Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

ARM — Heretic In the Church of Intel, Moore's Law

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the how-far-can-I-survive-from-an-outlet dept.

Intel 390

ericatcw writes "For 30+ years, the PC industry has been as obsessed with under-the-hood performance: MIPs, MHz, transistors per chip. Blame Moore's Law, which effectively laid down the Gospel of marketing PCs like sports cars. But with mobile PCs and green computing coming to the fore, enter ARM, which is challenging the Gospel according to Moore with chips that are low-powered in both senses of the word. Some of its most popular CPUs have 100,000 transistors, fewer than a 12 MHz Intel 286 CPU from 1982 (download PDF). But they also consume as little as a quarter of a watt, which is why netbook makers are embracing them. It's 'megahertz per milli-watt,' that counts, according to ARM exec Ian Drew, who predicts that 6-10 ARM-based netbooks running Linux and costing just around $200 should arrive this year starting in July."

cancel ×

390 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

fp - i win! (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462177)

i think those have been around for some time http://kurobox.com/ [kurobox.com]

Smoore's law? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462193)

Isn't that "you are what you eat, and so don't eat too many smoores or you'll be a chubby chocolate covered graham cracker entombed marshmellow" ?

Re:Smoore's law? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462493)

People tell my I'm a pussy. I guess you really are what you eat.

Re:Smoore's law? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462697)

actually, we consider you a jizz bag.

Re:fp - i win! (3, Interesting)

koutbo6 (1134545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462213)

u mean this?
http://www.revogear.com/ [revogear.com]
These are ARM based, you can move them around, but they're no laptops.

Arm? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462181)

Grab my ARM an give me a Dutch Rudder, bitch.

Nonsense. (4, Insightful)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462183)

I don't mean to Dis-ARM, ARM or Armless...

But it will do exactly the same thing, 0.5 Watts now, 100K transistors now, 300 MHz now... it wont stay that way though, it's just a slimmer base to build upon, like using aluminum instead of steal. People will still keep reaching for the sky, and with a lighter structure, means they can reach even higher, even more MHz, more transistors, etc...

Re:Nonsense. (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462225)

Not really. ARM has been around for a long time. Its biggest use is in embedded systems- phones, printers, etc. In those markets cost and power usage matter more than performance. They may make a line with more performance eventually, but they make money hands over fist in places where pennies matter (after all, if you sell 1M phones with a processor thats 5cents cheaper, thats 50K more profit). They won't give that up.

Re:Nonsense. (4, Insightful)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462277)

Yeah, but even your average phone is more powerful than your average PC was in 1982...

So "in the meantime" they will somewhat stick with the low+low, what happens when laptops, phones, GPS, etc all become the same device? People are content with the low power they have now, and with stuff like anti-jailbreaking etc, puts a limit on the push for better/faster/stronger because not many see it yet. People thought your body would fall apart at 50mph 100 years ago... "640kb ought to be enough for anybody"...

PSP (not the most relevant example) might be 300 MHz now, what about PSPII, still 300MHz? Doubtful.

They think a bit differently (2, Insightful)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462585)

They may up the megahertz, but not at the expense of a more costly product or more power usage. Instead, the ARM chip vendors take a look at what needs the MHZ, such as video/audio decoding, and include special co-processors for those functions on the same silicon. Therefore they don't need to increase MHz for increased functionality.

It is a similar philosophy to using a script written in a slow interpreted language to drive a more complex system composed of high-speed modules written in C.

Re:They think a bit differently (5, Informative)

philipgar (595691) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462989)

ARM has a couple processors already that are pretty high on the performance measurement. For instance the Arm Cortex A9 has a dual issue pipeline, and limited support for out of order processing (similar to the original Pentium processor in that regard). This chip also can contain up to 4 cores, and have up to a 2MB L2 cache. I think they can run up to about 1GHz. They also have full support for floating point and all that good stuff. I'm pretty sure ARM is also working on developing an true OoO processor that will likely be running in the GHz range which would likely be ideal for a netbook.

Remember, with a netbook, you don't gain much by lowering the CPUs power consumption to less than 5 watts or so. The reason for this is simple, the display, ram, hard drives and everything else consume enough power that it won't really help battery life very much. I can imagine though that a quad core ARM A9 at 1GHz would make for a really nice netbook. Having multiple cores is nice on those for web browsing (playing flash in the background of your tabs, etc), and also for many media tasks. It would also be great if they included a graphics chip (or gpu as part of a SoC system) that could handle h.264 decoding for the netbook.

Phil

Re:Nonsense. (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462641)

PSP is a bad example. The biggest knock on it, and one of the reasons the DS won, was horrible battery life (although the main cuse of that was going with optical media rather than disks. Bad idea.

Phones might end up going up in power, but you miss the point. If they wanted megahertz, they could get it now. Better processors exist. The manufacurers don't want it- they prefer to save money and make a higher profit. There's billions of devices out there still using 8 bit microcontrollers. They'll never move to higher cpu power because its not needed- its a waste of their money (higher CPU power requires more transistors and thus more die space, for lower yield and higher cost). ARM occupies the niche above that- the devices that need more than the average microcontroller, but nothing as much as an embedded x86 chip. These are billions of devices per year, and they aren't going away. ARM may end up building higher CPU power chips as well, but they won't abandon the existing market.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462801)

ARM may end up building higher CPU power chips as well, but they won't abandon the existing market.

I'd almost guarantee it as well. They've as much stated that they're going for the most megahertz per watt. As technology advances, the processing speed will increase.

They'll probably end with with a selection - X performance for 1/10th watt, Y for 1/2, Z for 1. Probably have 1/4, 3/4 in there as well. Along with even more extreme power saving measures that are present in normal chips, like underclocking when demand isn't high.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

a whoabot (706122) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462691)

"People thought your body would fall apart at 50mph 100 years ago.."

People actually thought bodies fell apart at 50 mph?

No one recorded the observations of standing outside in 50mph winds? Or of someone in free fall from a great enough height?

Re:Nonsense. (3, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462819)

No one recorded the observations of standing outside in 50mph winds? Or of someone in free fall from a great enough height?

Go back a couple hundred years and people believed all sorts of weird things. Baths were bad. Bloodletting was good. The moon's made of cheese, earth's flat, earth's the center of everything, We can reach the moon/planets with a giant cannon, etc...

It was never really a widespread belief, if I remember right, the educated knew we'd be fine, more or less, and the truly uneducated didn't know what 50mph was. You had a selection of semi-educated people who would come to weird conclusions.

Heh, think of it as early scientific theories. They were made to be proven wrong(or not).

Re:Nonsense. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462957)

Go back much less than a couple hundred years and people believed in all sorts of weird things, like industrial activity angering the weather god, and spirits turning monkeys into men, and a really big magic bang.

Re:Nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462987)

a really big magic bang.

Are you referring to the Big Bang and Inflation?

Woah, that's flamebait...

1982?!!??! (4, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462747)

...your average phone is more powerful than your average computer was in 1982.

Sonny, I was THERE in 1982 and I can tell you that my phone (an HTC Mogul) with its dual-core 400 Mhz ARM CPU knocks the socks off the 386 I had aound 10years later, around 1992! In fact, I can run DOSbox and run all the same games I used to play on my fire-breathing 386DX25 in emulation !!

If my phone today was released in 1982 it would probably have been considered a controlled military tool and banned from use by nonmilitary personnel!

Psssssttttt! Wanna guess what I'm typing this post with?

Re:1982?!!??! (4, Funny)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462831)

Psssssttttt! Wanna guess what I'm typing this post with?

Your fingers.

Re:1982?!!??! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27463017)

Aw, how innocent you are.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462735)

If I see one more slashdotter start off a reply with "not really", the accumulation of evanescent arrogance and pomposity is going to blow my brains up.

Re:Nonsense. (2, Funny)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462861)

Not really. Brains don't spontaneously explode.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462983)

Why exactly is it an either or? ARM isn't exactly a single thing, there are multiple related architectures which are tied up in it. Having one that's more appropriate for desktops is hardly unreasonable without disturbing the more traditional market.

I'd say that it's far more likely that ARM would make an impact in the desktop market than intel make a significant impact in the mobile market.

Yes, that would require something other than the current Windows, but most of those people buying those sorts of PCs would be savvy enough to run Linux or something else anyways.

Re:Nonsense. (2, Interesting)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462237)

Exactly, thus the MHz/mW phrase. Why use more electrical power than you need to? If you need more computing power, then build a bigger CPU using the same technology. It will still be more efficient, and that's the point: efficiency.

Re:Nonsense. (4, Interesting)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462405)

I know, I was simply contesting the "goes against moore's law" part.

Coincidentally, that's when the greatest blasphemy to Moore's Law -- and the biggest threat to Intel's dominance -- is expected to make its entrance into the PC market.

When it isn't, it's similar to automotive racing, this seasons F1 has all sorts of new limitations on engine size, RPM, and materials to promote more power/speed out of smaller, doesn't mean they will stay constant at 750hp @ 12,000RPM, by the next couple of years they will likely be back up to 1000hp, just on a smaller platform.

In 10 years time, there will likely be some even more efficient processor out there (likely already exists) It's all effectively a part of Moore's law, the current base has certain limitations limiting it's linear climb, so a new twice as good base is developed to continue that climb.

Re:Nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462541)

The paradigm is different. (BINGO!)

Intel used to be after the maximum performance, no questions asked. ARM has always been looking for the optimum performance, meaning the maximum for a given power/heat dissipation environment. Of course ARM processors are going to get faster, simply due to improved manufacturing processes and better logic designs, but they're still going to be designed to fit the embedded/mobile environment.

Re:Nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462891)

So, to inject the obligatory car analogy, ARM is like a ricer then?

Re:Nonsense. (1)

Wingit (98136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462693)

Lighter structure yes, when it applies of course. I do light surfing and then I also run algorithms that take some time. I sometimes want iPodish connectivity and sometimes a real laptop. It is all a matter of using the right knife to make dinner, lunch, breakfast or just the right snack. I love the variety of devices and their relative functionality. I hope that my favorite content providers and the device providers know I use more than one device to access all of my favorite content.

Re:Nonsense. (5, Interesting)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462711)

But it will do exactly the same thing, 0.5 Watts now, 100K transistors now, 300 MHz now... it wont stay that way though, it's just a slimmer base to build upon, like using aluminum instead of steal. People will still keep reaching for the sky, and with a lighter structure, means they can reach even higher, even more MHz, more transistors, etc...

You do realize that the Cortex series of ARM cores can get to around 1GHz, and that the Marvell (formerly Intel) XScale chips can scale to 1.25GHz easily. And that's when they're drawing a quarter to a half a watt. At worse, you're getting 1GHz/watt.

ARM is used everywhere, it scales handily from fleapower devices, to the GHz range used in the latest smartphones. For every x86 CPU sold, the PC containing it probably contains several ARM processors (Bluetooth and WiFi being extremely common peripherals with ARM processors). A cellphone usually has 2 - one driving the UI, and one in the radio, and maybe two more (again, Bluetooth and WiFi).

400-667MHz seems to be the "sweet spot" right now for a cellphone's ARM processor... (iPhone has it at 400-416MHz, the Palm Pre has a Cortex A8 at 667MHz). And the whole cellphone power management has to be able to drop power consumption to a mere 3 milliamps or so, including the power spikes to maintain a link to the cell towers.

Atom tries, but it's still an order of magnitude too much power for an entire system...

Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing power (4, Informative)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462201)

ARM chips are nice, but they are not as fast as Atoms and their low power usage does not guarantee long battery life. It needs to perform at least on the level of a Dothan 600MHz before I'm interested - web surfing is already a pain at that level of performance.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462259)

Web browsers are interpreters, which are going to be slower than machines that run pre-compiled code. Could web servers pre-parse the html for target platforms, to speed things up? I'm sure Microsoft would be willing to lead the way forward :s

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462387)

opera for low-end phones uses a proxy that converts the html to a compressed image.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462411)

And as a regular user of Opera Mini 4 (not to be confused with Opera Mobile), their proxy based system can work impressively well on mobile phones that are clearly underpowered for web browsing (like the cheap pieces of crap I have used it on).

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (5, Interesting)

Anthony_Cargile (1336739) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462431)

Web browsers are interpreters, which are going to be slower than machines that run pre-compiled code

It's worse than that: In addition to HTML, a web browser must parse/interpret JavaScript, Java, CSS, XHTML, Flash (if Adobe ever gets onboard), and regular XML just to display the modern, JavaScript-heavy web application. This gets resource intensive if, say, using an app such as Google Docs on a netbook with little memory, since the browser keeps the DOM structure in memory, and it gets exponential if the user has multiple tabs open with an app/page in each.

A server pre-parsing HTML would mean a browser/server handshake, something IE and IIS could easily do moreso than Apache(2)/Lighttpd and Firefox/Safari/Chrome. Opera does this with their mobile platform, but it is still far from perfecting JavaScript precompilation or even delegating this to the lower-resource device at the client end.

Google was contemplating compiling JavaScript to pure native code in a story I read here on /. a while back, but how well they would maintain this for both x86 AND ARM remains another story, in addition to all of the other problems that could ensue, especially at the security level (a bug in the JS parser leading to direct remote code execution, etc.).

It's problems like these that keep 300Mhz netbooks with little RAM from being very efficient with full-scale web apps. Just my firefox I'm running now, I have about 20 tabs (mostly regular HTML) open and it runs up my dual-core CPU so high that my fan is running (not much in the background), and it eats memory like crazy. But as far as MS breaking the Wintel relationship to pursue ARM-based netbooks, I don't see it happening unless something drastic happens.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462555)

What's your system overhead like? I run a 400 MHz Pentium 3 with 256Mb RAM (I know, its ancient). I've got no problems with web surfing, multiple tabs and all. Admittedly, the WiFi connection usually gags first. But I'm running Eclipse as well and MySQL is grinding away on a search in the background. No problems.

The only time my fan ever kicks on is when I'm rebuilding the kernel.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

Anthony_Cargile (1336739) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462695)

The OS I was referring to in my comment is just stock-kernel Ubuntu 8.10. The laptop is a dual core Pentium, 2GB ram, no swap partition used. I run compiz as a WM, for eye candy's sake, and this may contribute to the fan issue, but I just checked system monitor and Firefox alone takes up 384MB of ram and averages around 15% CPU. I found some Flash running in the ads of some pages, contrary to what I said above, as well as some JavaScript in a few tabs I forgot about.

If anything, the hard drive is the biggest bottleneck of the system, but I'm thinking about writing a piece on a news website I run (thecoffeedesk.com) about which browser would be best suited for a Linux installation on ARM. I'm going to compare memory usage, average CPU usage, and anything else that comes to mind (I'm open to suggestions). I want to compare Opera, Firefox 3, Seamonkey, and Epiphany in this respect to see which is better suited resource-wise even though I'm not running ARM.

I know benchmarks have been done before, but I'm out to see which browser could run with the smallest footprint while running full-blown web apps (I'll use Google Docs in my example, suggest others if you'd like). I don't have any idea how much memory comes on a standard ARM netbook, or what the default clock speed is, for that matter (and whether they use SSDs), so if anyone has more information than the Wikipedia article can offer, be my guest.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462577)

and it gets exponential if the user has multiple tabs open with an app/page in each.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462633)

and it gets exponential if the user has multiple tabs open with an app/page in each.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

He's right if you think about it, because the JavaScript/XML engine in most browsers is within the same process or thread and more pages open means bogging down the system's memory and processing power even more. Multiplying would have been a better term for it, but keeping in mind the memory leaks in firefox and the process vs. thread model for tabs IE8 and Chrome seem to use, it is actually accurate.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

MSG (12810) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462927)

No, it's not. The only way growth would be exponential is if each new tab caused each of the existing tabs to increase in size according to the number of open tabs. It is not accurate to describe the growth of memory utilization in a browser relative to the number of tabs as exponential.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462969)

You make a pretty good point. Couple that with that some websites are really poorly designed/implemented and there is a possible disaster. I mean, tech savy people will be fine, but I'm more worried about those who are not.

Example, when my partner finishes some web browsing, I can hear the fan in my current machine going flatout ... watch your cpu usage when you visit this site [daum.net] . There are many other sites out there but this one sticks in mind.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462357)

And a 1 GHz Cortex-A8 core is probably in that ballpark.

And, there's always the Cortex-A9 MPCore, which should help even more.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (2, Informative)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462449)

And a 1 GHz Cortex-A8 core is probably in that ballpark.

Perhaps. A 530MHz Dothan was about twice as fast as a 600MHz Cortex A8 in a benchmark I saw. That does not mean the A8 is slower for browsing, as a browser is so complex that a simple CPU bench isn't enough. One has to sit down and use the system.

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462535)

"ARM chips" is far to general a term...there is a vast difference in the performance between an ARM7,ARM9,ARM11 and say a quad core ARM cortex-a9...

as for performance it really depends on the work load, the cortex is clockable at 1ghz and contains multimedia units that may well make it faster than the atom for activities like media playback.

a lot will come down to optimization for the core, ARM has the advantage in that it has to have custom compiled binaries for this architecture. the atom general deals with a stand x86 binary target.

the release of ubuntu 9.04 which will have a ARM version should allow much more concrete and real world performance comparisons

Re:Too bad the CPU isn't the only thing drawing po (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462725)

Interesting that you say that about the Atom. The biggest fraud in things of energy usage, that I can remember.
Have you ever looked at an Atom mainboard? The big cooled thing is not the CPU. It is the freaking north bridge.

They just put as much of the CPU inside the NB, so it looks like it uses less power. In fact, if you add the NB, you still get a higher wattage than any low-power system on the market.

Think "co-processor" (2, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462809)

ARM chips are famous for including special instructions and supporting silicon for things like MPEG4 encoding/decoding, MP3 encode/decode, etc. The "main" CPU core isn't involved in these "streaming" instructions, just the parameter setups for them. Given enough "heavy CPU" workloads implemented as custom silicon, the main CPU on an ARM chip can be relatively idle as all the heavy lifting is done by the stream coprocessors.

Look no further than the Nvidia Tegra (2, Interesting)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462847)

It would appear that you're really not aware of what's out there on the ARM department right now. Marvell is not the end-all, be-all for ARM processors, and the (relatively ancient) StrongARM CPUs are not even remotely comparable to what's on the market, in terms of performance.

Look at the Nvidia Tegra for a perfect example of ARM walking all over Atoms - per clock, per watt, and per actual performance.

There are a handful of other notable ARM chips out there right now which, while not comparable to the Tegra directly, offer considerable options above and beyond the Atom. Snapdragon and Tegra are just two examples; there are many others.

The performance is there, and has been there for quite a while. ARM chips do a LOT of things which an Atom couldn't come close to doing effectively (that fanless set-top box that does digital to analog conversion, or the DirectTV dvr, for instance).

Why is it... (4, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462207)

that some /.ers seem to need to create an enemy of conventional wisdom, even when conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason?

Yes, efficiency is good. But do you really need to smear the idea of higher processing power at the same time you're pointing out the good in low electricity consumption?

I mean... really?

Re:Why is it... (5, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462227)

You're right. Both approaches have their place. What you're observing is the manifestation of an overriding need to prove one's superior intellect. It's a sign of poor socialization.

I, for one, welcome multiple approaches to achieving multiple goals.

Re:Why is it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462457)

It's a sign of adolescence.

Re:Why is it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462799)

Yeah, Ok, cool.

So... anyone's got a mixer?

I'm cool with the overlord thingy, btw.

Re:Why is it... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27463009)

But, is the Intel architecture really worth maintaining? The only reason I can see keeping the current IA32 around is that there's such a huge code base, and realistically if we cut the cord now, it wouldn't be too long before we could just use emulation for the old non-portable code.

I'm really not sure that it's a good idea to keep it around just because. A more or less fresh start with more modern assumptions isn't really a bad idea. Both technology as well as usage patterns have changed drastically over the decades.

That doesn't necessarily mean that Intel should be cut out, but more that keeping processors just because isn't a great idea.

Re:Why is it... (3, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462475)

Because conventional wisdom often isn't so much wise as it is conventional.

Conventional wisdom led to the MHz war and the foolish, marketing driven decision to double the pipeline length on the P4. This directly led to lower instructions per cycle and hence lower true performance than one would expect just going by the clock rates. The average consumer is ignorant of these sort of details and the marketing folks get paid to figure out how to exploit that ignorance.

Wisdom has no place in a world where you can get ahead with smoke and mirrors.

Re:Why is it... (2, Interesting)

Stuntmonkey (557875) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462999)

Quite a few people in the industry now are starting to care about power efficiency at the other end of the performance spectrum too. The Green 500 [green500.org] list for example tracks Megaflops per Watt data for the top 500 supercomputers. Judging from this data the Cell processor looks very good.

The reasons for caring about energy efficiency at the high end are of course very different from what ARM is trying to do, which is to maximize performance within a given battery life envelope. For large installations it has more to do with operating cost and environmental concerns.

Only 6-10? (5, Funny)

Scutter (18425) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462241)

What happens when those 6-10 netbooks get sold? What about the rest of us? Seems like it's hardly worth it to build so few. They should be building them by the thousands!

Re:Only 6-10? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462245)

Ha, ha, ha.

Re:Only 6-10? (1)

HoldmyCauls (239328) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462517)

...and charging so little for them. How do they expect to make any money from Linux and ARM?

Re:Only 6-10? (5, Funny)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462805)

What happens when those 6-10 netbooks get sold? What about the rest of us?

"I think there is a world market for maybe five netbooks." - The ghost of Thomas Watson [pcworld.com]

Rocks don't use any electricity. (3, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462329)

Maybe we should make computers out of them. In fact, they did...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_abacus [wikipedia.org]

Re:Rocks don't use any electricity. (4, Funny)

ksattic (803397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462363)

MIPs? (2, Insightful)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462341)

The marketing term (not the architecture) MIPS == Million Instructions Per Second. It's not the plural form of some other TLA. ;)

Re:MIPs? (0)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462445)

Meaningless Index of Processor Speed...

Re:MIPs? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462495)

Speaking of the architecture, it looks like MIPS already beat ARM to the netbook scene:

http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=ALPHA-400&cat=NBB/ [geeks.com]
$169.99

        * Alpha 400 MIPS 400 MHz Ultralite 7-inch Mini Notebook

        * General Features:
        * Ultralite notebook
        * Netbook form factor
        * Linux 2.4 Operating System
        * MIPS XBurst 400 MHz 32-bit CPU
        * 128 MB RAM
        * 1 GB NAND Flash Storage
        * 10/100 MB Ethernet interface
        * 802.11b wireless
        * Supports External Hard Drive up to 160 GB
        * Supports SD Card up to 32 GB
        * Xiptech application software packages (Xip office, Flash player)
        * 7-inch digital panel 800 x 480 true-color
        * Keyboard with TouchPad
        * Supports File Sizes up to 8 MB
        * Built-in SD Card slot
        * Battery Charging Time: 4.5 - 5 hours

        * Uses:
        * Internet surfing
        * Instant online communication, chatting
        * Music downloading and enjoying
        * Flash movies and games
        * Picture and image sharing
        * Languages learning
        * Personal diary

        * Office Assistant:
        * AbiWord, XipTable and PDF Viewer
        * E-mail management
        * Daily work plan and management
        * E-book reader

        * I/O ports:
        * Three (3) USB ports
        * RJ-45 Ethernet port
        * Headphone in
        * Microphone in

        * Dimensions (closed):
        * 1.1 x 8.25 x 5.6-inches

        * Regulatory Approvals:
        * C-Tick

Package Includes:

        * Alpha 400 MIPS 400 MHz Ultralite 7-inch Mini Notebook
        * Linux 2.4 Operating System
        * Power Adapter (100 - 240V 50/60 Hz)

Additional Information:

        * Notes:
        * Model: Alpha 400

        * Requirements:
        * Available power outlet

a quarter of a watt (4, Interesting)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462365)

A quarter of a watt is a percentage of the static I gather walking. A processor like that is powerful enough to run a tiny GPS, an insert in my shoe. Add a little foot-pad to power a HUD and attached map and I always know where I am. This is one of many, many uses. Anyone still thinking "cell phone" is missing the point.

Re:a quarter of a watt (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462497)

I use the AVR family of Micro controllers, cheap powerful and fast with low power consumption.

AVR makes ARM compatible micro-controllers as well though I haven't had much experience with them.
I started fiddling with the AVR's about two years ago(something to keep me busy while looking for employment) it's the first real use of my engineering education as I have worked as a network engineer for most of my career. I haven't found any US based employers looking for electronic engineers, at least not any willing to hire someone without experience. It's too bad as I really enjoy programming micro controllers. As I'm 38 and over the hill as far as employment goes, my dream of an engineering job should be put to rest.

=Smidge=

Re:a quarter of a watt (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462607)

...my dream of an engineering job should be put to rest.

Just don't do it here in front of us... I don't want to spend the day answering a bunch of questions from the damn cops.

Re:a quarter of a watt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462573)

I really doubt you gather a quarter watt of static electricity. Static electricity is characterized by high voltage and very very low current. Since power (watts) is volts times current, and the current is nearly zero, the power in your static charge is very low.

Re:a quarter of a watt (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462575)

ARMs powered by legs...

I like your idea and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:a quarter of a watt (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462593)

No, anyone still thinking 'cell phone' is just realizing they're already carrying an electronic device with them 95% of the time and don't want to have to deal with special shoes or having to move the thing + HUD (HUD? Should that be FUD - foots-up-display?) over to their new set of shoes or whatever.

Now.. if you're suggesting that the government sneak these into the soles of every shoe so they can track their citizens...' shoes..

Yeah, no, I'm still thinking 'cell phone' in this particular case - sorry. But maybe the cell phone can collect some of that energy you generate when you move, anyway - like the wristwatches.

Re:a quarter of a watt (4, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462789)

A quarter of a watt is a percentage of the static I gather walking...

250mW is actually quite a lot, processor-wise. Atmel produce microprocessors that will run Linux and consume about 100mW. If you switch to a true embedded processor, Microchip's PIC24 series are 16-bit processors that will consume about 20mW at 16MHz (and less if you run them more slowly), and if you're willing to go 8-bit, you start getting into silly numbers: their PIC10 series will run (flat out) at 0.4mW and sleep at 0.0002mW. If you're used to PCs, there's a whole new world out there...

One day soon I'm hoping to see someone produce a mini laptop based around one of these 16 bit or 32 bit microcontrollers and an e-ink screen. It may not run Crysis, but it would probably run off a single AA pretty much forever, and still be useful; it would, after all, still be able to outcompute an Amiga or Atari ST...

I love ARMs... (5, Informative)

jonr (1130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462429)

They are the only chips that you can program and keep your sanity.
The ARM code is just beautyful design, one weeps with joy after struggling through x86 hell.
And computing/electric power ratio is fantastic.

Re:I love ARMs... (4, Interesting)

Anthony_Cargile (1336739) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462447)

They are the only chips that you can program and keep your sanity.

I completely agree. The most elegant assembly I've even written, easy to optimize, and without all the legacy underpinnings of x86. Apparently the GNU folk can agree as well, because the output of any of my compiled C programs run better on an older ARM than a newer x86 chip (this is on Linux, btw).

Re:I love ARMs... (1)

Art3x (973401) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462863)

Can you even compare ARM processors to x86's by clock speed or transistor count?

Re:I love ARMs... (2, Insightful)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462465)

They are the only chips that you can program and keep your sanity.

Your UID says you are old, but that statement indicates you are too young to have ever programmed a 68K or VAX.

Re:I love ARMs... (1)

davidgay (569650) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462487)

And he wouldn't complain as much about x86 if he had actually programmed the 8086 ;-)

Re:I love ARMs... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462499)

Define too young! :P I'm 26 and spent 4 years doing 68k ASM! I even wrote a disassembler while I was in college... which earned a trip to an international teacher's convention. http://detachedsolutions.com/cmdpost/

Re:I love ARMs... (3, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462549)

Oi! Slashdot is not much more than ten years old so even a teenager might have a low UID. Also you don't have to be really old to have done stuff with the Z80 or the 6502 if you did it while you were still in school.

Re:I love ARMs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462617)

Any good (Free) ARM emulators for windows?

And in your handhelds (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462485)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't ARM chips also used within the Nintendo DS(i) and the GameBoy (Advance)?

Re:And in your handhelds (1)

ameyer17 (935373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462533)

Game Boy and Game Boy Color == bastardized Z80.
DS/GBA have ARM chips.
As well as most mp3 players.

Re:And in your handhelds (1)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462591)

For being a bastardized Z80, it does have a few frequently used instructions not found on the original Z80:
ldi a,(hl)
ldd a,(hl)
swap a

Re:And in your handhelds (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462779)

Many Chinese clone mp3 players (which due to their low price probably make up at least 50% of the market - or did a few years ago) use a bastardized Z80 core with a DSP for decoding. Despite the bad rep they get for being knock-offs with appaling Engrish manuals etc, they are actually fairly good little machines.

No laws overrridden (4, Insightful)

renrutal (872592) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462531)

From TFA:

For 30 years, the PC industry has treated Moore's Law with religious reverence. Its immutable commandment -- thou shalt double the transistors on circuits every 18 months -- created an enviable business model with consumers spurred to buy new, more powerful PCs every few years.

The actual law is about reduction of cost, not increase of performance. Other formulation says:

The transistor cost shall halve every 2 years.

ARM is not breaking any "law".

Re:No laws overrridden (2, Informative)

SeekerDarksteel (896422) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462813)

To be even more precise, it's not even about cost per transistor. It's saying that the amount of transistors for which a chip will be most cost-efficient will double every two years. Moore's law could be satisfied even if transistors never shrunk in size and never decreased in marginal price if we were able to double the size of chips every two years without decreases in yield. Remember, transistors is cheap, packaging and verification is expensive.

Horsepower (4, Insightful)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462539)

As I read through the article (I know, I've already violated Slashdot's law, but anyway), I couldn't help but go back to this whole idea of 'under-the-hood performance.' Cars built today don't necessarily have to have the 400 cubic inch plants and 500 horsepower that they sometimes had in the 60's. Engines are half that size and half the horsepower, but because they're designed better, it doesn't matter. (Although I'd love a 500 hp engine anyway.)

As well, continuing the car analog, just because there are still some cars with 500 horsepower engines made today, it doesn't mean everyone needs one. There are plenty of tiny cars doing just fine thankyou
This article suggests that because we're not using giant oversized processors in our iPods and cellphones, that somehow we've violated Moore's law. All it really means is that putting a Ferrari engine in golfcart is pointless.

Re:Horsepower (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462879)

Aargh, just used my last mod point. +5? I don't think so.

Re:Horsepower (4, Funny)

simcop2387 (703011) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462943)

what do you mean a 500hp engine in a golf cart is pointless? how else will i beat my ball to the green to watch it land?

Replacing one marketing slogan with another (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462579)

Megahertz per milli-watt doesn't make sense either. Some chips can accomplish more per clock cycle than others.

(And in this case, the statistic is going to make ARM look good.)

'cathedral & bazaar' never more accurate (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462599)

the real life fruition is even more corrective in content than the infamous short story.

monster market (5, Insightful)

philospher (513957) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462649)

I think the ARM netbooks are going to have a monster market, like eventually over 100 million a year.

That may sound crazy, but you have to look at the demographics. There are about 6 1/2 billion people in the world. About 1 1/2 billion are in the developed world or the richer parts of the developed world. They all have computers. At the other end are about a billion who are are desperately poor.

That leaves around 3 billion who are in-between. These are the people who have enough money to buy things like bicycles, motor bikes, televisions, and cell phones. A great many would love to own a computer, and indeed many of them spend a lot of time at cybercafes. But they can't afford the price. And there is another problem, namely that half of these people live in areas with no electricity, and for most of the rest the electric service is very eratic.

The first generation of netbooks was too expensive for this gigantic potential market, and besides they used too much electricity. But the new ARM netbooks will be enough cheaper for perhaps 500 million more people, and they will use far less electricity, too. Furthermore prices are just going to keep going down. Pixel Qi is planing on designing $75 models in a few years. Every time prices drop another huge group will join the market.

This all is a huge problem for Microsoft. On the one hand, it would hate to charge the very low license fees it would need to get anywhere in this new market, on the other hand it can hardly afford to ignore it.

The ARM isn't extreme enough (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462681)

Look if i'm going to get a laptop that uses ARM i'm not going to be able to run it off a small solar panel. I'm going to have to have a battery and charge it regularly, just not quite as regularly as an x86. If i'm going to be doing that i may as well just get an x86.

I'd like to see a laptop maker go to the extreme. eg. Try taking an MSP430 CPU and put it into a small laptop with a big passive LCD and a nice keyboard.
http://focus.ti.com/docs/prod/folders/print/msp430f5437.html [ti.com]

Stats
Ultralow Power Consumption

* Active Mode (AM): 165 ÂA/MHz at 8 MHz
* Standby Mode (LPM3 RTC Mode): 2.60 ÂA
* Off Mode (LPM4 RAM Retention): 1.69 ÂA
* Shutdown Mode (LPM5): 0.1 ÂA

Yes that's microamps (@1.8-3.6V). Basically it could run off a small solar panel like your calculator does. The CPU runs at up to 18Mhz. This is more than enough for the word processors and tools we used years ago.

In my opinion this kind of thing above is exactly what the OLPC should have been. It would cost 10's of dollars and is exactly what we in the Western world has to learn on years ago.

Re:The ARM isn't extreme enough (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462811)

Just what do you expect to do with a 16 bit microcontroller with 16 kB of RAM? It could be a word-processor. It could fetch text off the Internet. But a multitasking desktop environment with HTML, Javascript, Flash, video conferencing, AND a word-processor? Forget about it. ARM is about as small as you could realistically go (today anyway) - I think going one step down to MIPS would be too light to power Flash. And nobody is buying a netbook without Flash.

Re:The ARM isn't extreme enough (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462871)

Just look at what people are currently doing with old C64s (8bit CPU @ 1Mhz and the same amount of RAM).
Word processing, web browsing, programming, reading electronic books, games, windowing os, etc.

Incomplete quote (2, Funny)

MeanMF (631837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462717)

That last quote in the summary should read "...6-10 ARM-based netbooks running Linux and costing just around $200 should arrive this year starting in July and be done booting up sometime in early August"

Still focus on a single metric (0, Flamebait)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462727)

So we are going to be stuck with low power devices that can't edit a picture or a movie. Too bad if I want to do graphical modeling. Everything will be sold on based on power consumption

The problem with the PC industry is that it focuses on one or two numbers, without looking at how those specs actually creates a fast machine. It is like cars being sold by the number of cup holders. Computers are sold by the speed on the CPU and amount of memory. What is not talked about is whether it will function as a computer. Is the bus fast enough to keep the processor running. Is the memory fast enough. Is the memory available for CPU use, or is half of it going to the GPU. This si too much for many consumers to grasp but without it it can be hard to find a functioning computer. It is like cars with enough horse power and four wheel drive, but will tip over if and when the electronic suspension fails.

What we have is another useless arbitrary metric.

Re:Still focus on a single metric (-1, Troll)

chinakow (83588) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462765)

Don't be a twit. Why the fuck would you edit movies or pictures on a netbook? You sir suffer from thinking everybody cares about you, they do not. Please stop. Regards.

Re:Still focus on a single metric (1)

TuaAmin13 (1359435) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462885)

Yeah, but I don't even know how to compare specs between ARM and x86? Is a 1.0GHz ARM sufficient to play 1080p movies? What about 720p?

I'd say ARM has a uphill climb in that regard. I know I'd buy an overpowered x86 machine that I know does exactly what I want over a ARM that I'm not sure if it does what I want.

Misunderstanding Moore's Law. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27462757)

Moore's law isn't about what shall be done, or what should be done. It's about what can be done.

The size of a transistor on silicon has been steadily shrinking ever since the introduction of the first silicon chip. That's been driving down prices, and raising efficiencies. For example: the 6502 drew up to 160 mA at 7V. That's a little over one watt of power. The most power hungry Intel CPU on the market draws about 150 times that amount, but can do well over 150 times the work - getting hard facts is difficult, but I'd suggest four or five orders of magnitude, if not more.

So with the shrinking transistor, you can do three things. You can make the CPU more power efficient - able to do the same amount of work with less power. Or you can make the CPU more powerful - able to do more work, for the same amount of power. Or you can do both - able to do a bit more work, for a bit less power.

Intel has chosen to make their CPUs more powerful, at the cost of keeping the power usage high. ARM has chosen to make their CPUs a little more powerful, for a bit less power. Both are equally valid paths.

In the long run? Both choices will carve out their niche in the market place. There'll always be room for computing power at any price. But for the typical Joe Blow off the street, the ARM tradeoff - less performance, at a lower price - is more likely to be useful, assuming the software is there ... and with Linux, it pretty much is there.

The law as I understand it. (1)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462845)

There are a couple of versions by Moore, but the two most common seem to be talking.

1) about the number of transistors that can cost-effectively be placed on a chip and,

2) about the density of transistors on a chip.

I don't see that the choice to produce a low-transistor-count chip has any more relation to this law than the fact that people still produce vacuum tubes does.

Windows for ARM? (2, Interesting)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462883)

OK, so WinCE/Mobile/whatever the hell isn't really Windows. It won't run all your apps. Linux won't either but is much more functional than Windows Mobile. Where will this leave MS with their strategy of forcing companies to bundle Windows instead of Linux on their Netbooks? What about the next OLPC which isn't supposed to have an Intel compatible processor either? Is this all a strategy to spoil MS's fun? I sure hope so!

Re:Windows for ARM? (2, Interesting)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 5 years ago | (#27462973)

Why do you think Windows has woken up to the "cloud computing" craze with their Live brand of services? All Microsoft has to do is get a decent version of Internet Explorer running on Windows Mobile, and maybe tweak WM to expect a bit more generous system resources (netbooks vs. smartphones).

Thanks to everyone trying to make their programs server side nowadays, it doesn't matter what processor you're using; just as long as you have a net connection you can do anything you'd expect to do on an x86-based netbook.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?