Back when DEC Alpha CPUs were still a going concern, I was one of the maintainers of the FreeBSD/alpha port. While DEC shipped their workstations, they were beyond the reach of OSS developers. The first "normal" Alpha board was the API UP1000. It was basically an Alpha 21264 on an AMD motherboard & it was totally awesome. API shipped me one before they were generally available so I could get FreeBSD working on it. I used it as my desktop (running FreeBSD/alpha) for years. Sadly all things Alpha were killed off in favor of Itanium.
Here is the best description I can find of it in ~30 seconds of googling:
I didn't know about that. That's pretty neat. One of Alpha's main advantages was PALcode. It was close to microcode's advantages but with only assembly knowledge required. Did you or other FreeBSD developers ever do anything cool with it? And what?
Typing in the domain of that company today shows how sad the IT market works when incredible products are involved that aren't market leaders:
This why we only see Raspberry Pi-esque devices, I believe. ARM CPUs excel in the embedded space, which is not surprising since this is where they grew up. Their qualities are low cost and low absolute power usage (as opposed to performance per watt). This doesn't make sense for desktop systems.
Never mind that in recent years both AMD and Intel has taken their offerings into the real of SoCs. AMD have largely lead the way, by moving more and more of what used to be the northbridge onto the CPU die.
The only thing keeping both out of the mobile world seems to be price pr unit. Intel bled money to get Asian OEMs to use their mobile ATOMs rather than Chinese ARM based SoCs.
Check out the ODroid series, Banana Pi Pro, ECS Liva, Jetson TK-1, etc.
While I have to acknowledge the RPi's pioneering contributions to the ultra-cheap SBC market, I find it immensely frustrating that it sucks up all of the oxygen on this topic. There are many, many other options at this point and many of them are better choices for the typical "mini Linux server" or "low-power desktop system" use-case.
For which of these do regular updates (in particular kernel updates) from the mainline distribution exist?
But Hardkernel does seem to have a lot of additional patches in the kernel that they ship: https://github.com/hardkernel/linux/tree/odroidc2-3.14.y
Sun made a Sparc motherboard too but I don't know how easy it was to buy one.
Four 3Gbps SATA connections
Two PCI Express root complexes
I can't get a clear idea if this is 64-bit or not though.
Also, with this board, I don't see anywhere obvious to bolt a heatsink - and at 1.1GHz, I'd be be reluctant to do overnight compiles on the thing.
Because there's no standard interface. Each SoC has its own set of pins, which changes every generation for every manufacturer. Each board would essentially have to be redesigned for each CPU, meaning that the idea of having a separate "motherboard" would be completely pointless, as it'd be totally coupled to the CPU. You could have motherboards with pre-soldered, rather than socketed, SoCs, but then again, manufacturers would essentially have to put as much work into each revision of those as they would into a true PC motherboard that has a much broader audience.
The economics just don't work out.
Most current SoCs don't have a PCI bus so there isn't very much you would be able to add on. A manufacturer could provide one or two SODIMM sockets instead of soldering DRAM onto the board though.
No expertise and x86 is baked deeply into PC's.
1) No Expertise
ARM manufacturers tend to synthesize logic a lot. They don't tend to pull out circuit simulators and design things by hand. As such, the advanced techniques behind fast memory, CPU and graphics interfaces simply aren't there.
2) x86 is baked into PC's
People forget that there is a lot of "initialization"-type code on things that plug into buses. ALL of that code is x86. The Alpha PC's had to include emulators for x86 at boot time in order to init the old PCI cards.
ARM seems really well positioned, if there has ever been something to square off with Intel, it's ARM, you can get cheap SoCs and play with them. The software ecosystem is growing so maybe someone will throw down and be willing to put together a full ATX system, I suspect it will cost more and perform less than an Intel based product though.
I'd definitely be interested in running a system like that, if it had PCIe ports to run a supported GPU, perhaps a fancy NIC or a RAID card.
If they would make a PC-format RISC-V board with standard attachments, I would buy several in an instant. Though I know it's not free to license all of those bits, this being a major expense on x86 boards.
There is a commodity PC market. There isn't a commodity ARM motherboard market as the type of devices ARMs go into aren't PC's, they're devices.
Yes... there is a hobbyist market. But that isn't worth investing in.
The home computer market was originally a hobbyist market.
forget Linux enthusiasts. Whole countries, like Russia or China, have national security interest in it - beside everything else, Intel chips has VNC server built-in on the silicon :). China has been making great progress in building its national computing platform, though not sure whether it has reached the desktops of their government employees. Wrt. Russia - it again lifted the ban on buying foreign hardware for security services, time to upgrade has come again i guess :) I mean, even such guaranteed markets and money available is still not enough to even come close to Intel.
The Chinese first, powerful CPU was an Alpha clone called Shinwei. Their next one was MIPS line called Loongson (or Godson). It supports x86 emulation at hardware level. So, that MIPS CPU is their main strategy for getting off Intel. I don't know if Russians have a strategy for that. But that's what the two are doing in terms of CPU's.
EDIT: China also built its own state-of-the-art fabs with a 28nm coming online recently. The Russians have fabs but not that many or that good that I know. That's two areas they should worry about.
There is a separate chip with its own OS, connecting to the video chip and the nic. No driver needed. Can not be permanently removed.
People know how to build non-x86 desktops. Building non-x86 desktops is not difficult to do or expensive. People just don't want it.
This kind of thing is stuck in a volume trap: you need to produce enough units to make it cheaper than a PC, but nobody will buy it until you do. In the meantime, people are buying ARM tablets and 'mini-PC's from various Chinese OEMs, but they're non-modular units.
The modularity of the PC is almost an accident of history.
At one time, commercial Windows NT PCs were sold with DEC Alpha processors.
However, the volume of x86 PC sales drives huge economies of scale that make it hard for other platforms. This actually benefited Linux in particular, but it also encouraged Apple switch from its own hardware to PC-based x86 hardware, which resulted in cheaper Macs.
Microsoft has never developed an OS specifically for Intel x86 chips (ie Windows NT and CE: the basis for DOS was bought in) to try to avoid being wholly dependent on Intel. Intel has also supported alternative operating systems to avoid being wholly dependent on Microsoft. But neither is immune from market forces.
Digital/Compaq did have a beta build of Win2k for Alpha, but the plug got pulled right before the RTM.
Windows RT threw out the good parts of backwards compatibility, but it also threw out the bad parts: viruses and malware, software downloads from dodgy websites, being your own IT manager etc.
Some would consider this a reasonable trade-off, but the market didn't buy it. Odd, really, since Windows RT has all the benefits of a Chromebook, but also offers much more.
So, not only are there no desktops, everyone that tried either sold jack and/or went out of business. Your theory hasn't been true for a long time. Linux and FOSS types talk a lot but buy very little if it's not x86. A desktop could easily be made in Shenzen or whatever based on existing components, esp Leon3 or Leon4 SOC. eASIC's mask-programmed tech already supports Leon to crank them out quick and cheap. Peripherals could be handled with cheap microcontrollers if necessary that have onboard HW accelerators for them. The tech is there just no suppliers right now and usually no actual buyers.
The CPU is 2.4GHz and 8 cores.
It can handle 64GB ECC DDR3.
It has onboard VGA since GPU support (which typically involves x86-specific initialization instructions at boot time) will be spotty.
Remote management (dedicated NIC) w/ iKVM and VGA.
2x 10G SFP
What's not so good: only USB 2.0 - two external ports and one header. Not sure how many root hubs and what goes where. That said, you can use eg a USB3 HDD (or do almost anything else involving USB3) via the 20Gbit Ethernet to another box, so...
From there, a standard interface for booting and mounting the OS and additional devices. There'd be a lot of work in that, and a lot of competition, but would be nice to see some work in the open for a more standard platform for ARM devices.
Vobis Highscreen Alpha 5000, based on alpha processor 21164PC
The custom partition layout is kind of wonky, so I'd likely just by the non-PRO version and use USB 3 and an SSD for additional storage. I'd be happier still if Nvidia supported running other distros on it -- I wouldn't even be mad if I could no longer use it for gaming or watching movies.
- 4GB RAM
- 1GB Ethernet
- 802.11ac wifi
- 16GB eMMC onboard
- m2 slot
- PCIe Gen2 x4 slot
- SATA interface
- USB 2 and USB 3 ports
NVIDIA should really sell a case for it to make it into a NUC-style desktop.
Really wish hackernews would fix this bug already.
There is basic GPU support via Nouveau, though for any serious OpenGL/Vulkan/CUDA or video stuff you'd want to use the NVIDIA proprietary drivers, which are very good on Linux.
And for how long will NVidia be providing support for the driver?
I wonder if dual boot android/ubuntu is doable?
This most recent push for openness in the POWER world might actually change that though. Tyan does have a kinda-sorta not-too-expensive POWER8 based server available, and there was a document floating around a while back listing all the companies who were committing to build machines, motherboards, etc. based on POWER8. As I recall, there were a lot of names on the list, which is encouraging.
But still... why can't we hit up NewEgg and order an ATX motherboard, a CPU and some RAM for, say, $1000.00 or less? sigh
If by 'proper' power system you mean IBM Pseries, this is not it.
I'm also looking forward to POWER offerings, which might be more performant and thus suitable as workstations .
Though again, it's only 32bit, and while that works great for most purposes, it still leaves the OP's point valid. (I have one of the early 64-bit 8-core hikey 96boards mentioned, and I'd take the Novena over it any day)
I've also been looking at this. I think the Google Pixel C might be a good option, for a 64bit ARM laptop. I've seen some talk of running Ubuntu on it. But it uses the Nvidia TX1 which has good Ubuntu support on the TX1 Jetson.
The problem with ARM architectures is the lack of a standard boot system.
edit: The Pixel C runs on Coreboot of course.
The potential for disruption is massive and yet here is ARM dragging its feet with it's increasingly inexplicable and extremely closed nature. Things only work on Android, the GPU especially is a big problem, and given Android runs the Linux kernel I am sure Arm and Google are having a laugh at the point of open source.
Most current mid to high end ARM SOCs and those coming make Intel's pricing and value look extremely questionable. These SOCs are a fraction of the price Intel demands. Enough to raise doubts about the future of the platform beyond high end gaming and GPU use cases. And with Vulcan even that is up in the air.
The iPad Pro benches close the the Macbook. The A72 SOCs are at 1500 single core and 4000-5000 multicore on Geekbench.
This is real. Yet ARM for reasons best known to them either do not see the potential or do not want to pursue it, giving Intel a breather. Now with Softbank acquiring ARM at this critical juncture its anyone's guess where this goes.
AMD Opteron A1100 series processor
4 x 64-bit ARM Cortex A57 Cores
2 x RDIMM with 8GB DDR4 DRAM
1 x 1GBase-T Ethernet
2 x USB 3.0 ports
2 x SATA 3.0 ports
1 x 1TB HDD
No graphics, though. It's really a server board in a desktop package.
There are lots of small boards which are really tablet-type systems-on-a-chip where the connections from the chip were brought out to connectors. (That's what a Raspberry Pi is.) But they don't usually have PCI or SATA interfaces, so disk I/O capability is limited. There are good embedded 32-bit ARM boards, but the embedded world isn't going 64-bit yet.
Everybody seems to assume you're going to cross-compile and remote debug for embedded and server work. QNX doesn't even self-host any more. (I rather liked having a QNX desktop.)
It's sold as a server board in the $1000 range, but seems to fit the bill as far as the points in the blog article are concerned.
It definitely seemed a half-hearted effort from Gigabyte. Both our usual suppliers were able to source one, but the delivery date kept slipping. It did eventually arrive, months later, and by then we'd lost enthusiasm and/or found alternative ways of doing the work we'd planned for it.
Given my experience with another Gigabyte board, I can't recommend using their server platforms until they show a bit more care.
I know they've been doing custom integration in this space for a long time -- I remember an article about Google Nehalem servers, for example, that were OEMd by Gigabyte. And many of their efforts look like contract designs pushed out to market -- nothing wrong in that.
But they need to take a lesson from Supermicro's book in terms of attention-to-detail in and end-user support before I'll consider them worthy again.
Which is a shame, because their new CaviumX ARM platform looks very interesting indeed: http://www.servethehome.com/cavium-thunderx-micro-benchmarks...
There are some good things though: The IPMI support is excellent, it takes 128GB of RAM, and it's a solid workhorse. Here is mine: https://rwmj.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/gigabyte-mp30-ar0/
I'm waiting for the new Cavium-based Gigabyte boards, which have 48 up to 384 (sic) cores.
Are you sure that these core counts are per board and not per server/enclosure (i.e. 384 = 8 nodes x 48 cores per node in one case)?
If I were you I'd wait a bit for the Cavium-based Gigabyte boards. I have pricing for these which unfortunately I'm not permitted to reveal, but it will be very competitive.
The Caviums have lots of cores (48 / socket), but each core is pretty slow, like an Intel Atom. Caviums have tons of fast I/O. The challenge is to make software which can deal with this, since it's quite unlike Intel hardware (few, fast cores, slow I/O).
Regardless, I did a quick search and couldn't find anyone actually selling that board or listing a price.
Large german online store Mindfactory claims availability with 3-5 days for delivery time: http://www.mindfactory.de/product_info.php/Gigabyte-MP30-AR0...
My main system mother board is a little... strange from the normal. I've build my system around being 100% silent and low power while still having enough juice to run some IDEs and be productive.
My current mobo is from ASRock and has an interesting feature . It's got support to use a laptop charger as a PSU built into the board.
If there was a low power, passive, ARM system for a desktop like this I'd switch. This is just the lowest power and quietest build I could think of currently. (Only problem is no MSATA :()
 - http://www.asrock.com/mb/AMD/AM1H-ITX/
I remember guys in the UK on USENET with the 'StrongARM...' in their signatures.
The final workstation system was cancelled in 1998 , ARM spun off as a separate company, and the remaining part of Acorn made set-top boxes for digital TV. It was then bought by Broadcom. 
Considering the UK government subsidized the cost of Acorn computers in schools, and considering it got massive amounts of free BBC advertising for the Acorn platform, I think you need more than a conspiracy theory to account for RM's success and Acorn's failure.
And the RM infrastructure was just as shitty as their hardware. If people were desperate for PC compatible, why was everything on the Nimbus non-standard? They even used the 80186 that no-one else did and you had to emulate an 8086 on it to run any third party software!
> In fact Acorn paid the BBC a commission on every machine sold for use of the logo.
Citation? How did it compare with the UK government paying half the cost of a BBC B?
The 80186-based Nimbus wasn't PC standard and wasn't particularly good (yes, I did use one), but RM did move to standard PCs.
> And the RM infrastructure was just as shitty as their hardware.
In your opinion. But at least it had one.
> By the end of the 1990s, schools were buying awful PCs from RM, when they could have gone to (eg) Dell and got much better hardware for much lower cost. Why were they still buying stuff from RM - it makes no sense, right? Because RM had the right contacts in LEAs and government.
I'm sure some did buy from Dell, but RM was an approved, specialist supplier to the education market. This involves a lot more than knocking out cheap PCs.
RM Education is "The division that deals with technology infrastructure, software and services - including learning platforms, interactive classroom equipment, connectivity, networking software, school management software and support services."
I dearly wish someone had been able to keep alive the alternate segment (other than Apple who was premium even with 8-bits), but it looked like video game machines took the money from that market.
Unfortunately they tripled the price from the TK1 ($200) to the TX1 ($600). You can get a TK1 on ebay for ~$150.
This thing is much faster than the million dollar supercomputer I used in college ;)
I'm in the camp of those who would like to have a smart Linux workstation with modern peripherals and not be x86, just for the kicks of it .. so actually, the TX1 seems like it might be a pretty viable investment.
Btw - laptop CPUs are A LOT like mobile CPUs. Single threaded performance on Apple ARM CPUs are very competitive with recent Intel laptop processors.
And why would that “alienate the media production market”? Apple could build a beefy ARM machine if they needed.
Is that no longer the case?
These crowd out properly designed server hardware, or anything that cares about freedom, upstream Linux, maintainability, virtualization, etc.
If all you want is a board with a USB port and memory then you can have that today.
Ideally, what most of us want, I think, is a ARM ATX motherboard, with a few PCI Express slots. I believe that it would limit the selection of processor though.
Also, if you wanted a socket, you'd have to actually design a socket for your ARM chip, and then sell ARM chips that are socket-able, with few people who actually want them.
> The raspberry pi 3 runs in 32 and 64 mode. There is no >>LINUX<< 64-bit kernel for it currently...
To my knowledge, rpi3 has 64-bit CPU, but all operating systems and bootloaders available run only in 32-bit mode, no exceptions. That means that rpi3 in future theoretically can run in 64-bit mode, but certainly does not today.
So you know even all non-public bootloaders and OS-es...