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For $3100 USD You Can Have A Fast, Fully-Free-Software Workstation

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  • #11
    Open source down to the firmware? With an AMD card? You must be joking...
    ## VGA ##
    AMD: X1950XTX, HD3870, HD5870
    Intel: GMA45, HD3000 (Core i5 2500K)

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    • #12
      This is all rather exciting news what a great way to start the week.

      The shamelessly appalling state of the GPU industry has been bothering me for some time. I'm quite certain there's precisely zero chance of anything open ever materializing from nVidia/AMD/Intel and nothing of consequence ever seems to come of the little flurries of open GPU interest. I've been quietly hoping Imagination would open something up as they seem particularly sympathetic on the CPU front, or maybe ARM would seize the initiative to give something Mali related a bit of a bump with an open ecosystem USP. I'm sure either of those would be a fine choice for an onboard workstation/server chipset but sadly nothing ever happens and they all go on remaining resolutely clam-tight. Anyone know why this particular sector is like this? Are they all pissing all over one-another's "IP" or something?

      I suppose there's always Matrox and the ancient "Millennium" designs which still seem to be finding their way onto server boards. G550 anyone? ..but are even those blob free?

      Perhaps something from Vivante/VeriSilicon is the best option?

      I think putting something modest but free (as possible) on the board and leaving it to end users who need more GPU-oomph to decide whether to plump for red evil or green evil would be the only reasonable solution.

      Originally posted by Michael View Post
      Looks like I might have more benchmarking time on the system this weekend.

      Any chance you could (or you could get them to) boot something a bit more up-to-date for any forthcoming tests? A Xenial snapshot?

      Don't forget to put a the full security benchmark suite at the top of the list!
      Last edited by Dick Palmer; 02-09-2016, 05:09 PM. Reason: typo

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      • #13
        A very interesting setup but far out of my price range. For $3,000 you can get ten netbooks that are considered untrusted, each one used once with TAILS and then disposed of securely. Also six billable hours from some of the most expensive attorneys here in Washington DC, or twelve from attorneys who are commonly invovled in advocacy work.

        Still, the very fact that a market does exist for such hardware means a lot, early manufacture always starts out expensive. Someone once priced out making a single BIC lighter in an engineering shop, came out over a decade ago to $1,050. A run of 50 of the lighters would have been $50 apiece. OK, suppose you are not the person hiring the $500 an hour law firm, but rather one of the top partners in it? Let's say you represent one or more detainees in Gitmo and are thus very concerned with NSA spying. You need a very secure encrypted database which has to be airgapped from the network, and also a best-practices encrypted communication server. A pair of these workstations costs just 12 hours your time's equivalent and could keep priviliged attorney-client data out of the hands of prosecutors who would surely find a way to "launder" it if they can get it.

        This is no joke: one of the things that put the brakes on Microsoft's trusted computing "palladium" project over ten years ago was rumors that they planned to slowly get law firms onto new versions of MS Office that would by default write to a DRM'ed format, then go subscription-only, denying law firms access to their files if they didn't stay paying rental customers.

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        • #14
          Originally posted by Dick Palmer View Post
          Any chance you could (or you could get them to) boot something a bit more up-to-date for any forthcoming tests? A Xenial snapshot?

          Don't forget to put a the full security benchmark suite at the top of the list!
          It's all a matter of whatever Raptor has installed for when I'm remoting in.

          There aren't any 'security' benchmarks in PTS/OB, but patches welcome.
          Michael Larabel
          http://www.michaellarabel.com/

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          • #15
            Originally posted by bug77 View Post

            The thing is, if you need something like this, the cost of the hardware is peanuts. It's the software that runs on it that counts. And the availability of such software.
            That's a good point, but with Red Hat having officially supported the POWER platform for years now, I would expect that everything in the RHEL repo's should work right out of the box. Linux on POWER is a mature and well supported thing.

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            • #16
              It should also be noted that nvidia cards also have a vbios with similar functionality to atombios. You need some sort of mechanism to store card specific configuration details. The details of the atombios command and data tables are all readily available in open source.

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              • #17
                I'm awfully curious as to which ATX form factor motherboard they're using. I assumed it was the Tyan "Palmetto" board, but after reading it again, it can't be. The Palmetto only has two PCI-E slots, but the description of this Raptor system claims a "plethora" of PCI-E slots. I have to believe that it takes more than two to qualify as a plethora. So it sounds like this workstation is based on an entirely new POWER motherboard that has not yet been seen in the wild.... interesting stuff!

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                • #18
                  I hope this succeeds. I don't need a new workstation now, but would absolutely consider this in the future. The price premium is necessary to support open computing, which is more important now more than ever.

                  It isn't their fault there isn't a single freedom respecting GPU on the market. In the same way they needed to adopt a more consumer friendly CPU architecture to get away from the unusable x86 they probably need to look for open GPU solutions outside the Intel / Nvidia / AMD trifecta.

                  I always feel the ethics around GPUs are still very far behind generic CPUs and SoCs. There is a lot less interest and I guess more importantly money targeting unrestricted graphics processors. Part of it makes sense - an open GPU needs an open host - but this will be a show stopper for the forseeable future if users want to trust their systems.

                  The only other problem is storage devices - none on the market are trustable due to proprietary designs and firmware, so hopefully if we can get a good open CPU + firmware platform (be it Power8, Risc-V, or SPARC) we can see more hardware startup interest in user friendly options in both GPUs and hard drives.

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                  • #19
                    Free/OSS solution is a pipe dream. The CPU is an IBM ASIC right? Done, moot point etc. You have absolutely 0 control over what has been implemented in the ASIC unless you are guaranteed to have the code that was put to production for inspection. Even if you did, there is absolutely 0 guarantee of a late masking on the CPU.
                    Unless you produce your own hardware in your own controlled fabs with people you absolutely trust, ... well... I don't think need to explain more.

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                    • #20
                      Why 8 -> 57 cores? Shouldn't it be 64, with each core having 8 threads? I'd buy one if I was rich.

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