) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943394)

It's also terribly pedestrian to say that this could lead to "speedier, bootless computers", like as if this technology will be implemented in the next Intel chip and suddenly Windows will load instantly and we'll all get high framerates in Crysis. Really, this technology is similar to quantum computing - eventually it'll find its way into extremely specialised applications, and by the time (or if) it does make it into our homes, computers will be very different things, almost unrecognisable.

Also, "mobile phones and other electronic devices could remain on all the time." Guess what? My mobile phone already remains on all the time, because I recharge it every few days. If the reporter is talking about devices remaining on without charging, what does he think is going to power the antenna and the display? The scientists haven't invented a free energy device.

Re:Bad summary again... (3, Interesting)

shougyin (1920460) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943446)

I'm not sure if this technology is in any resemblance to the old atom spinning technology that I read about years ago, and I've not researched into this much yet, BUT from what I remember of spin technology there is no need for "boot time" or "shutting down" a system. With the atoms spun in a certain position (say, to that of your normal desktop) the computer can be turned off, probably by the same usual methods, but it would shut off much like if you were to kill the power instantly. The atoms being saved in a certain position, would remain in that position while the computer isn't running. So when you next attempt to turn the computer on, it reads the position of the atoms and brings up the screen immediately, as if you had just turned off your monitor and turned it back on. However, that is from something I read a long time ago. And I’m not completely sure that it will work like that.

Re:Bad summary again... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33944014)

If the reporter is talking about devices remaining on without charging, what does he think is going to power the antenna and the display? The scientists haven't invented a free energy device.

I think the implication is that you can suspend most of the time and the computer wouldn't use any power to do so, Basically, hibernation would not be necessary, since you can keep whatever's in memory still in memory without using power. Combined with a screen that can remain on while the processor is suspended (like E Ink, or the OLPC XO's in-hardware trick), devices could use far less power than they do now, and you could leave them "on" while they use no or almost no power at all.

Well, that's how I understood it.

Re:Bad summary again... (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943492)

It also doesn't look like he's talking about getting one useful prototype chip working in five years. He seems to mean one spin transistor five years from now. That probably puts it at decades from hitting market and only if it's a more suitable technology than all the other technologies that could, just maybe, replace the current basic transistor design.

Re:Bad summary again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943566)

Obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com]

Re:Bad summary again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943740)

It's worse than you think. When most people read "device," they think computer or phone. In solid state physics, when we say device, we typically mean a single tiny circuit on a tiny chip. What he means is in 5 years they may have a process of building a single unit of these things on some chip using lithographic techniques, then maybe in another 5 years, find a way to put it in an integrated circuit package, then a few more years after that to have some kind of card you plug into a computer.

Minor progress in materials science. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943156)

Another minor bit of progress in materials science being blown up into a revolutionary advance. We get about one of these every two weeks. Right now, these guys have a one-bit device that consumes more power than DRAM. They really should hold off on the press releases until they're further along. Maybe this will be useful, and maybe it won't be.

It's stuff like this that gives nanotechnology a bad name.

Re:Minor progress in materials science. (0, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit 66 (1920336) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943256)

It's stuff like this that gives nanotechnology a bad name.

you're talking about the ignorant story summarizing spinsters and the brain-dead slashdot editors, right?

slashdot = stagnated

I wonder though (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943164)

for a scientist or engineer to say, a reality in 5 years, if he was referring to ready-for-production or the first trickle to concept models in technology product expos. But the one about 'You can keep them powered on', it's like a game changer from out of left field. Maybe booting will become irrelevant by then?

Re:I wonder though (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943186)

But the one about 'You can keep them powered on', it's like a game changer from out of left field. Maybe booting will become irrelevant by then?

Not if they're running Windows. Doesn't it still have to reboot whenever you update the freaking PDF viewer?

Re:I wonder though (5, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943258)

You could have had faster booting via an OS from Japan.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BTRON [wikipedia.org]
But MS and the US gov had it killed due to market intervention.

Re:I wonder though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943518)

How fast compared to the other OSs of the day? After POST I mean.

Re:I wonder though (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943578)

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Re:I wonder though (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943916)

The article you linked doesn't say anything about boot times. Also, if it "boots faster" by skipping stuff we take for granted, you just end up trading boot time for 'waiting after boot to load essential services'.

Cool stuff but... (2, Insightful)

PmanAce (1679902) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943222)

Will this new technology finally bring us to our beloved flying cars?

Re:Cool stuff but... (2, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943604)

Yes. Right after it gives us the Matrix.

Re:Cool stuff but... (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944074)

Yes. Right after it gives us the Matrix.

If you listen to some of the simulation arguments, there's a reasonable chance that it already did [wikipedia.org] ...

Boolean Memory. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943238)

He describes the tech as a totally new concept that 'will essentially give memory some brains.

Computer memory combined with logic gates. [trnmag.com]

'will essentially give memory some brains' (4, Funny)

janek78 (861508) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943246)

Close, but not what I need - I need something to give my brain some memory!

Re:'will essentially give memory some brains' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943670)

Have you tried a pen and some paper, mate?

Can't we get that already with memristors? (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943248)

For that matter, wouldn't any non-volatile, high speed memory device do the job?

-jcr

All I want to know is... (3, Funny)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943254)

What excuse do I use now to go and make my morning cup of coffee without looking like a slacker?

Re:All I want to know is... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943368)

Do what I do : take your coffee to your workstation, earning a reputation as a guy that never stops working, even for coffee. Then surf slashdot while sipping.

Who here needs social interaction anyway?

Re:All I want to know is... (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943718)

Compiling!

http://xkcd.com/303/ [xkcd.com]

we dont need more processing power tho (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943280)

even today's mainstream cpus are far more powerful than what our everyday tasks involve. even the fps-hungry gaming crowd has been reaching perceptive limits in regard to human eye, and the frame rate has become a sport, a statistical value.

unless society takes on seti, parallel computing etc as hobbies, we wont need more processing power in our daily lives.

Computer vision for mobile devices (2, Interesting)

S3D (745318) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943310)

eat all CPU power available and can eat couple of order of magnitude more.

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (4, Insightful)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943326)

even today's mainstream cpus are far more powerful than what our everyday tasks involve. even the fps-hungry gaming crowd has been reaching perceptive limits in regard to human eye, and the frame rate has become a sport, a statistical value.

unless society takes on seti, parallel computing etc as hobbies, we wont need more processing power in our daily lives.

Just wait till the next version of windows hits the shelves...

I'm fairly certain that computing power is like hard drive space or time 'till the deadline , we will always find ways to fill it, no matter how much we think we have in the beginning.

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943356)

even today's mainstream cpus are far more powerful than what our everyday tasks involve.

Usually that's true. But today I was using Autodesk Inventor, which is a parametric CAD solid modeling system. That's one of the few desktop applications that can usefully use gigabytes of memory and a dozen CPUs.

(I worked on the development of AutoCAD in the early 1980s, when the problem was cramming usefully sized drawings into 640K of RAM, a 20MB hard drive, and an 0.25 MIPS CPU. It was a tough cramming job. I used to dream about the day when we could have a CAD system with real-time solid modeling, automatically connected to CNC machine tools, running on a desktop computer. It took four or five more orders of magnitude in CPU power to make it work, and it's here. I'm glad I got to see it happen.)

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943452)

well it happened... from this point on we need better and smaller cpus, only for mobile devices.

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943444)

unless society takes on seti, parallel computing etc as hobbies, we wont need more processing power in our daily lives.

Have you considered that most the dificulty of modern graphics comes from the limitations of not being able to simply tell the computer: "Take these math defined objects and represent them by simply raytracing everything from this PoV"?

We're still very far (many decades) from the point where we don't need more computing power to represent graphics in a way that doeson't get between the concept of what we want to represent and the reality of what we're forced to accept as the most we can do.

Actually, I'd bet that before we reach a point where we can generate real looking movies in real time, from pure math, we'll have discovered a way of comunicating with the brain bypassing the eyes, and then we'll probably need much more computing power to render those real looking movies into something the brain can interpret.

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943600)

Speak for yourself. I need more power.
"Ah, but for everyday tasks?" you might ask, thinking you had that square covered.
Yes, for what I do every day. Handling large files swiftly. Indexing. Compressing. Processing. The faster, the better.

Also, we won't "be there" until we can photon-simulate two entire 25MP scenes (stereoscopic) at 100fps. :)

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943974)

and then what will come next ? real-time modeling of thermodynamics of farts ?

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943714)

Alright pointdexters! You heard the man, we're done with your science and inventing shit. Now that we have good looking FPSs the computer revolution has done its job. Collect your pink slips on the way out. No, you can't keep your slide rule. Why I oughta.....

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943968)

ahahaha ahahaha ahahahahaa haahahah sarcasm !!! how rare and funny, on the internet !!!

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (1)

silanea (1241518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943798)

Right. Now we just have to completely rewrite every piece of consumer software out there from the ground up to actually make sensible use of all that power so that my desktop does not feel as if I was still sitting in front of that Pentium 1 machine from the dawn of modern times.

Re:we dont need more processing power tho (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33944118)

Visual acuity is far higher than retina. This also applies to the map created by ambient sound.
The brain maintains an environment map that constructs our reality, until games feel real they haven't scratched the surface.

obvious lies in summary (1)

MichaelKristopeit 66 (1920336) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943306)

combining logic with memory by definition makes it volatile.

slashdot = stagnated

Hm... (1)

CyberDragon777 (1573387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943328)

"He describes the tech as a totally new concept that 'will essentially give memory some brains."

So...

In Soviet Russia brain gives you memory?

Shock and horror (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943338)

Shock and horror! Where will I stick the dead bodies? And the horse's head? Damned progress!

UCR? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943412)

UCR? Psh. Tell me when Berkeley has something up and running.

As for me, (5, Funny)

mbstone (457308) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943428)

I'd settle for speedier, botless computers.

Re:As for me, (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943878)

Sorry, not going to happen. Unfortunately, Linux on the desktop is dead.

A Windows editorial writer said so yesterday :(

Wrong conclusion (3, Interesting)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943530)

The earliest computers had non-volatile memory, but that is where the booting process originates from!

The word "booting" comes from the word "bootstrap" which was the tiny program you had to toggle in (with binary switches for the register and the address) into memory, which you could start and which would then load the OS from punch cards.

The memory was still filled, but you did not know what with. So the computer's memory was basically a swamp, and it had to pull itself out with its own bootstraps, like Baron von Münchhausen. Hence the name.

Yes but, (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943586)

does it run linux?

Oh, man. Fix your summaries! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943620)

Someone complained about the "five years" thingie.

Now to the

injected a spinning electron

Now tell us: how did they make the electron spin?

Thought so.

PDAs have done this for years (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943632)

So far as "bootless" goes, my old PDA is ready for use virtually instantaneously. It still boots - more or less, but instead of the multi-minute bloat of modern operating systems, it is capable of doing anything I need within <clicks fingers> about that much time. Now the functions of the PDA are strictly limited. Let's see what we've got: word processor, games, internet browser, email, calendar, video/MP3 players -- hang on a second! Maybe it's not really that limited after all. Give it a keyboard, mouse and a 17-inch screen and you've got a PC that would do the job very nicely.

Not only are its limitations insignificant for the average (non-power) user, but unless you do something daft like reflash the O/S, there's little in the way of screwing it up, either. Maybe instead of looking forwards to Windows Mobile 7, Android, iOS etc. we should take a step back and consider not what's possible but what we actually want?

Re:PDAs have done this for years (1)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943646)

I think you will find it just stays in low power standby mode, and when you press the button it comes out of stand by. Properly rebooting a PDA takes a significant amount of time.

Re:PDAs have done this for years (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943682)

It took a couple of seconds with palmos, and multitasking OSs can boot pretty fast too.

bootless already exists! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33943692)

replace your volatile memory with FRAM [wikipedia.org] and problem solved! though it may cost more money than you can make in your lifetime. ;)

Bootless a reality already (2, Interesting)

robi5 (1261542) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943734)

Bootless computers are a reality. The operating system needs to be written in flash memory (or ROM, with flash
memory patching). It's simple. The boot time of popular OSes stems from two reasons: Microsoft is a technically uninspired desktop OS monopoly; Linux has server origins and Linux on the desktop is nothing but an uninspired copycat of an uninspired MS implementation.

The Commodore 64 featured a bootless design like 30 years ago.

Re:Bootless a reality already (0, Troll)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943834)

Linux Desktop is nothing like Microsoft's offerings. You've obviously never tried it which makes you unqualified to talk about it. Go back to your Commodore troll.

Is the Software Ready for This? (2, Insightful)

mdm42 (244204) | more than 3 years ago | (#33943942)

So, all very nice, we'll be able to have always-on computers that don't pig out on energy, BUT...

How much of the software we use can handle running for long periods of time without crashing? Not many, in my experience.

What with memory leaks, bounds overflows and who knows what else, some of which may be an oversight in your own code, but more likely is a bug inside some library you're using, or a compiler bug, or linker bug, or...

As anybody who has tried it and knows, writing software that runs for weeks and months on end without restarting is really quite hard. And it's no bloody use if the hardware can stay up for months on end if the software can't.

(And, not having used Windows in about 14 years, I'm not talking about that piece of shite.)

Well... (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944038)

You may not need to *boot*, but as long as you run MS software you'll always need to REboot.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33944128)

Run off to school now, vegiVamp. I think I can hear the bell ringing.

Booting (5, Informative)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944070)

Computers needing to "boot" is a relatively modern invention caused in part by hardware hotplug, backwards compatibility modes and reliability checks.

Most of the boot process is:

- Moving out of legacy modes (e.g. enabling increased capabilities from basic instructions sets to full modern ones, enabling different memory access models, enabling 64-bit etc.), ramping up core speed, enabling things like DMA and moving from "safe" memory timings to those that the chips report they can support when the negotiations finally take place, bringing up the non-boot CPU's, etc.

- Contention. Doing only a certain number of things on the bus at any one time, making the buses serial, making the buses have sub-buses and other ideas. Sometimes there is no quicker way to do things. Sometimes it *will* take 1000ms before the disk will respond that it's up to speed.

- Checking that RAM does indeed do what it's told, that a boot loader is present, that a floppy is present (yes, even on some modern BIOS's), checking IDE/SATA channels and retrieving capabilities, checking memory timings, checking PCI and USB buses, checking that disks are spinning, etc.

Some of my servers take up to 3 minutes to get to the point where they can actually load the first byte from disk to begin loading it. A lot of this time is BIOS handoff to the BIOS on the RAID cards (and sometimes the network cards), those RAID cards checking, assembling and enabling the drives, etc. With two RAID cards, we've just nearly doubled boot time. Proper (reasonable) memory checks of several GB of RAM still takes a while, even for a simple test. And yet there's still a minute or so of absolute complete waste as we start in some 8086 legacy mode and slowly have to ramp up disks, cards and our own CPU's, not to mention external hardware like USB and DVD drives "just in case". And then the OS has to go and do it all itself again later anyway.

This is why things like the LinuxBIOS (now called Coreboot) project actually work better and faster - when we KNOW what the BIOS needs to do, we find that lots of it is done twice, lots of it are unnecessary, lots of it can be delayed until we actually NEED the DVD drive, some of it can occur in the background because it will ALWAYS take a long time to start etc. But how many fixed sets of hardware does that project actually work on? Few. Because not only is it tricky to do that sort of analysis, but it's tricky to lock-down exactly what the BIOS needs to do and do better than the original BIOS.

We can have an "instant on" computer. It's easy. My ZX Spectrum did it nearly 30 years ago. My calculator does it now. The Psion organisers all did it. Most portable games consoles manage it. The thing you have to realise though is that it means: booting into a single, fixed OS that's tricky to upgrade, making power management apply to every process perfectly, fixing a set of hardware down that we know can always boot into a certain configuration very quickly, changing the way that all our chips work so they start in their best mode, not their worst (and thus probably destroying things like OS installers as we know them and making them specific to a machine type - no more installers modern OS on old computers, or old OS on modern computers), removing any sort of consistency checks and having to rely on things not going wrong or the hardware being able to handle all hardware errors (e.g. ECC memory for everything with reporting of anything it can't handle), and building every component so it doesn't "negotiate" or "initialise" but just works (e.g. even a keyboard controller can take some time to come back online at the moment, not to mention graphics, disks, USB buses, etc.).

Instant-on computers are always possible, and some of them are very useful for certain things. But generic PC's and instant-on won't happen until CPU's, disks and bus negotiations take literally fractions of a second for any operation (and thus we still do as many instructions to initialise but they take clock cycles instead of manufacturer enforced X-amount-of-milliseconds initialisations). And that's not because we've been clever, it just means that hardware's caught up with our demands. 30 years ago, with a 4.77MHz processor, boot times were in the order of milliseconds. There's no reason why we can't go back to those times at any moment, but we've traded off reliability, cost, backwards compatibility, hardware independence and boot time against each other and, in times where running a machine for years is easily possible and much more convenient, boot times take a back seat.

In these terms SSD's are good, USB is bad. Back in the days of floppies, they took an INORDINATE amount of CPU and real time to initialise and operate. Things like that can be cut out of modern BIOS's, but still there's an awful lot of stuff that they need to do. Not all of it is at the user's request but still a lot needs to be done in certain orders with certain timings because the hardware specifies that. And unpredictability (is there a disk on this bus? How many? How long will they take before they respond to my commands?) comes with having hardware that can vary and blow all the tiny optimisations out of the water.

If you want insta-boot, fix your hardware and get a BIOS / OS that is designed to take those shortcuts that you KNOW you can, or get a faster machine that can perform all the generic, variable things you want it to do in much less time. It's not hard. Electronic circuits ARE nothing more than instant-on machines. But we choose to make them check, verify, wait and respond in a fashion that makes boot-up on some servers be measured in a plurality of minutes for several very good reasons.

Re:Booting (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944292)

Thanks for the informative post. Wish I had mod points.

Some of this a boot speed improvement might have to do with the nature of the overall architecture of a central CPU. When people boot a computer, they would like the thing to be immediately responsive. If there was a sort of bus that related to your primary display and core computing services that was independent of the rest, then you could get instant responsiveness (like a calculator) even if the rest of the system took a while to come up to speed. For example, how long would it take to boot a diskless X Terminal that then talked to the rest of a system? So, it would need to be layered, with your Commodore 64 like thing at the core, and then these other things at the periphery.

And how fast does it take OpenBoot to bring up a Forth prompt?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Firmware [wikipedia.org]

I so wish IBM had gone with Forth instead of DOS as the OS for the early PC (and it had at least one in-house at the time).

Also, what do you think of this?
    http://www.coreboot.org/Welcome_to_coreboot [coreboot.org]
"coreboot (formerly known as LinuxBIOS) is a Free Software project aimed at replacing the proprietary BIOS (firmware) you can find in most of today's computers. It performs just a little bit of hardware initialization and then executes a so-called payload. ... Fast boot times (3 seconds to Linux console)"

Speedy booting? So back to the 80s then (2, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#33944098)

I don't want to sound like your usual get-off-my-lawn but in the in the days of home computers you could switch it on and it would be ready literally in under a second. Yes I know the "OS" was probably only 16K in size or less but it was in ROM and the computer didn't bother with pointless self checking (you'll soon know if some hardware on your PC isn't working).

Even early DOS machines could boot in mere seconds. So really all this very complicated technology is doing is bringing us back to where we were 20 or 30 years ago.

Plus ca change.

*yawn* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33944126)

My computer resumes from suspend in under a second. For true hibernate it could load pages on demand from flash and it wouldn't be much slower. This is a solved problem.

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