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PowerPC Open Platform Motherboards Finally Here 248

Cajal writes: "IBM's POP (PowerPC Open Platform) is a standard for making PowerPC-based motherboards. It's been out for years, but no one did anything with it. That's now changed. According to a story on PenguinPPC, Mai Logic is finally making POP motherboards. Finally, we can buy PowerPC motherboards without dealing with Apple."
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PowerPC Open Platform Motherboards Finally Here

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  • by JBv ( 25001 )
    Isn't it easy to port macosx to these since the underlining of macosx is open source (if i understand correctly)?
    • No, only Darwin is open sourced. The rest of code that makes up OS X is propietory.
    • by Nerant ( 71826 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:07PM (#2914200)
      Only the core layer of OS X is open sourced: it's what we know as Darwin. [apple.com].
      What makes Mac OS X really attractive on the surface is it's GUI, which is not open source. Check out a nifty diagram here [apple.com] to see how it all stacks up.
      The answer is yes: Darwin will probably run easily on one of these boards, (there is an intel port of darwin). It is unlikely you'll get Aqua and the other supporting layers to run though, bearing in mind that it is unlikely Mac OS X "as is" will run on one of these boards without significant code surgery.
      • by Matthias Wiesmann ( 221411 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:37PM (#2914415) Homepage Journal
        Wrong, if Darwin runs on those board and the processor on those board are PPC processors, then the higher levels of OS X will run. Only the Darwin layer interacts with the hardware, all the other layers interact with the Darwin kernel (that's one point of having a kernel). So Aqua cannot "know" if the motherboard is genuine Apple or not.

        This is one reason people were able torun OS X on unsupported machines [macsales.com].

        The high-level components like Cocoa and Carbon don't run on Darwin/Intel because the available binary code is PPC code.

        • Sorta (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Pope ( 17780 )
          Every single one of those legacy machines were genuine Macintoshes, and therefore have the Apple ROM need to run the old MacOS. OS X could easily check for the presence of that ROM and refuse to install. That has nothing to do with the Darwin core.
          • Re:Sorta (Score:5, Informative)

            by Matthias Wiesmann ( 221411 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @02:21PM (#2914676) Homepage Journal
            • Carbon and Cocoa do not rely on ROMs
            • Classic relies on a ROM file in the OS9 system folder
            • The real ROM is used only for booting
            • Re:Sorta (Score:2, Informative)

              by Lee Cremeans ( 873 )
              Not true on older Power Macs (everything before the Blue and White G3 and the iMac). With these "OldWorld" Macs, the Mac OS ROM is still actually in ROM on the motherboard. Newer Macs use the "NewWorld" architecture, where the Mac OS ROM is just another boot image to load from disk (think SPARCstation here).

        • Except for stuff like display drivers. OS X uses a native, accelerated binary driver for talking to the display hardware. If you have a display chip that Apple themselves never used, and that those drivers don't (and have no reason to) support, you'll find they don't work.

          Besides, the higher-level stuff could theoretically examine the OF ROMs, and see if they are or are not genuine. I don't know if it does this or not - considering the hacks to make OS X run on older PPC Macs, probably not - but it could be done in response to something like this.

        • Only the Darwin layer interacts with the hardware, all the other layers interact with the Darwin kernel (that's one point of having a kernel). So Aqua cannot "know" if the motherboard is genuine Apple or not.

          I've been wondering just how true this is -- I understand that this is the architectural idea, but the truth could have been anywhere between:

          * "because the dependencies are minimized, it would be very easy for Apple, if they so chose, (has to be them, since the higher layers are not open-source) to modify the code to enable the higher layers to run", and

          * "the abstraction really is complete, so that with the right hardware-enabling kernel extensions (which anyone can do, since the kernel is open-source), you can literally run unmodified Apple binaries and third-party applications".

          I guess you, and the page you linked to, are saying that it's the latter, which is really good news, and which I've only doubted out of general cynicism. Now for an even more ambitious question:

          The high-level components like Cocoa and Carbon don't run on Darwin/Intel [only (?)] because the available binary code is PPC code.

          If this is really true, and the CPU is the only reason (i.e., the other differences between the platforms are not too big to be abstracted beneath the Darwin layer), then would it be theoretically possible to hack a PowerPC emulation engine into Darwin/Intel, such that all the higher level code could be run through the emulator? I'm talking about integrating it at the kernel level, so that PPC binaries could be run in a "wrapper process" that would pass their code through the emulator, translate their API calls to the appropriate format before passing them to the kernel, etc.

          This kind of architecture independence is an idea that's been kicked around in a variety of contexts, with different pros and cons, but this seems like it could be a promising one, with Darwin/Intel bringing it to the "almost-there" level, and the lure of Mac OS X running on x86 boxes. Any chance?
        • Has anybody tried replacing the kernel on a commercial MacOS X system with a user-compiled Darwin kernel? Did it work? Were there any issues?

          Also, I recall that the delay in adding DVD support to 10.1 was partly due to the problem of satisfying the DVDCCA that the system was "secure", and that no rogue hacker could intercept their precious video frames; this would most likely have involved modifications to the kernel (and/or the Mach microkernel), and a fork from the open-source Darwin kernel (otherwise the "security" features could be bypassed by using a modified kernel). Has anybody tried playing DVDs over a home-made Darwin kernel?
      • Do either MacOS 9 or MacOS X support the articia chipsets? IOW Do they have Articia chipset drivers pre-loaded in Mac OS? Because even if someone releases a MacOS VIA like 4in1 chipset driver set for Articia chipsets one still has to install the OS 1st, which is very difficult unless there are rudimentry compatible chipset drivers built into the install.

        I don't think it would be that difficult as (I think) the Articia chipsets are (part licensed) clones of IBM chipsets. Hence its compatibility with Mips, PPC & X86 CPUs, although what type I don't know, ie is it compatible with the GTL+ bus (the p6 bus of the Pentium Pro, PII, Celeron & P!!!), the EV7 bus (the bus the Durons & Athlons use), 'Netburst' (the p7, AKA P4, BUS), or the p5/686/K6 bus whatever that's called?.

        However IMAO I think that Apple will go out of its way to make sure any system drivers that are pre-loaded into MacOS are totally incompatible with the Articia chipsets.
  • Price! (Score:5, Informative)

    by jweatherley ( 457715 ) <james.weatherley@net> on Monday January 28, 2002 @12:59PM (#2914145) Homepage
    One board costs $3,900 - I think I'll still be dealing with Apple for my PPC needs - get a dual CPU and a GeForce 4 included for that price!
    • I hope you mean "you get 2 cpus", since that $3900 is only for the board. There is no talk of getting a CPU with it. (lets not forget case, drive, memory, etc, etc, etc)

      But we must also note, that this is "Evaluation" and not mass production. Odds are they are probably built much by hand for the time being, therebye raising the price (alot).
    • Re:Price! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Xoro ( 201854 )

      Well, I didn't see the price listed, but it does look like an evaluation board for their chipsets, not a regular motherboard. The old Sandpoint evaluation boards were in the $3k range, too, so nothing new here. I've been looking for a ppc board (that wasn't attached to an Apple) for years. Don't think this is it.

      I'm also starting to wonder if maybe that ship hasn't already sailed. The PPC (motorola fork, anyway) is getting hotter as it gets faster, and Athlon will be getting cooler as it shrinks. Will the difference be worth recompiling all my software? Is there a free optimizing ppc compiler available like the Intel one for x86? The ppc advantage seems to be marginalizing over time.

    • BPlan Pegasos (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Will cost a much more reasonable price, around $400 or so for a mATX PPC motherboard with onboard Firewire, AGP4x, etc. Will work with Linux. Due within the next couple of months.
    • Early Intel Xeon systems were pretty pricey, and early IA64 systems probably aren't exactly "cheap."

      $3900 is a mite high, but high prices are not particularly surprising when something is being sold in its initial "units of 1 board to early implementors."

      It obviously won't get wildly popular until they can get pricing a bit more competitive with the hardware emitted by Apple, but it's a little early to say that this will never happen.

      MAI may be able to maintain a viable commercial business without prices ever falling to $100/unit, by the way...

    • There are three differend boards mentioned in this story. The eval boards are indeed expensive, but that doesn't matter because they're not intended for the general public. The "Barbie" board is intended for the general public, and it doesn't have any price listed so we don't know if it's going to be expensive or (crossing fingers) cheap.
  • personally if i wanted a powerPC i would want to deal with the people that have been doing it for years, and have the most to gain through its success... basically all the cmdrtaco's of the world that want a mac, but are pc slaves for some obscure reason.
  • by OS24Ever ( 245667 ) <trekkie@nomorestars.com> on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:00PM (#2914154) Homepage Journal
    What would the advantadge of this be over an Intel/AMD system? Or is the clone AIX market going to open up?

    If they're comparable in price to an intel I could see Linux folks using them for servers vs. Intel. But if the PPC is a lot more expensive (20%) I don't see the value in this.

    If MacOS still ran on something other than Apple's machines like it did in the mid 90s that'd be a reason to get one, but at the moment I'm not seeing it.
    • Some ideas (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      The obvious reason is the coolness factor. ;-)

      Other reasons are coolness (in terms of low temp and fewer fans, not hip dude wearing sunglasses) and power usage. Low-power-usage (yet still fast) computers would be great for 24x7 servers.

      Emulating MacOS (like Sheepshaver under BeOS did) would be somewhat nifty (although current real Macs these days are very nice, so this would be a somewhat less valid reason than it would have been a few years ago).

      Another server-related idea: obscurity. Let's hypothesize you have bad, insecure source code that, for some bizarre reason (I can't think of an actual good reason) you're not going to fix. Let's say it has a buffer-overflow attack hole. All the kiddies' scripts will try to put x86 opcodes on your stack. Put when you execute them, you'll just dump core instead of getting rooted. Yes that still sucks, but it's an improvement, right? Actually, I don't remember, but I think PPC stack may grow in opposite direction than x86, so buffer overflow attacks might not work anyway?

      Use your imagination; there are probably other advantages. But really when you get down to it, the coolness factor is the best one. :-)

    • If they're comparable in price to an intel I could see Linux folks using them for servers vs. Intel. But if the PPC is a lot more expensive (20%) I don't see the value in this.

      They're not comparable to Intel/AMD in price. However, servers == long running time, long running time * power consumed per unit time == power used. PowerPC's consume much less power and hence save you money. If you could make up that 20% in a year of running, wouldn't it be worth it?

      If MacOS still ran on something other than Apple's machines like it did in the mid 90s that'd be a reason to get one, but at the moment I'm not seeing it.


      Running a cool linux machine, server farms and clusters (lots of power saved), embedded systems (low power a must), etc. The world is larger than your needs you know.

  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:01PM (#2914160)
    Motorola makes a bunch of boards including the Sandpoint and the MVP (Which is a dual board). Galileo/Marvell makes boards, Tundra sells boards...

    They're all ATX form factor and supported by linux too.
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:01PM (#2914162)
    An Apple that isn't an Apple is quite tempting. My main complaint about those things for most of my years has been the inability to build a frankenstein like you can with the old PC architecture.

    I've been planning on getting myself a new computer in the next few months, and pretty much assumed I'd be getting a Thunderbird. But now... now this makes me think. On the plus side the PPCs will be able to run Mac OS X (or will they?), but they won't be able to run any flavor of Windows (which I need for games and such). Of course, the deciding factor may just be how much more Mandrake supports their PPC code after this.

    PPCs... feels like I'm talking about BattleTech...
    • On the plus side the PPCs will be able to run Mac OS X (or will they?)...

      I highly doubt it. Mac's rely on Apple's proprietary firmware to boot up and access hardware. This thing could probably run Darwin once a boot loader was written for it, but the stock MacOS X w/Aqua would not work.

      • If by proprietary you mean an open and fully documented standard like Open Firmware, then yes.

        http://playground.sun.com/pub/p1275/ [sun.com]

        The guys working on Darwin have done some amazing work on getting OS X to run on legacy Mac hardware. Check out the incredible work that Ryan Rempel has done on XPostFacto:

        http://eshop.macsales.com/OSXCenter/framework.cfm? page=XPostFacto.html [macsales.com]

        for a fantastic example -- he's written kernel extensions and an installer that allow users to install OS X on older macs it was never really designed for. And it works great -- I've got OS X running on an old 7500, and it truly was a trouble free installation; three clicks more than a normal OS X install.


    • An Apple that isn't an Apple is quite tempting.

      Be careful. Just because they use the same processor, doesn't mean you should really consider POP boards to be Mac clones. Emulating Mac hardware (MacOS is pretty device-independant) might be possible, but don't expect it to work out-of-the-box. If you really want an Apple, the smartest move is probably to get an Apple.

  • Yellow Dog (Score:5, Informative)

    by SlamMan ( 221834 ) <squigit@gmail.cAAAom minus threevowels> on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:02PM (#2914172)
    You alreayd could get PowerPcs without dealing with apple. <a href="http://www.terrasoftsolutions.com/">Terra soft</a> [terrasoft.com] makes the iBriq. Adimitidly, its not designed for desktop use, as its about the size of a cdrom drive, and needs an adaptor to use a pci slot, but if you really don't want to deal wwith apple....
  • by Pengo ( 28814 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:03PM (#2914174) Journal

    Why not just buy a damn Athlon +++++ whateever system. At least I can be sure my binary only applications would work (ie. Java, Games, drivers, etc). Yes, in an open-source-only world, thats cool...

    If I HAVE to have a risc-based work-station I would rather do it on Solaris. You can pickup a sun-blade very cheep, throw in some ram and you have a great unix workstation. It will run all the crap you would want to run on linux, including linux itself.

    If I want to use a PPC platform, I personally will buy an Apple.
  • But if you buy more than one... the first board is $3,900 and each additional board is $2,340. I hope the price is alot lower when the final version is produced. The specs are more like those of a $200 motherboard.
    • "Evaluation Board" often means "produced by hand, in small lots" which is probably why the price is so high.
    • Its an evaluation board, so it is bought by systems engineers to make the real products from. It is like taking half the work out of an apple or asus like company in doing their work. The infrastructure is all there, they just need to design what features they want into it.

      I thought Apple had a really proprietary bios which was not licensable. Has this changed in PPC models? I don't think this is so much an Apple clone as a variant use for PPC's.
      • The bios is Open Firmware, an open standard (IEEE 1275). It works with Sparc, ARM and PPC. I assume that these guys will also use it (it's use with the PPC is well described).

        I think you mean the ROM, which was moved to RAM when clones were allowed. This post goes into more detail on that: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=27009&cid=2914 246

        In short, it might actually work (theoretically). But there probably will be issues with drivers.
    • The specs are more like those of a $200 motherboard.

      These folks are going to have a hell of a time selling boards with all the good quality stuff floating around for less than $100. A socket 7 mobo can be had for $70 with a 550MHz k6/2, brand new. I bought one used for $20 with 130M of ram to match a spare 400MHz k6/3 I had. While one of these newer boards might perform better, there are other $2,000 systems that can beat the crap out of it.

      Three years and one recesion too late, I'm afraid. Good luck to them. I'd like to see them everywhere.

  • by swngnmonk ( 210826 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:04PM (#2914187) Homepage

    I'd assume that Apple continues to tie their Operating Systems to proprietary ROMs - making a generic PPC motherboard fairly useless if you're planning to run MacOS. Not like this is a new thing - since the early 80's, Apple has used their ROM chips to sue any clone manufacturers. I remember my 1992-vintage Mac emulator for the Amiga required Mac ROMs that the emulator manufacturer would not supply.

    I'd love to be wrong on this one - getting more competition in the PPC-hardware space would be great, but I doubt Steve Jobs will play along - he'll take his ball home first.

    • On the mai logic web site they specifically state that this mobo is intended to run Linux.
    • Theoretically, if you have the source code to Darwin, couldn't you just fix the ROM issue (assuming it still exists).

      I mean, folks are using the Darwin source to run MacOS X on older unsupported Mac's, don't you think this can be fixed?

      The only way I can see it working otherwise is if say, the graphical Windowserver or a proprietary kernel module checks it.. but I'll bet my bottom dollar the kernel runs just fine.

      If it is otherwise, let me know. I'm curious!
      • As I understand it, the core codebase (Darwin) is fairly agnostic - it's just another flavor of Unix, teeth, hair, a**hole & all. Darwin sourcecode is available, if not GPL'd (Doesn't Apple have their own 'open source' license?). Darwin has already been ported to other platforms.

        The catch is the UI - Apple's precious UI - the part of OSX that isn't available for the world+dog. In the bad old days, Apple would fill up the ROM chips will hardware implementations of their QuickDraw API (And lordy, did those old Macs need those API calls in hardware!).

        During the CHRP clone days of the mid-90s, Apple was able to put all that stuff back in software, eliminating the need for those chips. Needless to say, CHRP is quite the distant memory.

        So the question remains - is Apple still using proprietary chips on the Mobo to ensure that noone can manufacture legit clones? If so, what parts of OSX rely on that hardware? How much could you get running? It'll be interesting to find out..

    • by demon ( 1039 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:13PM (#2914246)
      No, not really. The Classic Mac OS (with the 9.x line) no longer actually uses a hardware ROM. The way it works with the modern (aka NewWorld) systems is that the Mac OS ROM is stored in a file on disk, as an ELF executable wrapped in an OF Forth script, which the OpenFirmware loads at boot and invokes. Apple has actually gone a long way in terms of separating the hardware and the software in their newer systems.

      The main thing is that the OpenFirmware has to have support for (a) HFS/HFS+ filesystems, and (b) loading monolithic ELF binaries. Shouldn't be too hard to duplicate that kind of stuff without stepping on Apple copyrights.
  • death of Apple? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Transient0 ( 175617 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:06PM (#2914195) Homepage
    Competition is a good and healthy thing, but part of me is a little worried by this.

    I mean, if apple hardware becomes the open market that PC hardware is now, Apple will have to quickly adapt.

    Microsoft understood from the beginning that the real profit is to be made in software, but Apple is still a proprietary hardware company that happens to also sell the software which their machines require.

    If the market truly opens up, Apple may face the really tough choice of dumping their hardware line entirely. When the time comes, will they make the right choice and make the shift to software-only gracefully?

    If they don't then I fear that one of the last strongholds against Microsoft market share may wither and die.

    On the other hand, it will be in the best interest of the companies which produce third party hardware to keep Apple in business(after all, if Apple goes under, who will buy hardware for Mac OS?), so maybe some sort of truce will be drawn. I guess as always, it's wait and see.

    Really though, despite the foreshadowing, this is good news for the market.
    • That's a little bit like asking if a country like Russia can successfully change to capitalism from socialism...

      If they can, fine.

      If they can't, there's hell to pay and they just revert back to the old system.

      So, the question is, can a company like Apple succesfully change to software-only from proprietary hardware/proprietary software?
    • It is unlikely (IMHO) that you'll be able to get OSX to boot on these... probably Darwin and definately Linux, but OSX is pretty tied to the hardware. IIRC it used to check to make sure you didn't have bogus RAM (ie non-Apple approved) installed.
      • IIRC it used to check to make sure you didn't have bogus RAM (ie non-Apple approved) installed

        You recalled wrong. The firmware update raised the motherboards standards for specifications for RAM. They did this because there were problems with nonspec RAM leading to stability problems.

        To sum it up: all the firmware update did was disable shit RAM that didn't meet specifications. As long as you bought good RAM from a reputable dealer you were fine.

    • Re:death of Apple? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by feldsteins ( 313201 )
      I think you're missing the point here. None of this stuff is ready to run any version of the Mac OS or any applications developed for the Mac. There is still the issue of Apple proprietary ROMs to deal with.

      So this isn't a "Mac clone" issue at all.

      Apple will never allow clones in the future. At least I hope not. The only thing that makes Apple Apple is the fact that they make the hardware and the operating system, the "whole widget" as the Big Steve likes to say. I think he's absolutely right. It allows them to innovate, innovate quickly and also to take responsibility for more of the whole user experience.

      If you really think about it this is the only thing that makes them truly unique in the market. Otherwise they'd be Dell or Microsoft. There's no benefit in trying to out-Dell Dell or out-Microsoft Microsoft. And even if they did who would care? Or even notice? Even if Dell went out of business tomorrow someone else would step up and give you the exact same product at the exact same price.
      • You're right when you say that what makes Apple Apple is that they sell the "whole widget" in one shiny box. As a matter of fact, you're right in pretty much everything you say.

        I understand that this new motherboard does not hail the immediate arrival of a Mac hardware open market, but I think that it may be a sign of things to come. If there is a sudden push towards Apple clones, I don't know if all the litigation in the world can stop the market from opening up. Remember IBM(i understand that the case presents significant differences, but the analogy holds some water).

        What I'm getting at is that Apple may have to face an open market not too far in the future. And you bring up another interesting point: Can the computer market really bear two competing open market standards?
        • What I'm getting at is that Apple may have to face an open market not too far in the future.

          Apple's business model would not support this -- which is why clones were cancelled. Apple sells hardware at high margins, and then devotes that income to the development of the platform and the software they give away with the machines. If you take away the margins, you lose things like Mac OS X, iDVD, iMovie, Darwin funding, etc.

          Therefore, Apple could simply change the hardware in such a way that others couldn't replicate (assuming they haven't already done so), or at least make it extremely inconvenient. This would prevent the sale of bare PPC boxes that were marketed to those who would then buy Mac OS X and install it on the machine.

          - Scott
    • Proprietary Apple hardware?

      PCI? open.
      USB? open.
      Firewire? open.
      VGA? open.
      PowerPC? open.
      ATI/nVidia Graphics? open.

      Apple has already quickly adapted, by adopting industry-standard technologies, sans of course your blessed x86 platform. But who in their right mind likes working with the pile of shit that is the Intel platform?

      Apple is less closed than Microsoft. No one says Company X can't go out there and build a PPC system. Hell, people have gotten OS X to run on a few old Power Computing (non-Apple) computers.
      • Um, I really think you're stretching the meaning of the word "open" here, especially in the end. I can probably dig up the specs for PCI or USB without too much trouble, but show me the register-level specs for any recent ATI or nVIDIA GPU, and I'll show you a broken NDA. Those devices are not "open", in my world. But hey, I'd just love to be proven wrong, and really like links! ;^)
    • If the market truly opens up, Apple may face the really tough choice of dumping their hardware line entirely. When the time comes, will they make the right choice and make the shift to software-only gracefully?

      If they don't then I fear that one of the last strongholds against Microsoft market share may wither and die.

      You're missing something crucial here; for them to do that, the market would have to open up, and thus by definition there'd be a TON of "last bastions" making enough money to scare Apple.

      But it won't open up the same way the PC market did; the time was right for computers on the desktops, IBM just got lucky to hit it at the exact right moment with enough money to fill the bill. There aren't that many people sitting around going "gee, I'd buy a computer, if somebody other than Apple made Macs." People who don't like Apple just don't buy Macs.
  • I think POP is a stupid name compared to PC:

    I just bought myself a new POP!

    ...he spent the day working at his desktop POP...

    My POP crashed again!

    etc. Would you buy a POP instead of a PC?8-)

    • well, lets think about this for a second. What does PC stand for?

      Personal Computer.

      Hmm, so wouldn't a motherboard for a personal computer also be a PC?

      By jove, I think I'm right :P The Anal Retentive part of me goes into convulsions every time I see PC vs. Mac. But then I give it chocolate and it quiets down.

      POP is more akin to x86 than PC (or Mac for that matter)

      I need a life.
  • It might be worth buying PPC after all.

    Cost is all important though. Motorola do PPC boards but they cost two and a half grand. WTF?
  • I like the "Ultra DAM 100" ports... oops :)
  • GigE chip! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The article seems to indicate that the next model would maybe have gigE; but if you check the image on the site, http://www.penguinppc.org/articles/tgall/DSCF0052. JPG , you'll see that there is a Broadcom 5703 GigE chip right over the PCI slots! woohoo!
  • If POP has "been around for a few years now", whatever happened to the Common Hardware Reference Platform? Would POP be the phoenix from the ashes of CHRP by any chance?
  • by BeBoxer ( 14448 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:11PM (#2914226)
    Given that they are selling evaluation boards for $3,900 in quantity 1, I think sticking with Apple might be a good idea in the short term. Since the chipset is only $30 in quantity, hopefully somebody else will begin making affordable motherboards based upon the design. But Apple doesn't charge that much for a pimped out G4 tower, even with their steep RAM markup.

    What's curious is that their web page seems to indicate that the same chipset works with x86, PPC, and MIPS processors. I'm sure there are 100 reasons why it's impossible, but that kind of chipset flexibility does seem to raise some interesting dual-boot or multiprocessor setups to say the least.
  • Finally? (Score:4, Informative)

    by stripes ( 3681 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:12PM (#2914235) Homepage Journal
    Finally, we can buy PowerPC motherboards without dealing with Apple

    Moto (and many others) have been selling PPC motherboards for many years, maybe close to a decade by now. They are used for a fair number of embedded projects. The two downsides are cost, and every frickn' one of them seems to have another way to interface with PCI, or to deal with the boot sequence, or something. So all the not-so-fun parts of porting an OS have to be done again and again while the rest of it "just works" (or tends to).

    P.S. for a (slow) PowerPC, just buy an old TiVo. Linux comes with it, and NTSC out. Of corse it is only 50Mhz, but it works (don't get a new TiVo by mistake, they try to rip you off with one of those 200ishMhz MIPS CPUs...)

  • This really doesn't seem like its that great. You get a 750CX (IBM's G3), 133mhz FSB, a few PCI slots, 1 AGP 2x slot, and a few other things like ethernet etc, and its almost 4 grand. Geez! I think you'd be better off with a fancy new dual G4 + GeForce 4 (Which, of course, you won't actually be able to get until the rest of us have had GeForce 4's for months) for $3k, which is complete, and even comes with a case.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    When I read about CHRP, PReP, etc I really wanted a PPC powered system. Now I'm afraid I just don't give a damn about the G4 when the AthlonXP is here.

    The G5 doesn't sound very interesting at all, although I could be wrong. Motorolla's e500 G5 core has been announced in a chip for embedded applications and doesn't seem any more interesting than the current "G4+". Maybe it'll have a few of those cores on the die and I'll be interested again, but I don't want to get my hopes up. :( I think I'll probably end up waiting for a Hammer.
  • by shagoth ( 100818 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:18PM (#2914287) Homepage
    This likely won't have much impact on Apple as a whole. Frankly, after trying to make older hardware useful spending countless hours failing to have successful installs of LinuxPPC and Yellowdog Linux, I was thrilled to see that I can in fact have BSD albiet Darwin flavored without agony (and, of course, my old hardware remains unused).

    Apple's ultimate desktop success with Darwin/OSX will be because users who need that kind of OS power can now have it without the niggling driver details that plague Intel OS distributions. It amazes me that Linux has been as successful as it has with the agony that users have to endure to successfully install the OS. The bar is much higher now. Users can expect their OS install to just happen and still have the power tools of compilers and real server software without the electronic equivalent of repeatedly stabbing themselves in the leg with a fork.

    Of course, the die hard slashdot crowd will always prefer Linux, but it seems to me that things are shifting to a new and friendlier approach.
    • Apple's ultimate desktop success with Darwin/OSX will be because users who need that kind of OS power can now have it without the niggling driver details that plague Intel OS distributions.

      Now that OS X is UNIX, I can imagine the Mac hardware/OS X combination being a sysadmin's dream come true. Sun hardware with Solaris is similar: it just works without the mind twisting neccessary to debug a M$ Windows installation, for example.
      It is very good that these sort of OS/Hardware combinations are becoming more affordable ($X,XXX rather than $XX,XXX), so that the world's reliance on mediocre computers (Windows on Intel) will diminish more and more over time.
  • The more people that use POP, the more processors that IBM & Motorola can sell - this helps the old economies of scale kick in and make PPC processors cheaper.

    Cheaper PPCs would help AIM compete with the commodity x86 marketplace.
  • by Nelson ( 1275 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:33PM (#2914385)
    High priced reference platforms have never been in short supply. If I'm going to buy a $5000 system then getting an alpha, mips, sparc, or POWER/powerpc has never been difficult.

    I own a couple of pieces of alpha hardware and it's fun in a geeky way to have. It's nice to test code on other platforms, it's nice to be able to learn assembly to other platforms and have something to work on, and a 21264 makes a hell of a web server. I'd love to have a newer PowerPC machine to work on but the prices just aren't there. If I could buy a motherboard and processor for $400-$500 maybe even $600 then I could easily see a little clique of people doing it. I can see real market value to it as well, I've seen 6 or 7 embedded jobs over the last month that were for PowerPC products.

    I hope that they are interested in lowering the prices and ramping up some mass production of the hardware. I could also see a huge market for lower priced integrated PowerPC motherboards with G3s or even 60x processors on them; put 3 NICs, IDE and a PowerPC on a motherboard for $200 and you have a nice DIY home gateway/firewall/router box.

  • Regardless of the degree of difficulty in kludging darwin to run on the POP boards, you're still missing out on the one thing that has set Apple apart in the computer industry: the tight interweaving of hardware and software. The most attractive feature of a mac, the guarantee that your mac stuff will run, is not really available to those who use the POP board.
    I can't understand why it excites any of you to be able to by a PowerPC chip from someone other than Apple. My dual processor G4 was reasonably cheap, Apple was friendly, and the package arrived quickly and was ready to go 90 seconds out of the box. Just don't buy an Apple monitor and don't get a ram upgrade (it takes regular PC133). It came out to be something like $2300, quite a bit cheaper than the $3500 for the board, plus (as noted previously), the GeForce *grin*.
  • by paladino ( 156081 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:41PM (#2914435)
    I think it would be great to have one motherboard [mai.com] that supported processors from multiple vendors. Mai's web site says that the Teron PX board will support PPC, MIPS, and X86 processors.

    Brings a whole new meaning to "Dual Boot".

    You could develop in X86 Linux, shutdown swap processors, reboot in PPC Linux recompile and test.
    • What? And spoil my uptime? ;)
    • by MrResistor ( 120588 ) <peterahoff.gmail@com> on Monday January 28, 2002 @02:24PM (#2914699) Homepage
      I think it's much more interesting to have them running in parallel. I'm envisioning a system where you have a "master" CPU, perhaps chosen at boot, and the other 2 running as slaves. That way you can run binary-only apps on their native hardware and without hurting your uptime. IIRC, the Amiga did something like this, though you couldn't choose the "master" at boot, obviously.

      Seems to me this would make for an incredible cross-platform developement tool.

    • OrangeMicro used to manufacture an x86 processor card that fit into the PCI slot of Macs. At the time it was much, MUCH faster than trying to run VirtualPC or SoftWindows on a PPC601 or 68040 system. Unfortunately, it cost as much as an entire PC system, and the fact that Macs are now fast enough to run VPC at acceptable speeds did the product in. You could probably throw in as a contributor to the product's demise that it wasn't all that expandable.

      Cool idea in theory, but the target audience for it was very narrow.
    • Back in the mid 1990s a UK computer company did this. It's native CPU was a DEC/ARM StrongARM chip.

      The chips went on daughter boards, similar to the slocket that was popular with people eeking the last ounce of performance from their 440BX boards.

      I'm quite rusty about all this now, but I know it could take a 486 as a second CPU, and run decent games (the poor thing only had terrible games, it was targetted at the educational market).

      The Company was Acorn of the BBC fame, the machine was the RiscPC.

      A real RISC processor before the PPC was dreamt up :)
  • deja vu... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gkbarr ( 124078 )
    says the kid with a PowerComputing box.
  • A long time ago I watched the rags weekly for news of CHRP PPC boards. This was in the age of NT4, which shipped with binaries for Alpha, i386, PowerPC, (MIPS?) on each CD. PowerPC was going to be an excellent platform for computationally intensive problems on NT. Combined with Apple machines, PowerPC was going to be one of the big players in the desktop and workstation market.

    Once M$ gave up on support for PowerPC for NT, PowerPC was instantly marginalized as a workstation platform. Sure it's fantastic in Macs, IBM workstations, and massively parallel supercomputers, but without NT support this PenguinPPC announcement really means nothing in the grand scheme of things.
    • Once M$ gave up on support for PowerPC for NT, PowerPC was instantly marginalized as a workstation platform.

      Unless someone has x86 legacy binaries, why would they want to run NT? Despite its ports, NT will forever be an x86-only thing. At least on x86, there's one reason to use it.

      Microsoft didn't marginalize PPC as a workstation, Apple did. You're right that this PenguinPPC announcement means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it's because it costs $4k, not because it doesn't have NT support.

  • Now I can get out my NT 3.51 disks again!

    - Freed
  • by groebke ( 313135 ) <groebke@earthlink.net> on Monday January 28, 2002 @02:46PM (#2914824)
    Check out that ugly power regulator in the upper left corner. Even if this is a demo board, a cleaner job should have been done with the prototype's part selection, mounting and soldering. This must be a joke, as that thing does not even have a heat sink on it. I think I will pass, and get one of those nifty new 1GHz dually's Apple now has.
  • Finally, an alternative! I for one, am sick of the hacked up kludge that is modern Intel/IBM PC hardware. I swear, every time I upgrade my system to the latest and greatest x86 processor and chipset, I run into more and more bugs, flaws, unexplainable quirks and incompatibilities, etc. in the hardware. Think about it. PC hardware has so many relics from the past--all of which must be kept supposedly to support legacy apps and hardware. When will designers wake up and realize.. "hey! we don't need to run DOS anymore!" It's time to cut all ties with "legacy IBM PC" functionality. That means it's time to ditch: floppy controllers, all remnants the ISA bus, PS/2 ports, parallel and serial ports, BIOS functionality intended for real mode operating systems, etc.

    Or.. if the price is right, maybe I'll just buy one of these PPC boards. (-:
    • "Finally, an alternative! I for one, am sick of the hacked up kludge that is modern Intel/IBM PC hardware."

      I thought the same thing when I got an Alpha motherboard. Far superior architecture and it didn't have the added weight of all the legacy junk. Heck, DEC even gave schematics for the whole board! That was beyond cool (to this day I am still saddened that DEC went away).

      Then came the support issues. Even under Linux some of the most basic stuff was not 'yet' supported on the Alpha. That and I had PCI problems because DEC's implementation was 'slightly' different. Sure, DEC UNIX and VMS worked fine, but I would be stuck with all DEC hardware. I ended up going back to x86 after hacking with it for 6 months.

      Moral of the story: x86 may be a bogged-down leagacy beast, but the massive support for it make it easier to set-up and maintain the even a streamlined intelligent Aplha -- as much as I would not like to admit it :).
  • Hello,

    There's another PPC Motherboard with PCI, UDMA100, and Firewire coming in a couple of weeks from a German company named bPlan. It's called Pegasos, and info is here [bplan-gmbh.de].

    $650 with a G3/400 is a lot more palatable than $3000. I just hope it has OpenFirmware on it!
  • For those curious about the history of POP, visit the archival Web site of The OpenPPC Project [openppc.org]. It was quite active in its time (1998-2000), with partial archives of the discussion list [openppc.org] available.

    --Tom, former administrator of openppc.org.

  • price factor (Score:5, Informative)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @06:11PM (#2916357) Homepage
    Quite a few people here aren't really clued in on the facts. First, the $3900 price tag is for an evaluation model. Intel and AMD do the same thing to vendors... nothing new. And, yes, there have been many $4000 PPC motherboards around.

    Second, if you read the PR on MAI's site, you can see that they plan to release the boards for SIGNIFIGANTLY less then $3900. The bigger flipside to this is that they also plan to produce (or license to produce) PCI cards and embedded g4 devices from $300-$600 with SMP capabiliy. (cool.. i can dual boot now.) similar cards sell now for $2000+

    Third, nobody seems to mention this chipset's ability to use PC hardware. I suppose this would be pretty easy to accomplish, but it's still a cool feature. The only limitation here would be driver support (not a HUGE issue. i dobut many people will be playing quake on this anytime soon. the first boards would sell to developers).

    Fifth, as a small sidenote, microcode solutions (http://www.microcode-solutions.com) plans to relesae a suite of ppc emulation products this spring. They plan on offering a hardware board, as well as a software based product. Of course, many are skeptical and believe it is vaporware. They currently offer a ppc amiga based macos emulator. (there are tons of amiga ppc motherboards out there. there are still a disturbing number of amiga users (shame gateway cut off their funding, right when they were about to make a comeback.)

    Finally, the chipset itself sells for $20. This is comprable to what chipset vendors such as VIA charge for their hardware. I would expect to see other companies support this sometime.

    Another issue is legality. It's perfectly legal to run LinuxPPC and beos. NOT macos. Sure, OS9 doens't need a hardware rom to run, but it is written specifically in the EULA that macos may ONLY RUN ON APPLE HARDWARE (yeah... it's in caps in the EULA... lawyers really abuse their shift keys!). Another project, MOL (mac-on-linux) which hopes to produce a mac compatibility layer (what wine is to windows, mol is to macos). Supposedly, it works well.
  • While we might be able to say, "competition with apple, lower prices!", this also means, "apple loses income, apple loses resources!" With apple's OSX (and their accompanying systems) being the largest contenders with MS for the desktop market, is this a good thing?

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun