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Silicon Graphics

A Look at IRIX 6.5.17 326

XFS writes "OSNews got their hands on the latest version of IRIX, 6.5.17 (released in August), and they have published an interesting article about it and they explain why IRIX was and still is, one of the best workstation Unices out there. Especially when it comes to multimedia/GL performance. I hope SGI will do something with IRIX though, as they seem to have let it fall behind and be one of these great technologies that get lost through various corporate focus shifts..."
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A Look at IRIX 6.5.17

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  • What about... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sc00ter ( 99550 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:22AM (#4379772) Homepage
    What happened to SGI's big push for Linux?? looking back [slashdot.org] at past SGI stories there's a lot there about Linux work.

    • They'd better hurry up on the said 'push' before they sell any more patents off to 'other' companies.

      Isn't it more a case of gfx/animator studios are buying loads of Intel boxen and slapping Linux on them rather than buying SGI kit (expensive kit I might add), and is working out to be cheaper for the studios?

      • Re:What about... (Score:2, Informative)

        by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        Isn't it more a case of gfx/animator studios are buying loads of Intel boxen and slapping Linux on them rather than buying SGI kit (expensive kit I might add), and is working out to be cheaper for the studios?
        Yes and no. We (sadly) replaced a number of SGI animator computers with Windows 2000k. We tried Linux for the render farm, but at the time Maya did not render, pixel per pixel, the exact same images that Windows would render, and that wasn't acceptable. I don't know what the status of Maya on Linux is now.

        The speed/cost ratio is much better with PCs, even though you need a fairly high end PC in order to run demanding 3D applications.

        I've been arguing in my department that the cost savings don't outweigh the drawbacks of using Windows with demanding applications: blue screens, flakey "drive mapping", license servers that don't work as expected...

        PCs are great for render farms, but I still think the interactive use for the high end 3D applications is better done, and more cost effective, on SGIs. It's not the PC, it's the OS...

        On a side note, we had a recent visit from SoftImage (no longer an MS subsidiary) demonstrating XSI (very cool but expensive application). The person who was demonstrating said they had up to 20% speed improvements on Linux over Windows 2000, although there are certain features in the Windows version not available on the Linux version.

        We use Maya, though, and while Maya is available for Linux, the other tools we use (many Adobe tools, for example) are not. Our render boxes are Windows, for consistency.

        We still use SGI's for a variety of applications that, as the article pointed out, a five year old SGI is still better than a brand new PC. Flame/Inferno compositing, for one, and some real time 3D applications. Also cell animation ink and paint. There are some things the SGI can do as far as video I/O that PCs simply can't do at all. PCs are certainly coming close, though.

    • Thus the poster's comment about hoping sgi doesn't let Irix die. The truth is even Solaris has caught up to Irix in terms of usability, 3d speed, and multimedia-ness unless you get a stack of Onyx machines. And the expense of an Onyx is what is driving Irix towards AIX in terms of market size.
      And we all know IBM is even trying to migrate to Linux over AIX, so why shouldn't SGI with their fewer resources than IBM do the same. And they are.
      But there are enough Irix diehards (Woot!) that SGI can't just drop it in one fell swoop. Plus SGI hardware does not go obsolete even a third as fast as PCs do.
      • Re:What about... (Score:4, Informative)

        by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @09:05AM (#4379925)
        That's funny.

        AIX has more (and growing) marketshare than Irix has had in years. The Power4 and Power5 chip is attracting alot of business away from Sun.

        SGI has been obsolete since 1996. A $2,500 Dell Workstation can do as much as a $25,000 SGI workstation.

        Wake up McFly! It's 2002 calling!
        • IBM is doing fine in the market, and so is Sun (who grew their Unix market share last quarter). This makes any massive migration from Sun to Big Blue unlikely.

          I'm sure that a brand new $2500 Dell Workstation can do many things faster than a 1996 era $25,000 SGI workstation. I highly doubt you have even seen a brand new $25,000 SGI workstation or have any idea what it can do.
          • Both the video cards and cpu's are alot faster. Today's pentium4's are close to 3 gig while the latest irix workstations are at 700mhz. Yes, I know risc is faster but not that much anymore. Maybe %40 at the most. The latest wildcat video cards and the nvidia quado's are many times faster then sgi's fastest.

            The only thing sgi traditionally has is better i/o. However that gap is now closing thanks to better memory and faster bus speeds. Intel is smoking all the benchmarks agaisnt AMD recently because of faster 1066mhz rambus ram and its 533mhz bus!

            If sgi was so fast then why did pixar claim that the latest dell's with redhat were 3x faster and many times cheaper then equilivant sgi's on the market?

            I remember when sgi tried to come out with wintel workstations. They ported the same video technology and it was far behind the quadro's and other high end cards. They failed and costs sgi billions. They are dying. Sgi itself is losing marketshare to Sun, IBM, Linux, and w2k. Infact info world claims MS now owns %50 of the server market. Sun in the late 90's took a very large chunk of their market as well.

            Sgi should focus on the server market and leave the workstation market. All their customers have left mostly to Windows and the rest to Sun and Linux. They need to change their image to a corporate server one and pay erp and mrp software writers to port their apps to irix. They already lost and are dying as we speak. Aren't they like $.80 a share!
      • Re:What about... (Score:3, Insightful)

        The truth is even Solaris has caught up to Irix in terms of usability, 3d speed, and multimedia-ness unless you get a stack of Onyx machines.

        What kind of crack are you smoking? Sun released a new graphics workstation last year that they said could compete with an Octane 2. At the same time SGI released Fuel which roughly doubles performance over Octane 2. At SigGraph Sun was showing an in-development high end graphics targetted at InfiniteReality3. SGI released at the show InfiniteReality4 and also backed it up with 128p (on the show floor). Sun has not caught up.
      • I preface this with the fact that I haven't worked with Solaris 9 yet.

        If you want to do a custom installation of the OS, Sun's OS installer for version 8 IS HORRIBLE. I changed jobs three years ago, and I moved from a predominantly SGI environment to one that's predominantly Solaris.

        The OS installation tools for IRIX three years ago still are BETTER than what Sun currently offers up in Solaris 8 TODAY. What's there is putrid and annoying. The IRIX installation allowed you to select packages based on package names and wildcarding, whereas Sun uses a number-based scheme, and the numbers change from monthly release to monthly release. IT SUCKS!!!!!!

        We do a lot of customized OS installations (the most minimal core OS, plus some additional packages) for security reasons, and we don't have enough common system types to make the Solaris automated installation worthwhile.

        I wish Solaris would join the 21st century in this regard.
  • Oh my god (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:24AM (#4379781)
    And now we get all these posts from guys who know a bit of Linux who think they know *NIX because they post on slashdot.

  • by qurob ( 543434 )

    That they haven't gone with a Windows XP interface!

    Kudos to SGI!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:27AM (#4379793)
    I think it is pretty interesting that the benchmark that they used measured memory throughput of the graphics CPU, as opposed to, say, an actual workload-handling of the OS. In other words, this is a synthetic benchmark, versus a real-world benchmark. They say, "Look! We can do memory transfers really really fast!"

    Unfortunately, memory transfers are not the world when it comes to multiprocessor multimedia boxes. The overhead comes in when you're trying to synchronize a large number of threads/CPUs to do a large task. For example, an Oracle database.

    Sun has proven that it scales up the tree very well with large numbers of processors. But from my understanding, Linux is more efficient with a low processor count, and less and less efficient with more processors.

    I question its ability to do anything with a real workload. And I've even more suspicious because they use a benchmark I've never heard of to push its superiority on a single-aspect synthetic benchmark.

    • Uh, I do a bit of 3d, but only just enought to be intelligently stupid about it...but I don't use Oracle databases for my asset management...I couldn't care less what a database did on my CG box...memory transfers however is exactly what I would want to be fast.

      And syncing large numbers of threads/cpu's, well, that is handy when doing a distributed render, but remember here: Irix is NOT Linux...just as linux is not unix :)

      Anyway, I'd say they used the correct benchmark...especially for a workstation running a 3d app.

      But as I said, IANA3DExpert...
    • Why would you use an SGI machine for running an Oracle database anyhow? Of course memory throughput isn't going to be as essential to running a database as thread/process management.

      It's like saying my Miata is horrible for towing the boat. It's not made for that.

      (*disclaimer -- I don't actually drive a Miata)

    • by fgodfrey ( 116175 ) <fgodfrey@bigw.org> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:45AM (#4380781) Homepage
      Uh, SGI sells more than multimedia workstations. They sell 1024 processor supercomputers too and memory bandwidth *IS* the world in high performance computing. That's why supercomputers like high end SGI's and Cray's can still beat the crap out of a cluster on a number of applications. That said, Irix is also quite good at scaling up to large processor counts. If you can find me another example of a single kernel OS that scales to 1024 processors, I'd be quite shocked. The only SSI OS on that scale that I can think of is Unicos/mk (the Cray T3E operating system).


      I do, however, agree that benchmarks are often quite useless. The way it any machine performs is highly dependant on what mix of jobs/applications you plan to run on it.

    • "I think it is pretty interesting that the benchmark that they used measured memory throughput of the graphics CPU.... The overhead comes in when you're trying to synchronize a large number of threads/CPUs to do a large task. For example, an Oracle database."
      Are you aware of the primary functions at which SGI workstations are supposed to excel? Do you know anything of their reputation as graphics workhorses? Can you tell me why an SGI workstation's performance at handling an Oracle database is relevant to this discussion, and why such a benchmark would be at all useful for those who are most likely to utilize such a workstation for its stated intended purpose?

      Indeed, I find it very interesting that they would use a benchmark that measures memory bandwidth through the graphics subsystem of a graphics workstation. It tells me what I need to know about what the system needs to do.

      "And I've even more suspicious because they use a benchmark I've never heard of to push its superiority on a single-aspect synthetic benchmark."
      "There are a million things that you don't know. That doesn't make them secrets."
      - R.B. Fairchild
  • Hmmmmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:29AM (#4379803)
    One of the most innovating things about the IRIX in the '90s were the vector icons it uses for its desktop and file/icon managers. IRIX had vector support by default in its desktop long before MacOSX ever existed.

    Not sure what this is implying, but it seems to be a surprisingly common misconception that MacOSX has vector based artwork. Not so. GNOME can do, and I think KDE3.1 can as well, via SVG. MacOS icons though are just bitmaps in a variety of sizes, with some scaling/blending algorithms applied.

    The SGI desktop is of course based on a heavily modified commercial X Server. And here I will stop for a second, get a big breath and say: 'wow'. I have never seen an X server being so fast, on a 5-year old machine (no matter if this is an SGI machine or not).

    I'd kind of expect this given that IRIX comes as a bundle with the hardware. When you choose the hardware as well as the software you can of course optimize the drivers a lot, so you will get good speeds out of it. XFree has to deal with a lot of different hardware, and the driver manufacturers are sometimes less than helpful. Probably worth remember that IRIX won't have some of the newer X extensions like XRender.

    • One of the most innovating things about the IRIX in the '90s were the vector icons it uses for its desktop and file/icon managers. IRIX had vector support by default in its desktop long before MacOSX ever existed.

      Someone with a deeper background than I have should check this out, but my recollection is that vector support was implemented in NexTStep quite early in the 1990's in the form of its spiffy display postscript rendering system. Due to a licensing rights tussle between Adobe and Apple, Mac OS X uses disply .pdf instead (which is still vectoring based display system.) Therefore, in this regard, IRIX is/was not that revolutionary, and a lot of Mac OS X existed at that time in the form of NexTStep.

      Incidentally, the careful eye will note a lot of similarities between IRIX and NexTStep in their interfaces.
      • Re:Hmmmmm (Score:3, Informative)

        by spitzak ( 4019 )
        NeXT (I programmed these things in the 1980's) certainly supported drawing using PostScript paths, but all "icons" were tiff files. In fact they added a special tag to tiff to represent their 2-bit gray screen.

        Until recently vector-based icons were way too slow. Except for the Irix ones, which were neceessarily quite simple. This simplicity did add to their appeal I think, though they never really put some good graphics designers on it.

        KDE and Gnome and OS/X all render the vectors into pixmaps and then blast the pixmaps on the screen. OS/X certainly supports pixmaps and all the icons that appear to be airbrushed are bitmaps. They scale quickly and nicely because they have them carefully rendered at several resolutions and use mipmapping (the same technique your fancy graphics card uses for textures when it is in it's highest-quality mode) to scale.

        Ignoring the drawing speed vector icons are much more efficient and take far less memory. In fact the earliest icons could be considered vector-based, they were drawn on vector screens by machines where 8K of memory was expensive.

    • Not sure what this is implying, but it seems to be a surprisingly common misconception that MacOSX has vector based artwork. Not so. GNOME can do, and I think KDE3.1 can as well, via SVG. MacOS icons though are just bitmaps in a variety of sizes, with some scaling/blending algorithms applied.
      Actually, Apple had built support for QuickTime vector graphics [apple.com] even in Mac OS 9. I guess it depends on whether you consider QuickTime an integral part of the Mac OS.

      Otherwise, though, you're wrong that Mac OS X doesn't support vector graphics. It does, [apple.com] as part of the Quartz graphics subsystem.

    • Re:Hmmmmm (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jamie Zawinski ( 775 )
      The SGI desktop is of course based on a heavily modified commercial X Server. And here I will stop for a second, get a big breath and say: 'wow'. I have never seen an X server being so fast, on a 5-year old machine (no matter if this is an SGI machine or not).

      I'd kind of expect this given that IRIX comes as a bundle with the hardware. When you choose the hardware as well as the software you can of course optimize the drivers a lot, so you will get good speeds out of it. XFree has to deal with a lot of different hardware, and the driver manufacturers are sometimes less than helpful.

      That's an interesting theory, but it is easily refuted with one word: Solaris.

      Sun has all those advantaged you mentioned, and their X server has consistently been the biggest piece of garbage to bear the name.

      The fact is, SGI's X server is just really, really good. Don't minimize their accomplishment by assigning credit to captive hardware: it's really high quality software, plain and simple. In 8+ years of using it, I saw an Xlib client bring down the server maybe twice. That's pretty much an hourly occurence with a Sun server, until you learn what not to do.

      Of course, some of the credit goes to SGI's graphics hardware, which has always been great.

      For example, it is still impossible to find a combination of hardware and software for Linux that will let you mix visuals of multiple depths on the same screen (e.g., having one window be 24 bit TrueColor, and two others be 8-bit PseudoColor with different simultaniously installed colormaps) while still having acceleration turned on. (I need to do this kind of thing to properly debug various xscreensaver [jwz.org] configurations.)

      Since I switched from my SGI O2 to a Linux machine, I've been solving this problem by having two monitors, one running in 24 bit and one in 8 bit, and it's hard enough even getting that to work without crashing at random every couple of days. Unless I turn off acceleration, which makes my dual-1600MHz vintage-2002 Linux box do graphics at half the speed as my 200MHz vintage-1996 SGI O2.

      SGI's X server rocks. I miss it dearly.

      • I didn't really mean to pooh pooh what the SGI team had done, though as I've never used their X server I can and will take your word for it that it's very good.

        However just because Solaris has good hardware integration and a bad X server doesn't mean SGI don't get an advantage from matching hardware with software. They just focus on different areas: Solaris can do stuff like hotswapping CPUs at runtime (i think), so they concentrated mainly on high end server stuff. The advantages they get from hardware/software integration aren't graphical, they're server based. SGI just chose to focus a lot on their X server, which is definately cool, but considering the challenges the XFree team face I think they do a pretty good job too.

        Oh and finally, XScreensaver rocks, I love it and use it all the time :) Though I think it could do with fewer mathematical savers and more eyecandy ones, like atlantis (my favourite).

  • by qurob ( 543434 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:32AM (#4379808) Homepage
    SGI was very kind to send us in this dual Octane 2x195 Mhz MIPS machine accompanied with a 24" SGI-branded Trinitron monitor.

    Otherwise, they would have had to shell out a whole $799.00 on eBay [ebay.com] for one.

    What did SGI do, pull one from the junk bin?

    They should have sent some relatively modern hardware....

    • You are aware of the difference between an Octane and an Octane 2? It's not just the little number. Although I'm not entirely certain on the specifics, I believe the Octane 2's bus architecture is significantly faster, and I'm almost certain that it would have been sent to these guys with a bit better graphics than the SSI.

      However, given all the '5 years ago' references in the article, I wouldn't be surprised if they just screwed up and wrote Octane 2 where they just meant Octane. They sure didn't mix any system specifics in among all those incorrectly-used make-me-look-smarter words, like 'whilst'. Damn, do I hate people who don't use one-syllable words correctly.
  • I went to SUNY-Fredonia [http] and they had about 16 SGI O2's with IRIX running on them in the CompSci. lab. The machines looked pretty slick and they seemed like they'd be fun to use, but none of the faculty ever bothered to show us how to use them. (Or, for that matter, why we should use them when we had boatloads of Windows machines to do our work on.) A year after I graduated (in 2000), they were shoved in a storage closet somewhere to make room for more x86 machines running Windows (How ironic!)

    (Sigh) What a waste...
  • by Highly Motivated Ano ( 10476 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:35AM (#4379822) Homepage
    What exactly do you want SGI to do with IRIX? Put it in a box, shrinkwrap it, and make it run your overclocked AMD chip-of-the-week? Probably won't happen.

    Since IRIX 6.5, SGI has continued its promise to release quarterly updates. Each release introduces changes to the feature and maintenance stream.

    I guess I'm confused as to what your hopes for IRIX are.

    I haven't read the OSNEWS.com article yet, but I hope it isn't one of those "OS review" articles where they look at the installer and give it a rating.

    -David
  • IRIX is doomed. SGI needs to compete against the movement to replace expensive high end workstations with economical Intel based Linux clusters. Ask Lucas, they dumped a bunch of SGI opting for Linux. It's basic economics.
  • ... being completely unsuitable for 3D work ...

    I'm not saying X can't be improved for the sort of things we want now out a display protocol that we didn't know we'd want 10 years ago, but you can still get excellent performance from it if you know what you're doing, and you try.

    T
  • IRIX Machines are huge in scientific computing.

    However, since SGI announced that they wouldn't support IRIX anymore, everyone has concluded that they need to shift over to Linux machines.

    Most people I know buy Dell machines. The cost savings is actually less of a concern for scientists (although it is an issue,) than keeping up with the state of the art.

    If SGI released their IRIX source code, that would do a lot to help them recover their scientific market share; scientists would pay the extra money for SGI hardware if they aren't worried that support for the OS is going to evaporate entirely, and a Linux distro with lots of SGI-specific code imported from IRIX ought to fit that bill nicely. I'm a biologist, though, so maybe I'm missing something.
    • by lovebyte ( 81275 ) <lovebyte2000@gma i l .com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @09:01AM (#4379905) Homepage
      True, SGI is huge in scientific computing. But about 3 years ago, many scientific computing groups decided to stop using SGI (because SGI MIPS where not so fast, were too expensive and SGI itself seemed to be about to die) and move to Compaq alpha chips (for many applications they were the fastest chips, and by far). Ah! The same people are now puzzled about what to do or have gone to using Linux clusters.
    • SGI have announced that they're not supporting IRIX ??!?!? Since when ? Please provide a link to your source of information. And why should any company release for free the source code of their product ? They've put many years of effort into IRIX why should they release it to the great unwashed masses ? All (!) SGI have to do is get a good entry level system back into their range of workstations and price it to attract. Linux is OK but it always lives in BETA or ALPHA versions of everything, people start projects then give up when it gets to the boring bits like documentation or bug fixing, this is where "proper" commercial software wins, it's supported by people whose only job is to support that bit of software and things are documented so that if the lead programmer gets run over by a bus the project can continue. Regards Mark
      • I believe that at about the time they proposed going to Windows NT systems, they produced a road map that had them pulling out of MIPS processors entirely, and phasing out Irix.

        I love Irix, although I've switched most of my computing over to MacOS X nowadays. Irix does desperately need updating, but if you need X-Windows, Irix is by far the coolest implementation of same.

        I'd like to see something a bit more up to date, at least with thinner window borders and a close-box. But compared to Linux as I've seen it, it does have first-rate usability. Compared to MacOS X, though, it's dropped way behind.

        D
    • However, since SGI announced that they wouldn't support IRIX anymore, everyone has concluded that they need to shift over to Linux machines.

      false. sgi does and will continue to support irix, virtually forever. period. ask them if you don't believe me. or, even better, back up your claim with a press release, web page on sgi's site, etc. you will not find either, anywhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "IRIX Machines are huge in scientific computing."

      Well, they used to be, but are fading fast. At least in my area (Space systems operations, simulation & analysis).

      Why?
      - Their floating point performance sucks.
      - PC graphics performance is now good enough for most applications.
      - They are hugely expensive

      2 years ago I ported a large astrodynamics simulation from Irix to Linux. Had a brand new Octane and a brand new dual PIII 700MHz running Redhat. I don't remember what chips the Octane had, but they were the best available at the time. And the Octane had twice the RAM.

      This very floating point intensive simulation ran about 3x faster on the PC which cost about 10x less ($3K vs. ~$30K).

      My boss just asked me if we should buy a service agreement for one of our older Octanes. $5K/year. I told him no. If it dies, we'll spend half that to upgrade to a faster Linux box.

      Don't get me wrong. If you need the kind of huge bandwidth and massive multi-processing that higher end SGI's can give you, there is no question that SGI rocks. But at the workstation level, forget it.

      And, FWIW, IRIX is absolutely the least stable Unix I've ever worked with. And I've worked with a few.
    • However, since SGI announced that they wouldn't support IRIX anymore, everyone has concluded that they need to shift over to Linux machines.
      I must have missed that announcement. I do recall SGI announcing that they would not port IRIX to IA32 or IA64 -- instead they're using Windows or Linux. Somehow, people keep interpreting that as "abandoning IRIX", but SGI can't do that as long as they keep selling MIPS-based systems.
  • by Antity ( 214405 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:41AM (#4379840) Homepage

    If there only was some kind of free (as in beer, please don't stop reading, this is not supposed to start a flamewar :-)) IRIX distribution, maybe slimmed-down, so at least more people could get hands on it and actually try it out.

    I mean: Many of us have read lots about IRIX, how it works neatly for graphics workstations etcpp., but how many of you actually were able to try it out?

    IRIX could gain a huge boost in popularity if people could "try it at home" on cheap x86 hardware and then - maybe - convince people at work to buy it if it is ok for the job. Even a 30-day evaluation copy would be great.

    IMHO, it was a great idea of Sun to give away SunOS/x86 for free for personal use. So I had the possibility of fiddling around with it at home and improve my work with Solaris at work.

    Anyone out there providing ssh'd remote X access to an IRIX box so one could have a look?

    • Anyone out there providing ssh'd remote X access to an IRIX box so one could have a look?


      that won't do you any good. most of the GL stuff won't display back because of library incompatabilities. You also lack the groovy hardware to work the X magic.


      We have lots of IRIX machines where I work (a computer animation studio). For interactive use, you can't beat the cheaper x86 based hardware, be it running Windows or Linux. We are going to be moving from IRIX to Linux because the machines cost too much and the support contracts are a nightmare of expense. The faster interactive work doesn't hurt the cause either.

    • You're an idiot (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      IRIX could gain a huge boost in popularity if people could "try it at home" on cheap x86 hardware

      So you think that SGI should spend huge amounts of money and development time porting IRIX to x86, and then give it away free, simply so that you can "try it out at home"?

      Are you aware of the fact that IRIX does not run on x86 hardware? Are you aware of the fact that SGI will be moving to Linux on IA-64 in the future, rather than attempting to port IRIX to the IA-64? Do you, in fact, have any idea of how much work it would be to port IRIX to anything other than MIPS?

      No? Didn't think so.
      • First: Many thanks for choosing such an appropriate Subject for your reply. Philosopher, uh?

        So you think that SGI should spend huge amounts of money and development time porting IRIX to x86, and then give it away free, simply so that you can "try it out at home"?

        Yes. But you don't seem to understand what "try it out at home" means. It would be quite a boost for the amount of people that know about the OS.

        One reason that many people know how to use/program/manage Linux by now is not that it is Open Source. It's because they can get it cheap and fiddle around with it at home. This enlarges the market for Linux admins, programmers, ... You name it.

        Are you aware of the fact that IRIX does not run on x86 hardware?

        Sure. And I was also sure that this was a widely-known fact.

        Are you aware of the fact that SGI will be moving to Linux on IA-64 in the future, rather than attempting to port IRIX to the IA-64?

        Yes. Although I think that IA-64 will not be that important at all. There's no need for graphics workstations to run on 64 bit CPUs at all. 64bit file I/O can be done nicely with any 32 bit CPU. I can't think of any other applications of 64 bit CPUs there.

        Do you, in fact, have any idea of how much work it would be to port IRIX to anything other than MIPS?

        Seriously, I don't care. I was pointing out that offering a cheap evaluation copy of IRIX for cheap hardware could boost sales for IRIX powered equipment quite a bit. I was not suggesting that this should be done even if their departments don't have the money to do it.

        There's a difference between "What would be a good thing we could do to help our product?" and "Are we able to fund it?", as you might as well know. But there's no reason not to point it out.

        No? Didn't think so.

        Please excuse if I won't comment on that.

        • Do you, in fact, have any idea of how much work it would be to port IRIX to anything other than MIPS?

          Seriously, I don't care. I was pointing out that offering a cheap evaluation copy of IRIX for cheap hardware could boost sales for IRIX powered equipment quite a bit. I was not suggesting that this should be done even if their departments don't have the money to do it.


          So you think SGI, a company who does nothing but bleed money, should drop what they're doing and pay a dozen or so programmers' salaries for a year or two to get a semi-working version of IRIX for "cheap [x86] hardware" simply because you think it might boost sales of machines whose base price is about $6000?

          You're either an idiot or you're on crack.

          - A.P.
        • One reason that many people know how to use/program/manage Linux by now is not that it is Open Source.

          How do you know this? If Linux was not open source, kernel development and source auditing by programmers around the world would not be possible.

          Really, if you ask alot of the early kernel developers, I think that they would tell you that the reason that linux is so popular today is that it is completely open source. If Linux was made closed source, IMHO the project would have never left the stack of floppies on Linus' desk.

          If open source does not matter, then why isn't everyone using Sun's free version of Solaris X86? Solaris is a fine, enterprise-quality OS, but the free version does not have the popularity that Linux enjoys. If you are correct about giving software away for free, then why arent there more stories on /. about Solaris x86?
          • Leaving out pirated copies (Windows and Visual C++ anyone?), you get more people that learn and program for an OS if it is free (as in beer). Just because they can get it for free and give it a try. Even more people are willing to work with an OS that is free AND OpenSource.

            You're right that Linux is as popular as it is because it's OpenSource. No doubt about it. But MANY people I know just don't care about it being OpenSource. This is maybe the second thought. They're switching because it's free as in beer.

            AmigaOS cost money but came bundled with the computer. Windows... let's say the same. BeOS used to cost money; then it went free for evaluation/personal use. SunOS/x86 the same. Linux is free and even comes with a compiler and development tools.

            SunOS/x86 is free (beer), Linux is free/free. Sure. So most choosing a Unix-like OS will go straight to Linux because of the additional free (speech) and coolness benefit. (Solaris, on the other hand, gets a boost for free because most programs written for Linux will run on it as well.)

            Apart from the hardware IRIX usually runs on, the only obvious benefit - compared to Linux - appears to me to be the nice desktop and integrated GL support. I'm trying to point out that only a few people will ever experience these features because you already have to own it to try it. Of course it would cost a bunch of money to make an x86 evaluation available. But what's wrong with the idea?

            My original posting seems to polarize: "Troll=2, Insightful=2, Interesting=1, Total=5". Well... this really wasn't in any way supposed to be trolling and still ain't. IMHO trolling would have been something like "Ha! Those bastards will never sell their OS until it is available for free!!!1".

    • There'd need to an x86 IRIX first, and that would take some time and money to develop. And giving it away free simply to promote it doesn't really sound like a good strategy for SGI. If I remember correctly, SGI is facing hard times these days during the slump of the tech sector. Hollywood's growing usage of Linux clusters for rendering isn't helping either.

      SGI machines are simply too expensive to be a commodity machine, and anyone who buys one already has some application or requirement that made the purchase necessary (not simply because he thought it was sort of fun to play with the free x86 version).

      • There'd need to an x86 IRIX first, and that would take some time and money to develop.

        There was an in house port of IRIX to x86 a few years ago. However, this project was abandoned when SGI decided to go the Linux route on commodity hardware. Since then, Linux has been the OS of choice even on their IA64 based NUMA machine. AFAIK, there has never been a port of IRIX to IA64.

    • "Anyone out there providing ssh'd remote X access to an IRIX box so one could have a look?"

      Yeah any scientific intitution still running last year's IRIX.

      Seriously though IRIX is very tied to the hardware and by the time they ported it to x86 they would have a mostly new OS.

      SGI wants to go x86 but the best way for them seems to be just having their own engineers port the best IRIX features to Linux. SGI is still active on linux-kernel so they havn't changed their minds yet.

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:42AM (#4379842)
    Recipe for technology article:
    1 paragraph fluff
    1 paragraph spin
    1/2 cup FUD

    Mix in HTML editor.
    Publish.

    Seriously, this article is light on details, and filled with inane comments like "the OS looks dated". While there were some good comments, half of the time it was gushing over the X server, or cheering over the fact that the author can run XMMS. What about performance? Applications? Hardware compatibility/expandibility? Talk to us about the box - does SGI/IRIX know about USB, for instance? FireWire?

    Details please..
    • usb and firewire (Score:3, Interesting)

      by green pizza ( 159161 )
      The newest SGIs support USB and a few (maybe just O3K?) have firewire. On the big iron, USB has been a *really* nice upgrade from PS/2, especially on machines configured with multiple graphics pipes and multiple users. Rather than installing extra BaseIO modules for additional PS/2 hookups for additional users, you can now just plug in as many keys/mice as you'd like, bind each set to a certain number of graphics pipes. Helps us keep our Onyx 3800 flexible... most of the time it's running each of its three graphics pipes seperately... we have a config that'll drive three sets of keys/mice for three users, one graphics pipe driving two monitors per user. But when we need the power, we have one user driving all three pipes on a single multi-projector panoram screen. It's not totally plug and play, but it's a lot easier than it used to be.
    • Eugena who runs the website is really into interface design. The reviews always tend to be primarily about look and feel.

      As for the rest of your hardware compatability you may be failing to understand that Irix is an in house OS. It supports the hardware you get from SGI, its not an open platform.
  • In other SGI news: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sn4xx0r ( 613157 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:45AM (#4379850) Homepage
    They just hired Jon "maddog" Hall [lwn.net] to 'help SGI to sponsor and encourage a community-based "Extreme Linux" movement around SGI's NUMAFlex architecture.'
  • by Diabolical ( 2110 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:48AM (#4379869) Homepage
    This is a fine example that X11 is a good graphics-server.

    Although alot of X11 bashing has been going on IRIX shows us that X11 is actually a very viable and capable graphics-server and certainly gives the finger to all those X11 implementations which have been done BAD.

    So please, next time you go and blame your sucky graphics on X11, take a good look at the implementation of it in your system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:53AM (#4379891)
    Simple fact: Irix is elegant. The 4DWM is far superior to almost anything that you can put on linux ( poor 5DWM project went away.. it was the salvation) For the end user 4DWM was simple, uncomplicated, and most of all fast.. I personally have several IRIX boxen that I wouldn't trade in for anything. The installation of free software http://freeware.sgi.com couldn't be made easier. recompiling the kernel ( one command) and the fact that when I stick in a second display sub-system it automatically sets it up for me. True the machines are starting to show wear and age, and for the most current hardware you are paing a fortune, but if you NEED a ferrari you pay for a ferrari, you don't take a Yugo ( PC) and stick a ferrari logo on it... There is the whole fact that IRIX is expensive, but you do pay for what you get. I can effectively use a R4000 or R4400 with the latest version of IRIX, and it runs just fine. Try that with a stock install of Linux on a machine that is 6 or 7 years old, you won't be happy.
  • by nutznboltz ( 473437 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @09:06AM (#4379927) Homepage Journal
    What killed SGI for us was their hideous treatment of customers. We had some SGI boxes with 10-Base T as web servers in the past. When we went to look at a 100-Base T card we discovered that all SGI wanted to do was to sell us new boxes. They priced then network card around $6000.
    • Well, i dont blame them. The 100mbit cards for the machines that didn't ship with 10/100 were expensive and SHITTY. For instance, for the indigo2, you could get an EISA phobos ethernet card which is basically a 3c597 with a different rom. This was spendy and you would never saturate the 100mbit card and it would generate a crapload of interrupts (slam cpu utilization).

      Similar story for SGI Indy/Challenge S. The 100mbit workstation cards were 3rd party, spendy, and not so hot.

      you could get SGI labeled 100mbit cards for the VME boxes (Challenge DM, for isntance) that worked pretty well.

  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @09:10AM (#4379949) Homepage Journal
    I read the article, but didn't bother to submit a story to /. because I found the article quite bad. IRIX may be quite good, but the author is all enthusiastic about features that I wouldn't think great wins myself. OK, you might dismiss this as a difference in taste, but I still think the author could look around a little more.

    ``The Guest account has quite some privillages by default, I was even able to install software, for example some KDE libraries and applications, so it was good enough to keep me going.''
    It sounds like the author applauds this. Think about it, though. Would you really have Natalie Netuser log in to your box and have her install her own software? Apart from the security issues (which might not be there...I don't know exactly what kind of software you can or can't install), I think you'd better order that new hard drive already.

    ``The great thing about IRIX is that a lot of open source applications have been ported over to the proprierty X11 of IRIX''
    Right. So IRIX is great because it can run all those open source apps that were developed with Linux and BSD in mind? OK, this might make IRIX better than some other proprietary OSen, but that doesn't necessarily make it great.

    ``X just works''
    Yes, and so it would on Linux if the OS came preinstalled and tailored to the machine you ordered. That's not a feature of IRIX, it's the logical result of writing software for specific hardware (which, IMHO, shouldn't be necessary - standards should take care of that).

    ``Because there is one IRIX, one company behind it, and very specific versions, there are virtually no dependancy problems. Installations just work.''
    Because there is one RedHat Linux | Windows | Mac OS, one monopoly behind it, ...
    I mean, this sort of Just Works (WOW) goes against flexibility and freedom of choice. I don't know about IRIX, but I know that RedHat's packaging system gets confused when you install software via other means. Windows is a disaster (install from _what_ source?), and Apple is getting it right with OS X. ports rules!

    ``The window manager included on IRIX is the 4Dwm, while the toolkit used is the king of the Unix toolkits, Motif.''
    I don't like 4Dwm, but I can see why others would. But Motif the king of Unix toolkits? Come on, speak for yourself, man. I don't even have Motif installed. All apps I use are either console or GTK, and there are a number of apps that would be cool to have, but not really worth installing Qt for. Motif _was_ king, yes, but it's reign is over.

    ---
    Timeout error: Operator fell asleep while waiting for NT to complete boot sequence
  • by Montressor ( 34631 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @09:24AM (#4380008)
    IRIX might have enterprise-level performance, but it suffers enormously in the usability department. I work in a lab where IRIX is standard, because 64-bit memory addressing and extreme graphics performance using ImageVision is a must. However, I keep running into issues with the development tools. Most impotantly, SGI's cc (c compiler) is slow and hard to customize flags on, especially for debugging. Furthermore, frequently, if my program commits a memory fault, it receives a SIGKILL rather than a segfault which makes it very difficult to debug (this usually happens if the malloc pool gets corrupted or while using ImageVision).

    The ImageVision library (an OpenGL-based image processing system) hsa great performance and features. However, it refuses to link with programs not built with cc (thus, no gcc!). Furthermore, programs that seem to follow spec mysteriously die with a SIGKILL during deallocation. I certainly realise that I might be doing something wrong in the way I call the library, but it does not provide any error
    message, exception, or fault.

    Finally, IRIX standard header files are a colossal mess and almost impossible to use. Standard C and C++ objects are casually redefined throughout the header structure.
  • Vector based graphics -- indeed they beat OS X to it. And how...nice...that desktop looks. Hrmmmmm. Umm--it seems more vanilla basic than even Windows 95.

    I'll stick with OS X. Hell, it's father NEXTSTEP was out in '88 and had a slicker interface....

    blakespot
  • by BurritoWarrior ( 90481 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @09:53AM (#4380160)
    All of her (his? its?) articles are completely myopic, focusing on "how nice/useable" is this as a desktop.

    Evaluating Irix on its UI alone is completely useless.
  • I'm running Irix 6.5.16 at home on my Indy, and I also installed the build of Gnome that SGI has made for Irix (because I HATE 4dwm!)

    I just wish that SGI would make an up2date/Red Carpet like system for Irix, especially for the Gnome stuff - in the build I have, things like the pager applet don't work (which is a BIG pain - no virtual desktops!).

    Also, supposedly Irix now supports IMP/S2 style mice (i.e. with a wheel) - but I have not been able to get it working on my system.

    I'd put Linux on my Indy in a heartbeat IF the support for all the A/V systems was there....
  • who will never have the chance to use an SGI, you are missing out. We recently(6 mos) received new octane 2s at work to run a high end modeler on( Alias|wavefronts studiotools). using it on a $30,000 SGI is lightyears ahead of using it on a dual proc dell with a fire gl card. the dual mips r1400's put pc chips to shame. they only run at like 300mhz, but GOD DAMN!

    so all of you fan boys who say "oh my $900 dollar linux boxen is as good" can shut the hell up cause you have obviously never layed your hands on a real workstation.

    if i could afford the price tag, there would be no way that i would even consider buying a mac or a pc, i would go straight to SGI, and im seriously thinking about taking out a loan for an SGI fuel.

    but anyways, relevent links are here
    sgi octane 2 [sgi.com]
    sgi fuel [sgi.com]
    studiotools [aliaswavefront.com]

  • Regular Expressions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @10:11AM (#4380270)
    Why can't we mod submissions? That article needs a -1, Redundant.

    It seems to me the author was just recently awakened from a deep cryogenic sleep. The amount of suprise over the "features" Irix has is really intriguing. First there is the shock over a Unix system running software developed to run on Unix systems and Unix work-alikes. It isn't like Irix magically runs some plethora of Amiga apps that have been in hiding since the late 80s, it is running Unix software. Next comes the quite unpexected revelation that Irix performs really well on SGI hardware. Really? SGI dictated the placement of every part in that Octane, I would certainly hope everything from the X server to the SCSI drivers would be polished and tailored to fit the hardware. To the author's credit the article is being read by people that just recently learned Linux wasn't an Outlook virus. I suppose some people in the audience might be unaware Irix is a pretty decent workstation OS, one that Linux has just recently begun to catch up to.

    It's a shame SGI has pretty much gone down the tube in the past five years. I became a fan of SGI when I used some O2 workstations for video work, the raw speed of those puppies blew me away. Going from those to some PowerMac 8500s was quite sobering. Then I watched SGI take a swan dive into a shallow puddle. The Pentium Pro coupled with Windows NT 4 started to chip at traditional Unix workstation markets. SGI did very little to my knowlege to reverse NT's influx into their markets. Instead they just stagnated hoping that their dominance in OpenGL graphics would entice their wayward customers back. Then they went and bought into NT based workstations! After Jim Clark left SGI basically hit hard times and went from fad to fad to fad. While its cool Linux is getting many of their technologies, all Linux support is really doing is eroding SGI's relavance to the market.

    Irix for a long time was a superior workstation OS to other competing Unicies like SunOS, HP-UX, and Digital UNIX. That is just my opinion and it may be biased because I had much more exposure to Irix but it is still a sweet workstation. The software/hardware integration was top notch and I'm sure that is part of why it became so popular with research folks. The multimedia capabilities even years ago were excellent. The first "multimedia" PCs were a far cry from a multimedia Irix system. Had SGI not decided to shift their focus every ten minutes as to what market they wanted to go after during the buy craze of the internet bubble they could have been a real contender. Resting on graphics workstation laurels doesn't sell you anywhere but the graphics workstation market. Ask Mike Sculley what happens when your computers are seen as graphics machines with little other use. Macs STILL have that stigma today. Oh well. At least Rob has kept the old SGI logo.
  • by beanerspace ( 443710 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @10:25AM (#4380347) Homepage
    Here's an article [healyourch...ebsite.com] I found of a full-length animation that will be released tomorrow, appearently using Irix and Maya/Wavefront. Considering Shrek was rendered in Linux [slashdot.org], is the O/S as much of an issue as the throughput of the iron housing the app? If not, then is Irix still a better weapon of choice for animated films than Linux? Or better to use some combination thereof?
  • How can I watch movies on IRIX? Which formats? What about nonlinear video editing?
  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:14PM (#4381049)
    Minor quibble, but it mentions it's different than Linux because it's UCB BSD based. It's not (well, it is up to teh point that SVR4 took a lot of BSDisms) but it's SVR4 machine. Linux distros generally take a bit from classic BSD, a bit from SVR4, and a bit of whatevehell else they want, so they're all a bit different.
  • 'This is a Unix system. I know this.'
  • sinking ship (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JDizzy ( 85499 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @02:06PM (#4382104) Homepage Journal
    SGI has lost all their jedi developers, and as Eugenia mentions how Dominic Giampaolo went from SGI, to Be. Dominic now works for Google, as of 2 years ago. But that isn't the only person who has jumped ship at SGI, countless other faces, and names no longer reside at the old 'cool place to work'. The stock price was a penny-stock for awhile. Their hardware bussiness is lagging behind, and basically not moving forward. There has not been any new inovations from SGI in the past 3 or 4 years. In short, the industry finally caught up with SGI, and they have lost their graphics nitche. What Eugina doesnt' know, among many many many things, is that Sun is filling the void that was left open by SGI.

    Anyways, his review of Irix is a version that is now old. It would be one thing if this was a hot new release of Irix 6.6 (non-existent), or some major point release. This version is a maintance release, and is old now. We have version 6.5.18, as of a week ago or so.... SGI sent me the new disc's. Also, booting the system up, and playing with the OpenGL crap is lame. Sorry, but it might impress an idiot, or people who have never played quakeII. Mozilla is not that impressive, and neither is the port of KDE or Gnome for Irix. These are things that, well, are not very interesting considering these tools run on just about all *nix variants now. Only a noobie would think otherwise. His bench mark analysis is to simply say "x seems to run faster on this old box", with no numbers or anything. Basically there is no relevance to his claims.

    What I see is a guy who got a new toy to write about, and is all wet behind the ears. I use SGI computers evry day, and they are not all that! I have everything from O2, indiego, to bing honking 12-way Onyx clusters.

    So let me explain what is nice about IRIX, for somebody that really does use it, and isn't still inthe first day experience level. Think about it, when you first tried Linux, or FreeBSd for the first time, as in never touched *nix before. If red hat was your first distro, say aorund version 7.*... your review might look something like Eugina's: noobie'ish! Sure, you can click'ity'clickty around the menus, launch softwareyou have never seen beofre.... ohh... ahhh...ooo.... wow! Whatever! The good thing about Irix is the fact that evrything is doable with a pretty gui tool. It was apparent from the early stages in Irix that people at that company were tired of the command line. For example, their package manager (aka software install tool) swmgr is fully graphical, and probably the best software installer for Unix there is, hands down. The upside is they also have another just-as-good version of the tool for the commandline. Sun could take some hints from what SGI has done inteh swmgr tool. For example, it has pie charts of filesystem utilization, with colors that represent what the other softwre packs take up, and what it would take to isntall this new peice. Everything look perfect. On the other hand, the X window system in general is lacking, the toolchest is gay. Lets face it, the SGI default desktop is kinda bleak, and empty. Maybe I'm a bit too used to CDE, KDE, or whatever.... but the first thing everyone I know does is install KDE to get some real work done. The day to day work of a developer wis what makesIrix nice to work on. The diff tool highlites the changes in files in an inteligent way, the ps program is graphical, or not, and is easy to spot problems with. The NIS, NFS, AFS work with gui tools to make things easy, yet all these tools could be used in a command line only mode. For those subterainian-commandlien dwealers, your still taken care of, and nicely too.

    XSF is not like BFS, no matter how much Eugina want to think they are the same. They are not! It is true that XFS is more unixlike where bfs was more Be like. Both are 64 bit namespace safe, both have extensible attributes, but on XFS you have to really work hard to mess with these features. This is one area SGI needs to improve. The tools that ship with IBM's JFS are the best, but the features of XFS are probably better than JFS. Basically put, SGI XFS just works, without much tweaking. Or if you want, you can mess with the XFS. These days SGI is getting out of the graphics biz, and moving into the storage server biz. So maybe they will improve the XFS options/administration.

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