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Comment: Re:Patent on this new feature (Score 2) 62

by TheRaven64 (#47791453) Attached to: MIPS Tempts Hackers With Raspbery Pi-like Dev Board
No idea. I don't know if the instructions for computing PC-relative addresses in an ISA without an architectural PC are patentable. They also exist in RISC V (not sure which came first), so if they do then it's going to be a problem for Kriste et al. Nothing else in there is especially novel: like ARMv8, it's a nicely designed compilation target, but it doesn't do anything that's especially exciting.

I didn't look at the floating point stuff in much detail, so there may be something there, although the biggest changes in recent versions of the MIPS specs have been that they're more closely aligned with the IEEE floating point standards, so it's hard to imagine anything there.

The biggest difference between MIPS64r6 and ARMv8 is that the MIPS spec explicitly reserves some of the opcode space for vendor-specific extensions (we use this space, although our core predates the current spec - it's largely codifying existing opcode use). This allows, for example, Cavium to add custom instructions that are useful for network switches but not very useful for other things. ARMv8, in contrast, expects that any non-standard extensions are in the form of accelerator cores with a completely different ISA. This means that any code compiled for one ARMv8 core should run on any ARMv8 implementation, which is a big advantage. With MIPS, anything compiled for the core ISA should run everywhere, but people using custom variants (e.g. Cisco and Juniper, who use the Cavium parts in some of their products) will ship code that won't run on another vendors' chips.

Historically, this has been a problem for the MIPS ecosystem because each MIPS vendor has forked GCC and GNU binutils, hacked it up to support their extensions, but done so in a way that makes it impossible to merge the code upstream (because they've broken every other MIPS chip in the process) and left their customers with an ageing toolchain to deal with. I've been working with the Imagination guys to try to make sure that the code in LLVM is arranged in such a way that it's relatively easy to add vendor-specific extensions without breaking everything else.

Imagination doesn't currently have any 64-bit cores to license, but I expect that they will quite soon...

Comment: Re:no price? (Score 3, Informative) 62

by TheRaven64 (#47790969) Attached to: MIPS Tempts Hackers With Raspbery Pi-like Dev Board

Wouldn't it be just a matter of re-compiling your code though?

Assuming that your code doesn't do anything that is vaguely MIPS specific. If it is, then there is little benefit in using MIPS32r2 now - ARMv7 is likely to be closer than MIPS32r2 to MIPS32r6 in terms of compatibility with C (or higher-level language) source code compatibility.

I love MIPS and, that is the case in large part, because of its current instruction set. It seems like a bad idea to mess with the current instruction set and break backward compatibility. Why did they decide to do that?

Basically, because the MIPS ISA sucks as a compiler target. Delay slots are annoying and provide little benefit with modern microarchitectures. The only way to do PC-relative addressing is an ugly hack in the ABI, requiring that every call uses jalr with $t9 in the call, which means that you can't use bal for short calls. The lwl / lwr instructions for unaligned loads are just horrible and introduce nasty pipeline dependencies. The branch likely instructions are almost always misused, but as they're the only way of doing a branch without a delay slot there's often no alternative.

Comment: Re:no price? (Score 3, Informative) 62

by TheRaven64 (#47790579) Attached to: MIPS Tempts Hackers With Raspbery Pi-like Dev Board
There's no price yet because they're giving away the first production run to people who are going to do interesting things with them. Unfortunately, this is a really bad time to do anything MIPS related (and I say this as someone who hacks on a MIPS IV compatible softcore and the LLVM MIPS back end). Imagination has just released the MIPS64r6 and MIPS32r6 specs. These are the biggest revisions to the MIPS ISA since MIPS III, which introduced 64-bit support. They've removed a load of legacy crap like the lwr and lwl instructions and the branch-likely instruction family and added things like compact (no delay slot) branch instructions, the requirement that hardware supports unaligned loads and stores (or, at least, that the OS traps and emulates them), and added much better support for PC-relative addressing. The result is a nice ISA, which is not backwards compatible with MIPS32r2 or MIPS64r2, the ISA that these boards use. Any investment in software for MIPS now is going to be wasted when products with the new ISA come out.

Comment: Re:*drool* (Score 1) 161

by TheRaven64 (#47790089) Attached to: Intel's Haswell-E Desktop CPU Debuts With Eight Cores, DDR4 Memory
For building big C++ projects, as long as the disk (yay SSDs!) can keep up, you can throw as many cores as you can get at the compile step and get a speedup, then sit dependent on single-thread performance for the linking. I got a huge speedup going from a Core 2 Duo to a Sandy Bridge quad i7, then another noticeable speedup going to a Haswell i7 in my laptop. The laptop is now sufficiently fast that I do a lot more locally - previously I'd mostly work on a remote server with 32 cores, 256GB of RAM (and a 3TB mirrored ZFS array with a 512GB SSD for ZIL and L2ARC), but now the laptop is only about a factor of 2 slower in terms of build times, so for developing individual components (e.g. LLVM+Clang) I'll use the laptop and only build the complete system on the server.

Comment: Re:A basic land line (Score 3, Informative) 572

by TheRaven64 (#47790061) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?
There are several nice features of a landline, but they can't (in the UK, at least) compete on price. The line rental alone for a landline costs more than I spend on calls on my mobile (pre-pay, no contract, no monthly fees). Calls from my mobile are 3p/minute, a landline is £16/month. I'd need to spend almost 9 hours on the phone each month before I spent as much on my mobile as a landline would cost me before I even made any calls. And then, for the kicker, the calls from the landline cost 9p/min (+15p setup) for calls to other landlines or 12p/min (+15p setup) for calls to mobiles. There's no possible justification for calls from the landline costing 3-4 times as much as calls from the mobile on top of the extortionate line rental. If I wanted to pay BT even more, for another £3 I could get free evening and weekend calls to landlines, but calls to mobiles would still be the same price. For £7.50 on top of the line rental, I'd get free calls to landlines, and calls to mobiles would only be twice the cost of my mobile. Almost everyone I call has a mobile though, so in exchange for paying BT an amount equivalent to about 12 hours of calls on my mobile per month, I could then pay double per minute what I pay for calls on my mobile with no line rental.

Comment: Re:Well... (Score 1) 168

It has significantly reduced my ability to customize the user interface of Firefox to suit my needs.

Again, hand waving without specifics. The most noticeable change for me was that they button to customise the UI is now on the toolbar by default, rather than hidden away somewhere. What can you no longer customise that you could previously?

Comment: Re: Well... (Score 1) 168

The problem is that it's a dumbed-down UI design

I really don't understand this complaint. The UI changes were relatively small, and one of the biggest ones was making the 'customize UI' button more prominent in the new versions.

I switched to Firefox on Android recently because Chrome for Android has the same handicapped cookie management policy as the older Android Browser, but Firefox lets me run the self-destructing cookies plugin, which does exactly what I've wished for the last 15 years all browsers would do by default.

Comment: Re:Well... (Score 1) 168

No, it's developed in the open, but it's really hard to get changes pushed upstream. We have a bunch of patches for the FreeBSD support and to improve sandboxing, and it looks like it will end up taking 2-3 years to get them all upstreamed. Meanwhile, the code follows the traditional Google development model of gratuitously refactoring things (are Google people paid by number of lines of code changed?), so it's a lot of effort just to keep the patches up to date.

Comment: Re:Advanced western anti-armor rockets for Ukraine (Score 4, Interesting) 810

by TheRaven64 (#47775957) Attached to: Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine
Arming Afghanistan wasn't the problem. Arming them in secret (so most of the population had no idea that the USA was spending half a billion dollars a year on helping them fight the USSR and felt abandoned) and then cutting off the money as soon as the USSR pulled out and leaving the country a mess, rather than helping to rebuild schools and so on was the problem.

Comment: Re:Cut the Russians Off (Score 4, Insightful) 810

by TheRaven64 (#47775517) Attached to: Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine

And for good measure, Ukraine should "sell" its ownership in the Ukrainian section of the gas pipeline to a Nato country and then shut off the flow of gas.

Cutting off the flow of gas would hurt Europe a lot more than it would hurt Russia at this point. Entering the winter with your largest gas supplier no longer providing you with the gas that you use for heating would suck. And as gas is fungible, it doesn't matter to Russia if we stop buying it from them, unless everyone else stops buying it from them - if China doesn't join in with the boycott then it just means that they'll be buying more has from Russia because the price of everyone else's gas will go up.

Comment: Re:My advice...RUN! (Score 1) 119

by TheRaven64 (#47772625) Attached to: The Grumpy Programmer has Advice for Young Computer Workers (Video)

I'm 45 and recruiters bother me more than ever.

I'm not that old, but I work with quite a lot of people who are older than you at various big companies. They're all exceedingly competent. I suspect that's part of the problem for the grandparent: the older you are, the greater the expectations. If you're as competent at 45 as someone else at 25, then people start to wonder how you've managed to work for 20 without gaining more insight. If you hire a competent 25 year old, then there's a good chance that they'll mature and improve over the next 5-10 years. If you hire someone who has only achieved the same level of competence by the time that they're 45, then they don't look like such a good investment.

In these matters the only certainty is that there is nothing certain. -- Pliny the Elder