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Hardware Software Linux Technology

Open Source Finally Hits Real Silicon 247

Posted by timothy
from the mask-of-progress dept.
pagercam2 writes "While Open Source software has many success stories, hardware and particularly chips haven't had as much. While there have been multiple Open Source projects, none have come to a final product until now. The OpenRISC 1000 has been implemented by Flextronics Semiconductor(a division of Flextronics, the contract manufacturer possibly best known for its production of many Cisco products) along with PCI, 10/100 Ethernet, serial, GPIO etc. ... Details and pretty pictures available at OpenCores.org, and it even runs uClinux. Good Job!"
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Open Source Finally Hits Real Silicon

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  • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday December 08, 2003 @07:13PM (#7664185) Journal
    I think it's either gonna end up like that, which would be great, or it's gonna end up with the slashdot crowd all being locked up for using Linux on hardware which breaches Uber-DMCA codes and is a tool of the terrorist communist nazis who go round killing puppies.

    Having just read back my own post, I'm really hoping we get OSH (open source hardware) going before it becomes illegal to develop.
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday December 08, 2003 @07:13PM (#7664191) Homepage Journal

    A lot of what's floating in space runs with what we could consider antiquated hardware.

    Old != Junk

  • by interiot (50685) on Monday December 08, 2003 @07:15PM (#7664209) Homepage
    Have open-source cores been available to implement those specs been available for a LONG time? Sounds like you're saying that just because we understand most of the MSWord file format, that means that we don't need StarOffice...
  • by Afromelonhead (730368) <ryan@scott@adams.gmail@com> on Monday December 08, 2003 @07:23PM (#7664280)
    I guess I can see how this would appeal to the many /. readers who are very pro-Open Source. To me, though, this has a distinctly different application than that of Open Source software. Sure, people have loads of hard drives and other random computers to go installing all their *BSD/Linux, but how many people have the ability to produce these chips? In addition, many, many people have at least some coding ability that can be used to contribute to the Open Source software projects, but do that many people really have the ability to recognize mistakes on the circuit boards and actually fix them?

    Just my two cents...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08, 2003 @07:35PM (#7664392)
    How about the old VW sedan, especially the off-patent parts? Can an open-source automobile design based on, say, the 1980 VW sedan be set-up and evolved in poor countries?

    You'll never be able to produce an automobile en mass scale cheaper than VW (or nearly as good).

    In general, what problems would there be in creating open-source engineering designs for hardware of all kinds branched off from off-patent intellectual property?

    Again you would never be able to mass produce the item cheaper than a proprietary company. Besides there is very little demand for box cameras and tube radios.

  • by randall_burns (108052) <randall_burns@hotmai l . com> on Monday December 08, 2003 @07:40PM (#7664429)
    Chuck Moore [colorforth.com] has been doing forth chip design for a while. His chip design software and Forth development system is public domain, but he hasn't Open Sourced his CPU designs yet. What makes his designs important IMHO is that they are very simple compared to conventional chip designs-which makes them appropriate for things like very low power consumption and makes it possible for one person to understand/implement their design.


    Part of what makes Open Source hardware important is that Open Source designs are what will actually be implemented as small scale manufacturing [ennex.com] becomes more practical. There are various proposals around for doing manufacturing of chips using rather different processes than we are used to today(i.e. "growing" chips in a chemical medium). What these ultimately take us towards is robotic infrastructure that can be remotely controlled and is as "self-replicating" as a lathe or a blacksmith's shop.

  • by Seraphim_72 (622457) on Monday December 08, 2003 @07:42PM (#7664440)

    ...because I, and many others, would rather run linux on a 160Mhz processor than MS Windows on a 5.03G processor.

    Sera
  • Re:where ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by temojen (678985) on Monday December 08, 2003 @07:58PM (#7664535) Journal
    You can get the Tarball from OpenCores [opencores.org], and the compiler and hardware from xilinix [xilinix.com], altera [altera.com], Lattice Semiconductor [latticesemi.com], etc.
  • by kien (571074) <kien@NOspaM.member.fsf.org> on Monday December 08, 2003 @08:24PM (#7664731) Journal
    Today, we will have made a CPU to compete with the 486...

    I'll take an open-source, standards-compliant 486 computer over a 2Ghz Trusted Computing appliance any day.

    --K.
  • by geekee (591277) on Monday December 08, 2003 @08:33PM (#7664793)
    "Why should major companies control the architechures that we are using? "

    Because advanced CAD tools to design state of the art microprocessors costs millions of dollars. Even if you afford these tools, state-of-the-art fabs cost billions of dollars. Open Source works in software because equipment to develop software is cheap enough that anyone can afford it. Equipment to develop hardware costs a fortune, and needs some corporate support, or a lot of donations. Until a process makes it to MOSIS, the average person can't afford access to it.
  • whats the point? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gyratedotorg (545872) on Monday December 08, 2003 @08:34PM (#7664804) Homepage

    maybe im missing something here, but i dont see how open hardware could ever be as successful as open source software. why? because the hardware required to build software (ie: a computer) is a commodity in most of the developed world. how many people own machines capable of producing microchips?

    i always felt that the power of open source lies in the fact that if you know how to program, you can make changes to the software yourself. now if i somehow got a hold of a schematic for my processsor and managed to improve the design, how would i go from paper to silicon?

  • by Peyna (14792) on Monday December 08, 2003 @09:12PM (#7665046) Homepage
    Open Source Hardware has been around for a long time. Woz himself used to give away the schematics for the original Apple computer, because he believed it was more important to let everyone know how to make the stuff rather than make money off of it.
  • by DickBreath (207180) on Monday December 08, 2003 @09:27PM (#7665151) Homepage
    One day, an open-source processor design may be your only hope of a Free computer. (Not as in beer.)

    DRM, comming soon to a computer near you! Whether you want it or not! Restrictions that the whole family can enjoy together.
  • by vik (17857) on Monday December 08, 2003 @09:39PM (#7665213) Homepage Journal
    Maybe today open hardware is an esoteric industry. But with self-assembling circuits being the way things are heading (What? IBM's announcement of self-assembling FLASH [eetimes.com] didn't make Slashdot? Shame on the mods.) that'll change. Why? Because the most practical way to make dense circuits will be as an FPGA where the self-assembling units are not FLASH modules but FPGA cells. In effect, all major components become FPGAs.

    But it won't stop there. Turning this new capability to its advantage, it will make sense to re-compile the CPU cores to perform the task at hand with maximum efficiency. If you're going to start doing that, an open design is nigh on essential.

    We are rapidly entering an era where it is worth designing things that cannot yet be built, because the manufacturing technology is catching up very rapidly. Even now, Sony are designing their consumer device chipsets as FPGAs to shorten time to market. The trend will not decrease.

    Vik :v)
  • by geekee (591277) on Monday December 08, 2003 @09:42PM (#7665234)
    "now if i somehow got a hold of a schematic for my processsor and managed to improve the design, how would i go from paper to silicon?"

    Assuming you can come up with the cad tools to implement your schematic and layout changes, you can use MOSIS [mosis.org] to fab the chip. It costs money, but getting hardware for free as in beer is unrealistic.
  • I don't know.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by x Golden Hawk x (525834) on Monday December 08, 2003 @09:59PM (#7665321) Homepage
    It seems to me like these designs can be tested in software before ever being sent to the presses, so loads of people can contribute to the design without having to actually get a finished chip.
  • by KD5YPT (714783) on Monday December 08, 2003 @10:42PM (#7665577) Journal
    Because a lot of stuff floating in space don't play game, hence no POWERFUL CPU needed. Plus, in space, radiation is a killer for CPU. Less sophisticated CPU (older ones) actually can survive much better than the newer ones.
  • Re:Sheesh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twiddlingbits (707452) on Monday December 08, 2003 @10:58PM (#7665684)
    It's one hell of a LONG way from making an 300K gate FPGA work at 150Mhz to making a 32/64 bit CPU at 2GHz! A modern CPU core may have as many as a few million gates. Add in on-chip cache and other things and that number gets higher. Now if you want to talk micro-controller then 300K gates might get you a decent 8/16 bit one like the old 8051s (which you can do a LOT with but I don't think it would run Linux). Your idea sounds like a good Sr. Project for a CSE class in Computer Architecture.
  • by King Bo Bo (729843) on Monday December 08, 2003 @11:22PM (#7665812)
    Hardware Modo: Measure Twice. Cut Once. Software Modo: Release Often! Software is more conducive to Open Source development... Non?
  • by Cpl Laque (512294) on Monday December 08, 2003 @11:24PM (#7665832) Journal
    but do that many people really have the ability to recognize mistakes on the circuit boards and actually fix them?

    Actually, thats my full time job. There are plenty of electronics techs out thier who are slowly or not so slowly losing their jobs. Most electronics are becoming less hardware and more software(thank you software guys you suck):P. So many of us could contribute in some way while we are sitting in the unemployment lines with the rest of IT the way alot of you guys conribute to your favorite open source projects.
  • really now... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:20AM (#7666029)
    guys,

    while i'm sure the opencores crowd has done an outstanding job, you need to look further at the Big Picture.... and comparable processors.

    a motorola ppc8245 at 300MHz is $19 in qty (at least that's what we pay). it has all of the features enumerated in the article above (16K caches, PCI, MMU, ethernet, dual UARTs, etc etc etc), and is supplied replete with a Big DataBook of We're Pretty Damn Sure This Will Work Knowledge and 10e6 embedded programmers worldwide. not to mention an entire library of (linux AND powerpc) Google entries. you can attach all manner of BDM/BDI/JTAG debuggers (e.g. BDI2000) to an 82xx and there are a half dozen compiler suites (including gcc) to choose from. boundary scan routines are already understood and implemented, which eases ICT development at production time. if it's 2AM the day before the Big Pitch to the client, i'm pretty sure i can find someone who's awake and can fix my 82xx register access problem. i'm no motorola bigot (i always try to make a PIC fit until it can't do the job) but the economies of scale are WAY WAY WAY against the little guy when it comes to microprocessors.

    you are not selling your soul to moto for $19. you are making a cost effective, performance increasing, risk reducing decision, that's all.

    just another datapoint.

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