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Silicon Graphics

SGI's New Linux Boxes 99

An anonymous reader noted that SGI has announced their latest Linux Workstation. It ships with the new VPro graphics board... you can also look at some specific configurations for the boxes. As always, it's SGI so it's priced in the stratosphere, but at least it's purple and oh-so-lustworthy.
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SGIs New Linux Boxes

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  • It both is and isn't. Compared with the rest of the high-end peecee market, it's not overpriced. Compared with anything else SGI sells or sold, it's horribly overpriced. I'd trade you a hundred of these for one Octane. Yes, I'm aware that the Octane is ten times as expensive, but it's a whole lot more than ten times as good. Just say no to obsolete technology.
  • Just in case it's misinterpreted, I didn't mean to say that Suns and Macs use BIOS and have problems. Rather Suns and Macs boot correctly by using a sophisticated firmware system.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have a purple shoebox lying around here. Sure it doen't have any processor, but it's completely open source and free !
  • Why would I pay the extra money to SGI to have a PIII 800MHz with 20GB hard drive, 128MB RAM and (basically) an nVidia graphics card when I could build a machine close to that for less? Don't forget I get my choice of NT or Red Hat. Hmmm is this Dell or SGI??? For $2,725 I would expect a dual machine (maybe not a dual P3 but a dual none-the-less).
  • Does anyone know how many fps in quake3?

    (could... not... resist... posting...)
  • by Bilestoad ( 60385 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @09:37AM (#1072040)
    Overpriced? All depends on your perspective.

    Are you a Linux open source hacker, programming for fun and no profit? Do you stay two generations behind in CPUs to max your price/performance ratio? Have you NEVER bought a complete system? Then they are overpriced.

    Are you in the IT department of some Fortune 1000 company, or perhaps a developer of a graphically intensive application and are toying with the idea of a Linux port? Do most of your systems cost more than $3000 anyway, and do you buy many every year? Not overpriced.

    They're not for me, as my franken-athlon is performing quite nicely. And a PC Power and Cooling case is good enough. And there are sexier cases out there if I cared enough.

  • If I remember right it was 114fps after we turned on fast dispatch.
  • Re: "The Special tweaks nonsense is indeed a lie":

    No it's not, in fact, there are a great many "special tweaks" both in the hardware itself, and in the OpenGL software driver. For example the Linux OpenGL driver uses a (much) faster GL dispatch technique is used than available elsewhere, and many other improvements.

    The hardware is enhanced as well.

  • I've looked at various commodity color case offerings, and they all looked cheap and not very well designed. Sure, they're funny looking, but they don't have the impressive high-end, quality aspect that SGIs, Macs or even Sun boxen have. They really look like cheap .tw plastic. (No offense to *.tw ... but you see what I mean)
  • If you think fill rate is all that matters when doing professional graphics then you're wrong. What about mpeg/jpeg render engines, or geometry calculations, image quality, etc etc.
  • Hey zico, you know that the VA/Andover merger isn't final until the SEC approves it right? After that you are free to spin conspiracies.

    Chris DiBona VA Linux Systems
    Grant Chair, Linux Int.
    Pres, SVLUG

  • Never mind.

    It helps when I read the whole thing.
  • Why bother asking... The GeForce 2 will beat this thing, and the V5 5500 with a fast CPU will totally slaughter it. The time when professional systems were faster than gaming rigs is gone my friend.
  • Yeah, the used market is much more reasonable. And don't worry - I _like_ sgis. I even kind of like Irix most of the time. But the fact is, buying any decent machine new from SGI is going to be expensive. They're still well worth the price.
  • Besides, this nVidia Quadro card alone, purchased separately from Elsa, will cost you $1000. If you consider that, SGI is a great deal.
  • It does not use the firmware of the 320 with the unified memory architecture and PROM if that's what you mean. It uses a high end OEM PC mother board with AGP 4x support and a BIOS, SGI has done some work with the manufacturer improving the quality & reliability of the mobo.

    Interesting, probably will help profits and keep SGI focused on the graphics. I do hope they bring back the goodies of the 320 for future systems, very impressive systems.
  • --Not on linux.
    At least not now or anytime soon.

    The 230 has a tweaked geforce.

    The geforce2 isn't a whole lot faster than a geforceDDR.

    The higher end models use a tweaked geforce2.

    Games do not measure 3d capability. They measure the ability to push lit, shaded relatively simple polygons with small textures. Compare this to what A pro card can do and you'd crap yourself. Why do you think that framerate is everything?
    If you want a linux game machine, go get a PC and put in a voodoo3 and install xfree 4. If you want incredibly fast and flawless OpenGL, want an incredibly reliable and stable workstation, and want to play the occasional quake3 (at very high framerates), then this is what you want.

  • Yes.

    You are missing a bit.

    You are correct that there is 3d acceleration in linux. Matrox G200/400. Voodoo3 and to a lesser degree, nvidia. There is one pro card out there from Evans & Sutherland, but it is $500. The Matrox drivers are somewhat fast, but not mature at all. The V3 drivers were, until now, the most mature, and work flawlessly with Xfree4 DRI. They do not do 32bit rendering.

    The 230 has flawless and very fast 3d acceleration.

    The 230 is a supported platform.

    Did I mention how fast the 3d is?

    You must realize that you cannot expect to pay for only the hardware on this system. It has been optimized and has incredible software to go with it. I, personally, have waited patiently for this day, and am now saving up to buy one of these.

  • I'll have to define some terms here, because talking about a "PC" is really rather meaningless without doing so (ie, a IBM PC/XT is a PC, too).

    Note also that I make a distinction between Compaq and DEC, which is perhaps unrealistic nowadays.

    Let's say that you've got the latest and greatest from Intel, Nvidia (or maybe 3DFX), Adaptec, and Seagate. We're talking about a $3000 system here, assuming, of course, that you want a dual processor Coppermine or Xeon, Ultra160 SCSI, and high-end video.

    The big problem is that the i840 chipset doesn't scale well, despite Intel's claims. It only supports dual processing (like the BX and i820 chipsets), suffers from a MTH (memory translator hub) or insanely over-hyped and expensive memory (RDRAM, which has hardly any benefit over PC133), and can only address several gigabytes of RAM. You do (finally) get a 66 MHz, 64 bit PCI slot or two, which is nice. However, I'd like to see more of them.

    Let's look at the processor now. The processor cores, a Coppermine or Cascades (that's what the new Xeons are called, right? I forget and I'm too lazy to look it up), are exactly the same. Why would Intel put a Coppermine in Slot 2 format and call it a Xeon? I dunno. According to Intel's rumored roadmaps, there will be large cache versions of the Cascades available eventually. Until then, use of Cascades is rather... stupid? It's just an overpriced Coppermine, which is still saddled with the 32 bit Pentium Pro core.

    Even if you go back to the older Pentium II or Pentium III Xeons on an NX chipset, you're limited to a maximum of eight-way SMP. That's impressive-sounding to an x86 fan, but it's not enough to even make a RISC-based server fan give you the time of day. High end SPARC servers use monstrous amounts of CPUs -- 16, 32, 64, even 128 and beyond. The NX chipset is limited in other ways, because it uses older technology, before the advent of Coppermine and Cascades. x86 technology typically does not scale well beyond two processors, though sometimes you can get some decent performance out of a quad processor setup. In case you were unaware, the eight-way SMP standard for x86 systems came from Compaq, not Intel. This sort of scares me. Compaq has a history of doing this in a highly proprietary manner. I wouldn't be too surprised to see eight-way Xeon systems from nobody but Compaq.

    Try using Ultra160 SCSI, gigabit ethernet, and a speedy AGP video card on your 32 bit, 33 MHz PCI bus. I guarantee you that you won't like the results. Wintel systems are not scalable. Intel's i840 is a giant step forward, but it really can't compete with the high-end workstations and mid-range servers made by SGI, Sun, DEC, IBM, etc. x86 is awesome at the low-end, but you'd have to be a little bit silly to use it beyond that.

    I love the price/performance ratio of x86 boxes, and the fact that they use industry standard, off-the-shelf parts, but you can't compare them against anything but entry-level RISC-based workstations and servers.

    For my money, I'll go for a DEC Alpha or a cheap, dual processor x86 system. One maxes out at $3000, the other starts at $10,000. But there are places are both of them.
  • ... well, I suppose that is the branded niche they are going for, with enough bells and whistles to hold existing media/design customers while using commodity parts as much as possible. It seems such a shame that many of SGI's real innovations haven't spread, their use of Uniform Memory Addressing, high-end I/O bus (XIO) instead of existing PC arguments with FutureIO, use of replaceable CPU and power modules (on O2 and Octanes/Origins). IMHO, their real skill is in the I/O system, the fuel tank so to speak and not the CPU engine. Perhaps some brave third-party reseller might offer to substitute an Alpha board (a la T3E), a MIPS for backwards compatibility, or even AMD for rabid Intel haters? The brutual nature of low-end competition means razor thin margins which implies high volumes to get back adequate returns. Bodywork design only carries you so far as everything is dependent on the applications (business and entertainment) and internet services that users want.

    I suspect the real competition is with Sony's Cr eativeStation [] which appears (according to the limited information released so far .. any updates?) to be both MIPS based (a variant of their Sony PlayStation) as well as Linux development. If someone ever tweaks key libraries to use the vector-based co-processors, things will really rip.

    Sigh, why don't they sell the chassis, then let us buy the CPU's separately so we can upgrade at our leisure.


  • Does SGI have any plans to have a uniform set of desktop and media tools (4dwm, Indigo Magic, toolchest, fm, media convert, etc) between their linux and IRIX distributions in the future?
    Slightly-modified KDE or GNOME won't impress me.

    I was told by an sgi rep that there are no plans to port the Indigo Magic Desktop to Linux. Part of the problem is the custom motif-based widgets (hooray for the drop-pocket!!!) that make up the apps are tied up in closed source licensing.

    I have scoured search engines for a couple years now looking for someone porting at least the look and feel of those thoughtful, if oversized, widgets to an OSS toolkit. No luck so far.

  • SGI does not have the legal option of releasing the driver source for these boards.
  • Why would anyone pay so much for a machine based on an intel chip?
  • Umm... did I miss something? How can this claim to be the first accelerated graphics board for the linux platform? Last time I checked, hardware accelerated 3d was available for Matrox, 3dfx, and nVidia cards, (to name a few.) Am I missing something here?
  • I have seen the first generation SGI intel boxes. They are NOT "just a peecee". SGI had to do serious hacking to the NT HAL to make it run. Linux required patching to make it run. the VW series have a firmware rather than a bios, and have an archetecture that looks more like an MIPS box than a PC. for $6K, you _CANNOT_ buy a pc archetecture machine that performs like these SGI's.
    Though I use a Macintosh, I am not a mac-bigot. I just hate Windoze.
  • I sincerely hope that some of the larger MCAD vendors take note. Otherwise these boxes will end up being just expensive games machines. We've been using SGI IRIX boxes for our Pro/E work for years but it becomes increasingly more difficult to justify the (hardware) costs to the suits.

    Most engineers like the flexibility and stability of the un*x platform, so please PTC,SDRC, Dassault and the likes, wake up!!

  • I just priced the following Dell system:
    • PIII 700MHz
    • 128MB
    • 20GB UltraATA
    • 64MB DDR Nvidia GeForce
    • 19" Monitor (M990)
    • other less significant bits
    and it all adds up to $1908 which is still almost $900 cheaper than the SGI and I assume that the SGI one doesn't come with a monitor.
  • hmmm... is (aka down or /.'ed? I'd love to see that picture but I can't seem to reach the server right now. :-(
  • What's your point? These systems are not based on that architecture - the fact that they'll run unmodified RH6.1 is proof of that, and the datasheet even states, as if it's a benefit, "industry standard architecture and components."
    Uhm, I think that RH6.1 will run out of box on the original NT machines as well (since they merged the required patches into the system). I thought that it was older versions of redhat that wouldn't (due to lack of patches to support the machines). That said, these new machines do look supiciously like normal PCs in an SGI case, which will be a big disappointment. The older SGIs intel machines looked really fast.
  • I'd be very interested in your experiences with them.

    A decently-priced, high-performance hardware accelerated OpenGL on Linux is what I have waited years for.

    It would have been nice if the high quality high performance SGI workmanship could have been encapsulated in video card with an open source driver, patch to DRI+XFree86 4.x that worked in more user-customized situations too.

    For example, say I'm inclined to wait for a 1 GHz Thunderbird with DDR SDRAM. I'm guessing the chipset and motherboard are part of a tuned package that is not easily swapped in and out at will.

    Still, it is a tempting machine, especially for a user

    • accustomed to Unix
    • not willing to do NT
    • liking the price less than $10K
    • seeing more free apps and packages coming out first for Linux than for Solaris or Irix these days.
    The question is whether the performance limitations are noticeable compared to the high end solution for common usage. Since the performance is proportional to the log(performance), there's a true decision to be made.
  • Hey zico, you know that the VA/Andover merger isn't final until the SEC approves it right? After that you are free to spin conspiracies

    Awww c'mon, Chris, you know I'm gonna hafta call you on that one. Since when did actual lack of company ownership ever keep a loyal Slashdotter from spinning conspiracy theories between Microsoft and just about any other company out there? You gotta gimme something better to work with to quell this particular conspiracy yarn. ;-)


  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm bored today. So here's my original tribute to everyone's favorite karma whore, Signal 11.

    To the tune of "The Garbage Man Can" from episode 5F09 (diehard fans will know where to find the real lyrics):

    Who can make posts all day
    That get modded up +2?
    Post stuff that's offtopic
    And piss off even you?

    The Karma Whore!
    Yes the Karma Whore can!

    The Karma Whore can
    And he does it with a smile
    And never metamods you.

    Who can take this mod point?
    I don't mind at all!
    Who can mod him up before he even posts at all?

    The Karma Whore!
    Yes the Karma Whore can.

    The moderation folks
    They are gullible blokes.

    Courteous and easy-going
    He'll make sure that his karma's over flowin'!
    "Hey! Karma Whoring's not like blowing!"

    Who can?
    Who can?
    Who can?
    Who can?

    The Karma Whore can!

    Coz he's Signal 11 man!

    He steals mod!

    Copyright (C) 2000 by me.

    thank you.

  • > I can see why they might have been a bit irritated as we seem to have de-emphasized graphics That's like saying Ferrari have de-emphasised speed! I'm glad you're having fun though - good luck with the boxes!
  • an HP Visualize workstation, for sheer case appeal. They also don't have crazy, annoying, installation-hassling curves everywhere.

    Grey beats purple in a decision.

  • Uhm, I think that RH6.1 will run out of box on the original NT machines as well (since they merged the required patches into the system).

    You are mistaken. A kernel built with VisWS support will not run on normal systems, and vice versa. Yes, the patches were integrated, but using them is a compile-time decision.

  • I actually had the privilages of playing with one of the 230s while SGI was giving the spiel to my lab. Heres what I noticed: 1. The graphics in these things is incredible, I'm not talking TNT2, consumer quality BS, but really good stuff. It quite honestly, almost measured up to the onyx/ reality engine 2 we have in our lab. It lacks a little in the texture ram area. 2. The CPU is x86, it cannot possibly compare with higher end MIPS cpus, end of story. If you want to render something, point yourself towards an iris 3. Good deal, seriously, these things are 50 times better than any non-sgi PC on the market. Good deal.
  • ugh, you can get a 180mhz r5000 O2 for like 1500. And an r10000 Indigo 2 with impact graphics for less than a grand. Of course, these are used market prices(check out comp.sys.sgi.marketplace for more examples)--so they don't come with the service contract or anything, but I've found it really isn't necessary if you have enough patience to figure stuff out(which isn't that difficult to figure out anyway...). MIPS technology has come down alot in the last two years-enough so that a poor student like me can get a really decent Indigo 2 for less than 800 bucks(and I bought my machine last august, and prices have even gone down since then...)

    just thought I'd correct you a little bit. I really hate it when SGIs are considered too expensive--because they're not. Not if you consider you get IRIX(which in my opinion is way better than linux on the desktop), plus a 20 inch monitor, plus a really well made, cool looking machine.

  • It's more like saying "Ferrari has de-emphasized speed and will produce freight trains instead" :) Large boxes are in a different market from where we were, but they still fly :) Also, there will be two new SGI graphics cards coming out (one may have already shipped), both of which should blow everyone else away :)
  • I'm putting a regular PC into an SGI Indigo case sometime soon. I've got a picture linked off my writings page somewhere, but I forget the URL offhand. I got the gutted case for $35 on ebay, try searching for 'SGI Indigo Chassis', with enough work, you might be able to fit an AT motherboard in, but no CDROM, etc. Now, what I really want is a Crimson RealityEngine which is about the size of an air conditioning compressor unit :)

  • Another sgi employee here to say that sgi is still a great company to work for.. sure it was better before, but it will be better again once we're making money again. We're working hard to undo the worst management decision in our history, investing ourselves in Microsoft technology. I'm not sure who your friends were, but maybe they were part of the low-end graphics team we sold to nVidia? The fact is, desktop 3D is turning into a commodity market. sgi could have fought the battle to keep really far ahead for another couple of years on the low end, but we would have lost money doing it, even if we were sucessful. The R&D is expensive. Personally I want real-time raytracing on a laptop for $500. In a few years I'll get it. Do I care if the company selling it to me makes money? No. The next cutting edge wave of computer technology is streaming media and server side graphics. Imagine having the power of a huge Onyx2 system behind that linux box, or playstation, etc. I think sgi will be a big player in this. In a few years, I'll know.
  • Inventor isn't going away, but it's not going to replace what Farenheit was going to be. Heard of OpenML? It might be what you are looking for, depending on your needs. The Press Release: ril/khronos.html Here's the dinky web page:
  • The Alias | wavefront Maya renderer is available on Linux already..
  • I have seen prices on new PC's. 300-400 for a mid range athlon and mobo. Throw in another hundred or so for a mid range graphics card (buying the fastest cpu is just throwing your money away.) The only computer worth anything is one you build yourself!
  • by PD ( 9577 )
    Could SGI make some money by selling the pretty cases? I've got a Celery 300 and a P133, both of which are fast enough for programming. But they are in ugly boxes! I'd pay a good chunk of change for an SGI box that my boards would fit in.
  • How can you say this is over priced?

    It's a high end PC with fast PIII 128 MB RAM and GeForce graphics with AGP 4X + very high quality drivers and support. You can't get a better Linux system for significantly less.

    It looks blue & gray to me, not purple, (just incase you buy one for the color and are disappointed.
  • Lusting for those new boxes? My only advice - it won't hurt as long as you don't fall off them.
  • by bbk ( 33798 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @08:22AM (#1072081) Homepage
    The graphics chipsets are just tuned nVidia Geforce, Quadro, and Geforce 2 boards, which is what SGI told everyone at SGI Linux University. Uses closed source drivers, jointly developed with nVidia.

    They also said that some special tweaks would be put on their boards so that they would run faster than generic cards with identical drivers. Other than a mild overclocking (to get the higher fill rate listed), I don't see any way they could do this than to minorly cripple the drivers for boards that don't have official SGI roms.

    That said, it's nice to see SGI making progress towards high quality 3D on Linux - I just wish they weren't following the propreitary lead of nvidia.

  • The driver that they released has some extra code to drive the custom chips that they have put on the board. -- At least this is what they said at the Linux University that I went to.

  • by tcd004 ( 134130 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @08:25AM (#1072083) Homepage
    "Pricing and Availability

    The workstation family will be priced from $2,725 (U.S. List). The Silicon Graphics 230 is shipping now, the Silicon Graphics 330 and the Silicon Graphics 550 are expected to ship later this quarter. For additional information on specific configurations, please go to"

    They're using the Steve Jobs model of Supply and demand.


    Here's my Microsoft parody, [], where's yours?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Check it out!!! Natalie Portman mousepad on E-bay!! []
  • SGI was around when it was fashionable to own your own OS. Then they switched to Unix and are one of the few survivors from that war.

    When Unix started to fall they saw it as a Windows NT world in the making and began to turn that way. However 1/2 way through the transition they realized NT had already peaked and was on it's way down. So they are taking up Linux.

    If BEOS shows some signs of being "the next big thing" they will adopt that too.

    Some people see this as being indecisive. I see it as flowing the money and the customer who spends it. Only companies that do that have long term viability. Just ask IBM how they made it through the last 100+ years to the point where I haven't seen a new IBM typewriter in years. ( Once opon a time that was *the* IBM business )

    Sun on the other hand shows no singes of being able to outlive Solaris and no OS is forever. Sure unix has been with us for 30 years but who uses AT&T Unix still ?

    Ohh.. BTW. The boixes listed on the "Configurations link" above are kinda sweat but not the real kickass workstations yet. ( SMP ? Where are you ? )
  • You are a complete idiot, or a troll. Innovation in the OS world is fairly irrelevant. For most purposes it doesn't matter which modern OS you use. Irix is fine; unlike Solaris, it isn't dog-ass slow. The real problem SGI has is the same one everyone has: good technology is expensive, and it's hard to sell expensive equipment. So they make some crappy systems, slap an SGI logo on them, and sell them for a tenth of their usual prices. People jump.

    That doesn't mean the technology is better, just that it's more marketable. An Onyx2 with eight CPUs and an infinite reality engine is more powerful, by any standard, than anything that has ever existed containing an x86 CPU. And that's a low-end SGI. Nothing that runs Red Hat, except possibly a Sun Enterprise 10000, can even come close to an Origin 2000.

    The peecee sucks. It may be easy to market, but it still sucks.

  • It's nice to see they fixed the case design from their original Intel stuff. We've got a 320 (I believe) here, and the damn sliding front access door/case swoopiness made it a pain to put anything in the floppy/cdrom/zip drives. Of course, they're probably the same people who didn't adequately cool the SGI 02's (can you say "toaster"?). That being said, we love our Octanes and Onyxs.
  • This is very good news. Now If we could get some decent software
    running on linux instead of all that boring server software I really
    hope we will get:
    A|W Maya
    SoftImage XSI
    Hopefully something will be announced at Siggraph 2K in New Orleans,
    but Im not holding my breath!

    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad
  • I got no karma back. I emailed taco about this and they 'fixed' my account so my posts no longer default to -1. All my posts previous to May 10 are marked offtopic with a score of -1. All the posts I made from Tursday until this morning started at -1, some of them were modded up. Any karma I have now is the result of moderation to posts I made since May 10 starting at -10 karma.

    Follow the link in my .sig if you want to read more boring details.
  • What's your point? These systems are not based on that architecture - the fact that they'll run unmodified RH6.1 is proof of that, and the datasheet even states, as if it's a benefit, "industry standard architecture and components."

    The first-generation systems failed precisely because they had those characteristics. SGI was trying to sell a designed peecee. You can't do it. The whole point of the peecee is that it's just like everyone else's. Either you sell a peecee or you sell a workstation. SGI's come to their senses and decided to sell peecees. Sure, the first-generation systems were better; they were also a failure. Those systems were different. These are just blue peecees.

  • >It is not safe to mod sig down.

    Actually, as long as you don't brand him a troll, you are probably ok. ;-)
  • by Performer Guy ( 69820 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @09:07AM (#1072092)
    I'll deal with the Intel/Linux comments first, I don't think you understand the factors involved in SGI's circumstances. To say Intel smoked SGI shows a profound ignorance, or at best trivialization of events. On the Linux issue, SGI would be in a much worse position without Linux. Linux is not a nail in SGI's coffin. It is infact the reverse. Linux is the last hope for the technical community to have a decent functional operating system and for SGI it represents a viable alternative which in future might scale to support architectures like the Origin and meet it's customers needs.

    SGI is at least making a contribution to Linux Open Source, not just riding the wave. SGI's commitment to Linux is not new, this is just the first graphics machine and SGI has been doing a lot of work getting it right, not just slapping a few boards together and using whatever software they can download from the OS community.

    Knowing a fair old bit about graphics I can tell you that your PC won't smoke an Onyx2, and certainly not by 50X. Maybe some day, but not yet, you can't get near the pixel fill rate with the antialiasing you need to beat an Onyx2.
    An Origin2000 has no graphics and the point of that system is it scales well and has memory bandwidth up the wazoo, again you can't get close with a PC.

  • We got a voicemail from someone who was playing with a beta system about a month ago and IIRC it was ~70 fps or so.

    *legal disclaimer*
    I work for SGI, and I haven't played with the system yet, and it was about a month ago.
  • > just wish they weren't following the > propreitary lead of nvidia. Well there's an obvious reason why they are. I know many ex-SGI people. They all say SGI has turned into the worst place to work. Many of them went to work for nvidia. There are certainly fewer people who know anything about 3d left at SGI. They had no choice but to turn to nvidia. It's very sad - they were once *the* coolest company.
  • Maybe some day, but not yet, you can't get near the pixel fill rate with the antialiasing you need to beat an Onyx2.

    And a lot (if not most) of that is the video silicon, not the CPUs.. We've got an orphan Onyx with a 4-board RealityEngine2 in the office and it runs 2 MIPS 4400/166MHz CPUs.. IIRC those are the same as the ones in the Cobalt boxes (Qube, RaQ) or at least the same generation..

    But the video is obscenely cool.. (when will Mesa get the aquarium screensaver? ;)

    Your Working Boy,
  • It's nice to see SGI going ahead with linux solutions, especially if the performance turns out to be what they claim. However, I would like to see some more scalable linux-based systems. I currently develop software on SGI O2s and Octanes. If needed, I could run my exact same software on a 128-processor Onyx2 with 16 Infinite Reality 3 pipes, all without recompiling. Looks like their current best linux system only has two processors and one graphics subsystem. Hopefully that will change with time as SGI's greatest asset right now is actual, true scalability.

    On a side note, is it just me or are their Intel-based systems shipping in rather ugly cases? I've always loved the Indigo, Indigo2, Indy, O2, Octane, and Onyx2/Origin2000 cases... but these new Visual Workstations don't look like anything special. I also like the old "granite" monitors and accessories, never cared much for these new black ones. Ni Modo.
  • According to SGI's page Performer is availible for X86 Linux. It looks to be optimized for the video cards they are using in the boxes. It doesn't give apps but it does provide a API for developing apps.
  • The Beta systems didn't have AGP turned on at that time. We were only talking PCI writes to the hardware. We were definately bus limited with that driver. A couple weeks after Beta shipped, AGP was implemented and we got significantly higher framerates. From there it was a matter of getting AGP 4x, fast writes, etc. working and stabalized and figuring out how to package everything all up.

    The driver we're shipping with is significantly better and faster than what we had with Beta.

    *legal disclaimer*
    I work for SGI, and worked on the drivers for a period of about four months before returning to the Performer group to continue work on mongoose (Performer on Linux).
  • Well, I'll assume your ex-SGI friends were in Graphics. I can see why they might have been a bit irritated as we seem to have de-emphasized graphics, but overall, SGI is a very nice place to work (at least in Eagan at the old Cray place). We all have our own offices in a very nice building and we'll be building 512 processor Linux boxes soon :) In the mean time, we're building 512 processor Irix boxes. It's a very exciting place to work. Yes, I do work there :)
  • ...SGI push and promote these linux systems to universities and design/simulation houses with limited budgets. "Enter the world of real computing at a reduced cost!" Provided they sync up the linux and IRIX versions of Performer and other multimedia APIs, it shouldn't be too hard to do cross platform work. The question that keeps going around in my head right now is "upgrade to a high-end O2, maybe a used octane... or take the plunge and go to SGI linux?". I would really like to be able to easily scale up, be able to run my software on the big iron Onyx2 in our HPCC center.

    Does SGI have any plans to have a uniform set of desktop and media tools (4dwm, Indigo Magic, toolchest, fm, media convert, etc) between their linux and IRIX distributions in the future? What sorts of cross-platform tools and documentation have they been hinting about? I've been spoiled with IRIX 6.5.X and its well made documenation and simple, yet professional appearance. I hope Insight and other IRIX apps make their way to SGI linux, perhaps to be supported and extended on both ends. Slightly-modified KDE or GNOME won't impress me.

    Welcome to a brave new world, SGI. Make us proud.

  • What is inside?
    As you know, i820 screwed, so the market is very good for alternative systems. SGI _may_ have a very bright future.

  • Which reminds me, did Slashdot ever run a story about when they got hacked?

    Yes, they did. []

  • Are these the Quadro chip? Or something else.
  • It does not use the firmware of the 320 with the unified memory architecture and PROM if that's what you mean. It uses a high end OEM PC mother board with AGP 4x support and a BIOS, SGI has done some work with the manufacturer improving the quality & reliability of the mobo.
  • NewTek has already stated that they will *not* port to linux. A/W and RFX (one of thier distributor) keeps getting requests for a linux port and they did already do the renderer. since maya does not need trim support in open GL (it does its own) maya can run on mesa. they would be foolish not to.

    for some reason a/w announced a mac port (to os x i believe) - oh wait!, os X got delayed. i would not be surprised if apple payed them for it. (some rumor about a trade for quicktime 4 or something) as vocal as the mac market is, most of the desktop 3d market (in studios) is still irix and NT with alot of people still wanting to use linux, especially with the recent ports and announcements of new ports. until then its the renderfarm / server (small server) OS. big servers being solaris, irix, etc.

    even then the linux port would be more for studios and the like. they are the ones clamoring for that and actually have clout.

    Apple should just let OS X run ppc linux binaries so people writing linux apps can just compile those. theyll need something like an X server but for apple it shouldnt be that big a deal.

  • by Straker Skunk ( 16970 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @08:36AM (#1072106)
    If you check the site, the entry-level machine is only about $2800. Sure, it's pricey if you compare it to an eMachines, but for an SGI workstation? Where prices usually go north of $6000? These boxes are a bargain!!

    This is part of the new direction SGI has been moving in . . . not only to an open software architecture (Linux) but also to a new level of price-consciousness. Expensive, powerful workstations just don't sell anymore; Nvidia's hardware can make a lowly Dell PC push more pixels than an Octane. So SGI's rolling with that, and is moving toward making the best damn non-outrageously-priced graphics workstations on the market.

    Not to mention the coolest-looking };-)
  • Hey, this seems like they've got a great little piece of hardware here. Now if they would knock a little bit off the price, maybe my poor (or is that cheap) butt will buy one.

    Although, maybe I'm a bit jaded over everybody oohing and awing over the color; hey, I'm colorblind, all that color nonsense is highly overrated.
  • What is the status of Open Inventor? The news keeps on changing; one day it is to be open-sourced, another day it will be scrapped. The article mentions about the introduction of Linux into the 3D world, but there is no mention of Inventor.
    --weenie NT4 user: bite me!
  • Zico, can you produce an affidavit verifying the tripe that you've posted here, or are you just pulling it out of your nose and trying to annoy the other Slashdot readers as usual?

  • sure, but only the moderators who haven't been bitchslapped
  • No, it's blue, see the web site or an optician. I too have seen one.
  • You're not making sense. This system isn't over priced you seem to agree. You're then saying something about other systems which are (in your opinion) over priced, but that doesn't make THIS system over priced.
  • If you want a cool looking case, go to [], they have some awesome cases there. They should have some alternatives for your less atractive cases.
  • I dunno... a cool case and fast graphics card... is that enough of a business plan to keep them afloat in the yet-another-intel-box-running-whatever-OS-you-want market?
  • We're getting a boatload of these at the uni. I work for. I and another guy get to build a lab out of them in the coming weeks. I'll most likely write a review and submit it when we've got everything ready. Til then...

    ---- Ryan
  • Does this thing use the same boot time firmware that SGI's Windows NT systems use?

    If so, then I'd say it's worth the price. Their firmware was nice and had a real understanding of SCSI, could boot off of any drive, and had no stupid 1024 cylinder limit like BIOS systems - like a Sun or Mac.

  • My point is that if I'm going to buy a system from SGI, I'm going to look for the best value. This isn't it. If you look at these products as a part of the SGI line, they provide a lower quality/price ratio. And thus are overpriced. In the peecee marketplace, quality == 0, so the position of these systems among their peers is unordered.
  • Have you even looked at the price of a decent PC? Go configure a decent system at Dell or Gateway and see the price. Unless you're buying a 500MHz Celeron with a 17 inch monitor and crap graphics card you're going to be paying $2-3k easily.
  • SGI ships a box that looks useful to me. Their previous Visual Workstations were ridiculous.

    Proprietary RAM, a slow graphics subsytem that was non-upgradeable and you couldn't run standard NT on it.

    These things are just standard x86 clones in a pretty case. Thats not necessarily a bad thing.

    As evidenced by the success of the iMac, a pretty case more than offsets major bad points like a technically inferior OS. (this does not apply to IRIX)

    The only thing that differentiates this box from a Dell machine or similar is that it has OpenGL drivers for it's video card.

    From what i read, it looks like they implement their OpenGL functionality in hardware on a custom chip which is a very good thing. I just hope NVidia or SGI can sell these into the consumer space, since i am very disappointed with the OpenGL performance of my TNT2.

    I do wonder why SGI are going with Intel CPUs and a crap 32bit PCI bus though. I guess this is sort of necessary to run NT on... surely an EV-6 bus with Athlon or Alpha CPUs would be more in line with the architectural choices made for their MIPS IRIX machines?

  • I would have to disagree with your comment about rendering. We have SGI boxes, but when going to a pure render farm, we chose the INTEL/Linux combo.
    The price vs. time for frame ratio was pretty sweet. Single proc Intel can hold its own against a single proc Octane.
    And in a world where memory is everything, the Linux boxes destroy the Octanes.
    Going with SGI's for proc rendering is not a good way to go. Well... unless you had several procs working on one frame. But if you really need a frame done that fast...

  • I was never too wild about the cases of the Visual Workstations, but then again, they are more PC-like. I personally love the Octane []... nice size, great cooling, awesome expansion, and two disk trays that couldn't be easier to use. Plus it looks quite impressive.

    It's a darn shame they've gotten rid of the "cube" logo on those systems and have replaced it with "silicon graphics octane" spelled out in an ugly font.

  • The cheapest SGI to date was the R5000pc-based O2 from about a year ago. With 64 MB of RAM it listed for $5902 with 17" monitor.

    Better question about these new workstations is the leadtime to delivery. It's not uncommon for an "available now" system to take two weeks to get from SGI's warehouses to FedEx.

  • AS others have said... and I will back up, Maya is out for Linux. We have several nodes in our Linux Render farm, all using Maya's renderer.
    They are still in development (my code, not A|W) and the seem extremely promising.

  • I know that these boxes look expensive when you compare them to a home brew system. They are more expensive than a home brew system. But that home brew system has only you behind it. Only you developing tweaks for your specific layout. Only you to service it and customize it.
    To some of you, that sounds fine, but to the people who need these in a high availabiltiy environment (such as... hmm... a CG Studio) this is an extremely important difference. I have been disapointed with prices that I have seen from SGI before for the current Linux offerings and for the cost of current MIPS boxen. This is the nature of the buisness though... they are going to be expensive.
    What blows my mind is that a company that develops for buisnesses and was (and might still be considered) the leader in high end 3d is creating a product that is priced for the above average home user... and is good enough to use in the studio, where do we have the right to complain?
    The company backing makes up for the price difference. SGI is still a good company with support and R&D. This is the extra that you pay for.
    Not every solution is going to be cheap or free (or even open) but those that have bits and pieces that follow those goals should be applauded.
  • when will Mesa get the aquarium screensaver?
    You mean Atlantis? Check out xscreensaver [].
  • As far as I know, the entry-level O2 is a good deal more expensive than $6000. The old entry R5K system was $5902 for awhile, though I belive the RM5200 system is a few thousand more for the base configuration. Maybe someone can correct me?
  • First of all, a good PC costs more than you'd think, especially after buying a model with enough CPU, adding a good graphics card, a NIC, a real drive, more RAM... get my point? On the other hand, for the price SGI is asking for these new systems, I sure hope they perform... in many different ways.

    As a user of SGI's traditional MIPS processor- and IRIX OS []-based Unix workstations, this latest crop of Visual Workstations has me thinking, "hmmmm". As far as pure specs, even the low end model blows my MIPS R10000-based SGI Indigo2 Maximum Impact right out of the water.It's the software, however, that has me a bit concerned. IRIX may look a bit old fashioned and might not have a list of specs as long as that of a typical modern linux distribution, but it is very well designed, supports its hardware quite nicely, and does the job. I have been spoiled with the Insight online manual viewer, swmgr and inst package managers, and other IRIX tools. I work well and am quite efficient with my SGI. The MIPSPro compilers, ProDev Workshop, Inventor, and Performer weren't cheap but they work well and are very well supported [] with patches and IRIX 6.5.X overlay updates. I have heard the occasional horror story, but problems are rare. SGI is going to have to do a lot of work bringing their linux distribution on par with their current version of IRIX. APIs such as Performer and Inventor will have to be synced up with their IRIX counterparts if they hope to make cross platform development a reality.

    I'm happy to see SGI embrace linux, open source, and lower cost hardware, however I hope the transition is smooth and the high-end market still kept on the radar. There are dozens of low-cost 3D packages for PCs and Macs. No longer does one need an SGI to even consider 3D. It's the sheer scalability of their systems that gives SGI their edge. An application can be developed and tested on a (relatively) low-end O2 [] or the mid-range Octane [] before being deployed and presented on the high end Onyx2 []. All without recompiling. The shared architecture and OS makes SGI's lineup like no other. Currently, it appears SGI's top linux system [] can only be expanded to 2 processors, 2 GB of RAM, and perhaps a future graphics card. Whereas the current Onyx2 supports up to 128 processors, 256 GB RAM, 16 graphics pipes with 4 GB texture RAM total (with InfiniteReality 3 graphics). Not to mention the sheer memory and inter-processor bandwidth as well as the strong, proven hardware support in the OS. All running on the same version of IRIX as that little O2.

    There will always be a low end and a high end. There will always be new and old systems about. I'm happy to see SGI moving ahead with new models, faster processors, and updated graphics for their existing machines. From what I understand, the Octane is due for an update soon and the Onyx2 yet again early next year. SGI's future looks bright, I just hope they make the right marketing and public relations decisions. Going after educational and other growing, expanding markets would be a good move, especially if software discounts are offered in certain situations. I welcome SGI to the world of linux, but caution that they have a lot of work to do on both their software and hardware if they are to provide a full solution or even one that will nicely coexist.

    C'mon SGI, you can do it. (And please dump that silly new logo on your high-end machines).

  • Yeah right... Rendering performance on any SGI system lags way behind what you can achieve with a much cheaper x86/Alpha box.

    Show me a $5000 SGI MIPS machine that outperforms a $2500 generic x86 box for rendering and i'll eat this post.

    Using a cluster of those cheap boxes, you'll be able to render a hell of a lot more frames for a lot less $$$ in the same amount of time than anything SGI can provide.

    MIPS based SGIs are nice for interactive work, but their CPUs just don't have the price/performance to be a viable option down on the render-farm.
  • $6000??? What dream world do you live in? The crappiest O2 is $6k; for any decent system, you'd be looking at $20k easy. Hell, used Octanes start around $6k. Unfortunately, I don't really see these boxes being worth $3k. It's still just a peecee. A peecee with a nice skin and fast graphics, sure, but under the hood it's pretty much the same old XT from 1984. More expensive or not, I'll stick to the machines that have earned the right to have an SGI cube on them. I do hope they continue to make such things.
  • I've fallen off of several lusty boxes, but I've never been hurt. Your advice makes no sense.
  • Metalica are currently recording their answers

    The /. Response album will be in record stores soon at $20 US

  • Because it comes with an automatic cup-holder pre-installed.

  • by Zico ( 14255 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @08:45AM (#1072133)

    why isn't there a story about last weeks DDOS attack?

    wired article on Slashdot getting DOSed. []

    Could be any number of reasons, such as:

    • VA Linux wants to keep it as quiet as possible how easy it is to knock their web properties (e.g., Slashdot) off-line. And we all know how VA Linux hates to see bad news reported by a "news" site that they own. Just like when the stock market was tanking, particularly the Linux stocks, and Slashdot mysteriously didn't have a single word to say about it -- well, not until they got rightfully flamed to a crisp by their readership and caved in to the demands of an article about it.
    • Slashdot just hates admitting it whenever there's a problem in Linux/Apacheland. You see, it makes them look like major fools for constantly and mindlessly bashing the alternatives when they can't get their own stuff to work. (Which reminds me, did Slashdot ever run a story about when they got hacked?)

    Oh well, those are the reasons that come to mind at first blush. There might be others, but either way, don't count on it ever being reported here, despite the fact that it is a big story to readers here. (Anyone want to try to argue that it's not a huge story to the people who actually visit this site? I'd love to hear it.) Of course, Slashdot will probably say that they're in the business of reporting news, not reporting about Slashdot itself -- shortly before they publish their 8th story about Microsoft lawyers sending letters to Slashdot.


In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle