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Experimental Port of Debian To OpenRISC

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 months ago | from the building-rms-a-new-laptop dept.

Debian 56

Via Phoronix comes news that Debian has been ported to the OpenRISC architecture by Christian Svensson. Quoting his mailing list post: "Some people know that I've been working on porting Glibc and doing some toolchain work. My evil master plan was to make a Debian port, and today I'm a happy hacker indeed! ... If anyone want to try this on real hardware (would be very cool to see how this runs IRL), ping me on IRC [#openrisc on freenode] and I'll set you up with instructions how to use debootstrap - just point to a repo with the debs and you're all set, the wonders of binary distributions." For those who don't know, OpenRISC is the completely open source RISC processor intended as the crown jewel of the Opencores project. A working port of glibc and a GNU/Linux distribution is a huge step toward making use of OpenRISC practical. There's a screencast of the system in action, and source on Github (at posting time, it was a month out of date from the looks of it). Christian Svensson's Github account also has repos for the rest of the toolchain.

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56 comments

Sounds kind of cool, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363585)

But there just doesn't seem to be much interest in this.

OpenRISC hardware? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363633)

Without knowing anything about it I'm guessing that or1ksim is a hardware emulator of some kind. What "IRL"hardware can I buy?

Re:OpenRISC hardware? (1)

Narishma (822073) | about 2 months ago | (#46363851)

There is none AFAIK. Unless you count FPGA implementations.

Re:OpenRISC hardware? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46364895)

OpenRISC has been implemented as an ASIC, mainly in embedded systems, so you can't do out an buy an OpenRISC motherboard (yet). Apart from that, your option is to implement it with an FPGA.

Re:OpenRISC hardware? (3, Insightful)

Rufty (37223) | about 2 months ago | (#46364175)

Well, these [opencores.org], but they look more OpenWRT than Debian.

Re:OpenRISC hardware? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46364289)

What does Debian hardware look like if I may ask?

Re:OpenRISC hardware? (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 2 months ago | (#46364689)

Not a rigorous answer, but to me hardware with 32MB RAM looks OpenWRT and hardware with 128MB looks like Debian. You have examples of both on the page.
You also pay dearly for the hardware, when you follow links it's motherboards (quite featured) but with a FPGA instead of the CPU or SoC and they cost several hundred dollars. It's probably very nice (i.e. at least not $1500 with only serial ports and 10x worse specs) but like 10x more expensive as "finished" commercial hardware from router or PC descent.

Re:OpenRISC hardware? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 months ago | (#46365131)

You can buy boards with FPGAs that wll run this. Yes, that's not practical for a lot of purposes, however this is a core that can be added into a custom design such as system-on-chip and placed into an ASIC. Presumably smaller headaches than licensing a core from a commercial entity.

Here's a question (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 months ago | (#46363741)

How is the chip open source if you need a multi-billion dollar plant to make computer processors of any kind?

Re:Here's a question (2)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 months ago | (#46363771)

FPGAs, I assume.

Re:Here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363939)

I'm not sure this would qualify as FPGA. Are you referring to the fact that someone could take the design and customize it to meet their requirements?

If you need a very large number of CPUs with a particular customization, then taking this design, forking it to add your features, and having that large batch produced would be an option.

However, I believe FPGAs benefit more from the economies of scale, in that a manufacturer creates a large number of these and then customers who need a relatively small number with a specific customization can program the FPGA.

So I think there might be a small part of the FPGA market that this would serve, but maybe not a large portion. I have limited knowledge of FPGA's typical use cases though. What do you think?

Re:Here's a question (1)

stoborrobots (577882) | about 2 months ago | (#46364315)

I think most people are suggesting that you would take an FPGA and synthesize this source onto it, not that this is the source for an FPGA...

Re:Here's a question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363801)

Use an FPGA?

Re:Here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363803)

You get the source. "Compiling" it into hardware is your responsibility.

Re:Here's a question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363839)

How is the chip open source if you need a multi-billion dollar plant to make computer processors of any kind?

That question doesn't make much more sense than "why does she need glasses if she's deaf?"

Not having the resources to utilize a work released as open source does not negate its openness. The Linux kernel is still open source (and also free software) if you can't afford a computer capable of compiling or running it.

Also, as other commenter have noted: FPGAs.

Re:Here's a question (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 months ago | (#46364777)

Where does one buy or fabricate an open source FPGA? I mean, it isn't TTL that I can use a wire-wrap gun to fabricate. Are the FPGA programming tools open source as well? I am asking, not challenging in this comment because I'd like to obtain said tools. Every FPGA tool that I am aware of is proprietary and closed.

Re:Here's a question (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 months ago | (#46365177)

Some of FPGA tools are open source, but even some of the commercial proprietary ones do have free versions for students or non-commercial use. These companies do like to get people who are using evaluation boards hooked on their tools.

Re:Here's a question (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 months ago | (#46366267)

Where does one buy or fabricate an open source FPGA?

You buy an "empty" FPGA chip and set it to run any digital design (for example, a CPU) that you want to. The hardware description is stored in a little flash chip next to the FPGA, from where it is uploaded to the device when power is turned on.

Every FPGA tool that I am aware of is proprietary and closed.

The tools are so closely bound to the hardware and its secrets that the companies do not want to make the tools open source. I do not see how you would benefit them from being open source in this case though. The tools are still freeware and available for Windows and Linux.

Re:Here's a question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363869)

It is open source because the hardware design is released under an open source license. Just because manufacturing the processor may not be feasible for average Joe, doesn't mean it's not open source. Maybe what you meant to ask is "What is the point of something being open source, if the average person can't feasibly use that open source design?"

Potential benefits:
-Greater competition in the market, more manufactures producing compatible chips compete in the same market place.
-Cheaper pricing, due to lack of licensing fees

It essentially pools the resources of many to share in the burden of the R&D/design cost of the CPU and eliminates a monopoly on the design.

There are lots of other effects, potentially less fragmented CPU market(which would mean greater body of software/hardware interfacing with that design), but other factors (forking the design) could produce more fragmentation.

Here's some answers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363871)

Computer processors may be made gears, vacuum tubes, and transistors. There were computers before the IC....

If a RISC design is simple enough someone with enough patience could make a low clock speed implementation out of transistors / logic gates / minecraft redstones... This has been done recently for some 8 bit CPU's that started life as IC's and there is whole generation of "mainframes" made this way before the IC.

In a few years , just as with 3d printer movement, there could be

Note: The ARM(2) CPU is 30'000 transistors and a RISC design.

Re:Here's some answers... (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 2 months ago | (#46364727)

If you're looking into such high costs (dozens thousands of components, labour) and low performance, and believe people would be really interesting in buying or building that.. I find your plan sucks and you should be more megalomaniac. Recreate late 70s/early 80s fabbing tech with open source hardware, and use that to build your 6502 or 6809 clone and possibly your RISC processor?

Re:Here's a question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363911)

What kind of donkey would mod this bonehead question up?

Re:Here's a question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363961)

Another like minded donkey...

You don't need your own plant. (5, Informative)

pavon (30274) | about 2 months ago | (#46363957)

You don't need a multi-billion dollar plant to make the processors. You just need to pay someone who does. You can get small quantities of ASICs made for around $2-5k by taking advantage of programs that put many designs from different people on the same wafer.

Re:You don't need your own plant. (2)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 months ago | (#46364215)

Actually, since this is a CPU that exists only on FPGAs programmed w/ its code, that would be the platform on which it could run while its volumes are low and there is little demand, until such time that the support platforms that it needs, as well as the software is up and out there. You'd only do ASICs once the FPGAs hit economics of scale, and when it's no longer possible to shave costs from the processor when it hits mass production. Given the volume needed to get a fab running - I have no idea how expensive it is now at the less than 25nm nodes, it would make more sense for a company to just buy the FPGAs it needs from the Alteras/Xilinxs/Amtels of the world. If and when it hits volume, they could then take the designs and spin out ASICs or discrete CPUs and run w/ them

The other advantage of sticking w/ FPGAs for a while is that it gives them time to discover and iron out any bugs in the design. Also, once the CPU itself is fabbed, the FPGA based model can continue to run in case any bugs or other manufacturing issues hit the CPU. Once those things are over, the transition from FPGA to CPU based sales can be completed

Re:You don't need your own plant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46365079)

This ignores the cost of taping-out which will run in the millions of dollars, even starting with validated IP, and it ignores the cost of post-Si effort. At the very least, HDL IP doesn't typically come with DFT(design-for-test) logic which has to be added by the end user.

Re:You don't need your own plant. (1)

kry73n (2742191) | about 2 months ago | (#46366009)

You can get small quantities of ASICs made for around $2-5k by taking advantage of programs that put many designs from different people on the same wafer.

Interesting, can you give me a reference for that? Who does this and where can you apply?

Re:You don't need your own plant. (2)

pavon (30274) | about 2 months ago | (#46368859)

You can now deal directly with TSMC [tsmc.com] for this, or go through third parties like MOSIS [mosis.com] and CMP [cmp.imag.fr]. AFAIK none of the groups that do this publish their rates, and I haven't done this myself, so my numbers come from forums like this one [stackexchange.com], rounding up the lower numbers that I have commonly seen.

Open source chips (2)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 months ago | (#46364155)

Point is that since the chip's HDL models are available, w/o any legal restrictions, theoretically, any company w/ a multi-billion dollar fab can take the design, tape and fab it out using those models. In practice, such a company would have to hire its own design, device, process and product engineers to actually produce such a chip. But their designers would essentially have to tweak the designs to the process to meet certain spec parameters, not to build the CPU at gate level from scratch.

This is sort of the point w/ open source hardware, just like w/ open source software. Open source software doesn't actually have to be good or even necessarily work - it just has to be open, but getting it to work and work well is one of the long term visions that the model is supposed to support. This is even truer about open source hardware. Theoretically, any number of fabs can take the OpenRISC HDLs and try spinning out chips based on that. In reality, anyone who really wants to do a good job there would have to hire the engineers needed to actually make it work.

One thing I wonder about at hardware level - let's say the HDL code has been tweaked for process variations: does that have to be published, as per the GPL? I can see that being a showstopper - why should any fab publicly publish internal process defects or issues, which could be used by competitors to calculate their real costs? I would imagine that to be the main reason why no foundry company has chosen to take OpenRISC and make a CPU w/ its HDL code - why take that risk?

Re:Open source chips (5, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 months ago | (#46365193)

Another good advantage of OpenRISC is that it is open for students to examine and use and experiment with. There are some other CPU designs that are available but they tend to be much smaller or not as full featured.

RE Open source chips (5, Informative)

olof_k (2093198) | about 2 months ago | (#46365785)

Hi, Having worked on the OpenRISC project for ~4 years I thought I could share some insights here, as the licensing question pops up all the time. The RTL for OpenRISC and most of the peripheral controllers that are used are licensed under LGPL, not GPL. While we all know that this is a software license with some concepts that don't translate well to hardware, the consensus is that LGPL means that you are obliged to shared modifications of the LGPL-licensed core, while GPL-licensed RTL would require the whole SoC to be GPL.

This is a view that we in the OpenRISC community share with the Open Source Hardware developers at CERN and other groups. This has also been tried by IP lawyers for a large company that wanted to use OpenRISC about ten years ago.

As for ASIC implementations it could be worth mentioning that there are ASICs running or1200 (the original LPGL-licensed OpenRISC implementation) in Samsung Digital TVs, in some of the Allwinner SoCs, Zigbee ASICs and other places, so it has been done many times over the years

Re:Here's a question (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#46364391)

Open Source means you get to see the contents. That's what it meant before the OSI existed and that's what it will mean when they're gone, and it's what it means now.

There are plants in China that will make chips for you. Realistically it will take a cooperative of some sort in order to organize the finances and ride herd on the fab to make sure the resulting product is actually useful.

Re:Here's a question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46364501)

Open Source means you get to see the contents. That's what it meant before the OSI existed and that's what it will mean when they're gone, and it's what it means now.

Wow, I guess Windows is Open Source now. After all, some companies and universities get to see the contents.

How did you manage to reference OSI and completely miss the part about "Open source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone."? That message is at the top of their main web-page.

Re:Here's a question (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#46364553)

How did you manage to reference OSI and completely miss the part

How did you manage to reference OSI and completely miss the fact that nobody at the OSI invented the term "Open Source", even as relates to software, as it was used by Caldera to describe licensing for OpenDOS [hyperlogos.org] before they claim to have dreamt it up?

That message is at the top of their main web-page.

And they can blow it straight out their ass. They want to be important and in the process they've both overstated the meaning of open source and diminished the value of Free Software by helping to promote more permissive licenses which provide less protection to users.

Re:Here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46365223)

Claiming that HDL code makes your processor open source is like claiming that open software design docs make software open source. You missed the whole point of open source software that the _implementation_ is open. OpenRISC is not an implementation.

Re:Here's a question (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#46366161)

Claiming that HDL code makes your processor open source is like claiming that open software design docs make software open source. You missed the whole point of open source software that the _implementation_ is open. OpenRISC is not an implementation.

That's not what it means. Open Source means the source is open. If you want to be sure that you're going to be able to use the source, that's what Free Software is for. Open Source does not cover that case. That's what's wrong with the OSI.

Re:Here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#46372093)

ARM's basic designs are available to browse. So why not just use one of those, which chip makers are already set up to make at $5/chip?

This is just people reinventing the wheel because they have too much free time on their hands.

Re:Here's a question (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 2 months ago | (#46364445)

How is the chip open source if you need a multi-billion dollar plant to make computer processors of any kind?

It is implemented in a hardware description language. You can target the logic towards an ASIC OR you can synthesize it into an FPGA. In ASIC-land the development tools cost mega bucks but the nice thing is that the major FPGA vendors provide their tool suites for free with some reduced functionality that is largely inconsequential to hobbyist users.

You can grab off the shelf FPGAs these days for $5 with sufficient resources to implement a variety microprocessors and whatever custom logic you need. These can range from tiny 8-bit micros that can be replicated hundreds or thousands of times in a single device to more sophisticated 32-bit processors. Every major processor architecture has open source clones available. They are commonly used in places underserved by the commercial industry like the freely available Sparc clone, Leon, which is used for rad hardened FPGAs in space applications.

Re:Here's a question (1)

fsck-beta (3539217) | about 2 months ago | (#46364487)

You can grab off the shelf FPGAs these days for $5 with sufficient resources to implement a variety microprocessors

That are waaay too slow to even boot Debian with a few hours.

Re:Here's a question (4, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 2 months ago | (#46364575)

You can easily get a 32-bit processor running at 50-100MHz on current low end parts. Linux runs perfectly well at such speeds. A modern compositing Xorg desktop will likely be bog slow but a console will run just fine. These aren't supposed to be used as general purpose desktop replacements.

Re:Here's a question (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 months ago | (#46365215)

Yep, usually the core on the FPGA is used as a control system, with the rest of the FPGA dedicated to accelerating a particular set of operations or running them in parallel.

Re:Here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#46377743)

You can run Linux or NetBSD in a FPGA, example : http://temlib.org

Modern Linuxes are far too slow though.
You get about the performance computers had 15 years ago with 50 ... 100MHz CPUs.

Re:Here's a question (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 months ago | (#46365169)

Include it as a part of your design. Ie, embedded systems in software may be able to use Linux or BSD as the kernel and then have their own user space applications or patches into the kernel. So OpenRISC is the same idea except in hardware. This is relatively common for example with customer system on chip designs: stick in an ARM core, add some standard peripherals you need, and add custom blocks for a particular application. If you've got volume then make an ASIC out of it all and the cost per chip is very small. If you have less volume and customers don't mind the price, then stick the entire thing onto an FPGA. There are many applications for this sort of thing.

Current company I'm at has a custom ASIC with ARM core on it without needing a multi-billion dollar plant. Previous company used a discrete PowerPC but also a set of much more expensive FPGAs on the side; it could have been interesting to have the front-end CPU inside an FPGA instead, with more flexibility, tighter integration, faster data paths, fewer parts, etc.

Re:Here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46365353)

3D printer

Re:Here's a question (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 months ago | (#46365899)

What has money got to do with its licensing state? Hint: Zero. Also, if you were not just a trolling idiot you would know that a small FPGA board large enough to do a SoC based on OR1k to do this might set you back 200 bucks.

People these days.

Re:Here's a question (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 2 months ago | (#46366193)

The chip is open source because you can study the source code (actually it's more akin to Free because you not only can study the source code, but you can redistribute it, modify it etc.)

Open source has nothing to do with the amount of money you need to spend to build a functional machine out of it.

In any case as what's already been pointed out, you can synthesise this on an FPGA. FPGA development boards with a suitable sized FPGA (see the Pipistrello) can be had for less than $100.

Experimental version of Slashdot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363753)

Known as Beta.
Well, Fuck Beta!

The Slashcott has been extended.
Moderators: only vote up comments which discuss Beta.

Wow! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363775)

Guys! Look at TFS!
Really look at it!

The post... EXPLAINS WHAT OPENRISC IS!

Is this /.?

Re:Wow! (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 2 months ago | (#46364977)

"lamer" usually does a better job. Maybe because he's new. Or maybe because he's actually an engineer/programmer.

Tor is building an anonymous instant messenger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46363787)

"Forget the $16 billion romance between Facebook and WhatsApp. There's a new messaging tool worth watching[1].

Tor[2], the team behind the world's leading online anonymity service, is developing a new anonymous instant messenger client, according to documents[3] produced at the Tor 2014 Winter Developers Meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland."

http://slashdot.org/submission... [slashdot.org]

[1] http://www.dailydot.com/techno... [dailydot.com]
[2] https://www.torproject.org/ [torproject.org]
[3] https://trac.torproject.org/pr... [torproject.org]

openrisc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46365393)

OpenRISC is a brand name, much like ARM.
It consists of two main ISA's. A 32 and 64 bit with vector instruction extensions isa's.
The first and so far only implementation in verilog is called OR1200 using the 32bit isa.
I did an evaluation of the CPU over 10 years ago. It was the first implementation and by all standards of CPU design it was crap then and still is. The SPARC Leon is a infinitely better alternative.

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