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Linux For Cell Processor Workstation

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the interesting-things-on-the-horizon dept.

IBM 310

News for nerds writes "The Cell processor from Sony, Toshiba and IBM, has been known as the chip that powers the upcoming PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system, but except for that very little is known about how it's applied to a real use. This time, at LinuxTag 2005 from 22nd to 25rd June 2005, at Messe- und Kongresszentrum Karlsruhe, Germany, Arnd Bergmann of IBM will speak about the Cell Processor programming model under Linux, and the Linux kernel in the first Cell Processor-based workstation computer, which premieres at Linuxtag 2005."

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occe is god (0, Troll)

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real use? (4, Funny)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744323)

but except for that very little is known about how it's applied to a real use.

And why are video games not considered to be "real use" ??

Re:real use? (1)

Curtman (556920) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744360)

And why are video games not considered to be "real use"

Because the successful ones prevent you from getting any "real work" done.

Re:real use? (2, Insightful)

Taladar (717494) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744366)

Because they are probably written by people that signed NDAs and can't talk about it, so their knowledge about that Cell processor is not available to the public.

Re:real use? (2, Insightful)

The_Hooleyman (724719) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744508)

Use: Games

And it will happen like this: The first real use will be determined by our graphics programmers who will manage to eat up every new cycle on dynamic lights and high dynamic range textures. Then our physics guys and AI people will ask why there's not much left. Finally the game programmers will show up and have only enough power left to make the sweetest looking version of pong you ever saw. Wait for it, we'll have it ready for 2006.

In related news, that is what happened last time we got next gen hardware. Games didn't get that much more fun, but they got pretty. A bit sad really.

Re:real use? (2, Interesting)

Criton (605617) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744801)

Not a real use Cell is awsome an under $300 chip that eats xeons for snacks and can eat an opteron for lunch?
This would be a big seller for people in engineering the movie industry etc.
With linux on it I want to see a standard PC board with a Cell processor and an X86 emu in rom for X86 OSes and using X86 cards roms.
But for speed it'll run native cell compiled applications.
Another odd effect is if cell finds it way into printers we'll have a situation we had back in the 80s where the printer is more powerful then it's host PC is so people will do crazy stuff like write apps in postscript again for simulations and rendering.

I thought that the PS3 was going to be real (-1, Redundant)

0racle (667029) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744324)

Then again "Nothing for you to see, move along," sort of sums up what I know about this so called cell processor thing. Maybe the PS3 is just a dream.

Re:I thought that the PS3 was going to be real (0, Offtopic)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744335)

the PS3 display at E3 was pretty disappointing...

Re:I thought that the PS3 was going to be real (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744431)

Awww, look at the liddle xbox fanboy trying to spread FUD!

Good boy, now roll over!

Oh JOY! Tux Racer on the PS3! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744326)

Can't wait!

You think that's impressive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744445)

Wait till Billy Joe Bob ports his text editor!

Cell processor workstation ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744327)

Have to wonder about the timing of this story although it is almost certainly coincidental. If these are eventually marketed (and don't remain prototypes) they should make interesting development platforms.

Should be interesting (1)

trixy_1086 (687653) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744329)

It should be interesting what modifications, if any, IBM may have made in porting Linux to the cell, since my understanding is that it has many specialized sub-processors (cells). It should be at least as good as Linux for PPC though, no?

From TFA ... (4, Informative)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744383)

"Unlike existing SMP systems or multi-core chips, only the general purpose PowerPC core, is able to run a generic operating system, while the SPUs are specialized on running computational tasks. Porting Linux to run on Cells PowerPC core is a relatively easy task because of the similarities to existing platforms like IBM pSeries or Apple Power Macintosh, but does not give access to the enormous computing power of the SPUs.

Only the kernel is able to directly communicate with an SPU and therefore needs to abstract the hardware interface into system calls or device drivers. The most important functions of the user interface including loading a program binary into an SPU, transferring memory between an SPU program and a Linux user space application and synchronizing the execution. Other challenges are the integration of SPU program execution into existing tools like gdb or oprofile."

Re:From TFA ... (1)

trixy_1086 (687653) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744398)

I reiterate my prior statement, as it would be cool, and not completely out of the question, for IBM to optimize specific portions of the kernel for specifc SPUs. And I would also like to rephrase part of my prior statement to read "GNU/Linux" for those that enjoy being picky.

Re:From TFA ... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744447)

Why would it be cool for the kernel to consume a vital finite resource that should be left to user land apps or higher level system libraries? The kernel does not have any specialized computationally hard jobs to perform. Now if you wanted to argue that a system library like OpenGL should use the SPUs that would make much more sense.

Re:Should be interesting (2, Informative)

tempmpi (233132) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744473)

Look at the kernel mailing lists, IBM already submited the first set of patches. Basically Linux runs on the PPE, the full PPC core inside the cell, and there are system calls to execute special SPE binaries running on the SPEs (the subprocessors).

*sigh* (1, Troll)

sinserve (455889) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744334)

What's the point of better architectures when Apple is moving to the brain-fucked x86 ISA? It's hard to be enthusiastic about computing when you know the beast just got a new lease on life.

/me pours himself another bitter one

Perhaps you are in the wrong business/hobby (5, Funny)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744425)

What's the point of better architectures when Apple is moving to the brain-fucked x86 ISA? It's hard to be enthusiastic about computing when you know the beast just got a new lease on life.

Perhaps you are in the wrong business or hobby. If inconsequential details like what CPU is sitting at the heart of Apple's proprietary design causes you emotional distress you really need to reconsider your life. Assuming of course that you are not in advertising and needed the faux x86/PPC conflict. If so please continue with your distress, otherwise, have you considered forestry?

http://data2.itc.nps.gov/digest/usajobs.cfm [nps.gov]

Re:Perhaps he is right though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744468)

No one knows yet the Cell's true power on the desktop. If the SPUs can be harnessed or even parts of/entire OS's rewritten to utilise the chip properly Cell could wipe the floor with anything Intel could come up with. That it is, apparently not the priority of every developer to do that today is not the issue.

If Cell takes off, Apple have bought into an ancient bucket of junk (x86) designed, let's be honest, with one purpose in mind:

to run Windows XP.

Re:Perhaps he is right though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744532)

I don't think there is any question as to whether the Cell arch will take off.

It is actually a very straightforward arch and it is obvious what it is good at, video, sound, and a bunch of 3d/vector operation tasks. It utterly destroys anything Intel or AMD has or even plans on having in the future. Cell is going to be everywhere the 100+ million PS3 Sony will sell over the next five years, workstations, renderfarms, TVs, and boatload of other consumer electronic devices only Sony knows about right now.

Apple has blown it. Big time.

Re:Perhaps he is right though (2, Interesting)

StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744591)

Sounds like it belongs in an addon then. Not in a generic environment. Video, sound and 3D vector ops have very little in commen with, say, SQL queries.

0x86 chips have added silicon AFTER, not BEFORE Microsoft created all of their sound and video extensions. Unlike the implication of GP. And MMX was a response to the fact that 'omg! People use video and sound!'. Linux and anyone else is free to take advantage of the extra instructions, and is the case with Linux at least.

If Cell doesn't have special instructions for doing quaternion rotations then I don't give a crap how fast it is: an Intel/AMD/0x86 chip will walk all over it in video operations.

And even if Cell does... can that make it a great generic OS processor? Nope! Takes a lot more than that!

As in everything, time will tell. I certainly do hope that it is a revolution; I foresee living through very few GOOD revolutions during my lifetime. The more the merrier.

Re:Perhaps he is right though (3, Interesting)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744641)

If the SPUs can be harnessed or even parts of/entire OS's rewritten to utilise the chip properly Cell could wipe the floor with anything Intel could come up with.

The SPUs are not for the OS, they are for high level libraries or apps. They are for highly specialized computationally intensive jobs. Maybe OpenGL could benefit but not the OS. FYI:

"Unlike existing SMP systems or multi-core chips, only the general purpose PowerPC core, is able to run a generic operating system, while the SPUs are specialized on running computational tasks. Porting Linux to run on Cells PowerPC core is a relatively easy task because of the similarities to existing platforms like IBM pSeries or Apple Power Macintosh, but does not give access to the enormous computing power of the SPUs. Only the kernel is able to directly communicate with an SPU and therefore needs to abstract the hardware interface into system calls or device drivers. The most important functions of the user interface including loading a program binary into an SPU, transferring memory between an SPU program and a Linux user space application and synchronizing the execution. Other challenges are the integration of SPU program execution into existing tools like gdb or oprofile."

http://www.linuxtag.org/typo3site/freecongress-det ails.html?talkid=156 [linuxtag.org]

Intel fanboi Steve Jobs never even considered Cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744658)

If Cell takes off, Apple have bought into an ancient bucket of junk (x86) designed.

OMG, I bet Intel fanboi Steve Jobs never even considered Cell, and all the Intel loving drones in his engineering department(s) probably never even looked at. You should give him a call and save the day.

Re:Intel fanboi Steve Jobs never even considered C (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744673)

LOL, it will happen as well, directly after a group of taxi drivers and drunk old guys who hang around bars all day form a government.

Re:Perhaps he is right though (2, Interesting)

rpozz (249652) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744698)

I think the fact that Apple have switched to x86 at this point could very well mean that they've seen the Cell, and it's no where near as good as it's supposed to be.

Re:Perhaps he is right though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744795)

Possibly.

The other theory goes like this:

Jobs always wanted Mac OS X on Intel and that was always the plan, hence 5 years of OS X running secretly on Intel boxes.

No... HE's right here (3, Funny)

koi88 (640490) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744612)


If inconsequential details like what CPU is sitting at the heart of Apple's proprietary design causes you emotional distress you really need to reconsider your life.

This is Slashdot, man. If we had a "life" to reconsider, we wouldn't be here.

Re:*sigh* (4, Interesting)

ignorant_coward (883188) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744460)

I watched the keynote, and Apple (Mr. Jobs) did a really good job selling the transition. The only advantage of Intel is gigahumungous manufacturing capacity, which IBM obviously wasn't willing to steer Apple's way. PowerPC is good and all...up to the point of there being no road map or a stubborn IBM negotiator.

Consoles are where PowerPC is at from here on out.

Re:*sigh* (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744636)

did you ever read the title of this article?

So what's the deal with you linux zealots? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744341)

What I don't understand about most linux users is the "do it for yourself" ideology -- why would I want to put in the time and effort to make an application work (or even to write one myself) when there is a host of closed source alternatives that just work, provided by world leaders such as Microsoft? It's not a laziness thing, I grew up on a farm and now hold a PhD in molecular biology so I am no slouch when it comes to physical or mental work.

When it comes down to whether I can pay for a program that denies me access to the source code, but does its job well or an open source alternative coded by the guy with a hairy back who lives in a basement down the street, I believe it is better to pay for the quality product than get something inferior for free and have to tweak it endlessly in order to get a satisfactory result. Worse still is removing the "personal touches" put into most software of this type. If I suggest something to my boss that contains such choice phrases in the code as "Free Mitnick" (whom I believe to be an incarcerated cyber-terrorist, but feel free to correct me) or "Fuck Bush" (many open-saucers are violent liberalists) my job would be about as secure as a typical linux webserver. This isn't even taking into account the names of the applications themselves: The Gimp (I'm sorry? BDSM on my PC? No thank you.), Felchmale (I think this is a homosexual sex act) and Mencoder (can women use it too?) all come to mind.

What it comes down to at the end of the day is experience. Experience from the coders, marketers, tech support people who are all paid to to their jobs and do them well. Would you want a handjob from a 12 year old prostitute? Even if it was free, would you still take the awkward jerkings of a preteen over a $50 squeeze from a professional? That is how I see this whole debate. Your dick ends up covered in jism at the end, but there is one hell of a difference in the route you took to get there. Of course, some will always prefer the inferior route, in the handjob realm as well as software. In the former situation we call these people paedophiles. What is so different about the second group?

Re:So what's the deal with you linux zealots? (2, Insightful)

rammerhammer (590539) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744449)

Oh wow, I don't know where to start.

1. Relevance: This comment has absolutely no relevance to the slashdot article.

2. Open-source software sucks compared to closed-source because it's not done by 'professionals'? Give me a break! Several open-source projects are funded by companies, organizations, and universities and are recognized world-wide.

3. You're saying you can't use those programs because of their silly names which you somehow derived as sexual euphemisms? What about windows cause it kinda sounds something like dildos LOL!

4. You're comparing programming to prostitution while discussing the lack of professionalism -- how very... professional!

Re:So what's the deal with you linux zealots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744475)


Programmers are generally either overworked (hence no time to scratch your balls for you) or they are just assholes (go scratch your own fucking balls, loser). It's just that FOSS makes these personalities more public, but I can assure you that developers within closed source projects are assholes, too.

Re:So what's the deal with you linux zealots? (1)

taskforce (866056) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744593)

Of course, some will always prefer the inferior route, in the handjob realm as well as software. In the former situation we call these people paedophiles. What is so different about the second group?

I don't think the reason we call them paedophiles is because 12 yearolds don't give very good hand jobs, is it?

Re:So what's the deal with you linux zealots? (1, Offtopic)

Gibsnag (885901) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744689)

Wow... someone missed the point a tad. Violent liberalists eh? Liberalists sure, but violent, thats a bit harsh and not something that you could really aim at most nerds/geeks on /. what are we going to do attack Bush with a pocket calculator?

Oh, and dude... "open-saucers"? Check your misguided and vaguely insulting comments before posting them, for someone with a supposed PhD in moecular biology I would expect better.

I've not even got started on the implication that people who use open source software are also paedophiles. Where did that come from?

The Linux role in hardware design (5, Interesting)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744351)

What has impressed me about Linux is not so much that it has enabled some sort of "software revolution", but rather in how it has given chip/platform makers a specific, generic target OS that they can use freely to get something useful running on their hardware quickly.

It used to be the case that platform makers would have to either develop their own minimal operating system for testing purposes or work very closely with an OS maker to port their software to the new hardware platform. With Linux, this has been pushed into the anals of history. Now the Linux OS porting goes hand in hand with platform building, as evidenced by the almost immediate support for Linux at the time of hardware release.

I'm not so much interested in how the Cell board is going to revolutionize anything (it won't), but in how we have, in just the past few years, seen a dramatic increase in the number of hardware platforms being released. And not just in numbers, but also in variety. The number of different types of hardware platforms has risen dramatically. It's only limitation is the number of chip instruction sets supported by gcc and the imaginations of hardware manufacturers.

If you want to see how Microsoft's monopoly has hurt the computer industry, look no further than the current industry. Whereas hardware platforms were pretty standardized and boring, now, with Linux (and real competition to Microsoft's hegemony) the numbers of innovative platforms has increased dramatically. We need a Microsoft out there developing consumer-level applications and quality, user-friendly operating systems. However, we also need a real competitor like Linux to push the giant into innovating.

Re:The Linux role in hardware design (5, Funny)

CrankyFool (680025) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744384)

Erm.

Just for the record: I think you meant "annals of history." "Anals of history" is ...

different.

Re:The Linux role in hardware design (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744545)

Considering some of the shit that companies have churned out to run on their specialized hardware... I think "Anals of history" sums it up pretty well...

Re:The Linux role in hardware design (0, Redundant)

robbyjo (315601) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744388)

pushed into the anals of history

What a nice expression ;). It's annals.

Re:The Linux role in hardware design (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744434)

..." this has been pushed into the anals of history"

well, uhmm, obviously you mean those who know no history are doomed to repeat it. So, you could say they're in a loop with their heads up their collective asses.

Just trying to help you save cheek.

Re:The Linux role in hardware design (4, Interesting)

ignorant_coward (883188) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744438)


Linux is more popular, but NetBSD allows quicker porting of "something useful".

I agreee that Microsoft has dealt a fair amount of damage with crappy APIs and bad QA regarding stability and security. A 'standard turd with a pretty GUI' is still a turd.

Re:The Linux role in hardware design (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744660)

The parent wasn't flamebait. NetBSD's motto is "Of Course it Runs NetBSD!!" Back before I had a computer that could run Linux, I had NetBSD on an old mac.

Re:The Linux role in hardware design (0, Redundant)

StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744519)

With Linux, this has been pushed into the anals of history

An interesting choice of typos. Unintentional (I presume) and yet....

Re:The Linux role in hardware design (5, Insightful)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744573)

how it has given chip/platform makers a specific, generic target OS that they can use freely to get something useful running on their hardware quickly

Perhaps because it is a Unix work-alike, and this was the original design goal of Unix?

Unix used to have that role (4, Interesting)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744714)

When you had some new hardware, you bought a (relatively cheap) Unix source license, and had something running fast

Linux is better though, because the GPL encourage hardware vendors to share their modifications.

With Unix all you had access to was the original source, and the ports done by non-commercial/academic groups (source as UCB). Not other vendors code.

A Linux kernel in Verilog? ;-) (3, Interesting)

RKBA (622932) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744720)

...It's only limitation is the number of chip instruction sets supported by gcc and the imaginations of hardware manufacturers.

I have news for you,... we programmers have been letting the hardware designers have FAR too much fun for far too long! It wasn't until my recent retirement from more than 35 years of computer programming (I've had many different titles) that I've had the time to learn the Verilog hardware design language - and it's GREAT FUN!!! :-) Verilog is very liberating because it removes the boring sequential execution of most CPU's and provides a clean slate with which to design any sort of little tiny electronics machine (that's how I think of VLSI design) that my heart desires. There is a GPLed version of SystemC (a higher level hardware design language than Verilog) on SourceForge that I've been meaning to take a look at, but first I'm creating a 640 bit-wide(!!!) factoring machine in Verilog which I hope to fit into one of the Lattice or Altera FPGA parts.

Really, I highly encourage programmers or anyone interested to learn and use Verilog or some other high level hardware design language. Verilog is similar in many ways to the C language, so if you're familiar with C then you already know most of Verilog's operators, precedence rules, etc. The only thing that takes a little getting used to is Verilog's inherently parallel nature. That is both its strength and the source of most Verilog design errors (at least for me). Also, Verilog is even more bit-picky than C but I sort of actually prefer the extra control that languages like C and Verilog give me over the hardware versus languages that try to insulate me from it.

New wave of freedom (2, Insightful)

XanC (644172) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744358)

We are fast approaching an era where you'll be able to run any OS and any software you want on any architecture you want.

old wave, actually (1)

cahiha (873942) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744478)

We were fast approaching that about 30 years ago. Then the personal computer "revolution" happened, and companies like Microsoft and Apple started from square one, making all the mistakes that their predecessors had been making, and then some: programming in low-level languages, extensive use of assembly, lack of hardware abstraction, etc.

Unfortunately, the so-called PC-pioneers like Gates, the Apple developers, and others, didn't have a clue what they were doing technically and were learning on the job; we all are still paying the price for it.

When people paid even a little bit of attention to prior work in operating systems (Amiga microkernel, Linux), the results were technically far superior.

Re:old wave, actually (2, Insightful)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744597)

Too be fair, it was the introduction of the mass production IC that allowed computers to be priced to where people could afford them (as opposed to large corporations and governments). Those early CPUs were very very underpowered compared to the "real computer" counterparts and OSes like CP/M and DOS were reflections of those limitations.

Cheap, but limited.

--
Evan "My first computer was an S100 bus handbuilt. My first OS wasn't."

Re:New wave of freedom (1)

Danger Stevens (869074) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744712)

When asked what I'm waiting for, I always reply:

I'm waiting for a new wave of freedom. When it comes, I'm gonna run Linux on a toaster, Atari on a Cray, and Windows on my ass.

Another Demo loop (4, Insightful)

BagOBones (574735) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744369)

Too bad that at LinuxTag 2005 all you will get to see is a looped video on running "real time" on "similar hardware" simulating the great development advanced you will be able to achieve with the new cell processor.

Maybe the old man face and duck in water tech demos from the PS2 will also appear.. Did any PS2 game ever look as good as sonys techdemos?

Re:Another Demo loop (1)

rpdillon (715137) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744440)

No, the PS2 games didn't look as good as the demos. The legendary Sony hype machine aside, those Unreal 3 engine demos were realtime, and they looked a hell of a lot like pre-rendered. Very impressive, end of story.

Cell is a very cool design. I suggest you read the design docs linked to in the news item. IBM, Toshiba and Sony are fairly reputable - this is not some vaporware. If you were trolling about Infinium Labs and the Phantom, I'd understand, but PS3? Come on...

Re:Another Demo loop (1)

iapetus (24050) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744648)

Sorry, but that's patently untrue. Everyone seems to forget just how bad the PS2 tech demos were - all of them were surpassed in games within the life of the system. Compare the cutscene-style demos (RR girl, Final Fantasy dance sequence) to something like the real-time cutscenes in MGS2. The Tekken demo to any of the Tekken games on the system (even Tekken Tag Tournament outclassed it). The GT demo was probably one of the most impressive, though it cheated quite a lot to achieve that, and it still doesn't look as good as the GT games did when they actually came out.

The old man's head demo is probably the hardest to match up, for the simple reason that there aren't many games where the entire power of the system goes into rendering a single face. But for equally impressive looking facial details, Silent Hill 3 is the traditional example...

Re:Another Demo loop (1)

Slashcrap (869349) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744773)

Too bad that at LinuxTag 2005 all you will get to see is a looped video on running "real time" on "similar hardware" simulating the great development advanced you will be able to achieve with the new cell processor.

Ahhh, was diddums all dissapointed by the games he got with the PS2 Mummy bought him?

Whilst I feel the deepest sympathy for you, I fail to see how this is relevant to Linux running on the Cell. Not a lot of scope for pre-rendered 3D demos to impress the kernel geeks is there?

indrema (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744393)

So I guess plenty of ex indrema developers are working on the ps3 then if it runs linux.
And if transmeta are working on the cell then it should be tailormade for linux.

Does it run Linux? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744415)

In soviet russia cell processes YOU!

Re:Does it run Linux? (1)

IntergalacticWalrus (720648) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744471)

So you're saying that outside soviet russia, YOU process Cell?? Is this a shit joke?

Re:Does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744543)

In soviet russia shit joke criticises YOU!

Re:Does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744791)

I think the parent was referring to the U.S.S.R.'s Lubyanka Prison, whose cells most certainly processed a number of people.

But maybe I'm just reading into it a bit much.

Re:Does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744490)

In Soviet Russia, yo momma lives in your basement!

In Soviet Russia, the twinkies eat you!

In Soviet Russia, Macs run on PowerPC!

cell chips (1)

milhouse007 (890063) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744417)

I can see it now: cell processors released, 5 years later Windows Cell Edition finally is finally released, and you'll have to get new drivers and 60% of your software won't run. does the cell have a 32 or 64 bit architecture?

Some words about Big Blue (4, Interesting)

emanuelez (563534) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744420)

I really hope that Cell will boost IBM since in the last few monthes they sold their Personal Computers department to Lenovo and have lost their partnership with Apple for PPC processors. I really think IBM has still a lot to give to the IT world and it would be a real waste to loose their know-how!

Re:Some words about Big Blue (1)

nabil_IQ (733734) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744494)

I don't think we should worry about IBM. They lost PPC with Apple, who cares, the 2 dominant game consoles are using IBM chips ;)

and let's not forget their consultancy business powered mainly by Linux and Java-based technologies.

IBM is well off :)

Re:Some words about Big Blue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744511)

True Sony and Nintendo are in the IBM fold, but don't forget Microsoft is getting their chip from IBM too, even if it is going to very weak compared to what the other two will be using.

cell (5, Funny)

Eric(b0mb)Dennis (629047) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744428)

The cell is amazing it will-

- optimize seamless communities
- generate vertical e-services
- everage synergistic convergence

and best of all

- engage e-business content

Perfect solution

Re:cell (1)

IntergalacticWalrus (720648) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744459)

I smell a new slashdot meme coming...

RFID (1)

Urusai (865560) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744576)

RFID is amazing it will:

- optimize seamless communities
- generate vertical e-services
- leverage synergistic convergence

and best of all

- engage e-business content

Perfect solution!

In Korea only old people abuse memes.

Re:cell (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744628)

- optimize seamless communities
- generate vertical e-services
- everage synergistic convergence
engage e-business content

Perfect solution


I will believe it when I either see this in a powerpoint presentation or hear it come out of the mouth of a funny sock puppet.

Congrats Apple and Steve! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744465)

WTG Apple! Steve throws a tantrum because he can't get his G5 Powerbook and instead of the insanely great stuff IBM is doing with Cell we get dumped into the garbage world of Intel x86. An architecture Intel themselves have been trying to dump for a decade.

Time to build a killer AMD64 Linux box...right after I take this now worthless G5 to the dumpster.

Re:Congrats Apple and Steve! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744701)

Time to build a killer AMD64 Linux box...right after I take this now worthless G5 to the dumpster.

Where do you live and which dumpster are you putting it in? I'll be glad to be the thud sound you here when you throw it in. :D

Re:Congrats Apple and Steve! (4, Funny)

tigersha (151319) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744705)

I have a better idea. I'll send you my address and you send your worthless G5 to me! I'll even pay postage!

Been there, ... (1)

fpga_guy (753888) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744515)

done that [uq.edu.au]

OK, so it's not on the Cell architecture, but rather an FPGA-based softCPU, but certainly the problem of integrating asymmetric coprocessing engines into the Linux architecture has been thought about before.

Cool stuff nonetheless.

NB: This does not mean PS3 will run Linux (2, Interesting)

Samir Gupta (623651) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744526)

The IBM Cell workstations used for PS3 dev run a version of the Linux kernel to handle development I/O tasks: file transfers, communications with the PC host, starting/restarting programs etc. The game itself does not run in a Linux environment.

This is similar to the T10K PS2 devkits running Linux (on a separate X86 processor) to do similar purposes.

As with the PS2, the consumer PS3 console itself uses a custom bare-bones kernel; it is NOT Linux based, although I could certainly see Linux being ported to it, like Sony did with the PS2.

you people are retards. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744547)

see subject.

I would love to know.... (1)

StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744552)

What I want to know is "Does this 'uber-multiprocessor ready' architecture have some kind of 'priority' flag that one uses on a thread?

More succinctly: how does it handle its passing of processing requests to other 'cells'?

Using some (tiny, tiny bits of) ASM, I started to wonder about this. I mean, dear GOD! How do you deal with it? Some form of modified call I would suppose, like:

call_avail mem_Address_Of_Function, MemAddress_To_Store_Result

And when the result comes in it fires some interupt. Maybe that would be specified in the ASM instruction?

Obviously the compiler would have to know when to use the 'external call allowed' ASM command, hence my mention of a priority flag (e.g. 'need this NOW!!!' vs 'hey.. whenever')

Anyone know and care to explain?

cheers,

You haven't spent enough time in the kernel (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744566)

That function name is way too long and descriptive. The acutal name would be something like addfunmemdestaddavsize().

And that would be followed by a series of non-sensical parameters which can be defaulted to NULL and everything still seems to work fine.

As for your question, that's why they make the big bucks and you are posting on Slashdot. If you knew the answer, you'd be working for them.

Cell may not be impressive at first glance (3, Interesting)

Rolman (120909) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744564)

The Cell architecture was developed with powerful and complex math applications in mind. How will existing Linux applications perform on it? It seems to me that the Cell's strengths are not integer math and general purpose computing, so in theory only floating-point intensive and vector applications can get a real kick out of it. There are not many well known applications with these characteristics.

That said, advances in parallelizing or vectorizing tasks within the kernel or popular applications are possible, but that's not a trivial task, so at first glance Cell's Linux benchmarks could look unimpressive or misleading, even though the architecture itself is revolutionary, at least in theory.

Here I hope IBM has done their homework and show something really impressive, yet realistic. I want to see things like Apache and GD serving hundreds of thousands of requests for dynamic content, or some real-time encoding/compositing of MPEG4 video for scalable delivery. I want to see Maya or Lightwave rendering a very complex scene. Rubber ducks may be fun to look at and -in all fairness- fit for a videogame-oriented crowd, but I want to see some kick-ass performance based on what it can potentially do to application development.

processor speed, maybe (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744691)

The main PowerPC processor has been, as I understand it, stripped down a bit (wonder why Steve's mad?) to allow the clock rate to be kicked up over 3GHz. Come to think of it, maybe the whole reason G5s haven't done 3GHz is the complexities Steve insisted on. (Stumbling in the dark, here.)

Fp fuCker (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744609)

AND I PROBABLY happiness Another However I don't From a technical Declined in market tangle of fatal intentions and JOIN THE GNAA!! see. The number A losing Cbaatle;

The Cell Advantage (2, Insightful)

EMIce (30092) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744615)

Those SPEs will be pretty useful for massaging and distilling large streams of data, which should make the cell great at tasks like video recognition and real-time market analysis. The cell may not be that revolutionary as parallelism has been touted in academia for a long time now, but the DSP like capabilities + parallelism will make the cell much more capable of responding quickly to complex sensory input than commodity hardware currently allows.

I picture the PS3 using a camera as a very flexible form of input to allow for more creative game design. Super-fast compression and decompression also come to mind, which could be useful for more complex and fluid internet play.

Recent articles have said the cell will have some hickups with physics and AI, because those tasks benefit from branch prediction, but this should be made up for by the fact that the cell will be able to recognize input at a far more human level than present technology affords.

Re:The Cell Advantage (2, Interesting)

EMIce (30092) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744700)

I just though of something else. A cell powered robot would be incredibly powerful. With the right algorithms to recognize critical feedback for a particular task, the cell could allow the robot to respond quickly to complex stimuli, filtering and focusing on the few elements which are relevant to the task. Think of a robot capable of competitevely playing a physical sport, given the right "muscles".

Also, while AI and physics performance are limited in some respects, as I mentioned in the last post, I just realized the cell could come up with some neat AI and physics by recognizing patterns in human players imitating them, through fast computation involving bayesian logic. This should be incredibly effective if done right, as the possible counter-moves could be based in some sort of self-refining, relationally accessed, and pre-calculated data set, cutting down on branch predictiction intensive processing by the PPE unit.

Could be the replacement for my Macs (1)

kellererik (307956) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744621)

If Steve isn't willing to give me registers by switching to x86, then this CPU could be sitting on my desktop in the future instead of my Macs.
All arguments about OS and usability aside, the next evolutionary step in computing needs the functionality in the Cell and not growing stacks due to the lack of CPU registers.

IMHO, of course.

my 2 cents

How much can we expect this workstation to cost? (2, Interesting)

mcc (14761) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744646)

Is this supposed Cell/Linux workstation something we actually know jack squat about it, or is it just IBM going "uh, we're gonna make one of these... someday"? Can we make any educated guesses based on what IBM usually does?

Specifically, is this, like, something that will be actually in the affordable range for people, or is this going to be like some kind of $6000 near-server tank?

Also, how many Cells is this likely to have? One? Two? Four? These SPEs are all well and good for computational stuff but the rest of the time it's nice not to be stuck with a single processor.

conspiracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12744672)

may it be possible that the game console makers pushed apple away from using powerpc's so their games can not be easily ported to a powerer mac?

How many stocks does microsoft own on apple?

Cell-less (2, Interesting)

necrodeep (96704) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744687)

With all the continuing good news about the evolution of the PPC, including the Cell processor, I find it hard to believe that Apple has choosen now to move to Intel chips... and the developer workstations are only 32bit no less (I think they could have at least gone with AMD64).

The good news is that someone is at least taking advantage of the architecture and producing linux workstations based on the Cell... unfortunately i don't think tht will be enough for it to survive in the desktop/workstation market. I fear that unless Microsoft ends up releasing a new PPC version of Windows (which i consider unlikely at best), PPC is soon to be relegated to Servers, Gaming Stations and the embedded market only.

And yet again the Cell fanboys (5, Interesting)

tesmako (602075) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744726)

In this thread I have already seen several posts talking about the worthlessness of the ill-designed x86 and the wonders of the simple Cell. The problem is that while the x86 instruction set is old and very tacky the internals of the processors has evolved to be best-of-breed modern chips, lots of execution units with excellent out-of-order performance and branch-prediction, very high clockrates with nice IPC.

The Cell also is simple, but in a way that that inflates the gflop rating at the cost of programmer time.

  • Multicore, requiring the programmers to extract explicit parallelity (granted, this is coming everywhere, but really, the fewer better-performing cores there are the easier they are to utilise well).
  • A whole pile of vector units (it is very hard to fill even one or two vector units well, this will be a huge time-sink for any project trying to utilise it even half-way well).
  • An in-order primary CPU core, what is this, the eighties?! And if you think this will be like stepping back to how it was with in-order cores a decade or two ago, think again, memory latencies are higher, pipelines are deeper, you'd better pray that your compiler gets lucky to get any real performance out of the primary core (or many sleepness nights hand-optimizing it).
  • Hand-managed memory hierarchy?! This is not even a throwback to the eighties, this is a whole new level of inconvenience for the programmer. Where all normal CPU's carefully handle the memory hierarchy for you, in the Cell it is suddenly up to the software to handle where and when and why memory is in the "cache" of the vector elements.

By comparison the modern x86 is a dream to program for, just note how two fairly radically different cpu's (Athlon64 and the P4) handle the same code very nicely without any big performance issues. Compare this to the Cell, where all the explicitness will make sure that any binary you write for the Cell today will run like crap on the next version.

The point here is that Apple could absolutely not have switched to the Cell, it is inconvenient now and hopeless to upgrade without having to rewrite a ton of assembler and recompile everything for the new explicit requirements.

The Cell is the thing for number crunching and pro applications where they are willing to spend the time optimizing for every single CPU, but for normal developers it is a step back.

Re:And yet again the Cell fanboys (1)

RealNecator (554054) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744750)

By comparison the modern x86 is a dream to program for, just note how two fairly radically different cpu's (Athlon64 and the P4) handle the same code very nicely without any big performance issues. Compare this to the Cell, where all the explicitness will make sure that any binary you write for the Cell today will run like crap on the next version.

Ever tried to program the mathematical coprocessor unit in assembler?
A dream to program for? You must be some kind of god or so. ;-)

However I got your point ...

Wrongo (4, Interesting)

Urusai (865560) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744792)

In case you don't remember, the point of RISC was to put optimization on the compiler so it wouldn't require massive on-the-fly speculative bibbledy-bop with millions of extra transistors and hideous pipelines like we have nowadays. This was done by providing, essentially, a compiler-accessible cache in the form of lots of registers, and by having an instruction set that was amenable to automated optimization.

In theory, you don't need any GP registers at all, you could just have memory-memory ops and rely on the cache. This is impractical due to the size of memory addresses eating up your bandwidth (incidentally, this is a problem with RISC architectures, eating bandwidth and clogging the cache, but that's another story). As an alternative, you can simply expose the cache as one big honking register file using somewhat smaller addresses, and let your fancy-pants optimizing compiler do its best.

The real problem seems to be that compilers have just not been able to keep up with the last 20 years of theory. Witness the Itanium--in theory it should have been the ultimate, but they didn't seem to be able to get things optimized for it (other problems, too). Then what happens are curmudgeons complain about the extra work of optimization and insist on setting us back to early 80s architecture rather than writing a decent compiler.

Moral of the story: write a decent compiler and stop trying to glorify crappy ISAs that suit your antiquated and inefficient coding habits.

Unfortunate name (5, Funny)

SleepyHappyDoc (813919) | more than 8 years ago | (#12744756)

I was talking to a friend about this new Cell processor they were going to have in the PS3, that was supposed to have all these nifty new capabilities, and he was looking at me like I'd grown another head. I asked him why he was looking at me so oddly, and he said, "Dude, Celerons are not that good."
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