Jan 222013

Embedded Linux News has a summary of the recent U-boot 2013.01 release, which adds support for Freescale PowerPC-based SoCs, and throws out support for some ancient PowerPC chips as well.

Fedora 18 for PowerPC is now available. The biggest PowerPC-specific feature appears to be the availability of POWER7-optimized packages (since development is driven by IBM and Red Hat, this shouldn’t be a big surprise).

glibc 2.16, released in June, includes this gem: a __ppc_get_timebase() function, which gives Linux applications a convenient way to access PowerPC’s low-overhead time counter. The special timebase register has always been directly accessible from userspace, but previously developers would need to go re-type assembly language out of the PowerPC architecture manuals in order to use it.

Another example of the toolchain providing helpful convenience functions came way back with gcc 4.1, which implemented an architecture-neutral set of atomic memory access functions. In the bad old days before that, programmers who needed atomic memory operations had to translate load-link/store-conditional instructions from the PowerPC architecture manual into gcc inline assembly.

Of course, this new glibc function returns only “ticks”, not time, so applications won’t have a convenient way to relate that to time until __ppc_get_timebase_freq() arrives in the next version of glibc…

Timothy Prickett Morgan over at the Register Has a nice article on IBM doubling up processors to fit into a single socket. In some servers this may push the limits of the number of thread Linux can handle so expect patches to push this up further in the future. The article also has lots of other juicy details on the Power 7+.

I wish they would make one that I could drop in an athlon socket. I would rewrite my BIOS in a heart beat.

of interest… Nasa’s Curiosity rover is PowerPC based. It has two identical computers using the RAD750 CPU . Each computer has 256K of EEPROM, 256MB of DRAM, and 2GB of flash.  Unfortunately it uses VxWorks which leaves less than 75% of its CPU time for its autonomy software according to Wikipedia.

Almost two years ago, Mentor Graphics released a PowerPC port of Android (the 1.6 “Donut” release). It appears they have just released a 2.3 “Gingerbread” port as well, with not much more information than that.

Author Timothy Prickett Morgan over at the wonderful site The Register has saved us from doing a lot of work by doing some intelligence analysis of IBM’s roadmaps. Highlights include a die shrink to 32nm, 80MB shared L3 cache, cryptographic accelerator, speed bumps, POWER 8 speculation, and pretty pictures.

While all of this will allow us to run vi faster, its not all a bed of roses. The increased cache size will reduce data stalls thus reduce the effectiveness of multithreading which relies on stalls to give it time to work. You can’t have it all.

Freescale’s network processor division has announced it will begin offering ARM-based system-on-chip (SoC) products for networking applications. Although Freescale has offered the i.MX series of ARM-based SoCs for many years, and Kinetis ARM-based microcontrollers, those have been designed for markets with lower on-core processing requirements, such as consumer or mobile devices. The new announcement comes in an area which until now has been dominated by designs containing “high-performance” PowerPC cores, typically accompanied by specialized on-chip hardware blocks to accelerate intensive tasks like decryption. Freescale swears up and down that it will continue “designing and supporting” PowerPC-based processors for a decade or longer, but many observers believe the relevance of the small PowerPC ecosystem will diminish rapidly. The new ARM-based network processors are expected to begin sampling in mid-2013.

Jun 172012

The IBM- and Red Hat-dominated development team has announced the release of Fedora 17 for PowerPC. It has been tested primarily on IBM POWER7 hardware, but even 32-bit binaries have been made available as a starting place for more adventurous users. Notable changes include the long-overdue switch from yaboot to the grub2 bootloader.

According to EE Times, the Chinese goverment is considering standardizing industry and academia on a single instruction set. Various Chinese entities have worked with MIPS before, but they are looking for other options at a time when MIPS is rumored to be looking for a buyer. The obvious choice for China would be ARM, but they are dangling the possibility of PowerPC as a lower-cost alternative.

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