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posted by martyb on Friday February 14 2020, @02:50PM   Printer-friendly

Debian developer Jonathan Carter was recently given a MIPS64-based motherboard which he ran through its paces. The board has a Loongson processor which is intended for both general purpose and embedded processing.

The reason why I wanted this board is that I don't have access to any MIPS64 hardware whatsoever, and it can be really useful for getting Calamares to run properly on MIPS64 on Debian. Calamares itself builds fine on this platform, but calamares-settings-debian will only work on amd64 and i386 right now (where it will either install grub-efi or grub-pc depending in which mode you booted, otherwise it will crash during installation). I already have lots of plans for the Bullseye release cycle (and even for Calamares specifically), so I'm not sure if I'll get there but I'd like to get support for mips64 and arm64 into calamares-settings-debian for the bullseye release. I think it's mostly just a case of detecting the platforms properly and installing/configuring the right bootloaders. Hopefully it's that simple.

In the meantime, I decided to get to know this machine a bit better. I'm curious how it could be useful to me otherwise. All its expansion ports definitely seems interesting. First I plugged it into my power meter to check what power consumption looks like. According to this, it typically uses between 7.5W and 9W and about 8.5W on average.

The Loongson processors are developed at the Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in China in conjunction with the BLX IC Design Corporation, also in China.

Earlier on SN:
Is Low-Priced Computing Stuck With an ARM/x86 Duopoly? (2019)
MIPS CPU Architecture to Become Open Source Hardware in 2019 (2018)
Linux-Based, MIPS-Powered Russian All-in-One PC Launched (2016)


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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday February 14 2020, @06:27PM (7 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday February 14 2020, @06:27PM (#958228)

    So - the point of lower power is, in part, to reduce fan dependency. At ~10W you can start to have a really nice, small, passively cooled package. At ~1W like the Pi Zero, it's pretty well small as it can get - the cable connectors are starting to drive the form factor instead of the active components and their heat sinks.

    And, I can be a BIG FAN of computers that lack fans if I want to :-P

    --
    John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
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  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday February 14 2020, @07:01PM (6 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 14 2020, @07:01PM (#958238) Journal

    As I seem to recall, the IBM PC was the first popular microcomputer to have fans.

    The "holy trinity" introduced in 1977 (TRS-80, Apple II, Commodore PET) did not have fans.

    There were some bigger "microcomputers" in larger cabinets, for business, that may have had fans, but I don't know.

    --
    Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday February 14 2020, @07:16PM (4 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday February 14 2020, @07:16PM (#958243)

      I had an Atari 800 in 1982 - I believe its 6502 ran a bit under 2MHz, and its RAM came on 16K cards which were prone to overheating, unless you removed the "user friendly case" that the boards were mounted in and just stuck the bare cards in the slots - then they had enough passive cooling to keep things happy.

      No fans, but you could almost see the transistors on the die with a handheld magnifying glass, and there was a ton of heat-sink metal in the case to re-radiate heat out the vents...

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday February 14 2020, @07:52PM (3 children)

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 14 2020, @07:52PM (#958271) Journal

        Apple III, as I recall, was the first one to be right on the edge of desperately needing a fan. I remember many times I could stop typing, reach my fingers to its lower sides and feel how "warm" the metal underbelly was. (elevated off desk by rubber feet) And sometimes "warm" was an understatement.

        I also have many fond memories of the SOS (operating system) on Apple III. But then the Lisa came along, and was provided one of those to work on, and Mac, and oh boy . . .

        Lisa and Mac had no fan.

        Classic "toaster shaped upright" Mac had a power supply that could just barely power the machine without a single miliwatt to spare.

        --
        Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday February 14 2020, @08:52PM (2 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday February 14 2020, @08:52PM (#958305)

          Mac had a power supply that could just barely power the machine without a single miliwatt to spare

          Woz was already out - expandability? just buy the bigger one. longevity? bad for the replacement revenue stream.

          --
          John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday February 14 2020, @10:09PM (1 child)

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 14 2020, @10:09PM (#958325) Journal

            Steve Jobs insistence on a 128 K Mac only didn't last long. That was an ego thing. Jobs originally wanted to limit it to 64 K so he should show how much better 'his' machine was than 'woz' Apple II.

            Reality set in. Developers said more memory is strictly necessary. So the 512 K "fat" mac was born. Third parties offered Mac expansion up to 4 MB which was HUGE at that time. Definitely bigger than PCs. But with a flat 24 bit address (no segment registers) it was even more cool.

            Jobs wouldn't allow color. Or a separate monitor and cpu box. No expansion slots -- ever! No wonder Sculley and the board stripped Jobs of any actual power. (which is why Jobs chose to leave -- he didn't have to leave) Then we got the Mac II in 1987 with color, slots, separate cpu and monitor. Expandable memory. Unlike PCs it was real plug and play. No screwing with interrupts, dip switches, autoexec.bat / config.sys nonsense. You plug an expansion card (NuBus) in and it just works. You plug in a SCSI drive, and the only special requirement is that you make sure all your SCSI devices have unique ID numbers. (settable on each device) Keyboard, mouse, just worked. CD-ROM, just plug it in.

            That was when all the cool stuff started. CD-ROM was amazing. Then QuickTime. Being able to play video on a microcomputer was amazing. No wonder Mac users were so smug and laughing at PC / Windows 3 users.

            Jobs formed his company NeXT -- which then built a machine with all the things Jobs wouldn't let Apple do. Separate CPU box, etc.

            --
            Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday February 15 2020, @03:53AM

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday February 15 2020, @03:53AM (#958408)

              This just in from the department of redundancy department:

              Steve Jobs insistence.... That was an ego thing.

              --
              John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
    • (Score: 2) by dry on Saturday February 15 2020, @06:57AM

      by dry (223) on Saturday February 15 2020, @06:57AM (#958440) Journal

      Well generally you put a fan with switch on the right side of the Apple II as it did run hot. I would have thought there was similar for the ///