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Debian Hardware Linux

Released: First PC Based On Russia's Homegrown "Baikal" Processor (t-platforms.ru) 115

WheatGrass writes to note that the company T-Platforms has introduced the first mass production unit based upon the Russian Baikal-T1 processor, mentioned here last in 2014. The new Baikal-based workstation is called the "Meadowsweet terminal," according to T-Platform's official website; the feature list says it's running a Debian-based Linux distro. "Congratulations, Russia," Says WheatGrass. (According to Google's translation of this Russian-language story at RG.RU Digital, "[Y]ou can install many conventional applications, such as the LibreOffice office suite, Firefox web browser, and so on, the developers say," but the main use seems to be as a thin client.)
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Released: First PC Based On Russia's Homegrown "Baikal" Processor

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  • Russian? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 27, 2016 @04:57AM (#51597371)

    It's a MIPS CPU, built by TSMC.

    I assume there were some Russians involved in the design. But that's true of all major CPUs too.

    • Poor bastards had to revive the near dead MIPs Linux kernel.

      • Naah, just port ReactOS to it. Or ask Microsoft if they could spare the source code of NT 3.51.
    • Re:Russian? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @06:50AM (#51597593)

      Actually, I looked it up and Baikal Electronics purchased a license for the MIPS instruction set. From there, they implemented the instruction set on their own. It's not their first chip, so I assume the used their own I/O designs from other chips. It is a Russian chip. TSMC is just a foundry. Do you make a big deal about what kind of printer people use to print papers?

      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        Do you make a big deal about what kind of printer people use to print papers?

        Well, actually I think creating the printer is more of an accomplishment than pressing ctrl-p.

        (This one could had been continued into pressing ctrl-c, ctrl-v, ctrl-p in case of a design made by someone else ;D)

      • Still wouldn't call it "homegrown", if it's a modified MIPS.

        I assume the used their own I/O designs from other chips

        If we're going to assume, I assume they just licensed the I/O cores. It's a lot cheaper and simpler to buy a working design off the shelf.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Hentes ( 2461350 )

        I don't know what the motivation for a homegrown CPU was, but if the goal was to build something secure with no foreign backdoors then using a foreign foundry defeats that.

      • Do you make a big deal about what kind of printer people use to print papers?

        I depends if it is one of the printers that adds yellow dots [eff.org]

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        > Do you make a big deal about what kind of printer people use to print papers?

        Personally? Nope. I do not. However, you can bet your ass that the people who print and publish think that sort of thing is very important. They want to know brand, model, model variations, value-adds, accessories, layout, layout equipment, assembly, assembly method, conveyor system, and they even want to know things like the ink and the brand of ink. And those aren't even the half of it. On top of that, they don't just want t

    • Thanks. That was the first question in my mind. I guess they could try porting ReactOS to it, since NT once ran on the MIPS
  • by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @05:15AM (#51597399) Homepage

    It's basically a low-end MIPS 32-bit processor. You can basically get everything that's in the chip as off-the-shelf cores. MIPS is popular because it's quite a bit cheaper to license than ARM. I'm surprised they didn't go with a 64-bit MIPS core since it's been available for a very long time.

    Once nice thing about MIPS is that it's very easy to add your own instructions to it via coprocessor 2. My employer has used COP2 to add a lot of encryption and hashing instructions to their MIPS cores. ARM does not allow you to add your own instructions. The only thing that's mildly interesting is the 10G Ethernet support, but then that will be limited by the 32-bit MIPS. I'm not sure if it's a cache-coherent core but my guess is that it's not, which adds significant overhead in my experience since every buffer must be invalidated when it's received and flushed when transmitted. In MIPS this is done by issuing CACHE instructions for every cache line used in the buffer.

    Since it lacks a decent sized L2 cache the performance is going to suck.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      10 years ago you would've been pointing out how great it is that Linux works on it, but Windows never would. Now it's, "ah, your processor sucks".

      I mean, if you're going to make fun of something, how about that they're putting this in a computer with a PS/2 connector (no doubt there are many that still use this, mostly because the Russian economy is a wasteland, no thanks to western sanctions).

      • by Megol ( 3135005 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @07:32AM (#51597661)

        USB: complex interface requiring a software stack on both the host and the device.
        PS/2: simple interface, reliable, a few rows of code is all that's needed to interface to the keyboard. The device in turn need very little extra code over the scanning logic.

        When it comes to keyboards and mice the PS/2 interface is generally superior, the reason USB keyboards/mice are used nowadays is that USB is the standard interface.

        TL;DR in almost all cases PS/2 is superior to USB for keyboard/mouse interfacing.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by slashping ( 2674483 )
          USB is good enough, and doesn't require a special connector. And the complexity of the interface is a solved issue.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Um, guys? Click on the links. It has both USB and PS/2. It's not an either/or thing.

          • And the complexity of the interface is a solved issue.

            Until you are booting a disk-damaged Windows computer with no PS2 interface and Microsoft's all-so-helpful disk check tells you to press any key to stop "repairing" your disk and then proceeds to destroy the data because the drivers for the USB keyboard aren't loaded yet...

          • by Misagon ( 1135 )

            The USB "Human Interface Device" protocol, which is used by USB keyboards, mice and gamepads is not only complex because it is a layered protocol.
            It is complex also because it has a very free-form model: it allows the device to specify which protocol it speaks. And when an implementation can do things in many different ways then things can also go wrong in many different ways.

            For instance, there are actually a couple keyboard models that work well with Windows and Linux but not with Apple MacOS or iOS -- be

        • by Trogre ( 513942 )

          PS/2 events generate hardware interrupts, meaning:

          1. Your input device will likely be more responsive.
          2. Your computer is more likely to power on properly with a keypress.

          USB by design does not make use of hardware interrupts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      It's also unclear where, or even if, you can buy the thing (having CPU from Soviet Russia, or at least Putinstan, would be cool :-). So it seems like a different version of something like the Ci20 Creator [imgtec.com], which has been around for awhile.
    • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @06:04AM (#51597487)
      The only interesting feature is that it can actually be built on fabs located in Russia. Mostly for military and highly-sensitive government customers as it's not even remotely cost-effective. On the other hand, it's also likely to NOT have NSA backdoors.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The only interesting feature is that it can actually be built on fabs located in Russia. Mostly for military and highly-sensitive government customers as it's not even remotely cost-effective. On the other hand, it's also likely to NOT have NSA backdoors.

        Well, that means that Russian companies could be willing to pay a lot for them. While their own government will be snooping in they won't hand the information over the overseas competition.
        It also means that US consumers might be interested too. While the Russian government might be snooping on them Russian is not likely to hand over the information to anyone who is interested in what you do in your home.

        Yes, it has come to the point where enemies of my government benefits more from protecting my freedom th

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      I too always wondered why more hasn't been made of MIPS64...
      64bit MIPS has been around since the early 90s, it has OS and compiler support which is extremely mature, and yet they didn't push this advantage and a lot of resources were instead diverted to 64bit ARM...

    • It's basically a low-end MIPS 32-bit processor. You can basically get everything that's in the chip as off-the-shelf cores. MIPS is popular because it's quite a bit cheaper to license than ARM. I'm surprised they didn't go with a 64-bit MIPS core since it's been available for a very long time.

      That's what I'm wondering - why would anyone TODAY do a 32-bit CPU, aside from embedded applications? There were some really low cost MIPS CPUs in the 90s, such as the R4600 from IDT and Toshiba. So one could start from the spec sheet of one of those CPUs, and then add/remove any CPU instructions that were unneeded, and they'd have been just fine

    • So I'd get better performance and security if I'd rolled my own on a decent FPGA chip?
    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      The thing about MIPS is that it is easy to implement yourself and the patents around unaligned loads which hampered third party implementations where invalidated 15 years ago. Coupled with a complete toolchain and mature Linux ports it is an attractive target for a country developing a CPU that is to be free of external sourcing issues.

  • by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @05:33AM (#51597437)
    They built it to be used in government offices and companies. There is a suspicion in those parts that western CPUs are programmed on low level to record the information and send it periodically to a central server.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's entirely possible that Intel and AMD have backdoors in their CPU. I think there was something awhile back about suspicious activity by Intel.

    • If a computer on a government controlled network has both the capability and access to collect and send information out then they have a lot more series problems that could be easily addressed by semi competent network admins a 1000 fold cheaper than building a new processor and OS.
      • I think that you vastly underestimate the complexity of protecting a network for a full scale targeted attack by some one as NSA with all their resources. For one thing they would hardly use the regular network for this at all.
        • A homebred processor and a variant of an open source OS does not achieve that protection from a full blown attack either. Or do you somehow think they can deploy all this with the NSA never getting their hands on it? The money spent creating this could be far better spent on good network and security which would achieve far more.
          • Something tells me that the FSB know better than either you or me about this subject considering that they have been fighting the CIA and the NSA for decades. Now of course there is no proof that this new processor and OS have anything to do with the FSB but being able to produce 100% of the process in Russia is certainly something that the FSB would like very much. Of course the NSA will get their hands on it but I seriously doubt that they can influence the design or put their back doors into it (if the F
  • Here is detailed review of another one— Elbrus 401-PC. It's completely in Russian but I think Google Translate can help. It includes hardware and software reviews as well as overview of developer tools and benchmarks. https://geektimes.ru/post/2703... [geektimes.ru] https://geektimes.ru/post/2703... [geektimes.ru] https://geektimes.ru/post/2703... [geektimes.ru] https://geektimes.ru/post/2703... [geektimes.ru]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    chips from USA, chips from Russia... omg which evil empire's chip should I buy lol...

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @06:29AM (#51597541)

    Yes, it's probably a dated design and all, and bluntly I don't care about the chip itself. I wonder WHY.

    Why is Russia making its own chips when computer chips are cheap and plentiful? It's way cheaper to simply buy a few. Why bother rolling your own? Well, there are exactly two reason why I would make my own hardware. One, I don't trust the existing manufacturers to not include backdoors and kill switches. This is what I hope the reason for doing it is.

    Two, because they may not be available anymore when the country they're made in is no longer friendly to mine. This is what I kinda fear the reason could be.

    We're not going to head for war, but I could see the international climate getting frostier in the near future.

    • by chthon ( 580889 )

      Paranoia, good old Slavic paranoia, nothing more, nothing less.

      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @06:57AM (#51597607)

        Well, Putin is much, but he ain't dumb. And neither are many of the people who move things about in that country. I spent quite a bit of time dealing with people in Russia and it's like they said in Red October, the average Russian doesn't even take a dump without a plan.

        Unless Vodka is involved, but let's assume such things are decided with a level head.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          >Well, Putin is much, but he ain't dumb.

          I hear this, but I don't think it's true. I mean, I saw a country that had great promise, but it continuing to do stuff that is confoundingly stupid. It's general all around failure can be atributed to nothing else but Putin's own stupidity, whether he appears that way or not.

          • You might want to point out one of his "stupidities". Considering his options, I think he pretty much made the most out of them, even in hindsight.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Wrong, and not only wrong but very wrong.

        I'm not a Slavic person, nor am I paranoid, but I very much fear things will go down in flames within a not too distant future. Why?

        If you had known your history, you'd have known how similar these days are to the period preceding WWII, with growing economical inequalities and populist politicians taking new ground by using unemployment, fear and contempt of the establishment to springboard their new lives.

        We are also living in a time where human lives are getting le

    • by aliquis ( 678370 )

      Why is Russia making its own chips when computer chips are cheap and plentiful?

      To remain sovereign and not ruled by someone else.
      See the United states, the EU, UN, see TTIP.
      Why did the US wanted to have their own oil production? Same thing.
      I've got the impression that in my home country we can't rely on food from out own country, that may work just fine for now but not necessarily always.

      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        To remain sovereign and not ruled by someone else.
        See the United states, the EU, UN, see TTIP.
        Why did the US wanted to have their own oil production? Same thing.
        I've got the impression that in my home country we can't rely on food from out own country, that may work just fine for now but not necessarily always.

        I could had thrown in why we here in Sweden developed so many weapon-systems for ourselves too.
        (Then again forging cannons was one of the first industries we had.)

    • Three: I (and/or some of my cronies) own a fab plant.

    • One, I don't trust the existing manufacturers to not include backdoors and kill switches. This is what I hope the reason for doing it is.

      Given that Intel has Intel Management Engine, and AMD has the Platform Secure Processor, and both a dormant parts of the CPU always running with complete and total control of your machine on pretty much any of the latest series of processors. For the security concious this is a very real risk.

      The benefits are there, the Chip makers are effectively building server type machine control in on the processor level. But without disclosing exact implementation details or source code you CPU is now running untruste

    • by aliquis ( 678370 )

      Why is Russia making its own chips when computer chips are cheap and plentiful/quote>
      âIâ(TM)d move heaven and Earthâ(TM) to access Lavrovâ(TM)s emails â" former head of NSA and CIA
      http://on.rt.com/75nh [rt.com]

  • by dimko ( 1166489 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @07:02AM (#51597623)
    Shebang is under Linux management. Can have LibreOffice + FireFox + many other programs. It can act as thin client. It's compatible with some GOST standards of encryption(similar standard to ISO in EU) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] It has capability of connecting specific Russia manufactured USB devices used for encryption. It has 2 ethernet ports, 21,5' Display, 2-8 Gigs of RAM, 4 USB2.0 ports, has opportunity to connect SSD and memory cards(card reader I guess),
  • Congratulations! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jouassou ( 1854178 ) on Saturday February 27, 2016 @07:36AM (#51597669) Homepage
    I hope that they succeed. More competition in the CPU market is a good thing, and getting some international competitors based outside of the US/UK is also great.
  • Built better than their Baikal firearms....
    Worked in a warranty center here for them and good lord not the prettiest workmanship in them.

    • Although both products share the same name, they are produced by entirely different companies. You are certainly aware that Baikal is the name of a lake in Russia, aren't you?

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