Nekochan Net

Official Chat Channel: #nekochan // irc.nekochan.net
It is currently Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:16 am

All times are UTC - 8 hours


Forum rules


Any posts concerning pirated software or offering to buy/sell/trade commercial software are subject to removal.



Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 148 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ... 10  Next
Author Message
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:37 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:47 pm
Posts: 382
Location: Texas
Before I get to the project, a quick story...

The year was 1991. I was a wee lad Image who had just entered his teens, living happily in Lahore, Pakistan. Being as geeky as I was, the very first purchase for me every month HAD to be BYTE magazine. In the days prior to the Internet, this was the most satisfying way to get my tech fix. But what I saw on the cover of the September '91 BYTE just blew my socks off. I was mesmerized. Here was the most beautiful computer I had ever seen.

Image

So I brought the magazine home and poured over the Indigo cover story, over and over and over again. I read every line, then re-read it. Stared at the tiny pictures of IRIX and the desktop environment until my eyes were watery. I was absolutely and completely in love.

Unfortunately, I never got to use the Indigo back then. But I tried to "emulate" it every which way I could. I was writing a windowing environment in Borland Turbo C in those days, on my trusty 1MB 80286 clone. I tried to get the windows and icons to look as IRIXy as possible :-) Years later, when I was in college, I did get to work on O2, which was relatively new at the time. But it wasn't until 2010 that I finally fulfilled my boyhood dream and actually got myself an Indigo! Three to be precise. The R4000 arrived first, and it was in very bad shape. After a complete strip down, thorough cleaning and polishing of every nook and cranny, replacement of hard drives with "new" 36GB SCSI drives, replacement of the CMOS battery, reseating and cleaning of RAM and a fresh load of IRIX, it was back in business and looking stellar! The image in my avatar, in fact, is this very Indigo. A couple of weeks later, two other R3000s arrived. They were completely non functional as well, with some broken clips on the front panel and other damage. I spent days fixing things as best I could, changed out the drives and the CMOS batteries again, found some working RAM and did new IRIX loads. Even 20 years after my first exposure to the Indigo, owning one was incredibly satisfying.

Aesthetically, the Indigo is about as good as it gets and my machines put a smile on my face every time I see them. BUT, the other part that was so appealing about these SGIs is now history: the hot-rod performance. And worse, since Rackable have abandoned not only MIPS and IRIX, but also the fabulously legendary industrial design SGI was famous for, we are left yearning for what once was! (Overly poetic, I know, but if you love SGI systems, you know what I mean!)

So I resolved to move the ball forward as best I could. Yes, none of us can convince SGI to open source IRIX so that we may develop it further. Yes, none of us can unearth all the secrets of the PROM and design new MIPS hardware. But, perhaps there is a way to satisfy ourselves just a teeny tiny bit. Perhaps there is a spiritual successor to the SGI systems of legend that we - the community - can build. It may not run IRIX, but it could embody the philosophy and design aesthetic of SGI at its peak. To that end, I took on the project I describe below. I would build a "new" Indigo. A system inspired by the IRIS Indigo, somewhat different on the outside, but radically different on the inside. I chose this particular model because I think it's the most beautiful system SGI ever built. And I don't intend to just mod an existing Indigo and throw in an Intel motherboard. I really want to build a "new" computer that embodies what SGI's philosophy would have been if they had continued down the path they were headed in.

I started off with some CAD models, early revs of which are illustrated below:

Image

Image

Image

I've now started developing a throw-away wooden proto case simply to play around with the internal configuration, see which boards I can fit, how I will integrate the other components (switch, PSU and so on).

Here's a pic a few hours into that process:

Image

The final case will not be done in wood. It will be all metal. I hope to make it even more of a rolls royce than the original Indigo chassis/housing.

The one thing that is not shown in the model above is an LCD which will replace the SGI logo. I plan on using a 128x128 colour LCD wired to a USB port on the controller motherboard. This will display SGI logo animations, perf curves, status, "widgets" and other info.

My plans for the "innards" are somewhat influenced by the direction Cray's personal supercomputer and SGI's Octane III system are headed in. I want a number of Atom or ARM9 based Linux nodes integrated with a fast switch, controlled by a high performance board that has the best graphics I can fit into this box, given space and thermal constraints. The design inside will essentially look like a tiny rack for PicoITX (or thereabouts) boards, with a clean cable assembly (interconnect), a switch, power management circuitry and implementations of a few unique storage ideas I have for this project.

On the software side, I am thinking BSD or Linux, with a desktop environment customized to look like 4Dwm/IRIX would have in 2011. What the heck does that mean, anyway? Well, thd etails need to be worked out. But my starting point is going to be based on integrating some modern dock concepts into an otherwise IRIX-themed desktop. Pervasive transparency (not just aterm style faux transparency) would certainly have been part of IRIX were it in continued development and there are examples of similar obvious innovations that would definitely have been in an IRIX 7 or 7.5. I'd like to start off configuring/implementing as many of these as possible, and see how the system evolves.

Also on the sw side, I don't plan on using the Atom nodes just for traditional parallel applications. I want to integrate a software load balancer that dynamically queries load avgs on these nodes and farms out app execution (granularity: an app at a time) to various nodes. In this area too, I have some ideas about process profiling that will improve the load balancer's capabilities automagically, over time.

This is not a quick project, nor am I pursuing it because of any commercial motivation. This is just my way of paying tribute to a genre of machines that inspired me and gave me something to focus my passion on. It'll probably take me months - if not more - to work on this, but I do intend to get it done.

This may sound ridiculous, amusing or a waste of time to you, and I wouldn't blame you if it did. But if you have some ideas for improvements or things you think would fit with this project, I would love to learn more.

Thanks for patiently reading such a long post!

_________________
--
:Octane2: :O2: :O2: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Fuel: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indigo2: :Indigo2IMP:


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:17 pm 
Offline
Moderator
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2005 8:53 pm
Posts: 2915
Location: USA
Great post, great ambition, great story! Thanks for sharing it!


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:20 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:47 pm
Posts: 382
Location: Texas
Thank you :-)

_________________
--
:Octane2: :O2: :O2: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Fuel: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indigo2: :Indigo2IMP:


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:52 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Jul 19, 2006 7:37 am
Posts: 5751
Location: Renton, WA
Great idea, but just to set the record straight Rackable didn't kill MIPS/IRIX, SGI (the original SGI) did back in 2006.

If they hadn't I'm sure Rackable would have wasted no time, but they weren't given the option (just like Sun didn't burden Oracle with cancelling Rock).

_________________
Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

There are those who say I'm a bit of a curmudgeon. To them I reply: "GET OFF MY LAWN!"

:Indigo: :Octane: :Indigo2: :Indigo2IMP: :Indy: :PI: :O3x0: :ChallengeL: :O2000R: (single-CM)


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 2:41 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Thu May 26, 2005 2:37 am
Posts: 630
Location: Munich, Germany
Nice story! Nice plan! For the operating system, I recommend using Linux - because with the transition from IRIX/MIPS to Linux/INTEL, SGI put a lot of code and effort into Linux:
Attachment:
File comment: from http://www.levenez.com/unix/
timeline.png
timeline.png [ 85.67 KiB | Viewed 2872 times ]
AND you get XFS+OpenGL - (Flame and Maya do run on Linux, too.......)

And there's maxxi.desktop's perfect 4DWM-Clone as windowmanager for it: http://forums.nekochan.net/memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=2377
Attachment:
File comment: http://www.maxxdesktop.com/site/?page_id=169
oiv.png
oiv.png [ 116.85 KiB | Viewed 2872 times ]

_________________
:Octane: :Octane2: 2xR12000 400MHz, 4GB RAM, V12
SGI - the legend will never die!!


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:40 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:47 pm
Posts: 382
Location: Texas
SAQ wrote:
Great idea, but just to set the record straight Rackable didn't kill MIPS/IRIX, SGI (the original SGI) did back in 2006.

If they hadn't I'm sure Rackable would have wasted no time, but they weren't given the option (just like Sun didn't burden Oracle with cancelling Rock).


You are absolutely right... don't know what I was thinking. Thanks for the correction.

_________________
--
:Octane2: :O2: :O2: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Fuel: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indigo2: :Indigo2IMP:


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:41 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2007 2:25 pm
Posts: 1841
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
You're definitely going to need the Anoka Power Hammer to make the case:

http://www.hotmetalcustoms.com/anokapowerhammer.htm

_________________
Project:
No one can save us, from Kim the, waitress...
Plan:
World domination! Or something...


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:53 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:47 pm
Posts: 382
Location: Texas
Geoman wrote:
Nice story! Nice plan! For the operating system, I recommend using Linux - because with the transition from IRIX/MIPS to Linux/INTEL, SGI put a lot of code and effort into Linux:
Attachment:
timeline.png
AND you get XFS+OpenGL - (Flame and Maya do run on Linux, too.......)

And there's maxxi.desktop's perfect 4DWM-Clone as windowmanager for it: http://forums.nekochan.net/memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=2377
Attachment:
oiv.png


Awesome suggestions!!! Thanks. I will definitely try out 4DWM-Clone. I had not seen the code "genealogy" chart you provided above. This is super useful and it will help a lot to establish some IRIX/SGI pedigree for my reborn Indigo.

I'm actually pretty excited about this. Am traveling for business at the moment, but will be back home in another 10 days and plan on getting cracking on it.

_________________
--
:Octane2: :O2: :O2: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Fuel: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indigo2: :Indigo2IMP:


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 7:08 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:47 pm
Posts: 382
Location: Texas
vishnu wrote:
You're definitely going to need the Anoka Power Hammer to make the case:

http://www.hotmetalcustoms.com/anokapowerhammer.htm


Thanks! In addition to tools, I will also need expert help as far as the metal work is concerned :-) Thankfully, I have the perfect place in mind...

_________________
--
:Octane2: :O2: :O2: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Fuel: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indigo2: :Indigo2IMP:


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 10:50 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2007 2:25 pm
Posts: 1841
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Personally, I hate sheet metal work. That's probably because I'm really bad at it... :lol:

_________________
Project:
No one can save us, from Kim the, waitress...
Plan:
World domination! Or something...


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:44 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 9:41 am
Posts: 269
Location: Washington, DC, USA
Another Indigo magazine moment -- I distinctly remember that PC Magazine used to review the really cool stuff once a year and always looked forward to those issues...then they stopped around '94 and it was straight peecees.


Attachments:
pc_mag_cover_1993jun15_sm.jpg
pc_mag_cover_1993jun15_sm.jpg [ 61.31 KiB | Viewed 2757 times ]

_________________
:A350R: :Onyx2: :4D220VGX: :Fuel: :Indigo: :Octane2: :O2: :O3x0: :Indy:
Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:11 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 11:03 am
Posts: 390
Location: Cape Town, South Africa


Hmm there are some MIPS motherboards out there that we can use... Making IRIX available
might get companies like ASUSTeK to re-evaluate some of their 2005 'shelved' prototypes...
Just a thought ^^

_________________
MAYA, nut-
:Octane2: :Octane2: Octane 2 R14k 600 V12 4GB, Octane2 R14K 600 V10 1GB ,
:Onyx2: :Onyx2: Onyx2 IR3 4GB Quad R14K 500 DIVO, Onyx2 IR Quad R12K 400 2GB,
:Indigo2: SGI Indigo 2 R8K75 TEAL Extreme 256MB,
:Indigo2IMP: SGI Indigo 2 R10K 195 Solid Impact 256MB, MAX Impact Pending
,
Apple G5 Quad, NV Quadro 4500 + 7800GT, 12GB RAM
Sun Blade 1000 Dual 900 XVR 1000 4GB
Sun Blade 2000 Dual 1200 XVR 1200 8GB


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:19 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2004 10:35 am
Posts: 3895
Location: Wijchen, The Netherlands
^^^ Ryan, can I have some of that stuff you've been smoking, must be gooood :mrgreen:

_________________
Now this is a deep dark secret, so everybody keep it quiet :)
It turns out that when reset, the WD33C93 defaults to a SCSI ID of 0, and it was simpler to leave it that way... -- Dave Olson, in comp.sys.sgi

Currently in commercial service: Image :Onyx2:(2x) :O3x02L:
In the museum: almost every MIPS/IRIX system.
Wanted: GM1 board for Professional Series GT graphics (030-0076-003, 030-0076-004)


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 4:34 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:47 pm
Posts: 382
Location: Texas
Ryan Fox wrote:


Hmm there are some MIPS motherboards out there that we can use... Making IRIX available
might get companies like ASUSTeK to re-evaluate some of their 2005 'shelved' prototypes...
Just a thought ^^


Ryan, interesting thought. But I was under the assumption that IRIX requires a lot more than a MIPS processor. There are tons of MIPS based systems out there. Cavium networks has multi-core MIPS based boards and in fact, the new Loongson procs also utilize an evolved MIPS core which is compatible with the MIPS instruction set. However, IRIX would be virtually impossible to adapt for these boards given source access issues, PROM issues and the lack of documentation concerning the hardware design of SGI systems.

Could we run Linux on a new MIPS based board? Yes. But then we would also have to invest a lot of effort to ensure that all the packages and features we need are available on that MIPS distro. As an example, the Raza Microelectronics RM9000 processor is MIPS based, multi-core and does 1.2Ghz. Good news is it is supported by linux-mips (http://www.linux-mips.org/wiki/RM9000). Bad news is that boards based on these processors are almost all for embedded apps and don't have video capability. If they support PCI, then video drivers are impossible to find. So, adapting these MIPS boards for the workstation or desktop side of things is going to be really tough. Add to that the fact that every single (meaningful) package will have to be ported, major libs will be missing... this is going to be an uphill battle.

But let me think more about the seed you've planted... can we use the MIPS systems in lieu of the secondary Atom "computational nodes" I outlined above? Hmm. Perhaps. It would definitely further solidify the MIPS/SGI connection, but may not necessarily be the most convenient thing from a usage perspective. Something to think about.

_________________
--
:Octane2: :O2: :O2: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Fuel: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indigo2: :Indigo2IMP:


Top
 Profile  
 
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 4:43 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:47 pm
Posts: 382
Location: Texas
Here is a MIPS based board with an LVDS interface for video. They claim the 2.4 kernel supports video devices. Down-side is max res 800x600 and proc runs at 500Mhz. I'll keep looking to see if there is in fact an embedded board with video that could be a realistic candidate.

http://www.alchemydevices.ru/MIPS-board ... nglish.htm

_________________
--
:Octane2: :O2: :O2: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Indigo: :Fuel: :Indy: :Indy: :Indy: :Indigo2: :Indigo2IMP:


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 148 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ... 10  Next

All times are UTC - 8 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group