DEC Alpha PC port - something to look into?

DEC Alpha PC port - something to look into?

Post by Craig Me » Sun, 18 Jul 1993 04:30:14



        While searching for low-end, high-performance workstations, I
came across an interesting system. DEC makes a product called the ``Alpha
PC'' - a 100Mhz Alpha -based system with 6 EISA slots, an Adaptec 1741,
a Compaq SVGA, a CD-ROM, 400MB hard drive, monitor, and OS for $6700.
The catch is that the OS is none other than Windows NT, definitely a
negative feature. But still, from the point of view of looking for a
good, high-performance system to which Linux could be ported, this is
a potential gold mine. The 100Mhz Alpha AXP chip makes Pentiums look
sad. I would assume that the support chips on the motherboard are
custom, giving the local bus the full 64-bit width of the Alpha.
This machine would definitely deliver the EISA performance promised by
manufacturers whoose products have the bus. The EISA bus, SVGA graphics,
and Adaptec 1741 would slash porting difficulty to the system. The
price isn't exactly cheap - one could get a canned UNIX workstation for
the same price - but still, it would be a good direction to see for Linux.

                                                                -Craig

        (For the record - I'd be willing to help port this and buy one
of the systems to do it, but I would not dare try it on my own. But if
enough people were willing to do the same in order to get a screamer
Linux system...)

 
 
 

DEC Alpha PC port - something to look into?

Post by Rawn Sh » Sun, 18 Jul 1993 08:00:42



Quote:>    While searching for low-end, high-performance workstations, I
> came across an interesting system. DEC makes a product called the ``Alpha
> PC'' - a 100Mhz Alpha -based system with 6 EISA slots, an Adaptec 1741,
> a Compaq SVGA, a CD-ROM, 400MB hard drive, monitor, and OS for $6700.
> The catch is that the OS is none other than Windows NT, definitely a
> negative feature. But still, from the point of view of looking for a
> good, high-performance system to which Linux could be ported, this is
> a potential gold mine. The 100Mhz Alpha AXP chip makes Pentiums look
> sad. I would assume that the support chips on the motherboard are
> custom, giving the local bus the full 64-bit width of the Alpha.
> This machine would definitely deliver the EISA performance promised by
> manufacturers whoose products have the bus. The EISA bus, SVGA graphics,
> and Adaptec 1741 would slash porting difficulty to the system. The
> price isn't exactly cheap - one could get a canned UNIX workstation for
> the same price - but still, it would be a good direction to see for Linux.

It would be a good direction for Linux. I agree most whole heartedly. The
problem would be to port the Linux kernel to a RISC architecture such as the
Alpha. RISC architectures with their windows of registers cause more
difficulties than the "small" set of registers that you have on CISC
architectures.

I would do it, but the lack of time & money (~ $7000 is a little high) does
not allow it.

What you should wait for are the systems based on the DECchip 21066 (the
Alpha is a DECchip 21064) which is a low cost version of the Alpha chip
possibly with an integrated PCI bus controller. Suggested prices for these
systems are in the $3000 - $4000 range. Something a little more affordable.

PS: You can get OSF/1 & soon OpenVMS for the AXP PC systems as well as NT.

Quote:

>                                                            -Craig

>    (For the record - I'd be willing to help port this and buy one
> of the systems to do it, but I would not dare try it on my own. But if
> enough people were willing to do the same in order to get a screamer
> Linux system...)

--
Rawn Shah               RTD Systems & Networking, Inc.
System Consultant       2601 N Campbell Ste 202B, Tucson AZ 85719

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 
 
 

DEC Alpha PC port - something to look into?

Post by Yonik Christopher Seel » Sun, 18 Jul 1993 10:05:32



>It would be a good direction for Linux. I agree most whole heartedly. The
>problem would be to port the Linux kernel to a RISC architecture such as the
>Alpha. RISC architectures with their windows of registers cause more
>difficulties than the "small" set of registers that you have on CISC
>architectures.

RISC design doesn't specify windows of registers.  The SPARC architecture
uses register windows, but last I knew, the MIPS architecture did not.

Is gcc ported for the alpha yet?  That would be the first needed step.
Going from 32->64 bits might cause some problems in addition to all
the others of moving it to a new architecture.  A very ambitious
project indeed.

- Yonik Seeley

 
 
 

DEC Alpha PC port - something to look into?

Post by Bill Broadl » Sun, 18 Jul 1993 10:43:05


OSF/1 is available for the alpha PC

I'd look at porting linux to a MIPS 4000 machine that should be available
pretty cheaply compared to the alpha.

--


Linux is great.         Bike to live, live to bike.                      PGP-ok

 
 
 

DEC Alpha PC port - something to look into?

Post by Eric Youngda » Mon, 19 Jul 1993 02:03:47




>>It would be a good direction for Linux. I agree most whole heartedly. The
>>problem would be to port the Linux kernel to a RISC architecture such as the
>>Alpha. RISC architectures with their windows of registers cause more
>>difficulties than the "small" set of registers that you have on CISC
>>architectures.

>RISC design doesn't specify windows of registers.  The SPARC architecture
>uses register windows, but last I knew, the MIPS architecture did not.

>Is gcc ported for the alpha yet?  That would be the first needed step.
>Going from 32->64 bits might cause some problems in addition to all
>the others of moving it to a new architecture.  A very ambitious
>project indeed.

        GCC does work with the Alpha, and the latest version of gas (with the
bfd) also works with it.  I presume that since the bfd works, that ld and
friends also work.  Apparently this is designed around the OSF-1 system for
which the native binary format is ECOFF.

        It sounds like a very interesting project to me as well - I wonder
whether the price will be dropping any time soon on the Alpha chips.  I have
not seen the specifics of the machine language for it - one early question
would be whether whe Alpha is 100% self-emulatable or not.  If it were
self-emulatable then linux could initially be ported and debugged while running
under OSF-1, and this would reduce the development time considerably.  If
anyone wants to buy an Alpha for me, I will work on linux for it :-).

-Eric
--
"When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he
found himself changed in his bed into a lawyer."

 
 
 

DEC Alpha PC port - something to look into?

Post by i.. » Sun, 18 Jul 1993 22:36:00



>  RISC architectures with their windows of registers cause more
> difficulties than the "small" set of registers that you have on CISC
> architectures.

What do you mean by "windows of registers"? As far as I know, the only
RISC that does "register windowing" is SPARC.

The big difficulty that I see in porting something like Linux to the
Alpha PC is getting enough information on the machine to do the job.
Remember that on Alpha, not only do you have to write device drivers,
you have to write the low-level interrupt dispatcher (I mean the
sort of stuff that the 386 does automatically when an interrupt is
detected)...

Roger Ivie

 
 
 

DEC Alpha PC port - something to look into?

Post by Arthur Donke » Fri, 23 Jul 1993 05:17:34




>>It would be a good direction for Linux. I agree most whole heartedly. The
>>problem would be to port the Linux kernel to a RISC architecture such as the
>>Alpha. RISC architectures with their windows of registers cause more
>>difficulties than the "small" set of registers that you have on CISC
>>architectures.

>RISC design doesn't specify windows of registers.  The SPARC architecture
>uses register windows, but last I knew, the MIPS architecture did not.

>Is gcc ported for the alpha yet?  That would be the first needed step.

There seems to be a CD around for Alpha AXP under OSF/1 which contains,
amongst others, the gcc compiler. This means however you have to use OSF/1
for cross development.

>Going from 32->64 bits might cause some problems in addition to all
>the others of moving it to a new architecture.  A very ambitious
>project indeed.

>- Yonik Seeley


--
My system, my opinions !


No comment

 
 
 

1. DEC Alpha Linux vs. PC Linux?

Okay, I could really use some advice here, as I am pretty ignorant about
this sort of thing.

I (that is, the organization I'm working with) am considering the
purchase of a new server.  We were thinking of getting a PC and running
Linux, but when I found out we could get a DEC Alpha that's a HELLUVALOT
faster with a MUCH better warranty for only slightly more, that
sounded MUCH better.  HOWEVER, we do NOT want to deal with DEC's
licensing agreements on their Unix.  SO, we're thinking about Linux
on the DEC Alpha.  I hear it's called RedHat, or something like that.

I DON'T KNOW A THING ABOUT LINUX.  We're currently running on an old
68020-based Sun, running SunOS 4.1.1 or something like that.  The new
machine would EITHER be a Pentium or a DEC Alphaserver 400 4/166.
The DEC is definitely MUCH faster and has a MUCH better warranty,
but I gather the Linux for it is not very old.

DOES ANYBODY KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THESE TWO SYSTEMS?  I need to know
A) how compatible the DEC-compatible Linux is,
B) how stable the DEC-compatible Linux is and
C) how much different the performance would be between the two machines.
I don't know exactly what kind of pentium we'd get, but I think we're
basically looking at either:

DEC Alphaserver 400 4/166, 64meg/2gig

or

Pentium (133+, whatever we can afford), 48-64 meg/4 gig.

The hard drive space is worth the sacrifice for the faster DEC
processor, but I just don't know about the software.  ANY HELP
WOULD BE A GREAT HELP...

Thanks,
                        -- David

--
David Weingarten
---------------------------------------------------------
"Don't let the best you've done so far be the standard for the
rest of your life."

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