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China Releases 2nd generation MIPS Chip 354

Posted by timothy
from the cheapness-beckons dept.
eldawg writes writes with news of the launch of a second-generation Chinese 64-bit MIPS CPU. "The Godson-2 or 'Dragon' went into production last week. News reports indicate that, 'The CPU is 95% MIPS compatible using an unauthorized and unlicensed variation of the MIPS architecture, which is owned by the American company MIPS Technologies...The Godson-2 is pretty much a copy of the MIPS R10000 which makes it on par with 1995 technology.' The Chinese plan on using these chips in consumer electronics for the local market, but one can assume that they will eventually end up in exported electronic goods. I wonder if MIPS Technology will sit idly by when this happens?"
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China Releases 2nd generation MIPS Chip

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  • SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seanadams.com (463190) * on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:04AM (#13162960) Homepage

    News reports indicate that, 'The CPU is 95% MIPS compatible using an unauthorized and unlicensed variation of


    Unauthorized and unlicensed - duh, of course it is. That does NOT per se make it illegal and it certainly does not mean it is "stolen". Anyone can implement an instruction set (there are decades of precendent for this) - while our system may be really fucked up when it comes to thing like business method patents, on processor architecutre (and electronics in general) it is clear: it's the implementation that counts, NOT the idea.

    the MIPS architecture, which is owned by the American company MIPS Technologies...

    Do you mean "implementations of which have been successfully licensed by MIPS, but frankly it's a well documented and relatively simple RISC instruction set
    that a single person with a few years VHDL experience can implement"? See OpenCores [opencores.org] for an example.

    The Godson-2 is pretty much a copy of the MIPS R10000 which makes it on par with 1995 technology.'

    So WTF are the latest Opteron processors? On par with 1978 technology [wikipedia.org]?

    The Chinese plan on using these chips in consumer electronics for the local market, but
    one can assume that they will eventually end up in exported electronic goods.


    One can be assured that cheaper processors will find their way into everything. Nice try insinuating that the EVIL CHINESE are deliberately out to screw us by EMBRACING CAPITALISM!

    I wonder if MIPS Technology will sit idly by when this happens?"

    I wonder if MIPS has a choice. See AMD vs Intel ca. 1991
    • by Anonymous Coward
      My question then, after all the errors in the write-up, is what year is the new chip on par with?
    • Re:SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Raindance (680694)
      A few points-

      1. This processor is 95% MIPS compatible. I understand incompatible, and 100% compatible. What do they mean by this?

      2. You're right that this is mainly a PR release- and though it doesn't flat-out say that this processor infringes on any MIPS patents, it's certainly implied. You seem to be strongly implying that this processor *doesn't* infringe on any MIPS patents. Do you have any facts about this, or is it your intuition?

      3. If the Godson-2 is "pretty much a copy of the MIPS R10000" that se
      • Re:SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Homology (639438) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:32AM (#13163053)
        2. You're right that this is mainly a PR release- and though it doesn't flat-out say that this processor infringes on any MIPS patents, it's certainly implied. You seem to be strongly implying that this processor *doesn't* infringe on any MIPS patents. Do you have any facts about this, or is it your intuition?

        A patent granted in USA is not automatically valid elsewhere, and you cannot infringe on a patent where it's not valid. The Chinese will infringe on MIPS patents if they try to export their chip to countries where the MIPS patens are valid.

        • The Chinese will infringe on MIPS patents if they try to export their chip to countries where the MIPS patens are valid.

          Only then if they either fail to buy the MIPS Technology company, a really good lawyer team, or a lobier of a US Congressman. Hell... With their current economy, they probaly could afford to do all of the above.
      • Re:SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:5, Informative)

        by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:32AM (#13163056) Homepage
        1. This processor is 95% MIPS compatible. I understand incompatible, and 100% compatible. What do they mean by this? .

        It does not implement the bits that are patented. IIRC there are patents MIPS equivalent of SIMD instructions and a few others. The chinese were wise enough to skip these so they in fact can export this and MIPS technologies will have to sit and watch.

        Do you have any facts about this, or is it your intuition?.

        It was one of the design criteria. There was plenty of information about it 1-2 years ago. It was carefully and deliberately designed around MIPS patents. The rest of the architecture and the instruction set is an industry standard and in the public domain.

        If the Godson-2 is "pretty much a copy of the MIPS R10000".

        It is as far as instruction set is concerned. It is not as far as technology and implementation. While R10000 was not a bad CPU, I would expect "Godson" to be considerably better. It should consume less and scale to higher frequencies. China has manufacturing capability on 150nm (and possibly less) which was not available to anyone in 1995

      • Re:SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by seanadams.com (463190) * on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:41AM (#13163077) Homepage
        1. This processor is 95% MIPS compatible. I understand incompatible, and 100% compatible. What do they mean by this?

        It could mean a couple instructions aren't implemented. This could be because:

        a) they had to avoid a patent
        b) some instructions were part of the original architecture, but were never used
        c) some better replacement was discovered

        It is relatively easy to strip out support for a couple specialty instructions from a compiler, so the usefulness of a "95% compatible" processor is perfectly conceivable.

        2. You're right that this is mainly a PR release- and though it doesn't flat-out say that this processor infringes on any MIPS patents, it's certainly implied. You seem to be strongly implying that this processor *doesn't* infringe on any MIPS patents. Do you have any facts about this, or is it your intuition?

        I'm just saying there's nothing here to suggest that it DOES. That's the whole art of "spin".

        3. If the Godson-2 is "pretty much a copy of the MIPS R10000" that seems to make performance claims (rather than just saying it's "MIPS compatible"). I'm not sure your Opteron-8086 analogy architecture analogy holds up.

        Performance is largely a function of non-platform-specific things, including having access to the latest silicon processes - and China does. Instruction set is not so relevant - we've gotten to today's performance mostly by heaping layers upon layers of pipelining and caching engineering on top of the original x86 instruction set so I think it's a fine analogy.

        Good catch that this is was a PR release.

        Who knows - there are tons of Silicon Valleyites who are just completely pissed about globalization and the threat of Chinese technology, so who knows the motive for this fine article.
      • Re:SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:2, Informative)

        by SilentSheep (705509)
        1. This processor is 95% MIPS compatible. I understand incompatible, and 100% compatible. What do they mean by this?

        They could not implement the unaligned memory access instructions of the MIPS architecture. MIPS have a patent for this.

    • Re:SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:4, Informative)

      by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:19AM (#13163192) Journal
      See AMD vs Intel ca. 1991

      You do realize, that AMD had a license to second-source Intel parts, right? That litigation was over the terms of that license.

      -jcr

    • Re:SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Gentlewhisper (759800)
      All these media outlets and propaganduh can say all they want, all I know is there will come a time when I will still be able to compute FREELY using my cheap Kung-Pau-Dragon-Godson-V-Dear-Leader processor when all of you Linux zealots are just sitting there facing a blank EFI boot prompt :D
    • Anyone can implement an instruction set (there are decades of precendent for this)

      For example AMD, and others, making x86 compatible CPUS. Intel couldn't do anything about it.
    • Re:SPIN SPIN SPIN! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by minus_273 (174041)
      sometimes i wonder if the chinese govenment has people to do their astro turfing for them. This almost reminds me of the post there was no student uprising in China in the late 80s...
  • by creimer (824291) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:05AM (#13162961) Homepage
    All they need to do is create a knock off copy of the Mac Mini and sell it for $99 USD. They can call it the Red Mini Star. :P
  • by The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:06AM (#13162974) Homepage Journal
    The Godson-2 is pretty much a copy of the MIPS R10000 which makes it on par with 1995 technology.

    Which is excellent for vintage music lovers like myself, because all the hardware I've used since 1996 and on has absolutely refused to play my Ace of Base MP3s.
  • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:07AM (#13162980) Journal
    If it's a copy of 1995 technology, and patents last 10 years, I wonder if they're violating anything important.
    • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:22AM (#13163023) Homepage
      If it's a copy of 1995 technology, and patents last 10 years, I wonder if they're violating anything important.
      In the US, patents last 17 or 20 years, depending on the type [patentcafe.com]. And US patents aren't valid in China anyways.

      Really, there's little stopping them from using any US company's patented stuff at all -- I'm sure the companies would protest, but what's the US going to do about it? Go to war? Cut off diplomatic ties? Boycott them?

      But they (China) may have problems selling stuff that uses this stuff to other countries, especially countries that are more inline with the US ideas of IP. Of course, China itself is a pretty large market, so this may not be a big problem.

      • Well on the scale of one company, probably very little would happen, espically with something as relitively unimportant as older MIPS architecture (it's not nearly as popular as it used to be). However over all China will have to play by international trade rules. They are a WTO member, something they like wince it gives them much easier access to foriegn markets, and as such the WTO wields some authority. While it's questionable if the US alone could cause enough economic trouble (espically given the recip
    • Its only 95% compatible because they didn't implement some instructions that are patented by MIPS presumably so they can sell products using them in the U.S. without getting sued and without paying MIPS any royalties.

      The Chinese are masters at avoiding the payment of royalties for IP.

      The worst problem they have is their fab technology is a couple generations out of date. They are actively seeking suckers... err ... fab equipment makers who want to partner with them while they steal .... err .... license
    • Since when were patents any less than 17 years in duration?

      Since never [wikipedia.org]. And now they're even 20 years.

      Jeremy
  • by Ray Alloc (835739)
    If MIPS cannot make its own chips live longer, then it's definitely a good thing that chinese copy it "illegally" and find a usage as embedded consumer processors. MIPS had its 15 minutes, now it's over, they should be grateful that at least their architecture is still used for some obscure stuff.
  • Sweet, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vga_init (589198) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:27AM (#13163042) Journal
    Where can I buy one?

    I support localized technology. Where is everyone's capitalist spirit of competition, anyway? I'm eager to see what more China has to offer to the future.

  • This means.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by linguae (763922) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:32AM (#13163057)

    ...alternate architectures aren't dead yet. It's nice to know that some alternatives to the x86 juggernaut are still live and kicking. I wonder if China will make MIPS-based personal computers or workstations? If these new processors are powerful enough, I might import a MIPS-based PC for some nice assembly hacking.

    It would nice to see a day where the x86 juggernaut is effectively challenged.

    • Re:This means.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110)

      It's nice to know that some alternatives to the x86 juggernaut are still live and kicking.

      This is NOT an alternative to x86. Think, alternative to embedded PPC/ARM/etc.

      I wonder if China will make MIPS-based personal computers or workstations?

      We'll see MIPS-based PCs about as soon as we'll see StrongArm-based PCs.

      It would nice to see a day where the x86 juggernaut is effectively challenged.

      We saw lots of those days... back in 1995 or so.

      It's really amazing, though, how Intel's BS about the Ita

  • Marlon Brando is the godfather?
  • The register (Score:5, Informative)

    by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:43AM (#13163081)
    "The Register" has a better write up on this story (sorry guys). Apparently they've managed to get Windows CE, Linux, and VxWorks up and running on the CPU.

    As for the patented instruction sets, apparently they aren't used in the chip. (Supposedly that's why it's 95% compatible).

    Currently the chip clocks in at 400-500Mhz, but the next generation is going to be around the 1Ghz mark - by which point China is going to be spitting out all manner of sub $200 computers I imagine.
    • Re:The register (Score:5, Informative)

      by tpgp (48001) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @05:13AM (#13163467) Homepage
      Read the article here [theregister.co.uk].

      The byline for the article: Godson-2 now visible in Intel's rear view mirror

      It looks like its doing 400-500MHz on a 180nm process, with 800MHz-1GHz expected on 130nm fairly soon.

      At this point a very low-priced PC becomes feasible, comfortably under $150.

      Sounds good huh?

  • The Lexra story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by morcheeba (260908) * on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:45AM (#13163087) Journal
    I've been working a project that uses the MIPS-I compatible Lexra 4180 [maushammer.com], and in my research I found they were basically sued out of business by MIPS for creating a clone. This link -- the Lexra story [jonahprobell.com] -- is a good summary. From that article: MIPS Technologies claimed that because an exception handler could be created to emulate the function of unaligned loads and stores in software with many other instructions Lexra's processors infringed the patent. It was claimed to basically be a patent infringement case because the instruction set used the patented unaligned load feature. (I just coded this into my mips disassembler -- it takes two instructions to process, but the benefit is that it looks like it would be much easier to implement in hardware)
  • It will not run a pirated copy of MS Windows, so at least one big american company is happy with it. If it performs as an R10000, I do not mind running linux on it though, at least not when it is matched with a good video card (2D only needed).
  • by heroine (1220) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @02:59AM (#13163138) Homepage
    Learned a long time ago to ignore any political opinions given by computer scientists because agree with them and they'll just say the opposite. So after the whining about companies banning replication of their video codecs and software, it's now bad for China to replicate MIPS compatability.

    Nevertheless, compatability with the MIPS standard seems like the most trivial thing they could have copied. There are much harder problems to overcome in building a CPU than what spec to follow. The MIPS spec doesn't define how to mass produce very precise arrangements of semiconductor features for the least amount of money. It doesn't define how to dissipate heat and reduce power consumption.

    Also, one day people are going to figure out that whatever China's government says, it's 10 years behind their current status. China's government says its economy is only growing at 5%. In reality it's growing at 10%. They say they won't finish the olympic stadium until 2008. It's finished now. They say 3 gorges won't become operational until 2010. It's operational now.

    So what do you think the current state of Chinese technology is now that their government says they're at 1995 levels?

  • This article here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by putko (753330) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:00AM (#13163141) Homepage Journal
    This article here [jonahprobell.com] gives some insight into the sots of problems the Chinese may have if they try to enter the USA market.

    I hope that by the time they choose to enter the market, they have enough money/power to sustain the legal battle.

    The MIPS company people sound like asses.
    • China doesn't need the US market. When it's ready to move there speculatively, you can bet your behind it'll have the money to fund it's legal fees (backed directly by government, most likely).
      As for power: China cannot be invaded, or bullied. It's military is already too advanced for that. It's economy isn't as flakey as that of the USSR in the cold war, so economic attacks won't work.
      If outright aggression is shown by the US, China may just point out that India (outsourced software and business), Kor
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:50AM (#13163262)
    If you've ever used an R10k Silicon Graphics workstation, you'll know that these MIPS chips are pretty beefy. The floating point performance in particular on modern MIPS chips is spectacular. (R14k chips are used in Tezro currently)

    There's a REASON Silicon Graphics used MIPS chips in their systems until recently. (and they only switched to x86 stuff due to economic pressure, not performance...)

    I have a dual processor R12k SGI Octane on my desk and it still beats my brand new P4 out on a LOT of tasks. And that's a seven year old machine....

    Plus, these are 64-bit chips.

    Sure, the R10k processor is "from 1995". But SGI's policy at the time THEY were using MIPS R10k chips in their $50k workstations was to factor of ten beat everything else on the market. Meaning, their systems were engineered to be at least ten times as powerful as the competition (and ten times the price to boot).

    So... Knockoff R10k MIPS chips, built with modern advancements, smaller dies, and scaled to higher clock rates, will perform VERY WELL comparatively. In fact, for some tasks, (floating point) the chip should compete quite well with a P4 1.5 Ghz... and probably be a whole hell of a lot cheaper. And 64 bit I might add.

    And since there are already designs for systems with massive numbers of MIPS R10K nodes (Origin 2000 for example) which are considered to be "junk" it's not hard to imagine knockoff supercomputers....
  • this isn't news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maxpublic (450413) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @04:15AM (#13163318) Homepage
    American patents don't apply in China, so by definition no patent has been violated - even if a case could be made in the states. American law doesn't stretch a single foot outside of American borders, at least when it comes to countries the U.S. can't conquer or cow into submission.

    Max
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @04:42AM (#13163395)
    I find it fascinating how the submitter chose to highlight these chips were developed in China, rather than BLX IC, the /company/ that has designed these chips. I'm sure there's numerous other companies in China producing various general purpose processors as well. When Intel or ATI comes out with a new processor, there aren't many who talk about America or Canada designing a new chip.

    Is it commonplace for people in the US to consider China as some monolithic, communist production machine where the entire state works for one 'company'?
  • Cheap Processor (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NFJ25 (855891)
    China only wants a very very cheap processor for their appliances. So they would not want to pay for the design or invest in a new one. Maybe one day everything (TVs, refrigerators, whatever...)will have one of these...
  • Idiot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by luweiewul (612282)
    I have to say, most of the comments here can be conluded into one option that non-Western people can never make any progress or advantage in technology, or it's stolen from western world. i wonder how eastern people looked at west in 300 years ago, e.g. Tang Dynasty. With the same logic, almost all the western people after that are thieves. With the same logic, western people's foolishness and selfishness are shown so clearly here. BTW, there is a very basic and universal principle in law, who claims, w
  • by Joseph Lam (61951) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:22AM (#13163612)
    A brief description with picture of the chip:
    http://www.pconline.com.cn/pchardware/foreline/cpu /0312/258718.html/ [pconline.com.cn]

    A 13-page write-up documenting the tough work and challenges faced by one of the chip scientists (e.g. pipelines/branch-prediction/cache design, packaging, etc...):
    http://www.pconline.com.cn/pchardware/foreline/cpu /0312/258719.html/ [pconline.com.cn]

    Interesting bits from those Chinese sites:
    - (back in 2003) they're already running Linux on it, with applications such as MP3 audio/mpeg movie playing, Mozilla, OpenOffice, games...
    - (back in 2003) Max clock 300MHz, 1-2W power consumption, 1% CPU load for playing MP3, 23% for mpeg movie, SPEC_CPU2000 score of 300
    - will reach 1GHz by early 2006
    - it will be used in low-cost PC with price RMB1,000
    - the 3rd gen of the chip will incorporate multi-core design
    • This can be great news to poor countries where most of the people doens't has access to computers due their high price.

      For example, here at Brazil a "cheap" computer costs 2 months worth of salary from an average worker (around U$650). Ideally a cheap computer should be priced at U$200 to be really affordable by the average family here...

      If China could licence this technology, or create a partnership with Brasil, Argentina, India and other develloping countries we could be able free ourselves from the Int
      • Computers cost a lot because there isn't a free market.

        When is the last time you could order a pre-built computer and actually have a choice in processor, motherboard, ram, video card, monitor, etc..?

        The large retails feed monopolies such as Intel and MSFT and as a result the smaller companies such as ARM, MIPS and AMD (to name a few) end up trying to feed off anything else (embedded stuff for ARM/MIPS).

        Tom
  • What I want to know is if these will operate in Apostle Clusters... or if they are only intended to be used in postmodern Left Behind environments.

    No wait, I see they are destined for use in robotics. [engrish.com]
  • They own other commercial enterprises in China. I'd like to know because I would like to avoid funding their activities. I feel a moral obligation to avoid buying bullets for their guns and treads for their tanks.
    • Yeah you'd rather put money in the hands of Lockheed or Northrop so they can bomb innocent civilians all over the world!

      That's SOOOOO much better.

      Tom

      (I already feel dirty enough that all large defense contractors in the US use my crypto/math libraries. This includes Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop and Lockheed...)
  • So I have read here and else where that they intend on using a version of Linux and their own CPU's so that they do not have dependance on American tech.

    Is being 95% compatable with MIPS enough to get a MIP's Linux kernel up and running or would they have to patch the bejesus out of it.

    Or maybe that is the plan anyway....

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