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Reliving The Glory Days of SGI

Hemos posted more than 9 years ago | from the could-they-return dept.

Silicon Graphics 386

devin15 writes "Remember in the '90's when the tech boom was in full swing and SGI was the darling of the 3D graphics industry, whatever happened to those days? Wired is running an article about a group for whom the glory days of SGI have not yet gone. From the article:" If the Mac community is dwarfed by the Microsoft horde, the number of SGI users amounts to a rounding error.""

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Free Gmail (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072024)

Re:Free Gmail - MOD PARENT DOWN - RUDE (0)

SABME (524360) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072040)

Someone with mod points please mod this rude and off-topic post down please.


SABME (524360) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072173)

Never mind my request; the offensive post is already deleted. Thanks slashdot!

Re:Free Gmail - MOD PARENT DOWN -ALREADY DELETED (-1, Offtopic)

hairyfarter (621643) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072237)

no it's not :-| What do people get out of doing this?


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072243)

Ooh, drawing attention to your AC posts like that - clever!

Actually, not.

Three degrees of seperation. (5, Interesting)

ISEENOEVIL (206770) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072032)

One particular quote I found interesting is, ""In the SGI hobbyist world it's not six degrees of separation, it's three, often less. I recently met one of the industrial light and magic guys who worked on Star Wars: Episode II." I find that this happens all the time in the slightly larger Mac crowd. Easy to pick out the users and get an in-depth conversation started. Once you start you find any and all sorts of wierd and useful connections. Heck, thats mainly how I have the current job I have. Also while travelling overseas the other week I ran into a corporate Apple guy that used to work with my boss. Small world definitely, and being an active part of a small, but active community makes it even more personal.

Glad that there are opportunities for people to keep SGI going. I know I sure have looked at all of those eBay auctions at one time just to see what it was all about. At the current going price on some of the older hardware, I don't see what you have to lose.

Re:Three degrees of seperation. (0, Flamebait)

FatherKabral (819599) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072095)

How about the hours of your life lost playing with your new, inexpensive, yet strangely powerful(graphically) toy as you make all those funny videos you could never get to come out right on the Mac, since you couldn't figure out how to get to a menu with only one button on your mouse? Gee, whiz, I hate Mac mice.

Re:Three degrees of seperation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072171)

Ummm, a $7 MacAlly two-button mouse might have been a more cost-effective investment than an Indy...

On slash dot you always hear about starwars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072250)

Those hollywood nerds just can't resist the free plug.
I think that slash dot should start billing Lucas for every reference.

Also, apple computer should get a bill for every reference.

Re:Three degrees of seperation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072308)

Six degrees of separation applies to people who may not be from the same community. Within a community such as the SGI hobbyist one you'd expect it to be easier to form links between members.

woo (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072035)

No, no, no!" said the penguin, "I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder!"
"Surprise! Surprise! That's not my ear canal either!"
Oh no! The leak is coming from the Global Positioning Satellite System again!
"Mommy Mommy," Little Johnny replied, "is that why the soufflé is burnt?"
"Tokyo?" Said the nun, "You fool, I said take the hoe!"
And then my dad farted and it smelled and I said to my father you farted and it smelled.
And slowly, the sheep turned to each other and glared silently.
"Whew!" said the blonde, "I thought you meant the vacuum-insulated sealable container with the heat reflective inner surface!"
"No wait, you don't understand," said the fat man, "Pop Tarts are a substitute for my mother's love!"
As they opened the door they realized they were terribly mistaken. The dog was only taking a nap.
"Yeah," said the Scottsman, "but at least I don't have a scented hand soap named after ME!"
As she spoke he whirled the egg beater around and yelled "EGG BEATER!"
"Isotope?" He replied, "That's no isotope!"

I, like, read that Wired article ages ago (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072046)

Is this a thin news day for the editors?

Re:I, like, read that Wired article ages ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072086)

almost as thin as your reason to use "like" in the subject of the message you posted.

Why did SGI fail? Simple. (-1, Flamebait)

oingoboingo (179159) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072050)

They were too expensive. An O2 workstation cost well over AUD $5000, and it shipped with anaemic RAM and hard drive configurations. Compare that to its nearest competitor, the Moulinex 4-slice Popmatique toaster. It could be found for as low as AU $39.95 at certain department stores and performed well in both bread, crumpet and English muffin modes. SGI used to be king of the hill in this sort of stuff, but they got complacent and priced themselves out of the market. We shouldn't be surprised that others came along and...ate their lunch.

Re:Why did SGI fail? Simple. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072150)

you do realize that an O2 will still kick the crap out of the best Apple or Pc you can buy for 3d and video work?

I cna do things on my O2 that the newest high end Pc with the latest 3d content app can only wish it can do.

the Pc is not designed for high end 3d work, the SGI is.

that said, I have a farm of 7 O2's in my basement and can generate pixar quality stuff at NTSC resolutions far faster than anyone else I know trying to use MAC or PC equipment.

Re:Why did SGI fail? Simple. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072175)


Re:Why did SGI fail? Simple. (1)

Thaidog (235587) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072211)

You need both Toast Titantium and the flying toasters screensaver.

Such a sad story (0, Redundant)

ncsg3 (771234) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072056)

What a sad story - all those poor SGI people struggling against the odds. I see a Hollywood blockbuster in the offing - Brad Pitt for the lead role

Great styling. (5, Informative)

deletedaccount (835797) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072057)

The best thing about SG workstations was(is) that they came in funky blue or green boxes rather than beige. And this was years before Apple caught onto the idea and applied it to the iMac.
Oh, they were pretty good at their job, but perhaps that's just a coincidence.

Re:Great styling. (4, Funny)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072135)

And had a snazzy start-up horn riff too.

Please bill apple for yet another apple plug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072269)

They must have a nerd central base in hollywood where the pluggers work out of.

They probably set up twenty or thirty machines with a keyboard switcher so that they can just turn a knob and pretend like they are a different poster.

I am sick of all the apple and lucas references.

So stop it.

IJTHFD (-1, Flamebait)

arothstein (233805) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072065)


g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/IT_CAME\(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C_____)_OUT_OF_|_(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\_HERE_/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _

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Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

SGI ROCKS IT (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072070)

Advanced, Affordable Workstations for Creative and Technical Professionals
Silicon Graphics® visual workstations from SGI are designed to address the high-performance requirements of scientific, engineering, and creative professionals. SGI leverages its expertise in supercomputing, system architectures, 3D graphics, software libraries, and operating-system development to offer increasingly advanced capabilities to its affordable desktop product line. Combined with our world-class software partners' applications, Silicon Graphics visual workstations offer levels of functionality unmatched by any other desktop systems. With their features, performance, and workflow capabilities, Silicon Graphics visual workstations help you take the lead in both the quality of the work you produce and the way you produce it.

IRIX glory days (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072092)

Yeah, the glory days... when IRIX shipped with default accounts with no password, when root buffer overruns in their 3d software environment were as common as dingleberries in the forest of my ass hair... yep, those were some glory days. Oh wait, I'm being sarcastic!

In truth, SGI has ALWAYS enjoyed eating its own farts.

Interesting (5, Informative)

shlomo (594012) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072093)

I was at a confernce in orlando last week, and there was a parallel conference which seemed to be mostly military simulation stuff, they seemed to be pretty strong there. Guess they moved to the more lucrative stuff.

Re:Interesting (1)

mwlewis (794711) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072162)

Maybe, but a lot of that stuff is starting to migrate to Windows and Linux, because x86 is so cheap and powerful for the $$.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072390)

Guess they moved to the more lucrative stuff.
Clearly a use of the word "lucrative" I was previously unaware of...

I miss SGI (4, Interesting)

poptones (653660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072096)

I learned the power of u??x on an SGI workstation about ten years ago. Being stuck on a 386sx system running dos at home I longed for an Irix machine of my own.

I saw this article last week and enjoyed reading it, but at the end I was still left wondering "WHY?" I love old radios and stereo gear so I'm not unappreciative of the nostalgia aspect, but my linux desktop now is, in most ways, just as fulfilling as the old irix system I grew to love.

They're cool looking computers, but in the end that entire stack of SGIs shown in the fellow's home office probaby has about as much power as the Nvidia/AMD box sitting on my desktop. In the end I'd rather have something gorgeously deco [] that I could keep around for years and upgrade as needed.

Re:I miss SGI (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072191)

That case looks fucking hideous

Re:I miss SGI (3, Insightful)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072209)

They're cool looking computers, but in the end that entire stack of SGIs shown in the fellow's home office probaby has about as much power as the Nvidia/AMD box sitting on my desktop.

A few years ago now, I had access to an old Silicon Graphics machine - a Indigo 2, or something like that. It was quite fun being able to mess around with what had originally been an incredibly expensive machine, and of playing with another UNIX I hadn't used. I even got Blender running on it...

Of course, the machine (well, IRIX) promptly killed itself, and nobody knew the equivalent of the BIOS password to allow reinstallation from the IRIX CDs and bootable SCSI CD-ROM drive we'd spent weeks hunting down. There turned out to be no way of resetting that password, at least not without wiping the MAC address too. Given that the machine was only useful as an X terminal and web browsing machine, it didn't seem worth doing.

Looking inside, at the multi-boarded graphics subsystem covered with huge custom-built chips, it seemed rather sad that even a bargain-basement PC of the time would have massively outperformed it. And now, when I run Half-Life 2 on my current, elderly PC, complete with all sorts of per-pixel shaders and suchlike thanks to its inconceivably powerful (yet obsolete) Geforce 4, I think about how impressed I'd been by a couple of gouraud-shaded polygons...

The only thing I really miss is the screensaver. I forget what it was called, there's an attempted simulation in Xscreensaver called 'stonerview' or similar, but it's nowhere near as good as the original. :-)

Re:I miss SGI (2, Informative)

CarrionBird (589738) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072424)

AFIAK the way around that problem is to stick in a drive with a working IRIX install, and run a utility as root that would reset that PROM password.

I have a similar problem, a working Indigo (1) that I don't know the password for the OS or the PROM. The only thing I can think of is to slap a SCSI card in my PC and compile SGI filesystem support into a kernel. Then I could rewrie the passwd file. A lot of work for an old system.

Re:I miss SGI (1)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072260)

That case is an abomination.

lack of support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072099)

SGI made great boxes. The problem was the lack of support. Not enough third parties supported them. If you upgraded the OS, then often other vendors simply didn't bother to upgrade their offerings. Suddenly you had incompatiblity problems.

SGIs wound being great but expensive Xterminals for using your new Linux box.

Major REPOST (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072100)

This story is old and a major repost, atleast a month old!

They should get back in and write off any loss (2, Interesting)

gmknobl (669948) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072117)

I think the publicity SGI got from this end of the business helped the rest of their business. They'd probably disagree, at least at the point they got out of the business.

But via the publicity from this ariticle, /., and others talking, maybe SGI will re-think this. Heck any loss they get from low sales will be offset by the overall corporate business increase, I bet. It's worth the shot.

No wonder why they go down... (3, Insightful)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072118)

From the article:
Now, the company at best tolerates the hobby community, turning a blind eye to sales of secondhand software, which is forbidden by user agreements.
With assinine "agreements" (like if they did give you the choice...) like that that bind the hands of their customers, it's not wonder that they go down the drain!!!

Re:No wonder why they go down... (2, Interesting)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072360)

With assinine "agreements" (like if they did give you the choice...) like that that bind the hands of their customers, it's not wonder that they go down the drain!!!
What, you mean like Microsoft, Adobe and MacroMedia? Their agreements are a lot worse, and they seem to be doing fine...

It's not just SGI (5, Insightful)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072122)

The whole 'UNIX workstation' market is gone.

Sun? SGI? HP? DEC?

Computers became powerful and inexpensive too fast. Clusters killed the big servers.

Re:It's not just SGI (4, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072157)

Computers became powerful and inexpensive too fast.

You think so? Or was it a case of the UNIX workstation companies not evolving quickly enough to mach price/performance?

Re:It's not just SGI (1, Insightful)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072158)

Gee, I think Apple [] would disagree.

Your sig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072224)

Your grandma already uses Linux on the desktop, ever hear of Google?

That's asanine. Why not say, your grandma already has a nuclear power plant in her home, ever hear of [insert local nuclear plant on her grid]? Google is a server application. It's not on her desktop. In fact, Google does make applications for the desktop, but they explicitly don't run on Linux.

Re:Your sig (0, Offtopic)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072268)

It's as simple as this: When someone uses Google they use Linux. It's impossible to use Google WITHOUT using Linux. The fact that Linux is on a server somewhere doesn't change the fact that you're using Linux.

And yes, if your home's power is supplied by a nuclear power plant, then you use nuclear power. Duh!

Re:Your sig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072415)

To sum it up: She might indirectly use Linux, via her desktop, but not _as_ her desktop.

Re:Your sig (0, Offtopic)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072454)

Who said anything about her using Linux "as her desktop"?! Can you even read?!

3 reasons why they will go down.... (4, Interesting)

Cutting_Crew (708624) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072275)

#1. Their machines are still propietary. they are using their using Altix system but require an ATI FireGL card. ummm.. no thanks. which brings us to #2. #2. we are now using exclusively windows and linux. my machine(our machines) run faster, smoother and have the latest openGL libraries, functionality. when we want to get a new GPU we get one, take out the old card and plug the new one in. #3. $$$$.. and lots of it. lets say you want to get a cluster with 5 CPU's, along with a host node. each node has a Geforce 6800, 4GB of RAM, 3.6 Ghz CPU's, you buy the software for it, and all the outs and ins of the system. on average this system will cost you $80,000. to buy one SGI box that is inferior to this cluster, even a small SGI supercomputer would not outperform it plus just the MAINTENANCE on this SGI will cost you $80,000 or more per year. this is what it would cost to REPLACE your old cluster after just one year with the latest graphics cards, latest processors and you still have maintenance that costs nothing compared to that. i think we can all agree what the obvious choice of computing power is.

Re:It's not just SGI (2, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072302)

Really? They why is Sun an IBM still selling Unix workstations? I admit some Unix workstations are now running AMD and Intel cpus but they are still workstations running Unix or Linux.
As to Clusters killing the big server? Nope. IBM is selling a good number of there Z-machines and the I series also seems alive and kicking.
Clusters are great systems for some problems while while lots of cheap boxes are good for there problems line web front ends. For Databases an IBM Z-server running DB2 is killer. Uptime that would put the average BSD or Linux box to shame. They have hot swappable EVERYTHING!
There is an old saying when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. When all you know are pc boxs every problem looks like it can be solved by one or more PCs.

the point is... (1)

Cutting_Crew (708624) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072349)

sure there might be some marriages out there like Sun & IBM but the numbers are growing smaller. a 5 PC cluster was just an example. what about a 100 PC Cluster with linux? an SGI would fall to its kneees compared to this machine and cost 1/10th as much. as soon as the powers that be realize the cost/effectivness/flexiblility of the cluster environment SGI would have lost its ability to hang on to whatever they have left. if SGI could keep up with the rest of the world then i would say they would make it. but they wont be able to keep up. like one of the parent posts -- the market is moving way too fast.

Because IBM and Sun still are making CPUs (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072361)

IBM and Sun are hanging in the workstation business because they are making CPUs still. IBM's POWER architecture is thriving, especially with Mac and soon XBox variants giving them mass market reach. Sun, well, I don't know how they do it.

Re:It's not just SGI (1)

TilJ (7607) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072346)

WTF do workstations and clusters have in common?

It's like you had two different thoughts, and they accidently collided in the same post ;-)

Re:It's not just SGI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072396)

The whole 'UNIX workstation' market is gone.

No it's not. It's just beginning. Unix never made it to the mainstream before - it used to be an academic / high-tech system. Nowadays you have commodity linux systems all over the place. Entire offices are being filled with them. I know of one big callcenter (inbound, no worries :) that now runs all their 400+ stations on cheap intel boxes with a linux/X/Firefox setup. The decision was made when it was upgrade time. Because of costs, it was decided to simply replace only the monitors (CRTs with TFTs) and throw linux on the old hardware.

TCO when down by a truckload, hahaha. Awesome stuff. Machines are also easier to maintain, so they fired two of the maintenance techs (oops!)

Re:It's not just SGI (2, Insightful)

fitten (521191) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072416)

I agree with you to some degree, with some side notes:

Linux has probably done more to hurt that industry as help it. Sure, you have IBM and others dealing in Linux on their servers but all of those others that still exist are either gone or are so specialized that few/no new customers are coming to them.

As far as Sun, except for a few applications that are basically binary only Solaris, there's no real reason to buy a SPARC based machine today either. Linux + Intel/AMD has the basic workstation UNIX workstation market covered (and for much cheaper prices).

Most of the big server apps have migrated from a big SMP machine to a cluster of load balanced blades or the like (as you state). Blades and other load balanced clusters are easier to maintain and cheaper to buy initially.

The UNIX CPU vendors couldn't keep up with the commodity CPU vendor Intel (and AMD). As the Intel/AMD parts got faster, especially in FPU, there wasn't much need to buy the 10X more expensive 'workstation' CPUs any more. Look at all the CPU vendors and see what they are doing now: MIPS contracted to the embedded market. DEC gone. SPARC basically gone, just one CPU maker now. PA-RISC gone. Motorola is gone. Only IBM is really left making their CPUs (Power) and they are making the CPUs for Apple now too.

All/most of the important graphics design software was ported to Windows and Mac a long time ago when the CPUs there started to get into the neighborhood of processing speeds of the then workstation market. The PC Commodity market then killed the UNIX workstations. Even though the PCs weren't as fast as the UNIX workstations, they were "fast enough"... especially at 10% of the cost. Now, they are the fastest, partially because of the death of the UNIX CPUs but mostly because of the amount of money Intel (and AMD) put into research to make their CPUs faster.

The largest blow to the UNIX market though, IMO, was Linux. In order to have a UNIX-like platform, you no longer had to pay high prices for the OS license in addition to possibly high prices for the hardware if you had to have that as well (most of the time you did). With Linux, you could get the OS for free and use commodity PC hardware.

Support is the problem (4, Interesting)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072124)

I have an Indy that I picked up free, and the real problem is support.

I'd like to get a more up-to-date version of Irix on it, but going from the 6.5.0 disks that I have to the most current releases is a pain. A big pain. A pain that makes the most b0rk3d RPM install look like a hot bath with a supermodel.

I don't want a full support contract from SGI - for a 150MHz machine that would be a total waste of time and money.

What I'd *love* would be a way to get a set of current disks for, say US$30, with the disclaimer "You are on your own. Don't call us, we won't call you."

I've been looking at putting Linux on it, just to have a bit more "support" on the machine. Now that the video subsystem is a bit better supported I may just do that.

Re:Support is the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072206)

SGI support doesn't help. We had a $50k/year support agreement with them and we've still had tons of woes upgrading even if it's nothing but a bugfix release (and they all are these days).

That said, Irix is a phenomenal OS that I like more than Windows, Linux, or Solaris.

Re:Support is the problem (1)

CptSkydrop (577286) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072277)

I too have an Indy (two of them picked up on the cheap from eBay) and I have a similar problem. Although I don't even have a set of disks to speak of, but it's what I really want as I wanted to try IRIX.

I need the disks because the boxes where supplied as-is, I was not supplied with either the bios or administrator password. The bios password is easy enough, if you open up the Indy there's a jumper available on the motherboard that will disable the bios password when removed. Once the jumper is removed I'm then stuck with needing (I think) Disk 2 of the installation disks which has a utility to reset the root password, as I have no disks I can't do this. From what I've read previously the IRIX license is per machine and not per user/set of disks so I think I should be perfectlly legal running both boxes with IRIX, just I need the disks, I too would be happy to pay for them with a no strings attached policy from SGI.

I've been considering putting either Debian MIPS [] or FreeBSD MIPS [] , but am reluctant to do so because I really wanted the Indys for the IRIX. As far as the status of those projects, I beleive Debian MIPS is good to go once I've setup a DHCP net booting system to bootstrap the install on the Indy and FreeBSD is still in development. Come to think of it, I bet my favourite flavor, NetBSD, has got a MIPS port (go 2.0!).

Re:Support is the problem (1)

TilJ (7607) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072399)

FreeBSD MIPS is, unfortunately, a bit of a pipe dream at the moment.

NetBSD MIPS is a wonderful thing, though :-)

I'm running it on an O2 named Laz [] and it's been both reliable and ``normal'' enough that I can treat it like any other BSD box I have. It runs headless, which is fine for what I use it for, but I'd like to see decent X support for it in NetBSD.

Re:Support is the problem (4, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072288)

I had an Octane. Great system, but like you said the support costs were crazy. A support contract was costing me as much as a new G5 every year , so........I replaced it with a G5. The system architecture is like the Octane with completely separate busses for I/O, memory, CPU, storage etc.... and is actually a fair bit faster than the Octane.

Additionally, IRIX while very powerful, can be troublesome. When I let the support contract run out on my O2, I had a video card go bad and damn!, it took me a whole day to replace the card and get IRIX to recognize things again. OS X is soooo much more plug and play. If you like *nix, give OS X a try.

Re:Support is the problem (2, Informative)

jandrese (485) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072297)

Why not just download them from [] ? Supportfolio accounts are free and provide access to OS updates. The latest version is...(checks account)...6.5.26. Since you already have the 6.5 CDs you can just install 6.5.0 and then using inst or swmgr to upgrade to 6.5.26. The harest problem I've run into is running out of drive space during the upgrade (SGI likes to stick tiny OS disks on their machines--especially those old ones).

inst (and its X frontend swmgr) are among the best software installation managers I've ever used. swmgr is pretty intuitive. It's certainly a whole lot easier to use than RPM (try asking an rpm newbie how to find what package installed what file, or where a package is going to put its files for instance).

Re:Support is the problem (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072313)

Oh, wait, you didn't get the support contract. I misread your post. You'll only be able to upgrade to 6.5.22 at the current time (this is not a big deal).

Re:Support is the problem (1)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072343)

inst (and its X frontend swmgr) are among the best software installation managers I've ever used.

Then your experience is vastly different than mine.

I have downloaded the updates from SGI. However, when I attempt to install them, inst wants to remove just about everything it can from my system - like the main software operating environment!

Yes, I have opened all the original disks as well as the updates - still swmgr wants to remove all sorts of things. Dependancy hell times 1E6!

I would KILL for Synaptic+APT on the system.

Re:Support is the problem (1)

ag0ny (59629) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072334)

You can download Irix 6.5.24 (I think) for free from the SupportFolio site ( [] ). Just create an account and you'll have access to these updates. I have two O2 myself [] (an R12000 and an R5000) and the Irix 6.5 CDs, so I used the updates on that site to get to 6.5.24.

It was my understanding ... (1)

DikSeaCup (767041) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072131)

From folks that used SGI workstations that their UNIX implementation wasn't ideal. IRIX (if my memory is correct) seemed to have tighter restrictions on certain common tasks - if memory serves, something as simple as printer usage was a PITA.

They did graphics well - that's a known. But I get the impression that they both 1) didn't do much else well and 2) were surpassed by other platforms in the graphics realm.

Printer Usage... (1)

Hamstij (831222) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072194)

Printing under linux still is a right royal PITA.

It seems to be one of those things where it all just works for you and your particular setup, or it's just a total disaster.

I unfortunately fall into the latter category.

Re:Printer Usage... (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072315)

Printing under linux still is a right royal PITA.

Have you used CUPS? It's quite easy ot set up a printer - local or network via CUPS. And it has support for literally hundreds of different printers. It's no more difficult to set up printing under Linux than any other platform, provided the drivers are there - and that can be a problem on any platform as well.

Re:It was my understanding ... (1)

ChaosMt (84630) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072314)

I can't directly comment, but it made me recall something. At one time, the easiest way to remotely get into a rhosts network was to login to a sgi as 'lp'. There was not password for it and it had elevated privledges. And since many networks were `echo + > .rhosts`, moving about was easy.
By the way, did any one else think this same exact article could have been for the amiga instead of sgi? Except for that whole networking with people part... I DON'T want to meet any amiga fanatics. They scare me. Carnival folk of the computer world. Take a shower and get a new computer and join reality you amiga carnis!

Video better than $2000 Mac? (2, Interesting)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072142)

When it comes to video, a $2,000 Mac still doesn't have the same capabilities as an SGI machine.

I thought Macs are known for their media handling capability. The fact that you can get one of those 10+ year old SGI machines for dirt cheap now and get better video editing is a bit shocking. Then again, the quote includes the word "capabilities", so perhaps that does not necessarily reflect performance/processing speed.

Re:Video better than $2000 Mac? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072255)

I'm not really sure what they're talking about here. We've got a bunch of SGI hardware for legacy reasons and none of them perform anywhere near as well as even a midrange PC laptop these days. We keep it around for one silly piece of software, just a matter of time until we buy the new version and chuck the SGI's. Already dumped the service contracts.

Don't get me wrong my whole introduction to UNIX came from working with a few Indys, three generations of Indigos, O2s, Octanes, and a few big Origins (which make nice space heaters). These things were fantastic at the time. But what are they really good at by todays standards? Video streams? A software thing? Price versus performance? Certainly not 3D at this point. Longevity I guess.

Re:Video better than $2000 Mac? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072264)

Before you get too shocked, keep in mind that this is a statement from a used-SGI dealer without a single specific example of what these "capabilities" are.

Re:Video better than $2000 Mac? (2)

CptSkydrop (577286) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072345)

When I got my SGI Indys I was blown away by the fact that it had about the same multimedia port options as my then brand new PC, I'm talking 1.5 grands worth of computer here, nice graphics card, sound card etc. And yet the 1996 SGI Indy workstations had pretty much the same: video out/inputs, sound, on-board ethernet, sterescopic goggles, SCSI I think too and others that I just don't know what the hell they are.

In terms of number crunching a modern computer blows it way by a massive factor, but for the absolute range of devices/inputs available I was very impressed.

Re:Video better than $2000 Mac? (4, Interesting)

TomorrowPlusX (571956) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072449)

My understanding is that SGI had some hairy X11 extensions -- obviously tailored for their hardware -- which made for video performance that nobody could touch.

This is the trouble with "generic" computers/OSs such as Mac and the PC -- they're aiming at doing everything, and accordingly, they cannot excel at any one thing like a specifically designed machine/OS can.

That said, Macs still spank PCs at video and typography, and PCs still spank Macs at games and.. I guess.. office. There's some specialization in the Mac and PC world, just not as balls-to-the-wall as SGI.

On a side note, I used to do texture mapping for the early incarnation of the Alice project (, but back in '96 when it was still at UVa ). We used an SGI Reality Engine, and it made my hairs stand up it was so powerful. I remember once I crashed it -- by accidently pressing the middle button on the haxored broken mouse which was taped and labeled "Don't press me" -- and we had to go to the server room to reboot it. This was my first exposure to a *real* computer, and seeing that it was rebooted by turning a key blew my mind.

I have to say, though, that crashing a server by clicking the (admittedly broken) middle mouse button on a terminal is pretty appalling. Something was clearly Very Wrong in the setup.

Still overpriced (1)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072145)

An Indy, which in the early 1990s cost around $14,000, can be picked up on eBay these days for maybe $40, plus another $200 for a monitor.

$200 for a monitor? Or $10 for an adapter.

Shipping is what kills on old computer hardware. The stuff is pretty heavy, and can easily cost $50-$100 to ship it. Which in many cases is more than the unit is worth in the first place.

Re:Still overpriced (2, Interesting)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072279)

Or $10 for an adapter.

Make sure your monitor supports "sync on green" and an adapter will work. I had trouble with a Sun workstation and adapter with a KDS monitor because Sun uses composite sync and the PC monitor uses seperate H and V sync.

Anyway, last year I noticed SGI stuff going for bargain prices and since it had been a dream machine since 1992 I picked up an Indigo (teal) off ebay for $100, complete with a 19" monitor - shipping was $50, and then picked up a purple Indigo. It's a beautiful desktop with anime wallpaper, transparent aterm windows and is nice for working w/ blender stuff altho rendering jobs get sent to a newer machine.

Re:Still overpriced (1)

heyitsme (472683) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072335)

Most SGI machines (Indy, Indigo2) use 13w3 monitor cables and sync-on-green monitors. While you can find some PC monitors that work (they must be multisync or sync on green), it can still be hit or miss.

Typically if you wait long enough, you can find one of these old SGI monitors for sale around your town. They're quite nice: they're rebranded Sony 20" Trinitrons in most cases. Be sure to find one that still has the remote, and if you must buy it off eBay, don't ship UPS! They smashed my first GDM20d11 monitor, but luckily the Indigo2 made it!

Not all $10 adapters work (1)

ilithiiri (836229) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072408)

As stated in the article, you *also* need a monitor that knows how to handle the "composite on green line" thing.
Some monitors do, many many others do NOT.

That's why you need the $200 monitor ;)

SGI (1)

harryoyster (814652) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072151)

Reliving the dream so to speak. I still believe that SGI make some awesome gear. It may not be revered as much as it was in the past but the company still deserves some level of respect. Some of the evolutionary and revolutionary moves the company has made really have helped to shape the computer industry despite what many people like to say bagging out SGI.

My main problem... (2, Insightful)

un1xl0ser (575642) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072153)

I find that inst, even in the newer releases of IRIX, makes installing an IRIX system a chore.

Using their latest release and overlays I still have dependencies that can not be met. It can be frustrating to anyone who is used to a sane installer, like the ones provided with Solaris, HP-UX and most Linux distros.

Filesystems were not recreated sometimes when I made the install, and configurations were left on the system. I'm not a Unix god, but that is not how most operating systems install, or how I think they should work.

IRIS Workstation (4, Interesting)

amightywind (691887) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072163)

Remember in the '90's when the tech boom was in full swing and SGI was the darling of the 3D graphics industry, whatever happened to those days?

I used an SGI Iris 24 bit color workstation with a 21" monitor back in 1990. I still get misty thinking about it. We used them for computational chemistry and visualization. Shading, transparency, GL had it all even back then. Coming as I did from a Vax 750 background, this was pretty amazing. The workstation came with a flight simulator to show off GL graphic power. These were beautiful machines, solid, well engineered. The aethetics have not been surpassed to this day. Sadly, some business guy tried to turn SGI into a PC company, and they alienated their devoted scientific and engineering users. Same thing happened to Sun except they sold out to corporate IT and big iron.

Re:IRIS Workstation (1)

JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072226)

And of course, the BEST best part of the 1990 SGI was that you could play the flight simulator in dogfight mode (assuming you had more than one SGI on the network)

One evening, I went to dinner with a friend, but we forgot who was driving, and both ended up drunk. (one car at the restaurant, one at the office)
We took a cab back to work and flew P38s in dogfight mode until we sobered up. Don't do this without a helmet, or at least don't use swivel chairs.

Re:IRIS Workstation (1)

BWJones (18351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072324)

Sadly, some business guy tried to turn SGI into a PC company, and they alienated their devoted scientific and engineering users.

Believe it or not, that same guy after trying to get SGI to switch to Windows then went to work for Microsoft. Seriously!

sgi glory... (2, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072180)

I remember when @home went belly up. the headend was packing up the SGI servers that @home had there and I pulled the SGI case badge off of one of them.

I still get funny questions from friends that notice it on my antec case at home and is the best looking company/equipment logo I have ever seen.

I always wanted an Octane, but they are still going for insane prices on ebay, and today it really is not worth tinkering with anymore.

Re:sgi glory... (1)

RageEX (624517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072441)

You can get scratch and dent Octanes on eBay for less than $100. You can get refurbished systems from a place like Reputable for less than $200. Shipping is what kills you. But still, these prices are insane?

What? No "rest of the story"? (1)

SavoWood (650474) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072205)

It was interesting to read the article as I started off my UNIX Systems Administrator career in the broadcast arena. Back then, all graphics were done on SGIs. I learned "UNIX" by reading the SGI manual.

However, the article completely failed to acknowledge the stronghold SGI has in scientific 3D molecular visualization and crystallography. Most of those apps are being rewritten for Linux and *BSD, but if you go somewhere like NIH, you'll find a very large population of SGIs. I'd guess the support contracts from the various NIH institutes keep SGI alive, not to mention the sales to the CIA, NSA, and other government agencies.

Hopefully there will be a part two to this article where they explore this realm. They can interview me if they want. I'd be happy to talk about the use of SGIs in science.

Sure, ... (1)

proxy2 (156777) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072212)

they're very expensive and less powerfull than my $1500 pc at home, but look at al the cool stuff you can make of it:

SGI casemods []

espresso, anyone ? []

Re:Sure, ... (1)

RageEX (624517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072458)

Man I shudder at those case mods (at any case mods of old systems really). It's butchering.

Irix is the new BeOS? (1, Troll)

theManInTheYellowHat (451261) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072229)

This mystifies me. I used to do quite alot of work on an Indy and O2's. A while back I got one for a couple of hundred dollars and promptly instlled everything I could find and I was seriously unimpressed. The OS is awesome, the interface is great, I do enjoy working on them. However, a 180 mhz CPU is still slow.

What the artical fails to explain is what these people are running on them that is so much better than what we are using on Mac's and PC's.

The Cosmo stuff was brilliant in 1997. Asa matter of fact the Cosmo World VRML editor was amazing and one of the reasons that I hesitated in selling the O2. But I did not have any video software to work with, so I would really like to know what these video people are running that is so wonderful. I am also wondering where they are getting the software to run on them. Or is it just "I use an SGI, I am cool" that helps rub elbows in the Hollywierd circuits?

BeOS has the same fanatical feel and we all know how cool the BeBox was. But I think that I would still rather a modern CPU from (insert vendor here).

Re:Irix is the new BeOS? (1)

GT_Onizuka (693787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072290)

I was going to ask the same thing. I'm not familiar with IRIX or SGI's AT ALL, so perhaps I'm looking at it from the wrong perspective. But based on whats inside the system, how can it be better than a current PC?

Indigo2 (1)

Bastian (66383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072232)

I just came into posession of two teal Indigo2 boxen last week, and I gotta admit that if you're the kind of person who can have some nostalgic fun playing with a C64, an SGI box is an amazing thing to own. I lost a few hours this weekend just toying around with the demos that came with the OS.

It's also pretty surprising how responsive the thing is - about the only thing I've found so far that can make one of these babies start thrashing is a newer version of Oracle. If I can just sort out this little Holy War I've been waging with IRIX 6.2's DHCP client (and its networking set-up in general), the workstation could very well end up being a computer that I use for real work.

boxen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072310)

Years ago, as a joke and a dig against the trademarking of a word, I decided that the plural of 'zerox' is 'zeroxen'. But the plural of box is still boxes.

I love it, though.

Re:Indigo2 (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072311)

If I can just sort out this little Holy War I've been waging with IRIX 6.2's DHCP client (and its networking set-up in general), the workstation could very well end up being a computer that I use for real work.

Why not install 6.5.x on it? It runs quite well as long as you can keep yourself from installing everything that seems like it might be useful..

Also, the DHCP client is quite odd, not to mention that if you boot IRIX with a serial console it seems to like to reset things a couple of reboots later, almost like it's trying to force you to use the GUI tools (or maybe my SGI boxes are just insane).


The beginning of the end (2, Insightful)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072233)

I believe the beginning of the end was when they started puting windows on their machines.... and I don't mean X11.

I was there when SGI lost; the 3dfx story (2, Informative) (771696) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072300)

I was working in a simulation firm when the times shifted for SGI. We had some SGI RE2's that cost us about 200k £, expencive stuff in other words. My boss gave me an assignment in 1996 to find a graphics card for PC's that we could run our simulator on, and I heard rumour about a company with ex SGI guys that had started to make graphics cards for the PC market. I got the stats for a new SLI card they had made, and was asoniced of what they had in fillrates and such. My co-workers frowned at the stats thinking it was a hoax, but I convinced my boss on a gut feeling to buy the 2k £ card. We actually got a bundle deal with a company called OpenGVS that made 3D API, so it was a good deal. The card lived up to our expectations. When talking to SGI at several occations I got a taste of their arroganse when it came to the PC graphics boards, they rightfully claimed that it was no match for their super-computers, since it was missing FSAA, AF. Still I was getting the idea that their machines were very overpriced, they were in 1996 selling desktops like the Indigo2 for 20k £ and these DID NOT EVEN HAVE TEXTURING ! Now we have PC cards that have FSAA and AF with higher resolutions for a fraction of the price. PC's are so cheap that simulator companes now use one PC per projector, where a SGI have to split its screen into one area for each projector. No wonder they failed to keep the market, they will have to blame themselfs for their arrogance.

It's called NVIDIA (2, Insightful)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072340)

Back when SGI's best people split and left to form 3DLABS (or NVIDIA - Forget which. I am sure someone out there will point out that I could have looked it up, but I don't care - my point is still valid), the heads at SGI didn't want to sell just a Video Card. So all those talented people decided to leave and make globs of money (and my 6800 and I thank them!). SGI only wanted to sell their overly priced 100% solution. And by the time they did sell PCs, it was overpriced and way too late.

Re:It's called NVIDIA (1) (771696) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072447)

Not that it matters much, but I think the company the SGI ppl left to start was 3dfx

What Gandhi didn't say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072355)

"...and then they write a 'Whatever happened to' article about you."

SGI is the new Amiga (1)

Oneamp (733046) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072376)

I'm a long-time 3D animator. In college I learned about 3D animation on Commodore Amiga's. I started my professional career working on a $100k SGI 4D70G. As time went by, it became a $10k Indigo. Now, a $2k Windows machine many times more powerful than those old SGI's (or Amiga for that matter). It seems like there's always a few die hards out there who just won't move on when its time. I used to have an old CP/M machine too! I'm all for nostalgia, but I like my computers fast. I recently bought an old Indigo (ironically from my alma matter). I plan to rip out the guts and mod it with a modern motherboard, etc. How's that for nostalgia?

Linux and OS X killed SGI (2, Interesting)

wayward_son (146338) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072378)

In 1997, Clemson University spent a couple hundred thousand dollars on a state of the art network of SGI-O2's and a very expensive 8 processor server.

By 2001, my PIII/500+Voodoo 4+RH 7.3 was smoking the O2's. People with new Athlon+(GeForce||Radeon) systems were putting mine to shame. The new cheap-ass Dell workstations in the computer labs would have been better than the O2's at that point.

Spending that much money on hardware that is obsolete in less than 5 years is not a good investment.

The next year they switched to a Linux/MacOS X setup.

SGI's mid-90s Innovator's Dilemma... (5, Insightful)

LinuxParanoid (64467) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072394)

SGI faced the innovator's dilemma big-time; it was tricky to cannabalize their $2 billion workstation business for a $300 million graphics card market. And to move from being a full-system vendor to being a graphics card vendor. And even with all the management and business-issue problems, I noticed three problems their engineering effortsg never overcame:
- trouble with quality and shipping on time (see IMPACT)
- couldn't match/switch from 3-4-year development cycles of the workstation business to 6-month product cycles of the PC graphics card business
- engineers were loath to give up control of the chipset/box/OS in order to settle for just controlling the graphics subsystem. They tried to be a full-system player in a PC world. Given that Compaq couldn't really do it (something that was at least semi-obvious at the time), its not a surprise they, coming from the workstation space, couldn't do it with their integrated NT workstations.
- The engineers were delivering product that was differentiated but not in the areas that the biggest customers cared the most about. The benefits of UMA (unified memory architecture) graphics just weren't in sync with what the market most wanted: the fastest 3D at the cheapest price. And in the classic workstation space, polygon-pushing was what was most needed. Half their business was CAD workstations and in the end they lost that to Sun/HP/IBM who didn't have the sexy texture mapping stuff but could render polygons "good enough".

SGI also benefitted from many years from the other workstation vendors under-investing in 3D graphics. When that era ended, even the workstation business they were in got a heck of a lot more competitive.

Anyway, that's what comes to mind when I remember back to SGI in the mid-90s. In hindsight, I don't know of any silver bullets that would have gotten them out of the situation; it was death by a thousand cuts. At the time, I wondered if a merger with Apple would have made sense but it wasn't clear that the disfunctionality of the two organizations at the time would have melded into something better. Maybe a damn good CEO could have helped them carve out a more defensible role in the industry; that's the only thing that got Apple through as far as I'm concerned.

Answer: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072437)

SGI was the darling of the 3D graphics industry, whatever happened to those days?

Windows NT

Anyone Remember the SGI Tractor Trailer? (4, Interesting)

superid (46543) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072440)

Every year our lab got a highly anticipated visit from the SGI road show team. A big black Kenworth 18 wheeler with an equally glossy black trailer.

Inside was a collection of workstations all running very impressive (at the time) GL demos with realtime "twist this knob and rotate the champagne glass" kind of stuff.

We have at least three Origin 2000 systems, one is 96 you know the demos must have helped at least some :)

If it wasn't for our Origins running Matlab I probably would not have tried linux until much later. The only reason I tried linux was to use X and run Matlab remotely.

Pricey software too (1) (771696) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072478)

Remebered that most software was very expencive too. In like 1996 the simplest version of the most popular 3d modelling tool on the SGI, MultiGen, cost 25k £. At the same time 3D Studio Max cost about 2.5k for the simplest version. My thought is that perhaps the greedy software companies also are too blame for why the SGI (practically) is no more...
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