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Re: Phase 5 Statement on Linux for PowerPC

On Thu, 19 Aug 1999, Geert Uytterhoeven wrote:

> Another difference is that now the market is ready for it, while it wasn't in
> 1997.

I'm still a fence-sitter on that one.  This despite the fact that I would  
personally like a board with AGP which supports a 750 or Max! CPU.

Here's the Moto. angle on how CHRP died (or zombified if you prefer) 
Moto. took a Starmax which was the first "G3" machine to MacWorld and
showed it behind closed doors to industry heavyweights.  At the same show,
Apple was telling folks that they were working on their "G3" machine.
Estimates are that Moto. was 9 months ahead of Apple.  Negotiations for
licensing of MacOS 8 were in progress already.  After the show, a new
negotiation team was brought in from Apple and things took quite a turn
for the worse.

MCG marketing considered options like BeOS and Linux to keep producing the
boxes, but as you say the market wasn't ready for that.  No MacOS, no

Now, we all know Linux can sell hardware today, but can it really sell
enough PowerPC hardware when compared to an x86 Linux system?  I'm still
not convinced since the "killer apps" aren't there to differentiate a
PowerPC Linux desktop/server from an x86 Linux desktop/server.  In a way,
Linux's portability is a curse for non-x86 platforms.  With MacOS, PowerPC
is differentiated (yes, I know they had MacOS running on x86 but it's not
a product).  With Linux, everything looks identical...proof being that I
cannot really tell if I'm on a x86, m68k, or powerpc Debian box when I
rlogining around systems at work...I have all the same packages on each

Although folks like ourselves who are PowerPC enthusiasts will be happy
to buy one or more boxes based on these boards, it's not clear why these
systems will be chosen over a commodity x86 system by the mass Linux
hardware market.

Here are the possible killer apps for Linux on PowerPC:

1) Mac-on-Linux - Why?  Because it's taps the uniqueness of MacOS running
on PowerPC.  The code is GPLed.  I'm working on porting it to PReP
systems.  It can potentially give any Linux/PPC system the ability to tape
commercial/proprietary MacOS apps which is something the mass market
people like.  Witness how many people keep Windows around for a few things
on home x86 Linux boxes.  I'm guilty here myself, my wife and I love those
cheap greeting card programs. :)

2) PC emulators.  There's three right now for MacOS.  I've contacted all
three makers explaining the current market and potential market for a
Linux port.  Obviously, that would let people tap in the Windoze and
Linux/x86 apps if desired.  This is commercial code, but interesting
nonetheless.  Especially with "Blue <something> Emulator" only running

3) AltiVec enhanced applications.  Running the same theme of MacOS being
superior for graphics work and DTP, AltiVec enhanced gimp could make
PowerPC Linux a superior architecture to x86 for graphic arts.  Clustering
would also be better with most of the number crunching relying on
FP-performance, the 128 bit VPU would be quite useful.

I think having even #1 and #2 would be interesting to a lot of people
considering that there isn't a good solution for #1 on x86 (unless you
count Executor).

#3 assumes that when new CHRP boards are made, they will be designed to
handle a Max! chip as well.  This is likely considering IBM is licensing
AltiVec and based on what I've seen, the differences from handling a Max!
versus a 750 in a board are so minimal that any board makers design group
should be able to handle the changes.  Max! is really designed to drop
into an existing 750 board...YMMV.

Anybody with other ideas?  I've been bouncing these thoughts off some
Apple and VA folks and I keep coming back to these points.

Matt Porter
This is Linux Country. On a quiet night, you can hear Windows reboot.

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