Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 6th Nov 2012 23:35 UTC
In the News The desktop and laptop world is dominated by x86, the mobile/embedded world by ARM. Conventional wisdom, right? Not really. There's also MIPS - hundreds of millions of embedded devices run on MIPS, and for years now, the architecture has been trying to break into the mobile world dominated so much by ARM. They just a got a boost: MIPS has been acquired by Imagination Tech, most known for its PowerVR graphics chips used in a lot of smartphones and tablets.
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Comment by strim
by strim on Wed 7th Nov 2012 00:09 UTC
strim
Member since:
2008-07-01

Aha, great. Grab the MIPS datasheets while you can...

Reply Score: 10

RE: Comment by strim
by shmerl on Wed 7th Nov 2012 02:11 UTC in reply to "Comment by strim"
shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

Yeah, that what concerns me. PowerVR doesn't sound good.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by strim
by Neolander on Wed 7th Nov 2012 06:44 UTC in reply to "Comment by strim"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Aha, great. Grab the MIPS datasheets while you can...

+1, PowerVR is probably one of the few brands in the semiconductor industry that makes things harder than Qualcomm for OS developers.

Consider the Raspberry Pi story: the team was persistent enough to get a TRM from Qualcomm, of all things, and yet Linux on the RPi still relies on binary blobs for GPU operation...

Edited 2012-11-07 06:45 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: Comment by strim
by moondevil on Wed 7th Nov 2012 07:48 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by strim"
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

This is something work life has taught me about companies and communities.

It doesn't matter if certain software is made open source or if a given company is geek friendly.

This will only exist as long as the main developers or main company is able to stay in business.

If business fails, patent actions happen, or the company gets bought, then it is the end. Period, nothing to do about it.

So in the end we can only enjoy technology, regardless of the owning company, but with a critical consumer voice.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by strim
by Neolander on Wed 7th Nov 2012 07:57 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by strim"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Sure, and in other news, Apple could ask App Store devs to pay 1200$/year and steal 80% of their profits and the average sheep would still buy iOS stuff as long as his favorite fart app remains available on it.

This is a geeky website, so we put higher importance on stuff which geeks care about. No need to bring up the average guy argument of "only thing that matters in the end is whether it will sell" on a discussion about MIPS manuals, after all Joe Sixpack has probably never even seen the MIPS name somewhere anyway.

Edited 2012-11-07 08:05 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by strim
by moondevil on Wed 7th Nov 2012 09:36 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by strim"
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Sure, but in the end there is very little we can change, and that is sad.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Comment by strim
by Neolander on Wed 7th Nov 2012 10:28 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by strim"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Sure, but in the end there is very little we can change, and that is sad.

I don't know... In my experience, geek friends, when available, seem to be the main media outlet through which non-geeks get tips when they try to make informed tech purchases. So even if we can't change those who don't bother and just buy stuff based on advertising and hype, we might have a (local) influence on the tech market.

I would like to see some serious study on the matter confirm or infirm this though.

Edited 2012-11-07 10:32 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by strim
by Neolander on Wed 7th Nov 2012 07:52 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by strim"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Big errata: If we are talking PowerVR, Ti SoCs (which traditionally come with extensive documentation of anything but the GPU) would be a better example. Turns out RPi uses a Qualcomm GPU, so that's just Qualcomm being dicks again by purposely giving out incomplete manuals.

Edited 2012-11-07 08:05 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by strim
by przemo_li on Wed 7th Nov 2012 08:33 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by strim"
przemo_li Member since:
2010-06-01

RPi GPU is made by broadcom. Or is broadcom brand of Qualcom?

Its nice GPU where (almost) whole gpu driver reside in firmware. Nice because porting to new OS require just (comparatively) small layer able to feed and gather data. Not nice since, its closed source, and hence Linux Kernel devs will not accept any open source parts.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by strim
by JAlexoid on Wed 7th Nov 2012 09:17 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by strim"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

RaspberryPI is based on Broadcom's SoC with Broadcom's VideoCore4 GPU. Broadcom is not Qualcomm, though not much better then Qualcomm.

Reply Score: 6

RE[3]: Comment by strim
by Neolander on Wed 7th Nov 2012 10:19 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by strim"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

RaspberryPI is based on Broadcom's SoC with Broadcom's VideoCore4 GPU. Broadcom is not Qualcomm, though not much better then Qualcomm.

This is why I should never post anything on the web when I'm too tired to keep highly focused on something (such as the RPi FAQ) for more than a few minutes :/

Apologies for the double-fail everyone.

Edited 2012-11-07 10:29 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by strim
by zima on Thu 8th Nov 2012 02:55 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by strim"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Consider the Raspberry Pi story: the team was persistent enough to get a TRM from Qualcomm, of all things, and yet Linux on the RPi still relies on binary blobs for GPU operation...

NVM the Qualcomm/Broadcom mixup - it seems that the design bureau of the Broadcom SoC used in RPi is a stone's throw away from Raspberry Pi HQ: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphamosaic
Also, IIRC, one of the ~historical ~heads of RPi works at Broadcom now.

Both were probably important factors in SoC choice (not so much "going Broadcom despite the troubles", more "keeping it close to home")


PS. This news, of Imagination Tech acquiring MIPS, is probably also about "family business" - this time, a bit of a turmoil in the family. After all ARM Ltd. bought, not a long time ago, some Norwegian GFX fellows - That's where ARM Ltd. got Mali GFX cores.
Meanwhile, Imagination Tech was and still is a major provider of GFX cores in ARM ecosystem. So it's ARM Ltd. who kinda threw the gauntlet here?

Edited 2012-11-08 03:01 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by strim
by bnolsen on Thu 8th Nov 2012 05:07 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by strim"
bnolsen Member since:
2006-01-06

could be arm saw how imageon screwed intel with the gma500 and decided they wanted to survive?

Reply Score: 3

I'm actually a little teary
by thesunnyk on Wed 7th Nov 2012 00:55 UTC
thesunnyk
Member since:
2010-05-21

Since high school, the SGI Octane / O2 series was my favourite. It had a unified memory architecture, was an absolute beast at the time, and all the cool kids at SIGGRAPH were using them. It was my Ferrari. A slightly-too-far-away dream. I always imagined that when I grew up and could afford the $10,000 odd dollar computer, I'd buy the state of the art at the time. While that dream died with SGI's move away from MIPS, I still had MIPS itself.

MIPS have always had an upwardly mobile, extremely scalable architecture, and a wonderful instruction set. I think it's superior to ARM in so many ways. I always believed in my heart of hearts that somehow some parallel company would pick up MIPS and just make crazy beast machines and I'd be able to pick up the "smaller" versions one day. That's probably not going to happen now.

It's probably the reason I read OSNews today, and you guys are probably the only ones who will care about this.

R.I.P.

Reply Score: 9

RE: I'm actually a little teary
by moondevil on Wed 7th Nov 2012 07:49 UTC in reply to "I'm actually a little teary"
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

I got to learn MIPS assembly while a the university, but we could only afford ourselves simulators on those days.

Reply Score: 2

RE: I'm actually a little teary
by dsmogor on Wed 7th Nov 2012 13:01 UTC in reply to "I'm actually a little teary"
dsmogor Member since:
2005-09-01

I second. MIPS assembly is a pleasure to work with. One could learn it inside out one day and be instantly productive.

Edited 2012-11-07 13:04 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: I'm actually a little teary
by bhtooefr on Wed 7th Nov 2012 14:44 UTC in reply to "I'm actually a little teary"
bhtooefr Member since:
2009-02-19

Although AArch64 (ARMv8's 64-bit mode) is basically MIPS...

Reply Score: 3

RE: I'm actually a little teary
by milatchi on Wed 7th Nov 2012 14:58 UTC in reply to "I'm actually a little teary"
milatchi Member since:
2005-08-29

I'm glad you brought up the SGI connection. That was the first thing I thought when I saw MIPS. Since this is an OS site it makes me wonder where "RISC/os (UMIPS)" lies -- not to be confused with "RISC OS."

MIPS' RISC/os is indicated to be the Unix base used by SGI to build IRIX on MIPS CPUs back in '87.

Reply Score: 2

RE: I'm actually a little teary
by zima on Thu 8th Nov 2012 03:23 UTC in reply to "I'm actually a little teary"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Since high school, the SGI Octane / O2 series was my favourite. It had a unified memory architecture, was an absolute beast at the time, and all the cool kids at SIGGRAPH were using them. It was my Ferrari. A slightly-too-far-away dream.

I remember one edition of my local C=64 & Amiga magazine from ~1993, they did an article from some trade show mostly covering... SGI machines they've seen there. Maybe because there was not much life left in Commodore at that point, maybe "you thought Amigas are nice? Check out this!" for whatever reason, maybe hopeful that SGI then represents the capabilities of future home machines - and it kinda did...

I always imagined that when I grew up and could afford the $10,000 odd dollar computer, I'd buy the state of the art at the time.

...but how many, then, thought it would be brought by "boring" PCs? ;)

(including webcam, like IIRC SGI Indy had - BTW, from time to time I'm trying to find a game made for some semi-official SGI competition IIRC, using that webcam as an input, displaying orange-ish landscape covered with twisted trees / trunks, IIRC manipulating one of them for some purpose; sensible search terms don't return much...)

I always believed in my heart of hearts that somehow some parallel company would pick up MIPS and just make crazy beast machines and I'd be able to pick up the "smaller" versions one day. That's probably not going to happen now.

Well it's not so bad, if you want small machines ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loongson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingenic_Semiconductor

Reply Score: 3

MIPS got into desktops. Well, in a way...
by Zbigniew on Wed 7th Nov 2012 01:04 UTC
Zbigniew
Member since:
2008-08-28

I mean Loongson

Reply Score: 4

No it isnt Member since:
2005-11-14

It's also widely used in wireless routers. My old one, and the current Asus:

ASUSWRT RT-N66U_3.0.0.4 Wed Oct 17 03:02:52 UTC 2012
admin@RT-N66U:/tmp/home/root# uname -a
Linux RT-N66U 2.6.22.19 #1 Wed Oct 17 11:27:44 CST 2012 mips GNU/Linux

I've got an old SGI up in the attic, collecting dust.

Reply Score: 3

adkilla Member since:
2005-07-07

FYI, there is a new FW update released for your router yesterday.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by shmerl
by shmerl on Wed 7th Nov 2012 02:10 UTC
shmerl
Member since:
2010-06-08

Hard to say whether it's a good development for MIPS. PowerVR isn't known as the most friendliest of companies. Especially when it comes to Linux drivers.

Reply Score: 6

That's going to be sexy time :)
by Kochise on Wed 7th Nov 2012 06:55 UTC
Kochise
Member since:
2006-03-03

Ever wondered why Hitachi/Renesas SuperH never succeeded past the Sega Dreamcast, when it's a wonderful processor either...

Kochise

Reply Score: 2

Not all of the story
by shotsman on Wed 7th Nov 2012 07:04 UTC
shotsman
Member since:
2005-07-22

The fact the ARM has licensed a whole raft of MIPS patents is also very pertinent.

IMHO, a very shrewd move by ARM for the future.

Reply Score: 2

przemo_li
Member since:
2010-06-01

NATIVE (C++/C) apps for android, or apps that use native parts, will not be portable.

Its already problem with x86.

Apps writen in dalvik will run just great.

Native compiled blobs? They will need to be recompiled. And probably Google Play will have to be changed to acommodate 3 versions of each "native" app (for each architecture).

Reply Score: 1

moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

This is a developer task, not Google's.

It is up to each developer to pack the set of shared libraries for each architecture in the .apk package.

The .apk contains the list of supported native platforms in the manifest file alongside the .so files.

Reply Score: 5

dsmogor Member since:
2005-09-01

Intel partnered with Google to do on the fly Arm -> X86 recompilation serverside so even blob equipped apps could work (performance is another matter).
Googles insistence on isolating native code for compute only tasks made this approach possible.

Reply Score: 4

shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

Mer (a leading mobile GNU/Linux distro) supports MIPS just fine:

http://releases.merproject.org/releases/latest/builds/mipsel/packag...

Don't use Android - use normal mobile Linux.

Edited 2012-11-07 17:17 UTC

Reply Score: 3

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

"Leading"?...

Reply Score: 2

shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

Anything better?

Reply Score: 2

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Yeah, you should use some better word to describe it :p

"nothing better" = "leading" is not a particularly glamorous criterion to meet.

Reply Score: 2

shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

Leading literally means leading - they have the most advancement and effort at the moment (amongst GNU/Linux distros focused on mobile). It doesn't mean already super mature, ideal or perfect. But it's not accidentally that they were chosen by Plasma Active and Jolla as a base.

Edited 2012-11-08 09:19 UTC

Reply Score: 3

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

While true, it doesn't really convey the reality of the situation, what this word usually implies...

Likewise Natami (using a more extreme example) is leading recreations of the Amiga. Or (less extreme) Haiku is the leading BeOS recreation project. Out in the world, this doesn't translate to much (yet? Maybe, but then OPIE or GPE was also a "leading ~mobile Linux" not a long time ago).

"Most active" is probably what better describes reality.

Edited 2012-11-13 23:08 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Comment by bolomkxxviii
by bolomkxxviii on Wed 7th Nov 2012 12:12 UTC
bolomkxxviii
Member since:
2006-05-19

The big problem? Compatibility! Android has been shown running on MIPS instead of ARM. The problem is many Android programs will not run on MIPS Android. This is nothing new. Back in the days of MS PocketPC Casio came out with a MIPS version. Many programs would not run on the Casiopea. Seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by bolomkxxviii
by henderson101 on Wed 7th Nov 2012 12:20 UTC in reply to "Comment by bolomkxxviii"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

I have one of these in a drawer... a Siemens branded one (sx45?), but Casseopia is also written on the device. I remember it being pretty simple to compile and run .Net code on it, but that anything native was a PITA. It runs something prior to PocketPC 2003, so it's not really worth bothering with these days.

Reply Score: 2

I Hope They Follow Through
by Pro-Competition on Wed 7th Nov 2012 14:27 UTC
Pro-Competition
Member since:
2007-08-20

I'm really hoping they can pull it off. As much as I like ARM, the fact of the matter is that its dominance in the mobile space is inherently dangerous for competition. As such, having a successful company pick up MIPS to push an alternative is a very good thing.


That sums up my thoughts exactly. I hope they follow through.

Reply Score: 3

Sooo... do you think...
by gfolkert on Wed 7th Nov 2012 14:58 UTC
gfolkert
Member since:
2008-12-15

Sooo... do you think... they'll produce MIPS or MIPS-EL?

Gads, I miss the Crimson workstation I had... 1994 and 64-bit... IRIX was the BOMB!

Man, it SMOKED anything HP could come up with or buy at the time. Who remembers that purchase and was pissed off by it?

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Flatland_Spider
by Flatland_Spider on Wed 7th Nov 2012 15:36 UTC
Flatland_Spider
Member since:
2006-09-01

I'm really hoping they can pull it off. As much as I like ARM, the fact of the matter is that its dominance in the mobile space is inherently dangerous for competition.


The Chinese love MIPS, and you'll probably start seeing Chinese MIPS based devices appear as they start using more of their own native tech.

They really wanted to buy MIPS. However, because of all of the defense contracts that use MIPS chips, the Federal regulators wouldn't approve the sale.

Reply Score: 3

Ah the good MIPS processor :-)
by lord_rob on Wed 7th Nov 2012 20:58 UTC
lord_rob
Member since:
2005-08-06

I used MIPS to learn assembly (especially by reverse engineering console games ;) .

It was very cool to do that with my old PlayStation 1 and an ActionReplay flashed with an alternative ROM called Caetla. I've written some (very)small games, just for fun. And some trainers.

It was very cool, back in the days. I miss MIPS architecture ;) .

Reply Score: 4

RE: Ah the good MIPS processor :-)
by zima on Thu 8th Nov 2012 03:40 UTC in reply to "Ah the good MIPS processor :-)"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Net Yaroze devs also probably had lots of fun... and some of their productions, included on the CDs of Official PS1 magazine, certainly rivalled many commercial games in fun department.

Sometimes even quite extensive games, all in 2 MiB of main RAM... (Net Yaroze productions couldn't load additional data after launch, entirety of those games had to fit in RAM)

Reply Score: 2

tails92 Member since:
2007-10-07

A bit of a shameless plug...

I am the author of the open source PlayStation development kit, the PSXSDK. No support for 3D operations and broken memory card support right now, but otherwise functional.
Check it out: http://code.google.com/p/psxsdk
You can run it on any estabilished operating system because it is based on off the shelf gcc/binutils.

Reply Score: 1