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Power Hardware Technology

ARM Designer Steve Furber On Energy-Efficient Computing 195

ChelleChelle writes "By now, it has become evident that we are facing an energy problem — while our primary sources of energy are running out, the demand for energy is greatly increasing. In the face of this issue, energy-efficient computing has become a hot topic. For those looking for lessons, who better to ask then Steve Furber, the principal designer of the ARM (Acorn RISC Machine), a prime example of a chip that is simple, low power, and low cost. In this interview, conducted by David Brown of Sun's Solaris Engineering Group, Furber shares some of the lessons and tips on energy-efficient computing that he has learned through working on this and subsequent projects."
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ARM Designer Steve Furber On Energy-Efficient Computing

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 25, 2010 @05:47PM (#31278248)

    Thank goodness for netbooks. They will finally make the ARM a viable CPU for use in a wide range of higher-end PCs. We just need to see Windows support for ARM, and then we'll be well on our way towards it being a widely available option.

    Frankly, the ARM is a much nicer architecture to target when writing compiler back-ends and when writing high-performance assembly code by hand. It just isn't riddled with the archaic crud that the x86-32 and x86-64 architectures are littered with.

  • Begging the Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday February 25, 2010 @06:07PM (#31278564) Homepage Journal

    while our primary sources of energy are running out

    Just cleaning up our light-water reactor waste (which we cannot leave around for 300,000 years) can power the Earth's advancing societies for a century.

    There are much better reasons to go for low-power computing, portability and economics chief among them.

  • by Arthur Grumbine ( 1086397 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @06:29PM (#31278888) Journal

    Notion Ink has you covered if you can wait until June for their Adam [notionink.in]. It's basically everything you just described, times 9000. And pricing in the bargain laptop range ($350 - $800). I'm not kidding, check it out.

  • by del_diablo ( 1747634 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @07:10PM (#31279328)
    What conversion? If you write an app in C++, it RUNS on anything with a compiler. Now, if you use bad compilers such as MS one there will even be trouble with compiling it on other platforms. I.E: gcc and llvm compitable means it will compile for anything those 2 can compile for(litteraly about anything). You never plan for it, instead you do the code properly the first time. What to not do: overdone amount of assembly(needs to be changed), compiled against binary blobs(needs to be ported), using weird libaries, ineffective coding, using a weird compiler, etc.
  • by Eharley ( 214725 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @07:15PM (#31279376)

    We're not likely to run out soon, it's just going to get expensive.

  • by emt377 ( 610337 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @07:23PM (#31279448)

    Just out of curiosity, while I've done some programming professionally, I haven't touched C or Assembly in well over 15 years, since I needed immediate results and haven't had bosses that allowed anything less, how much work is it to convert something from X86 to ARM? Assuming you didn't write it with the intention of every needing to do so, vs having planned for such a possibility.

    Depends on the ARM CPU. ARM7/ARM9 are alignment sensitive. ARM Cortex has a bus/cache interface that allows arbitrary alignment. Porting to the former may be difficult depending on the software, or may simply be tedious, the latter is usually as easy as a recompile if the platform and toolchain is similar (e.g. Linux+gcc).

  • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Thursday February 25, 2010 @07:40PM (#31279568)

    And you also mean the porting of thousands and thousands of x86 apps as well?

    But most people don't USE thousands and thousands of apps. Or even hundreds of apps. Most people don't even use dozens of apps. You got your web browser and your IM client (maybe), (maybe) an email client, a DVD player, and I bet that's it for the vast majority of computer users outside of work. IM & email clients can be handled by the browser. Seriously - Chrome OS or Android running on a nice 1-2gHz dual-core ARM beast with hardware accelerated HD video w/ 4GB of memory is probably all that most people need at home, as long as it's got a decent screen, keyboard and mouse, they're set.

    Download your Android apps, of which there *are* thousands (though many different versions of a much smaller number of TYPES of applications) for expanding into more obscure things. Most of which would be games, of course.

    I'd like to see Chrome OS & Android merge sooner rather than later. Absolutely no point in having these be separate projects - with the rise of 'superphones,' there's not that much difference in horsepower anymore, and one platform target is better than two from a developer standpoint (usually).

    IMO, anyway. :)

    I'm hoping the day when I can take my dual-core 1+ gHz superphone out of my pocket, put it in a dock at home to get a big screen, real keyboard and mouse and true broadband home connection. Shouldn't be more than a year away. C'mon, Sprint, with the Supersonic! I'll fire up the beastly machine when I need to run Photoshop or whatever, but most of the time at home, my computer use is watching TV/movies/websurfing/email.

  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @09:27PM (#31280446)

    How many bytes was the OS on a TRS-80?

    The computer 'booted' to a BASIC interpreter at the command line:


  • Re:Too conservative. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 25, 2010 @10:03PM (#31280692)

    You can compare your desktop against a supercomputer from 1995 and come out on top.

    E.g., a Cray-3 from 1995 had four CPUs @ 500 MHz. Each CPU could execute ~ two flops/clock,
    for a total of 4 GFLOPS. Power draw was about 40kW, not counting coolant pumps, MG
    inefficiencies, &c. A Y-MP/16 of that era probably about doubled that (more CPUs but
    slower clocks) at twice the power draw.

    A top-end laptop probably has about that much horsepower now.

  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @10:32PM (#31280828)

    I worked at Acorn in the early 80's and knew Steve Furber, but it's amusing to think that most of the Slashdot crowd probably wasn't even born then. I assume the average age here nowadays must be college age or thereabouts.

    Not surprising they don't know what ARM originally stood for.

  • Re:Fearmongering. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pinky's Brain ( 1158667 ) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @10:40PM (#31280882)

    For less than the cost of the financial stimulus package, or the Iraq war for that matter, the US could produce almost all it's electricity with solar thermal plants with present level technology (and the cost for plants would probably be quartered by the time you are done because of economies of scale, so it would cost far less). Hugely reducing electricity costs in the US would probably do more for the economy than just about anything else the money could be spend on.

    As a European I'm envious ... the US really has it all, virtual dead deserts with round the year sunlight, a reserve currency which gives you nearly limitless free money to spend on these kinds of projects, and hell quite a nice supply of oil reserves as well ... it's frankly a miracle how your politicians manage to fuck that kind of potential up.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein