Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).

×
Transmeta

Transmeta Astro Processor 195

Posted by michael
from the meet-george-jetson dept.
simpl3x writes "Apparently, Transmeta's next generation processor was demonstrated to some folks the other day at Comdex. Tom's Hardware was at the demo and they had this to say: "The new Transmeta Astro was faster in every demo that we saw than the Pentium 4m 1.8GHz chip that was in the Sony GRX." Cnet had some information on the processor also . I just ordered a tablet to play with, though I ordered the Fujitsu which has a P3m (the Compaq has a bad screen according to the reviews). I certainly wish that something like this were available, and i do hope that the manufacturing goes smoothly. Mo options, mo better."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Transmeta Astro Processor

Comments Filter:
  • I was there (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HackHackBoom (198866) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:03PM (#4737120) Journal
    And by god. I was actually impressed with this processor and the Transmeta booth in general.

    Though it was small it was:

    1) Manned by a really hot and nice chick! (always important).

    2) Showed off what has been unanimously voted "My next laptop" by half of my company.

    3) Actually contained a chip they let you hold. 1 word: SMALL

  • To be needink a picture of that chip to retain position of uber-geek [userfriendly.org].
  • Power (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gyorg_Lavode (520114) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:05PM (#4737123)
    Does this processor still have low power consumption or is transmeta moving away from the small embeded market, maybe into laptops or other more sophisticated type applications?
    • Re:Power (Score:5, Informative)

      by Photon Ghoul (14932) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:10PM (#4737140)
      According to the CNet article (which actually had more information in it), the Astro will have lower power consumption than their current and competing chips. There is also mention that this is to compete directly with Intel's mobile chip. So I guess the answer is, that yes, they will be doing laptops. Of course, I thought that was what they were aiming for all along.
    • Re:Power (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ryochiji (453715) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @02:26AM (#4737586) Homepage
      When the crusoe first came out, I remember reading somewhere that because the chip essentially emulated the x86 architecture, it could emulate virtually any other CPU as well. Does anyone know if that's true? And if that is the case, could it theoretically be an alternative to PowerPCs?

      If it is as fast as Pentium 4s and has low power consumption, it sounds like it could be a contender for PowerPC replacements/alternatives.
      • Re:Power (Score:2, Informative)

        Here educate yourself:

        http://murl.microsoft.com/LectureDetails.asp?596

        Note the date. /. moderation is so uninformed.
      • Re:Power (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Rayder (39469)
        If that's true, I would like to see not a PowerPC emulation but a completely new processor, with a mixed RISC-Stack instruction set, so Java and other stack based languages (forth, perl, python,.NET etc .. ) would have an oportunity to run faster.
      • Re:Power (Score:3, Informative)

        by tomstdenis (446163)
        From what I recall reading the CPU has hardware MMU and exceptions that follow the x86 design. The processor is designed only to execute different native instructions.

        So I doubt it could be easily used to emulate a PPC.

        Tom
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:07PM (#4737129)
    The new Transmeta Astro was faster in every demo that we saw than the Pentium 4m 1.8GHz chip that was in the Sony GRX.

    Faster in what type of demo? Dropping a Pentium 4M and an Astro from shoulder height? Being hurled from a clay-pigeon launcher? Downing pints of Guiness at the pub? Blah. Tom's Hardware is so bigoted against Intel after the famous Rambus stoush that anything they have to say on an Intel vs. Competitor story is essentially unreadable.
    • What's the air speed velocity of an unladen P4M
      Overclocked or not?
      I don't know that! AIEEEE!!!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The article (reading it would be good) mentions DVD playback and other typical benchmark-y things.
    • Funny, I oft hear other people complaining about how pro-intel THG is.

      In fact THG is accused of being pro-everything while simultaneously being anti-every-same-thing. It must be quite difficult to maintain this image.

      Guess it comes with the territory of being a popular hardware site and having to make calls that no everyone agrees with. * takes a long hard look at amd-die-hards.. intel-die-hards.. linux/windows/mac/emacs/tcl-die-hards *

      Enjoy trolling, AC, at least I have the guts to risk moderation :P
      • While I'm sure that THG get's a lot of flac from people just because they disagree on something I don't think you can attribute all to that.

        I began reading THG when it was /the/ tech site online. And I've found that I find it less and less interesting. A good example is the "CPU with failing fan" article from some time back. THG blamed AMD for this problem while it apparently was the motherboard which had a bug in the temperature controller. (It couldn't detect changes larger than 1 degree per second or something like that.)

        Apparently they didn't contact AMD about the problem, in which case the article could have been changed from "AMD sucks" to "This MB sucks".
  • Price (Score:1, Insightful)

    by nofx_3 (40519)
    Does anyone know how this chip will compare in price to amd and intel offerings at the same performance level?
    • Re:Price (Score:3, Informative)

      by joebagodonuts (561066)
      The Cnet article said the chip would be lower than Intel's offering. The big thing was that they doubled the intructions per clock cycle, while keeping the lower power consumption that makes it desirable for portables (Tablet & Notebooks).

    • Re:Price (Score:5, Informative)

      by Photon Ghoul (14932) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:13PM (#4737149)
      Again, as mentioned in the CNet article, "Transmeta executives, though, indicated that the company would beat Banias in price." The Banias is Intel's soon-to-be-released next mobile chip. It should be at least fifty dollars less than Banias, but twenty dollars more than Celeron.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The competition between transmeta and intel & amd is strikingly similar to that between palm and handheld computers. One side promotes extended battery life, while the other promotes display quality and power. Unfortunately, at the moment, it doesn't look like both can be in the market for long. One will obviously emerge the winner. The news [yahoo.com] doesn't look like it's in favor of Transmeta, but maybe Linux and company can pull it off with his massive following.
    • If you can shoehorn a whole PC into a palm-sized device, who needs PalmOS? I think that's what Transmeta would like to do eventually. In the meantime, their chips run cooler so they can build laptops that won't burn your penis [theregister.co.uk]

      To be fair, I should disclose that I own stock in Transmeta.

      • "If you can shoehorn a whole PC into a palm-sized device, who needs PalmOS?"

        Me? I like my Palm with PalmOS thanks. I like my desktop with Linux. I don't use them as replacement, they are complimentary. I do NOT like Windows CE. I want it lightweight, lasting and thin and with apps that make my life really easier when looking at a 6 cm screen.
        • Who said anything about CE? A "real PC" runs Windows, the *NIXs, and anything else that is compatable with PC hardware. PalmOS, CE, both obsolete, IMHO.

          Of course, carrying around a PC isn't really efficient, even if it fits on a keychain. What really makes sense is to have the hard drive on your keychain, and an OS on the drive that doesn't care what hardware it's attached to. Then you can carry not only your data, but your choice of operating system with you wherever you go.

          I give such a scenario 10 years to practicality if interface wars don't get in the way. That's a BIG "if".

          So; can any of the free *NIXs automagicly reconfigure themselves when the drive is re-plugged into any of the supported hardware? Not bloody likely. Get crackin' on it. The hardware will come around, Microsoft would probably never do something like that, and such a feature would make the *NIXs very attractive.

          • I don't like CE because it looks like Windows. I like windows on the desktop. I don't like windows in a PDA. Too damn small :)

            I mean, I don't care about the OS, as long as the apps are thought out like the best PalmOS apps: Sleek usefull apps that go straing to the point and focus on usability.

            I mean ActionNames and the likes. I couldn't care less if they run under Linux, Windows, etc. as long as they behave and look like the fine palm apps. It's concept more than a technology. I particulary like the simple way to install an app , though that is just a tiny detail.
  • I was fortunate enough to see this cpu in action at a press demo and I must say I was sadly dissapointed...

    The lack of sse2 support greatly hindered this chip in any fps demo, where it was brutalized by the p4 (I'm sure even an amd athlon could beat it under those conditions!).

    The 'code morphing' technology also uses an astonishing amount of ram, up to 64mb in some cases, so linux users who need all that ram for gnome should steer clear of this chip. I also noticed that compared to a p4 based system, it was quite unstable, requiring a reboot in windows98se after just 2 hours of demonstrations. I have also heard, from reliable sources, that boards using this chip can only run at agp 2x, which again can hinder game performance.

    For power desktop use forget about using this chip, although I'm sure for student or 'dumb terminal' use this chip is suitable.
    • by coene (554338) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:12PM (#4737143)
      Wow, frightening! You NEVER need to reboot Win98 with any other chips! I declare shenanigans! AAH!
    • by wotevah (620758) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:19PM (#4737167) Journal
      I think this CPU is built with low-power consumption as its primary goal and performance second, thus is unlikely that you will see it in high-end desktops. But you might see it in other laptops that will keep running and running after your P4-2Ghz laptop finished your second battery...

      Do you have any references on the large amount of system RAM you mentioned is needed for code morphing ? I find it hard to believe that 1) you need that amount of memory for instruction translation and 2) that a hardware device using that much memory to emulate a CPU (at CPU clock speeds) can be too efficient both in terms of performance and heat dissipation.

      • I think this CPU is built with low-power consumption as its primary goal and performance second

        I'm not semiconductor person, so my understanding may be a bit confused, but I believe that the CMOS technology used for any microprocessor built in the last decade or two has power consumption approximately proportional to its clock speed. If your 2GHz CPU consumes 50W, it will consume about 25W at 1GHz executing the same instructions (i.e., the power consumption due to current leakage is negligible). If you only cared about power consumption, you could just underclock.

        The objective is improving the MIPS/watt ratio (or rather MI/joule if you divide out the time units) at a point that still provides enough MIPS to make a product that people want.

    • Code morphing uses ram why? JIT cache? I could go look it up but I won't; I trust you that it does it.

      Lack of SSE2 is a bummer but unless you're doing content creation or playing new games it won't matter.

      What I want to know is why you can only use it with AGP 2x? That doesn't make any sense unless it has an astonishingly slow bus, which would be a really bad call for transmeta since everyone else is hell bent for lether on something fast. Personally I think this is bull pucky. AGP is just a bus, it's handled by the chipset like everything else. Unless of course TM8000 has integrated chipset, or perhaps just the north bridge.

    • but maybe there is a market for people who would like to have silent, smaller computers. And i'm not talking about laptop.
      People who are disappointed by the arm race to the Hrz in cpus, ram, and video, which result in overpriced noisy pcs, just to do the same stuff than with the previous pc.
      Just a look around me and I see many persons interrested in the eden and likes motherboards.(When I asked at the motherboard desk of a big pcshop if they had them, the lady looked so pissed off to say no that I understood that I must have been the 60th that day to ask)
      Small, silent, unexpensive. With a transmeta, there would even be some horsepower in it. Enough at least.
    • by j3110 (193209) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .llerretmas.> on Saturday November 23, 2002 @12:03AM (#4737272) Homepage
      Are you a troll? ...lack of sse2...
      It doesn't even run X86 natively! ...uses an astonishing amount of ram...64mb...
      64mb or ram costs 15$ The price difference between the P4 and the transmeta will easily be more than that. Buy more ram! ...unstable...
      It hasn't even been released. Kernel 2.5 isn't all that stable, but no one complains because it is a testing/prototype. ...only run at agp 2x...
      The speed of the agp bus has been shown to be inconsequential to the performance.

      The rumor is that the demo chip is running at 500Mhz at the moment. Comparing that to the 1.8ghz P4 suddenly doesn't seem so out of proportion does it? I gaurantee you it will be running at at least 1ghz when it's finally released. The final board for it (not the notoriously shoddy reference boards) will perform better as the memory bandwidth will probably be improved.

      What if I had done the same review of the Itanium 6 mo. before it was released? It was running at 400Mhz, couldn't run X86 software as fast as a 266, and was practically an unstable toaster oven.

    • The 'code morphing' technology also uses an astonishing amount of ram, up to 64mb in some cases, so linux users who need all that ram for gnome should steer clear of this chip




      For power desktop use forget about using this chip,


      Professional Journalist

      Repeat after me everybody. "YHBT"
    • I am sad that I have no moderator points currently. That is as much troll as it can get.
      Well, in order to reduce the chance that anybody believes that stuff...

      The lack of sse2 support greatly hindered this chip in any fps demo [...] can only run at agp 2x, which again can hinder game performance.

      It obviously did not occur to you that Transmeta chips are mainly for notebooks and notebooks usually are not intended for heavy gaming. And so, that Transmeta maybe is not targeting power gamers.

      Btw, such a notebook would be more usable for games than my desktop PC (Athon 700, 256MB) - and I have no problems with current games regarding a GeForce 4200 64MB.

      it was quite unstable, requiring a reboot in windows98se after just 2 hours

      Using Window98SE as reference platform for CPU stability. *rotfl*

      Aside from that, the chip is in development. Ever heard that this may mean that it may be more unstable than the final version?

      I have also heard, from reliable sources

      I hope that they are not as reliable as the conclusions in your posting.

      For power desktop use forget about using this chip

      Who claimed that it is intended for power desktop use. Well, however, you may have found the single one usage it is not applicable resp. thought for.
    • The 'code morphing' technology also uses an astonishing amount of ram, up to 64mb in some cases, so linux users who need all that ram for gnome should steer clear of this chip.

      Unlike Windows users, Linux users have a choice: there are plenty of low-footprint GUIs and desktops around there for Linux.

      Of course, a machine that doesn't have enough memory to run Gnome will find running Windows XP even more taxing. Given current memory prices, all this is academic anyway: even a bloated system like Windows XP will fit onto any laptop built with this chip.

    • The lack of sse2 support greatly hindered this chip in any fps demo, where it was brutalized by the p4 (I'm sure even an amd athlon could beat it under those conditions!).
      Why do uniformed people open their mouths about processor capabilities? Athlons are not worse than the P4, and especially not worse where SSE is concerned. Whether or not an FPS is slow is not necessarily due solely to SSE support. For example, none of Id software's games have ever supported the SSE instruction set.
  • by miradu2000 (196048) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:10PM (#4737139) Homepage
    From the CNET article "It will consume less power than the company's first Crusoe chips, the TM 5000 series, but offer substantially more performance, said Chief Technical Officer David Ditzel."

    Wow... and according to tramsmetazone the thing was running at 500 mhz for the demo (against a speedstepped pentium) WOW.
  • desktops?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sickmtbnutcase (608308) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:15PM (#4737159)
    I can already see that this new chip is going to work great in notebooks...but why not push it toward the desktop market too? The noise created and the amount of electricity used by some of today's desktops is horrible. This chip would allow a fast, ultra-quiet desktop (or tiny footprint computer) and won't ratchet up your electric bill by turning the computer on. Back to 200 watt power supplies anyone???
    • Re:desktops?? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Monkelectric (546685)
      Id love one on the desktop if the performance is good. Less power = less cooling = less noise! We had a power out here about two weeks ago, and for 10 blissfull minutes, none of our 5 tvs were on, none of *7* computers were on. I think until that moment, I had forgotten what silence sounded like. I like quiet :)
      • We had a power out here about two weeks ago, and for 10 blissfull minutes, none of our 5 tvs were on, none of *7* computers were on.

        7 computers and not a single UPS? And you call yourself a nerd! :)

    • Yep, NEC has announced a Crusoe desktop for the Japanese market. No surprise if the company will present new PowerMate eco for the North American and European markets

      NEC announces PC on 1GHz Crusoe TM5800 [digit-life.com]
  • Thoughts on the demo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stevarooski (121971) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:19PM (#4737166) Homepage
    The interesting thing about the transmeta procs is that they make heavy use of caching to speed up instruction translation. Once the cache 'warms up' around a given application, performance is generally much better.

    I for one would like to know what they meant by 'better performance' than the intel. Did they compare application startup speeds? Had the machine been running the apps previously? Granted I don't know any of the details, but from personal experience (I'm typing this on a transmeta-based fujitsu lifebook, at 866mhz) the current transmeta chips start applications extremely slowly and then progressively get more reponsive.

    I like my laptop and am rooting for the astro! I'm very interested in how they improved the efficiency of their approach.
  • limerick (Score:5, Funny)

    by bobtheprophet (587843) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:26PM (#4737181) Journal
    There's a computer chip made by Transmeta
    Compared to Intel it's really just betta.
    But how long can it last
    When Intel's big-asst
    Let's hope Intel declares no vendetta.
  • Loaded Post (Score:5, Interesting)

    by puto (533470) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:29PM (#4737187) Homepage
    No real facts. Even when you read Toms.

    So they optimized a few apps on the Transmeta, and pit it against a machine that has some unoptimized apps. To quote toms "DVD playback, Office Applications".

    Ok were the even the same office and dvd playing apps? I can show you two different aps that do the same thing. One dog slow, one lightning quick. Put them each on machines with the same specs, and one will open faster than the other.

    So give us name of the apps used. Start up times, were they optimized especially for the meta?

    I would like to see this succeed, but I hate to see the hype.

    Puto
  • by Professor Collins (604482) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:32PM (#4737202) Homepage
    While I am relieved to hear Transmeta is still kicking despite the relative failure of their Crusoe line of products, I am saddened to see them abandon the very technology that made them famous. The Astro chips abandon the software "Code Morphing" strategy of the Crusoe chips and instead interpret x86 bytecode in hardware, like traditional microprocessors. While this apparently has great performance benefits for their chips, it essentially makes them little more than second-rate Athlon imitators which incidentally happen to consume a little less power.

    Of course, I realise this is due to market pressures and that Transmeta just like AMD and Intel has to keep pushing their chips faster and faster to keep up with Moore's law, but nonetheless I lament that Code Morphing's full potential was never realised. Performance considerations aside, a processor that performed instruction decoding in software would have many more benefits. Support for new instruction set extensions like SSE or MMX could be added with a simple firmware upgrade. A new code-morphing frontend could turn the Crusoe from an x86-compatible chip to a PowerPC, MIPS, or SPARC-compatible chip in seconds (which would be a huge boon to embedded developers). A Code-Morphing core could be used as a testbed for new ideas in CPU and instruction set designs. The populations could have been endless. But alas, with Transmeta abandoning the technology, it's doomed to become "just another neat idea", like LISP machines and the Amiga before it.

    • by kaphka (50736) <1nv7b001@sneakemail.com> on Saturday November 23, 2002 @12:09AM (#4737290)
      The Astro chips abandon the software "Code Morphing" strategy of the Crusoe chips and instead interpret x86 bytecode in hardware
      Can you support that statement? None of the linked-to articles say anything about code morphing.
    • it essentially makes them little more than second-rate Athlon imitators which incidentally happen to consume a little less power.



      I'm sorry, could you link us to the stats that show the AMD Athlon uses less power than this new transmeta chip?



      Unless of course you worded that very badly and you mean that the transmeta consumes less power. In that case, you have to remember, this is NOT an athlon competitor, its competing with the P4m and P3m. Does AMD even have a decent mobile chip?



      Now that we're done with that point, let's move on to the next point, about code-morphing and talking about changing the chip "to a PowerPC, MIPS, or SPARC-compatible chip in seconds" For one thing, assuming you would want todo this in a laptop, can you even imagine the problems with hardware? Can you point me to a motherboard, video card, sound card, or heck, even recent ram manufacturer that makes one component that works on x85,PPC,SPARC and MIPS platforms? Exactly, it would be a complete pain in the ass. As for embedded developers, they would face the same problem, I can't recall many recent embedded products. Chances are they've built that much on a simulator before they start purchasing chips anyway, they know what they need.Forget using it "as a testbed for new ideas" again, do it in simulation.



      Transmeta "abandoned" the technology because it posed no benefit to thier target market. People have already thought of all of your ideas, and if they were feasible they would have been done. Should I just assume you were trolling?

      • by kc8apf (89233)
        >Now that we're done with that point, let's move on to the next point, about code-morphing and talking about changing the chip "to a PowerPC, MIPS, or SPARC-compatible chip in seconds" For one thing, assuming you would want todo this in a laptop, can you even imagine the problems with hardware? Can you point me to a motherboard, video card, sound card, or heck, even recent ram manufacturer that makes one component that works on x85,PPC,SPARC and MIPS platforms?

        Actually, there wouldn't be any issues with hardware, except for driver support and maybe the video card. Remember, transmeta's chip will use a transmeta motherboard. Support a transmeta motherboard, you're done. As for sound cards, they're PCI devices, they could care less about what platform they are on. I can use the same sound card on Alpha/x86/Sun/SGI whatever. Of course, driver support is a new issue. Video card typically have a small amount of BIOS code on them to allow for video output before the OS loads. That is the only thing that would pose a problem. However, since the Cruse could switch from x86 (which most video BIOSes are written for) to say SPARC right after the video initialized, it wouldn't pose too much of a problem. Remember, this is just changing what opcodes the processor interprets, not anything hardware wise.
      • it essentially makes them little more than second-rate Athlon imitators which incidentally happen to consume a little less power.

        I'm sorry, could you link us to the stats that show the AMD Athlon uses less power than this new transmeta chip?

        Unless of course you worded that very badly and you mean that the transmeta consumes less power.

        Okay, granted, the guy's post wasn't written in the clearest possible prose. Still your interpretation is far more convoluted than what he wrote. "which incidentally happen to consume a little less power" clearly refers to the subject "imitators". "Athlon" qualifies the "imitators". The "Athlon imitators" are clearly transmeta.

        Your interpretation has the phrase
        "which incidentally happen to consume a little less power" refer to "AMD" as a subject, which then leaves the word imitators in a sort of limbo. Furthermore, the number of the subject and verb don't match up in your case.
    • by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @12:37AM (#4737357)
      Support for new instruction set extensions like SSE or MMX could be added with a simple firmware upgrade. A new code-morphing frontend could turn the Crusoe from an x86-compatible chip to a PowerPC, MIPS, or SPARC-compatible chip in seconds

      This turs out to be much more difficult than it first appears. There are a number of low-level architectural features - especially in the memory interface, but elsewhere too - that are very difficult to emulate if you've built a processor using different assumptions. This means that while you might be able to emulate a PPC/MIPS/SPARC on a Crusoe - or even on a PC - by dynamically recompiling code, the only architecture that would perform well would be one with a good match to your actual hardware. The original Crusoe chips were designed from the start to emulate Intel processors, and this new chip is presumably in the same boat.
      • For one, there simply wasn't much of a market in emulating non-x86 architectures. The available software and knowledge base, particularly for embedded design, is much higher in x86. For the systems that must have non-x86 architecture, generally they'd just get the real system rather than an emulation "hack", as often these other architectures are chosen to get the maximum reliability or performance characteristics that those markets require.

        Also, because CISC breaks down to multiple smaller operations easier than RISC, CISC is much easier to get performance advantages with code morphing.
    • "just another neat idea", like LISP machines and the Amiga before it.

      Huh? The Lisp machines were poorly engineered: they expended way too much silicon on things that didn't need hardware support. That's why they failed. Current processors could benefit from a little more support for dynamic languages, but not like the Lisp machines.

      I'm not sure what kind of distinctive technical features you see on the Amiga. It was a nice machine, but much of what made it nice is completely mainstream now.

      A Code-Morphing core could be used as a testbed for new ideas in CPU and instruction set designs.

      It is: that's what JITs essentially are. And if you want a VLIW backend, you can get a VLIW processor from Intel.

    • by fobef (541536)
      Ok, I havn't read the linked articles. But I really think that you are wrong about Transmeta abandongin the code morphing. The things I've read in the past about their next generation cpus, which I assume is the astro, is that the maximum theoretical throughput would be doubled from 4 ops to 8 ops. That would ofcourse be impossible to do, without going the VLIW + codemorphing path of previous generations.
    • This is not an "interessting post. It is a Troll.
      Everything that is stated is untrue. Are the moderators asleep?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:34PM (#4737207)
    I remember that the old Cyrix 6x86 chips didn't emulate the complete x86 instruction set, so many common programs would crash or just plain not run. It seems like transmeta is trying to go the same route, by reverse-engineering Intel's instruction set. The results of this kind of thing aren't always pretty, as you can see with such projects as WINE.

    I know that Intel chips are the baseline platform for most business software written today, because of their market leadership position, and they seem to have the performance edge also. And the power-consumption issue is really a red herring, since on most portable systems the CPU is only a minor consumer of power (heat is another problem, but that is something that proper internal design can usually cure) compared with the display and hard disk. So is there really any reason to switch?
    • The results of this kind of thing aren't always pretty, as you can see with such projects as WINE.

      But i was under the impression that "WINE is not an emulator". Doesn't this mean it doesn't have to emulate x86 instructions? I honestly don't know, i'm not an expert, but that's what i thought.

      Second point: CPU is not that minor a consumer. According to pcmag, it's about 2 watts during average operation for most PIII's and 4's, and at peak a P4 can draw 30watts at once. So if you're looking at a spreadsheet it's a minor concern. If you're doing something processor intensive it becomes major. Which means there's certainly a market for it, though it might not be for standard business type stuff.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Okay, I'm not sure what you heard about the Cyrix 6x86, but here's how it works. Intel has more than once released the specifications for various of their instructions so that compiler writers, assembly programmers, etc could use their CPUs. Even SSE2 had to be documented *somewhere* for them to be used. So, there shouldn't be any reverse-engineering needed. Even if there was, a 100 or 200 instruction system is hardly going to be anywhere near the magnitude of hundreds of api functions, with every so many weeks meaning yet another whole slew of things to add. You can't modify hardware nearly that quickly to thwart off cloning. The design costs alone would run the company into the ground. So, the bases for the majority of the instruction set (up to 686 and probably most of the Pentium 4) is well known. No problem.

      As for power consumption, the three major power consumption parts of a computer are the monitor, the cpu, and memory (the constant refreshing). Laptops already use an LCD screen to avoid the huge monitor hit. Reducing CPU power *is* a big deal as well. Switching to a memory type that didn't require constantly refreshing would be a big save too, but all known memory of that type is horridly slow (cmos, flash memory, etc), so you can't fix that real well. So, focus on the CPU is a huge deal. Especially when all excessive is wasted energy, and then a fan on top of that is even more.. Not to mention having a laptop that burns your lap. :) So, it's far from a minor issue.
      • Switching to a memory type that didn't require constantly refreshing would be a big save too, but all known memory of that type is horridly slow (cmos, flash memory, etc), so you can't fix that real well.

        It's called SRAM, and it's wicked fast. You may be familiar with it since it's beed used in caches for decades. The S stands for Static, in constrast from Dynamic styles of logic (i.e. DRAM which includes SDRAM, DDR, etc.)

        The reason why we can't use it for main memory is cost. DRAM is easy to integrate into extremely dense layouts, it's basically one transistor per bit in a grid arrangement. SRAM usues about 6 transistors per bit and is not nearly as easy to arrange into nice regular patterns like DRAM.
        • SRAM requires more power than DRAM. When the DRAM is not being refreshed, the charge is held in a capacitor next to that one transistor to store a bit, this is why it needs to be refreshed, the charge will leak out of the capacitor. SRAM has power constantly flowing through its transistors, it doesn't need refreshing because the data is encoded in which pathway the power is flowing through.

          Flash memory and EEPROM would take less power because they retain data when power is cut, but it has a shorter lifespan and is much slower. Magnetic core memory would also take less power for the same reason.
      • The biggest power hog on an intel board is the CPU, followed by the northbridge (memory and pci part of the chipset).

        Built-in accessories such as fibre-channel and/or gigabit ethernet currently also consume significant power.

        Sometimes the power supply circuitry gets a bit hot as well, but only when it has to deliver ridiculous ammounts of current to a power-hog chip.

        For example, current pentium mobile chip power supplies are supposed to be designed for upwards of 20 amps. This is at the core voltage, which varies depending on the speed-step state. IIRC the low setting is 1.15 V, and the higher setting is around 1.5 V or so. The maximum current case occurs at the higher voltage.

        It's hard to pass 20 amps through a transistor or current sensing resistor or inductor without a little heat getting generated. You end up using 5 or 6 big transistors for the swithcing, and one or two big inductors, and very low resistance current sensing resistors. And you have to make the copper traces really wide, and use extra vias. To tell the truth, it's kind of a PITA. And if you, the engineer, screw up, the whole thing could catch on fire or fail in some other spectacular way.

        MM
        --
    • I remember that the old Cyrix 6x86 chips didn't emulate the complete x86 instruction set, so many common programs would crash or just plain not run. It seems like transmeta is trying to go the same route, by reverse-engineering Intel's instruction set.

      Eh, but I bet there are very few people in the world (outside Intel Corp) that know the IA32 instruction set better than Transmeta's favorite poster boy, Linus. The guy's amazing, as if I had to mention that here. With people like him on board, I bet TMTA can do a pretty good bug-for-bug rendition of a P4. And hey, if not, it's just a firmware update, right?

      Actually these days I think chipset issues (OS drivers and hardware bugs) are a lot bigger problem than CPU support. Chipset, mobo and BIOS vendors all seem to have major QA problems and woe to the OS that doesn't work around them all properly.

    • It's a fair point, but there's a big difference between the x86 instruction set and the Windows API

      The Intel instruction set is fully documented. The systems guys who cut OS code refer to the documentation in much the same way that I'm sure the Transmeta guys did

      The Windows API on the other hand is famously not fully documented
  • by 0ddity (169788)
    they concentrated on a desktop processor?

    according to tramsmetazone the thing was running at 500 mhz for the demo

    for desktop use with a chip made to run at 2ghtz this would be really impressive.

    The lack of sse2 support greatly hindered this chip in any fps demo, where it was brutalized by the p4 (I'm sure even an amd athlon could beat it under those conditions!).

    The 'code morphing' technology also uses an astonishing amount of ram, up to 64mb in some cases, so linux users who need all that ram for gnome should steer clear of this chip. I also noticed that compared to a p4 based system, it was quite unstable, requiring a reboot in windows98se after just 2 hours of demonstrations. I have also heard, from reliable sources, that boards using this chip can only run at agp 2x, which again can hinder game performance.


    they would obviously overcome these issues with a desktop processor

    if they would do this and maintain the low power consumption that would really be impressive. we could all have really fast machines and keep the internal case temps below 100 degrees.

    just a thought it would be nice to have a third option for desktop processors.

  • Benchmarks aside (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Halo- (175936) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:37PM (#4737218)
    Benchmarks aside, I'm really pleased to see what appears to be a serious alternative to Intel and AMD. Just as AMD's success has been good for the CPU market in general a third competitor will almost certainly lead to improvements across the board.

    The Crusoe is cool, but since it is sorta a "niche" product, it never really got the penetration I had hoped to see. Hopefully Astro will be viable as an option for main-line PC makers. (IBM, Dell, etc...)
  • by shoemakc (448730) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:48PM (#4737245) Homepage
    The new Transmeta Astro was faster in every demo that we saw than the Pentium 4m 1.8GHz chip that was in the Sony GRX."

    Yes, but Tom fails the mention the two 200W peltiers and liquid helium bath...

    I don't know about you, but liquid helium spilling on my pants doesn't really brighten up my day.

    -Chris

  • Laptops (Score:5, Insightful)

    by madsenj37 (612413) on Friday November 22, 2002 @11:54PM (#4737256)
    Although chips are getting faster and faster people seem to forget that most people dont use a laptop as a portable supercomputer. The average user is gonna write papers and browse the web or soem kind of business application ... not that they wont do other things, but the fact is a laptop was never meant to replace the desktop market. Transmeta not only gives intel competetion, but they assure the consumer that intel will have to do at least a little innovation to make their product worthy. A chip that is fast enough for non video games and has an extended battery life compared to ther brands is a good thing. It is what the goal of laptop makers should be. gaming on a laptop is teh niche market, and thats what alienware computers are for.
    • Re:Laptops (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sasami (158671)
      most people dont use a laptop as a portable supercomputer

      This is changing. Only tradition and price enforce the box+CRT+peripherals paradigm. The market has already proven very receptive to friendlier form-factors like the iMac and Shuttle PCs.

      High-powered "desktop replacement" laptops have been a rapidly growing market lately. Many companies will give you a laptop or a desktop as your main machine, but not both. Many colleges require you to own a computer but even those schools are increasingly requiring that computer to be a laptop.

      Hmm. And I seem to remember various news blurbs about laptop sales growing faster than desktop sales.

      Anyway, I'll never use a laptop since the ergonomics are so bad. But outside of that, it's nonsense to say they can't replace desktops if you remember that this year's laptop is faster than last year's drool-over-the-floor power rig.

      ---
      Dum de dum.
    • College kids (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jester99 (23135)
      ... often do replace their desktop with a laptop.

      We have limited desk space for big monitors. And lots of us like to take a computer to class with us to take notes on, etc. Many people plug their laptop into the wall and use it as their primary computer as well. And do [try to] play games on them, etc.

      So even if "most people" don't use them as portable supercomputers... plenty do.
    • people seem to forget that most people dont use a laptop as a portable supercomputer.

      Due to budget cuts at a large corporation who will remain nameless, 4000 IT-type people are now being limited to one computer each, with a preference towards laptop with docking station at work. (Choice of IBM X, T, or A series) This rule applies to all but a few hundred developers, who generally are allowed a Sun, sgi, or Mac in addition to their IBM laptop.

      With networked storage and 60GB laptop drives, desktop replacement "laptops" will soon rule the corporate market, IMNSHO.
  • Anyone know how these will compare the the VIA C3 [viatech.com] processors?
  • I haven't heard much about him lately.
    • I was lucky enough to meet Linus at the last Bay Area Linux User Group (LUG) picnic, and he was still at tranmeta. He hinted at a new product that would use low power as the big selling point. I wouldn't be too worried about good linux support in the chip with Linux around Transmeta.
  • Whee (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Konster (252488) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @01:03AM (#4737402)
    Not that I really doubt Transmeta, but a closed system running benchmarks? Who is to say that they weren't running a P4 and not an Astro? And what do they mean by faster than a 1.8 GHZ mobile Intel chip? Faster than what? Some weird benchmark devised by some marketing department that no one has access to? Whithout specs, this whole thing is a wash.
  • by karlm (158591) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @02:13AM (#4737554) Homepage
    The competition is getting downright dangerous .

    It may very well be that Java applications run as fast as "native" x86 code on TM chips. I wish they'd show JVM and CLR benchmarks on different CPUs. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that TM chips have an extra edge in less optimized code, such as that produced by JITs. HP did some research on code morphing from PA-RISC to PA-RISC (yes, that makes it much easier to do comaprisons, find bugs, figure out optimizations, etc.) that ran some code faster than running the binary natively. It performaed much better compared to native execution when the native binary was compiled with fewer optimizations.

    Thier technology certainly is an elegant solution to deaing with ISAs, particlarly ones that have such high decoding overhead. I wish they also exposed an instruction set that was lower overhead for thier code morphing engine. Maybe something like RTL (HP calculator libraries are compiled to a RTL for portability) or a memory machine ("infinate" registers) like the DIS virtual machine from Bell Labs.

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @02:23AM (#4737579)
    If you plot the trensd line of normalized CPU speed (mflops) versus wattage (or cost) you will see that the last two generation of chips from intel (and amd) have left the formere linear trend line. they are getting hotter faster than they are getting faster. Meanwhile transmeta is actually getting faster and using LESS power. (negative slope on line).

    Consequently, it multi-processor transmeta systems will outperform single processor Intels dissipating the same amount of heat. This also translates to higher reliability. If the memory busses are done correctly, having inexpensive multi-processors may alos provide significant performance enhancements over a single CPU. (for example, if memory bottlenecks dominate then multiple simple processors that are stalled witing on memory will ustilize every memeory fetch perfectly, whereas a pipelined single processor will waste a large fraction of the memory fetches making it slower).

    A schematic of the current trends look something like this.
    |...........i.t..
    |..........i.t..
    |..........it...
    H.........it....
    E........it.....
    A........i......
    T.......i......
    .......ioo......
    |.....io..o.....
    |....io.........
    |___i____________
    Speed--->
    o = Transmeta
    i = pentium
    t = former trendline

  • Watch for Transmeta to go through the roof in sales! They will be one of the few chipmakers who will be able to run open source operating systems and MS is gonna make them all rich if Palladium is really implemented.

    And from what it looks like with these chips, moving to TM chips won't be any hardship at all.
    • Those computers with palladium will all have a way to turn the thing off. When turned off they would be just like any non-palladium machine and just like other non-palladium machines they won't be able to view palladium content without the hacker intervention.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      And what makes you sure that TMTA chips won't
      support all that Palladium stuff?
    • Either expect to see Palladium and non Palladium versions for years, and the non-Palladium beign more expensive and unable to run certain "media" features or expect it to be mandated by law.

      Companies are no stupid, especially the ones that are in a fast moving industry and have proved to survive for at least 20 years.
  • Heat issues... (Score:3, Informative)

    by edgrale (216858) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @03:45AM (#4737732)

    Will this new processor let me have my laptop on my lap without burning my penis like this guy did [cnn.com] :)
  • more links (Score:3, Informative)

    by kh0ng (594312) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @04:48AM (#4737815)
    some [theinquirer.net] more [in german] [yahoo.com] links [geek.com] for [com.com] the [transmeta.com] lazy ones. [google.com]
  • I'm wating for the next gens:

    His Boy Elroy
    Daughter Judy
    Jane His Wife
  • by NoSlack913 (627840) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:09AM (#4738584)
    I worked for a company that evaluated the crusoe for use in their servers and had to take a pass. The reason it was so interesting is that to build very dense (i.e. small footprint, lots of power) servers, heat becomes the single largest issue. We were building servers that would service telephone company needs around speech recognition, so that you could pick up a phone and say what you wanted instead of dialing. Alas, we couldn't pick the crusoe because it didn't support SSE2, which is not required for speech recognition, but increases the speed of it soo much that you dont need nearly as much CPU horsepower. In the end we went with Intel PIII's because the CPU Mips to heat/power was the right balance.

    The people of slash dot need to think beyond their desktop's sometimes and think about how a system will be used by users of servers, and not desktop's. I was really looking forward to the release of this chip, until they decided not to support the SSE2.
    Oh well...

    It is not enough to not know what I don't, but better to always to know what I do.

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.

Working...