February 21, 2006

Cheap PPC alternative?

The Amiga community lacks of good and cheap hardware to run their operating systems on. Allthough there are some efforts done in this area, the prices of this products (both current and future) are high. There is however another solution available, which is pretty cheap. The only disadvantage is lower speed of PPC CPU.

Imagine a regular x86 machine with PCI slots and a PPC card in one of them. If such PPC card would be able to initiate Bus Master transfers, it could control the PCI bus totally and thus would become a complete PPC system.

The Crescendo/7200 card from Sonnet is a PCI card with either G3 or G4 CPU running at maximal 500MHz. It consists of a PPC CPU, CPU-to-PCI bridge (well documented, used in another Amiga-like project too), memory and L2 cache. It was designed as an accelerator for PowerPC Macintosh machines. However, due to the beauty of the PCI bus design, it may be easily used in regular PC's, provided they have one 5V PCI slot available.

Recently, I have been talking with the engineer of this card about the internals of this accelerator. It came out, that running this card in PC is perfectly feasible. The x86 CPU would be responsible for booting the PPC, routing IO accesses (probably) and routing interrupts (that's for sure). It does not have to be the newest, fastest and expensive PC. It may be as well an old, passively colled 200MHz x86 machine. Such oldtimer would be more than enough as an IRQ router. It it would be faster, it could be used as an fast and effective coprocessor with it's own memory.

The costs? The card itself may be bought for approx. 100USD. Any old PC might be used as a PCI bus and interrupt router (less than $20). The exact price would be determined by the cost of all peripherals (including memory for both x86 and PPC).

Since all AmigaOS-like operating systems (OS4/MorphOS/AROS) are fast and responsive even on slower CPU's. That and the fact that there would be an underlying x86 as a coprocessor ready for use, would provide very nice and effective PPC platform for Amiga operating system. Let's go dual CPU, let's go Bi-Endian :)

If only any team would like to have it.... ;)

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

> let's go Bi-Endian

Aren't G3 and G4 Bi-Endian CPUs by themselves ? ;-)

Idea is good, but HW is not the problem for OS4, licence is the problem

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Amiga freak said...

near impossible to work, already tried..

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Joel, work on it.
This is another great avenue that has great potential.
Full merit points for you. Now the community should make it happen!

1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amiga is not only AmigaONE.

There is also Pegasos II platform.

And it is strange that you, who came from AROS development, did't know about such this platform which development is initmely tied with AROS TEAM.

Pegasos bare motherboard with 1GHz PPC G4 CPU module is 499.90 Euro at Vesalia in Germany which is your homeland.

http://www.vesalia.de

MORE! There are half-assembled systems at 529 Euro.

And there is this interesting complete system well assembled and configured:

Pegasos II System 2019-1-BK

Pegasos II G4/1 GHz in black Micro 2019 Case, 80 GB HDD (MorphOS/Superbundle & Debian GNU/Linux installed), UDMA cable, 256 MB RAM, Radeon 9250SE (128 MB, DVI/VGA/S-Video)

EUR 629.90

(But the real bargain is to buy a bare system and adapt old pieces of hardware: case, graphic card, memories, HD from your old PCs or from those of your friends.)

And you will obtain a system priced as a MiniMac but more and more expandable and with more OS available (MorphOS, Debian Linux, Gentoo Linux, Yellow Dog linux, QNX, Open Solaris, etc.)

Again. These is not only Pegasos.

Genesi has launched on the market the Efika Motherboard also.

http://www.pegasosppc.com/efika.php

With 499MHz PPC MPC5200B with 128 MB of memory and one AGP/PCI riser it costs:

299 Euro.

And also there is incoming new Efika version called 4U2 with onboard graphic chip, and no AGP/PCI option and it will costs only 99 Euro.

Sure the system you described is really ineresting. Why don't you contact Bill Buck and Raquel Velasco at Genesi to signal it?

It could be a viable solution to expand market of Amiga-like systems as AmigaONE/AOS4 and Pegasos/MorphOS at a cheap price, allowing userbase to enlarge.

Search on www.genesippc.com for their e-mail address.

And remember that (from a strict interest-by-the-market point of view) on PC systems, a PCI card with G4 could be interesting to run PPC software natively and to emulate it, for those who want it, but it is not really necessary.

On Intel X86 our future is AROS itself.

Expecially for the fact it is about to start the 64bit version of it.

Ciao,

Raffaele

12:53 PM  
Blogger Michal Schulz said...

> And it is strange that you, who
> came from AROS development,
> did'tknow about such this
> platform which development is
> initmely tied with AROS TEAM.

I do know about this platform. But whatever you will write, it is still not cheap. The exotic hardware costs.

> And you will obtain a system
> priced as a MiniMac but more and
> more expandable and with more OS
> available (MorphOS, Debian Linux,
> Gentoo Linux, Yellow Dog linux,
> QNX, Open Solaris, etc.)

1. Don't count several linux distributions as several operating systems.

2. What if I want to extend my current PC with a PPC option (and PPC system) without need of placing next computer under the table?

> Sure the system you described is
> really ineresting. Why don't you
> contact Bill Buck and Raquel
> Velasco at Genesi to signal it?

If they want, they will see it. If they don't, I have their email :) The solution is more than interesting since even the newer chipsets, like the Tsi108 may work in embedded configuration (PCI/PCI-X card with PPC CPU on it)

> On Intel X86 our future is AROS
> itself.
> Expecially for the fact it is
> about to start the 64bit version
> of it.

I know. Therefore I'm the one who works on 64bit version of AROS.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Michal:

You wrote:

>>>
I do know about this platform. But whatever you will write, it is still not cheap. The exotic hardware costs.
>>>

99 Euro expected upon 4U2 motherboard is aligned with the PCI card you signalled.

>>>
2. What if I want to extend my current PC with a PPC option (and PPC system) without need of placing next computer under the table?
>>>

Have you seen how much is shrinked Efika? It is almost same dimensions of an HD 3.5".
You can easily put it on your desktop as second computer...

Or if Efika stoles still too much space, it could be placed even on the top of your tower or midtower PC... The same place as some people used to do with their 56K modem, or still today somebody uses to do with his router.

And it could share mouse, keyboard and monitor of your existing PC with an adapter.

Ciao,

Raffaele

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sonnet seems to publish drivers only for MacOS with support for a limited amount of Macs. G4 version is out of stock and I can imagen that the G3 will to be out of stock if they manage to sell the last cards they have.

To make this work, you need to make a driver that supports the card under x86, you need to modify the driver to work with AmigaOS4/MorphOS/AROS-PPC and then modify the "kernel" of the OS to work on the card and for AmigaOS4 you will need a license which won't be granted. Cheaper to port the OS to x86...

12:02 AM  
Blogger damocles said...

You forget, Michal does code drivers and other low level coding.

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@damocles
You will need documentation, not sure what's Sonnet policy on giving out specifications, but that is usually difficult to get such things. Even if you have the drivers, you will need the top-layer software that allows you to get the display to appear on screen.

I don't see this as a realistic project with the limited resources in the Amiga community and the lack of support from the OS developers (maybe the AROS guys would do something if they have time over), just one more of the dreams that the Amiga community comes with but never will be done...

11:14 PM  
Blogger Michal Schulz said...

> You will need documentation,
> not sure what's Sonnet
> policy on giving out
> specifications, but that is
> usually difficult to get
> such things.

You have not been reading carefully. I wrote that I have been talking with principal engineer who designed the card and he has told me everything that is needed to make this card working on x86 system. I have access to the documentation of most of chips used on this card, including the CPI-PCI bridge.

> Even if you
> have the drivers, you will
> need the top-layer software
> that allows you to get the
> display to appear on screen.

Nonono. I guess you did not get the beauty of the PCI bus. Once the PPC card is up and running it has exactly the same rights to use any PCI device in the system, as the main CPU - the card may handle eg. graphics card directly.

The only thing main CPU is needed for, is the IRQ routing.

> I don't see this as a
> realistic project with the
> limited resources in the
> Amiga community and the lack > of support from the OS
> developers...

The idea of Crescendo/7200 card in PC has been welcomed by an Atari developer who will make it work for his own purpouses - he will get from me all the information he needs. Isn't it ironic?

> just one more of the dreams
> that the Amiga community
> comes with but never will be
> done...

Sure, Amiga community loves to dream :/.

6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michal wrote:

>>>
You have not been reading carefully. I wrote that I have been talking with principal engineer who designed the card and he has told me everything that is needed to make this card working on x86 system. I have access to the documentation of most of chips used on this card, including the CPI-PCI bridge.
>>>

So what are you waiting for?

Ask MorphOS Team to port a version of it on this card.

Just two days ago it was released a new version of MorphOS for PowerUP cards, which works with a big number of Classic Amiga 68xxx PPC expansion cards.

Sure it could be adapted to work with Sonnet/Crescendo card.

Even if you were were under Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to not release your version of MorphOS publicly (I think MOrphOS Team will ask you to do so), it will very interesting to see if MOS could work on this card.

Ciao,

Raffaele

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Vin said...

If I had the money and the expertise to give it a try, I wouldn't think twice. The more solutions the better at this point, since we don't have any hardware right now. Troika has something coming out sometime soon (I hope). God knows what is going to happen with new A1 Motherboards. Fact is that there is no hardware right now and having such a card to put in an inexpensive PC to run AOS 4 wouldn't hurt. If then we have the appropriate hardware even better. Imagine how many ex-amiga users, who have migrated to the Wintel architecture, would benefit from this (i.e. ME!).

I think it's worth to try, what do we have to lose? If anything it would only give us more hardware and more ground in this insane race for a final release of a dream OS.

Is this just an idea to hunt for investors or an actual ongoing project? What do you need to start this? Maybe some donations can start going on to give it a kickstart?

5:19 PM  
Blogger Michal Schulz said...

> Is this just an idea to hunt
> for investors or an actual
> ongoing project?

It is just an idea at the moment. I have to much duties to start playing with it (allthough I would like to, just out of curiousity :))

> What do you
> need to start this? Maybe
> some donations can start
> going on to give it a
> kickstart?

What I would need is a spare time and real need for that. My main developer-related focus is AROS and that is not going to change in future (if I would ever drop AROS, I will leave whole community at the same time), so even if I would start playing with it, I would run AROS on it.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Michal:

its funny to read the new posters
comments and how everyone forgets the past and Mick (Tinker)with the "InsideOut PCi card" he made a fully working prototype alongside the full-sized "Boxer" and was in the "Phoenix Developer Consortium"
aka Phinixi, that the Genesi/PPC-zone and Power-org now emulate.

lets not forget the good work the original people and orgs did as members of the PPC/PDC such as AROS and KOSH community projects
in their end-user facing capacity.

heres a section of the original post by Mick (allas the original site is no-more....)

" T H E " B R I D G E M A C H I N E " - M O R E D E T A I L S

The InsideOut is essentially an Amiga on a PCI card. It has all the
usual things like AGA, CIA's, floppy & IDE connectors. It doesn't have
a serial, parallel & mouse port because these are all available on the
host. It has a set of drivers that handle the transfer of data between
the host and InsideOut to simplify how you move data around, kind of
like a 133Mb/s serial port! (consider that the current version of
Siamese is one of the fastest Amiga's you are likely to use and it
only uses 600kb/s across Ethernet).

The Siamese traps all relevant Amiga OS calls and sends them to a
command queue on the Amiga side of the bus, in most cases the Amiga
can then accept that the operation has been completed (such as drawing
graphics to the display). This is what makes the whole thing fast
because the 68k can immediately get on with doing Amiga things and
forget about the graphics, sound & I/O. Also there is little or no
CHIP memory used for the display meaning that large displays take no
extra memory on the InsideOut, its all used on the PC, this also means
that there is no video DMA going on, leaving the full chip memory
bandwidth available for the processor.

On the host there is a command queue which receives the function
calls from the card and the Siamese host software translates the Amiga
function call into the appropriate host OS call. A clear advantage of
this is that the Siamese PCI is totally independent of the graphics
card, disk format, network protocols, etc., as these are all handled
in the end by the host OS. Using Win95 this means that virtually ALL
graphics cards are supported without any changes to the Siamese. At
power up Siamese adds a display database entry for the display
resolution of the host.

There is 2Mb chip on the InsideOut, but no fast memory which is
allocated on the host dynamically. This gives memory access rates that
are about as fast as most Amiga's, however things like disk DMA can be
carried out directly into this memory without it having to transfer
across the bus, also images in memory can be transfer to the graphics
card without using the PCI bus (because it can go across the AGP
port).

It depends on the application, but expect about 2x the performance
from the 68k processor than you would normally have expected.

Regards
Mick Tinker
Access Innovation (formerly Index Information)"

--------------------------------
Phoenix Member, thanks GreenBoy, Paul, Clash, and X in cyprus.

9:36 AM  
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7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michal,

can you post the docs/specifications for this card?

1:04 PM  
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If I had the money and the expertise to give it a try, I wouldn't think twice.

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12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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