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Sun Microsystems

Brew your own SPARC: SPARC IP Core SCSLed 131

Tekmage writes "Sun has just announced the release of it's SPARC IP core under their Community Source License. " The dialogue over whether or not the SCSL is a good license continues, but it's better nothing, IMHO. Interesting move on their part, especially given IBM's recent moves with the PowerPC designs.
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Brew your own SPARC: SPARC IP Core SCSLed

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  • Is there a site somewhere that tracks all the different licensing schemes, boiling them down to the differences between them?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Two words: Embrace and Extend.

    (it's "all the advantages of Open Source"...)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sun isn't an ally, and it never has been. Sun is merely a co-belligerent against Microsoft that is also busy preparing for the next war -- Sun vs. Open Source/Free Software, Solaris vs. Linux.

    1. Undercutting Mozilla in the press and suggesting it should move from open source to an SCSL-type license.
    2. Releasing pseudo-free software to reduce the imperative for alternatives.
    3. Releasing a low-cost restricted version of Solaris-on-Intel (to reduce Linux installations a la SCO?)
    4. Adopting lxrun (to discourage Linux OS adoption a la SCO?)
    5. Talking down Linux in the press (often using phrases very similar to SCO's...)
    6. Buying a major Linux suite and moving development focus to a Sun NC-type platform

    So, SCO does it, and they're a old-line proprietary software company desperately trying to avoid loss of marketshare to Linux/FreeBSD. Sun does it, and they're the forgivable foibles of an ally?
  • by brad.hill ( 21936 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @08:41AM (#1682061)
    For years, one of the biggest arguments from the hacker community against the harsh prosecution of people like Kevin Mitnick has been the idea that looking at source code doesn't harm a company. The argument is thus: "If you're not using it to compete against them, they suffer no harm; it was just curiosity and a desire to learn."

    Finally a company, Sun, is doing exactly what hackers have been demanding all these years: letting them have a look at interesting technology, to learn from and satisfy their curiosity.

    This isn't about open source evangelism and your imagined right to free computer hardware. It's about giving students and other interested people a tool to learn from, in a way that doesn't hurt Sun's business.

    Nobody loses anything from this. People interested in microprocessor design gain. Why are you complaining?

    If you expect Sun to license people to compete against it with it's own technology, you're living in a dream world. It's not going to hurt the GPL to have more information available in the world, and with your hypothetical binary choice between GPL and total secrecy, most companies would choose total secrecy. Be glad some have chosen to imagine a third alternative that *is* much better than nothing.

  • Even long before this, I never liked Sun Microsystems very much. Aside from obvious exceptions such as Perl, I never cared much for programming languages that are constantly getting updated. That's what is supposed to happen to applications, not programming languages (of course, Perl is a C application.. ha!), for the most part. Sure, when C++ first emerged it wasn't finalized. But then again, you aren't going to see C++ 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 2.0, and 2.1 within the next year or so. It has a standard. Java just keeps growing.. and growing.. And why is it growing still? Because when it was first released it wasn't worth a whole lot. It was not a finely developed language. The most obvious point being its extremely poor performance issues (what, write once, -walk- anywhere?).

    That was strike one. Strike two is probably even worse. A commercial programming language trying to define itself as a universal standard? Conceptually, Java really rocked.. But the finer details of reality stopped it almost dead cold (all hype aside). However, even if it had lived up to expectations, who would really want to have to pay licensing fees to Sun for making commercial applications with Java? I'd rather just stick to C/C++ and Perl and not worry so much about licenses.. If the only license I ever have to agree to is the GPL I'll die a happy man.

    And then there's the most annoying thing about Sun, the very thing they are known for: Java. I could have just left them alone, never said a bad word about them.. just ignored them and went on my merry way.. but they have to prepend the word Java to, well, everything! Am I the only person who gets sick of JavaWhatever products being a quarter a dozen? This company is known for its crazed marketing and over-capitalization on key products more than for anything all that useful to the world at large, unless you actually like their horrible licensing agreements.

  • by SteveX ( 5640 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @08:58AM (#1682064) Homepage
    Someone should write up a License Generator webpage.

    Have it pick an acronym at random using a database of buzzwords ("open", "community", "free", "public", etc) and have sliders for the level of openness you want, of protection for your source, your patents, or whatever else it is that people write up their own licenses for...

  • It's not clear that Intel is Microsoft's pawn any longer. Their actions in funding the Linux Merced development bely that.

    Intel also has the virtue of not claiming its software is Open Source when it isn't. I don't mind pure commercial software, the world has a place for it as long as the commercial vendors don't try to restrict the development of free software. I do mind when people pose their product as Open Source when it's clearly not Open Source at all.



  • by MoxCamel ( 20484 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @07:32AM (#1682072)
    The Community source is not "better [than] nothing." Given that it's not completely open:

    1) If people adopt and develop under SCSL, Sun has no incentive to open the license further.

    2) If people don't adopt SCSL, Sun is likely to drop further free/open source involvement.

    Either way, SCSL is a bad thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "The dialogue over whether or not the toning down of cheap jabs aimed at a company who should be considered an ally is a good thing continues, but it's better than nothing, IMHO." The only people who should get upset over comparing the SCSL vs the GPL would be people who would still have to shell out money, ie large companies, ie no you, the regular /. reader. Maybe we can keep the Sun jabs to a minimum and actually discuss the story for once?
  • Whilst more openness from previously closed companies can never be a particularly Bad Thing, I question Sun's motives - how many people are going to have the time, ability and resources to contribute to this?

    Is Sun hoping to benefit more from the traditional advantages of Open Source (strong peer review, new viewpoints providing new enhancements) ? Or is this move intended to attract more press to Sun's recent announcements, and form more of a statistic for future Sun comments on their commitment to Open Source?
  • >>If people don't adopt SCSL, Sun is likely to drop further free/open source involvement.

    This only reasons to stand if they are the only ones using it. If open source becomes as popular as it should then they can't just drop it all together. That is the whole problem M$ will face eventually.

    Like Beer? [have-a-brew.com]

  • Interesting move on their part, especially given IBM's recent moves with the PowerPC designs.

    But wasn't it possible before to make Sun compatable boxes? I think I've seen quite a few of them from asian makers. The same can be said for the PPC board but IBM just made it more readily available.

  • Having worked around Sparc people for a few years, I know that a lot of people will be very excited to see this.

    -- Moondog
  • It's much more likely that people would put in effort debugging real free software than fake sort-of-free software, though. It's not at all clear that anyone has an incentive to debug SCSL software or hardware designs while Sun really still holds a monopoly on them.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm not sure about a moral imperative for free hardware - at least, not until nanotech becomes so pervasive that one can "download" any object one wishes.

    However, open ("free") hardware has definitely proven its worth in the marketplace; consider the PC vs. Mac wars. Mac zealots may point out that some PC makers competed unfairly; but that's exactly the point. Because they had the FREEDOM to compete in whatever way they chose, the PC got into just about every cubicle where computers are used, by hook or by crook.
  • Lets not get all religious about this, sure these big corporations need education *BUT* isn't the end result - a *better* product worthwhile. In my work, I dont care if Proprietary OS v2.6 is owned by whoever or costs $x, All I care that it is *STABLE*. The GNU ideals are irrelevant for where I work, the benefits of Open Source are not. With source the end users help to make a product better. My company gets the money it spends on development time back in increased productivity / stability. GNU is a great vehicle for promoting this worldview, nothing more.

    However, it's silliness to continually reinvent these licenses, we already have a few good licenses that work and would encounter less resistance with the development community (GPL, BSD, Apache)...
  • I agree that Sun's recent attempts at open source software (Java and thier SCSL thing) have been lack luster at best, confusing at worst.

    But I do have to take issue with your attempted guilt trip upon Sparc/Linux developers. Just because a company is questionable in thier attitude towards Linux, does that mean us GPL/Linux developers should not support thier harware? If this was true, then a lot of platforms, and hardware in general would not be supported by Linux.

    The issue of the companies politics towards open source should have no bearing on Linux/GPL development efforst aimed towards thier hardware, espeically if there is little or no support from the company for that development effort. If Linux for Sparc did not exist, then I would be stuck running Solaris on my Sparc IPX web server, something I have done in the past, and it is very painful!

    So, lay off the Linux/Sparc/GPL developers, and don't get us involved with open source politics (at least this one). And maybe, through a true open source operating system and software for Sun's hardware, maybe they will see the light and change thier mind. At the very least we provide a more "pure" view of Open Source on Sun/Sparc hardware!

    Proud to be running Linux (Debian & RedHat) on Sun SparcStations!

    ------------------------------------------------ ----------------------------

  • by MoxCamel ( 20484 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @10:05AM (#1682086)

    You wrote:
    Finally a company, Sun, is doing exactly what hackers have been demanding all these years: letting them have a look at interesting technology, to learn from and satisfy their curiosity.

    I seriously doubt Sun's motivation is to satisfy hacker's curiosity. I see their motivation as twofold: 1) Capitalize on the open source craze, and act as if they're a part of it. 2) Capitalize on the sheer body-count of open source developers to make their product better. Number 1) is just deceptive. The license doesn't sponsor a "community," it seeks to take the works of others and keep it as their own. Number 2) isn't necessarily bad in it's own right, it's how companies like Red Hat make money. But Sun wants to keep volunteer work as their own. They don't want to "share with their neighbor" (as RMS would say). That's not right, and it's the whole reason that licenses like the SCSL are a bad thing.

    This isn't about open source evangelism and your imagined right to free computer hardware. It's about giving students and other interested people a tool to learn from, in a way that doesn't hurt Sun's business.

    I think you mean "free computer software?" But again, Sun isn't releasing this as a learning tool. Now, if you learn from perusing it, great. But if you contribute to it, you have just given up your rights to software you created. You get nothing. You have no control over your work. And worst of all, you have no control over who benefits from your work. You work has effectively been shackled by Sun. Now, had you spent your time developing for a free/open source project, many, many more people could benefit from it.

    Nobody loses anything from this. People interested in microprocessor design gain. Why are you complaining?

    Everybody but Sun loses from this. Because every line of code contributed to the code base is sucked into Sun, never to be shared with anybody. If you contribute a nifty routine to a SCSL project, it can't be copied into a GPL work. It can't be shared.

    Closed licenses that pretend to be open are, at best, misleading. They lull you into a false sense that you are "contributing." But instead, it takes away from you. If you want to contribute to the Sun codebase, at least go work for them and get paid for it. But don't for one second think that you're contributing to the community. You're not, and it's worse than that. You're taking away your talents and skills from a real community that could use them. And that's worse than nothing at all.

  • It's not an attempt to guilt-trip the developers. If I were to send anyone on a guilt-trip, it would be Sun Microsystems. I re-read the posting and agree with you that it left that ambiguous, sorry.

    The point is that if we want to influence Sun, we can do it by not supporting them as enthusiasticly as we might otherwise. Voting with our feet, in other words.



  • If you contribute a nifty routine to a SCSL project, it can't be copied into a GPL work. It can't be shared.

    That is a problem the GPL shares. If you contribute a nifty routine to a GPL project, it can't be copied into a BSD work. It can't be shared.

    If it was BSD licensed, anyone could share it.
  • It doesn't sound that way to me. It sounds like:

    HP asked for real Open Source
    Sun stopped short of Open Source
    HP decided that stopping short of Open Source didn't give them a reason to cooperate with Sun.

    Can't you read it that way?



  • And Linux is just a pawn in the game.
  • I disagree with the GPL, yet I still submit patches. I do it to have a better program for me (and others) to use. This is probably why I like the BSD license for open source: I prefer giving.

    Off topic: During this reply, I noticed that Bruce's score does not show up. All I see is "(Score:)". Anyone else?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Closed licenses that pretend to be open are, at best, misleading. They lull you into a false sense that you are "contributing." But instead, it takes away from you. If you want to contribute to the Sun codebase, at least go work for them and get paid for it. But don't for one second think that you're contributing to the community. You're not, and it's worse than that. You're taking away your talents and skills from a real community that could use them. And that's worse than nothing at all.

    No, for business the *hippyness* of the license is unimportant. They will spend money, therefore if ProductX is under Sun License no 7 annd said business improved it then everyone *benefits*.

    GPL is a home users / SME thing, an enterprise wants a good support agreement + stable code, GPL is great until you look at economics, Redhat doesnt cut it. I want to blame Sun for fuck ups, but I want to fix their code because there will be less fuck ups and my company becomes more profitable / less IT wary.

    The GPL suffers big time because of Stallman. It's great as a promotional thing. But corporates cannot accept the ideology behind the GPL.

    Manager of Internet & Intranet Services
    A *big* company /. recently slagged off
  • Maybe it would be worth it to have a big announcement by someone... say RedHat or something, that if SUN does not stop trying to claim "open source" when its not etc.. and playing their little games then the Linux Community will stop any and all support for the Sparc systems. RedHat will no longer distribute the Sparc version of their distrubtion etc.. And they will have no future in the Linux community.
  • Sun could merely be joining a trend that is now becoming more popular in the industry. There are a number of companies that produce configurable processor cores, allowing licensees to make alterations to suit their individual needs. The level of alteration possible differs from processor to processor, however the basic idea is the same. Instead of licensing a processor that started life 15 years ago for use in a UNIX workstation, they can tailor-make a processor quickly and easily. In many cases this actually turns out to shorten design time immensely, because the designers don't have to learn all the ins and outs of the processor and can tailor it to fit an pre-existing product. ARC Cores (http://www.arccores.com) claims to have shortened some design times from 6 months to 2 days. It makes sense to me as a logical evolutionary step.
  • Hmm. Someone hit me if I'm way out in left field here, having not worked with IP stuff THIS big before, but I would think you could drop this into a Xilinx or Altera pretty easily.

    Might not run quite as fast as silicon but it would still be plenty interesting for students, etc.

    Maybe i'll have to dust off some hardware and try it out ... using some of that spare time I don't have. :-)

  • I thought SPARC was pretty open before. Same with PowerPC, Sun and IBM will give the the masks and schematics, it will just cost you some money. The thing is that you need to have a whole lot more money to actually make use of them. It cost somehting but it was still quite reasonable compared to some other deals. (try getting pentium3 masks, IBM used to get Intel's masks because IBM fabbed most of Intel's chips and traded patents with them, try doing it without that)

    I think this stuff is good, I want to say that clearly. I also think it's a PR thing trying to ride the Linux wave. Years ago, you published your specs and standards and your design took off (IBM and the PC/AT ISA) you want to milk it for some money but that was the general scheme (IBM had some BIOS issues as I recall but everything else was pretty much out in the open.) MS stepped in and changed the rules a bit, they would flood the market with cheap software (I much have got 5 free windows 3.x licenses from MS. I own 3 compilers that I've never paid them for, among other things) establish market dominance and then jab you down the road when nobody can challenge your authority.

    IBM and Sun are placed in a situation where they have spent billions developing great products and they can't move them because Intel owns the industry, for the most part. They are doing the only thing that they can do without quitting, they are making it easier to use their products. You build a PowerPC motherboard, you're going to buy chips from IBM and motorola, or you're going to fab your own and your going to pay IBM to do it. Same with Sparc, you build a sparc and you're probably going to put solaris on it, sell a few of them and your users are going to buy a faster sparc in a few years and sun is going to sell that.

    This is good stuff, it's pro-competition but it's still just and means to and end. I'd like to believe that IBM and Sun would run the world differently if they were in Intel's shoes but I'm not convinced. As it stands, I have yet to see an affordable PowerPC motherboard on sale. (by affordable I mean in line with an sx164, which can still be pricey, let alone Pentium motherboard prices.)

  • ATI Drivers!!!! Hah! I knew it....
  • Actually, I believe that IP can stand for either "Intellectual Property" or "Internet Protocol."
  • One of the reasons UNIX achieved such a large penetration on diverse hardware platforms, back when it was Bell Labs' baby, was the defacto free trial period for designers, creating a revolution in operating systems.

    Up to that point, if you built a computer you had to write your own custom OS - in assembler. That's not a garage operation. But now along came UNIX:

    You were supposed to have a source license. But the source code circulated freely (due to a bunch that had been handed to universities) and Mama Bell didn't bother with you until you were ready to sell it, and then didn't hold any grudges for your "illegal" use of the source when it came time to price your license. The kernel was tiny and easy to port - and mostly in a compiler language yet! So a whole new model of OS construction became prevalant:

    Suppose you've got your new box (or a design for it and a prototype coming together), with it's new processor and new peripherals.

    First: If it's a new CPU, add a code generator for it to the Portable C Compiler (PCC). Compile once to get a cross-compiler (to use on your development platform), then use that to compile again to get a native compiler (to run on your target, once it's up).

    Second: Port (and configure) the kernel. You probably have to modify the memory management code, the task-switcher, and the raw disk and console driver. Write drivers for any new-fangled peripherals (though you can probably modify them from stock stuff, too) - but that can wait 'til you're running native.

    Third: Port the ROM bootloader. (It uses the drivers you already ported, above.) Burn it into a PROM. Plug it into the lab box.

    Fourth: Compile all the utilities with your cross-compiler and build an initial root disk - using your current UNIX platform to write it.

    Fifth: Plug the disk into your new box. Boot up. You're live. Debug and expand on your shiny new lab box.

    Sixth: Call up AT&T and negotiate price of a license to distribute this puppy, after you got it to work so there's no longer any risk.

    Seventh: Show the vulture capitalists your working shiny new box. Get your working capital with a high valuation on your company (so you still own most of it).

    Eighth: Build it and ship it.

    This you can do in a garage shop (or as a grad school project). And it happened just as a couple decent microprocessors hit the market, too. So there was a decade or more where dozens of UNIX boxes, on diverse platforms, sprang up like weeds.

    Looks to me like Sun wants to use the same model with the SPARC CPU core, to penetrate the ASIC market (which MIPS and ARM currently dominate). They're making the SPARC processor core free to the shoestring fabless-chip-house startups, during that difficult design period when they're still hanging by their shoestring.

    First bag is free, dude!

  • Regardless of the lack of a real Open Source license almost nobody other than rather deep pocketed corporations could make use of it in the same sense as you can make use of compiling Open Source source code. It's not even that the average person couldn't afford the fabrication costs. The average person couldn't even afford the software required to validate the design. The prices for leasing commercial Ecad software are insane, much of it's in the six digit range per user. Open Source microprocessor design at this level just won't really work. The companies that can actually afford to do anything with the technology could also afford some level of licensing fee. It's not even realistic to pretend that improvements could be circulated back to Sun in the standard Open Source fashion. The costs of the efforts to verify it would be too high without a specific product on a specific timeline.

    It's still not nice to pretend its Open Source of course.

    It is educationally useful, not so much for a university to build a tweaked SPARC microprocessor but to reverse-inference what architectural features were implied by various performance goals. I could see making a very excellent case study course around the technology. There's probably a lot of interesting information in the circuit design and architectural details of things like the ALU circuitry. Basically you could learn from industry experts that most universities couldn't possibly afford as instructors.

    I think the coolest thing that could possibly happen as far as Open Source hardware goes is actually free (probably not as in speech) software, such as FPGA design tools. If somebody could talk XILINX or other FPGA vendor to let Joe Public make use of their tools for free (or very small nominal cost) real Open Source hardware could happen. Not CPU's, but other technologies would be possible.
  • by Kerg ( 71582 )
    Geez, you have to be really ignorant to think you need to pay to Sun for selling Java software.

    If you take their source, and start selling it, THEN you need to pay them. You can build your own Java apps and do whatever you want with them.

    Get a clue.
  • I still remember the time when all the cool hacker dudes only wrote assembly cause C was just "too slow".

    Kinda funny hearing the same argument about Java being given now..

  • note that the comments about close-sourcing mozilla were made by alan baratz who has since left his job as head of javasoft.
    [also, get out more, you'll feel much better and less consipiracy theories will pop into your head...]
  • I remember using a Sparc 5 and it FELT like a Pentium 120

    Yes, it probably did, but then it was almost certainly using either a 60 or 70MHz chip (they did a 110MHz version, and later a 170MHz version based on the TurboSparc, but they weren't veyr common). From personal experience, a Sparc will feel about that same as an Intel with 1.5 to 2 times the clock speed. This is probably mostly due to the on-chip cache (even the 60MHz MicroSparc II had 1MB of onboard cache).

  • in cali summer is all year long baby ;)
  • The point is that if we want to influence Sun, we can do it by not supporting them as enthusiasticly as we might otherwise. Voting with our feet, in other words.

    The thing is that Sun, like any corporation of that size, is not a single entity. The hardware side of Sun, after an initial shaky start, have been quite helpful to the Linux community, even going so far as lending developers high-end hardware and providing technical info so that Linux could be made to work well on it. See starfire.c, somewhere under arch/sparc64 (sorry, I dont' have a kernel tree to hand to check the exact location), to see the code for supporting Sun's Ultra Enterprise 10000 (high-end server, up to 64 CPUs -- we've got 4 of them here :-)

  • Personally, I don't usually bother with grepping around for a current documented source in an initial post, instead choosing words such as "I believe" or "I think" or even "to the best of my knowledge".. However, if you want to be a troll and attempt to insult my intelligence, you might sound a /little/ less like a troll if you bother to provide a source that explains why I'm wrong.

    So far you really haven't provided any hard evidence for why I'm wrong. Usually if I contradict someone I provide /some/ kind of evidence. As such, your comment is thus far around as valid as mine (or perhaps a little less, due to its rather inflammatory remarks). Who needs to get a clue, again?

  • I'm not fond of the license because of bias, but you're just as free to contribute your stuff under the MPL, which I think is similar to BSD/XFree, although don't quote me on that. I never suggested you should use the NPL, when the MPL is unbiased. =) I prefer the GPL too. However the existing Netscape written codebase (and even some non-Netscape written codebase) uses the NPL.

    I'm pretty much a Mozilla advocate. The license is free, and I find that the most important thing. So it's not the best, but the vibe around the Mozilla project is truly amazing, it is moving so fast, and the technology is so amazing that I help out where I can. Something that Sun could only hope to achieve with the SCSL.
  • Go to this page [sun.com], skip down to non-commercial licensing and explain those next couple of paragraphs to me. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the JDK, among other things, what people use to compile those infernal Java programs? Of course, I could be digging in the wrong place (is there another release of the JDK besides the "full source"? no time for their applets and licensing stuff to be more thorough). I admit, as always, that I could be wrong. I'm not interested in Java. I stick with C/C++ and Perl. I don't know all the details. If that isn't enough of a disclaimer to stop flaming me, you should get out more. ;)

  • The linked article misses the big point
    that many of these legacy processor designs
    could easily be fitted into some of the
    newer reprogrammable FPGA parts on the
    market. This will certainly be the case in the next few years when parts in excess of
    50 million gates become available, running at
    half gig system speeds.

    The free hardware source becomes a very interesting proposition indeed, as people can create their own processors at home, on the fly, and change them to suit what they are doing.

  • Thanks Jan, I had actually poked around the XILINX web site before posting that but I couldn't find any information on low cost tools other than web based CPLD stuff.

    I still don't feel that trying to make an Open Source microprocessor will give the best investment for the community. There are very cheap 32 bit processors on the market already that would exceed the performance of an FPGA based design, they're just not Intel so most people don't think of them.

    What I'm more inclined to try doing is build hardware acceleration for various CODECS. Because these don't have to be constrained to a Von Neumann architecture I think there's a lot more potential here. (I'm assuming that the goal of an Open Sourced 32 bit microprocessor would be something to potentially run GNU software on which implies a Von Neumann architecture)

  • do you really have to pay sun for commercial java apps? its funny, we sell java software and don't send sun any checks.
  • theres no loyalty in software game
  • 1. Xilinx offers free design tools for their CPLD (complex programmable logic device (macrocell-based)) parts. See http://www.xilinx.com/products/software/webpowered .htm.

    2. Xilinx has $100 tools for their FPGA parts as part of the Xilinx Student Ed. 1.5. Highly recommended. These tools are perfectly adequate for building 32-bit RISC CPUs and integrated systems-on-a-chip.

    3. See http://www.optimagic.com/lowcost.shtml for a long list of other free or inexpensive FPGA tools.

  • ... Sun could just compile and distribute their own distribution. The GPL guarrantees their right to do that.
  • Here's one reason you might want to use SPARC in an embedded appliance. This is something I worked on the early stages of about a year ago. It has much more performance than the current generation of mpeg decoding CPU's.
  • The NPL is totally free to my knowledge. It's DFSG-free and it's free as far as I'm concerned.

    The only objectionable clause I'm aware of is that it's like the BSD license for Netscape and quasi-GPL for everyone else. Both of these licenses are free. So while it might have a bias, it's still totally free. You're free to not like it, but you can't go around calling something non-free just because you don't like it.

    There have been a number of bad licenses I've heard of, eg SCSL, early APSL, etc. The NPL is notable in that is is free. The open source definition was the same as the Debian Free Software Guidelines, and as far as I know, still is.
  • What's really funny is that I remember someone actually proposing something like this for real. Search the debian-devel archives about 6-12 months ago...

    P.S. Nice to see another ex-Amigan (or ex-AmigaOSian if I want to include myself in the group). Now, I want this settled once and for all: you had nothing to do with DirectX and ActiveX, right? (If not, you should sue the balls off M$ for creating trademark confusion...) ;-)
  • Ok, let me get this straight.

    You are trying to argue that if I download Sun's JDK, build a megacool Java app and compile it with Sun's compiler, and start selling it, I need to pay royalties to Sun? Is that what you are saying?

    If it is, you are wrong. Any Java developer can tell you that. I mean, there are thousands of people selling their Java software, and none of them are paying Sun anything.

    As for your other post, the license you're looking at is for the source for the JDK. No one is forcing you to download that. That license is there in case you want to take the source for Sun's JDK, change or otherwise use it in your software, and then sell it. In that case you pay Sun royalties for using their source for the JDK. Again, nothing there says the bytecodes generated by this JDK is under any licensing terms with Sun.

    Find that clue yet?
  • by Skeezix ( 14602 ) <jamin@pubcrawler.org> on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @07:42AM (#1682138) Homepage
    Here is a link [linuxtoday.com] to an article by Richard Stallman that I'm sure a lot of you have read. It talks about "free hardware designs and why he sees no social imperative for free hardware as he does for free software. I personally agree that there isn't the social imperative for free hardware designs, but at the same time I think free hardware designs would be very beneficial to corporations, students, and the consumer...in fact the consumer would most likely benefit the most since there would be an accelerated rate of development and competition (just as free software breeds this type of acceleration--look no further than the KDE and GNOME camps for an excellent example of this).

    --Jamin Philip Gray

  • Here is a link [linuxtoday.com] to an article by Richard Stallman that I'm sure a lot of you have read. It talks about "free hardware" designs and why he sees no social imperative for free hardware as he does for free software. I personally agree that there isn't the social imperative for free hardware designs, but at the same time I think free hardware designs would be very beneficial to corporations, students, and the consumer...in fact the consumer would most likely benefit the most since there would be an accelerated rate of development and competition (just as free software breeds this type of acceleration--look no further than the KDE and GNOME camps for an excellent example of this).

    --Jamin Philip Gray

  • Reminds me of the ALSA project slamming Creative for not open-sourcing its drivers....should we really be critical of the companies who won't open source their code when they are building drivers, or should we concern ourselves with those producers who won't even acknowledge Linux at all?
  • Of course, now that I think about it, the subject of this post makes me wonder what kind of half-assed programmers these "weird licensing people" really are. However, back to the point..

    One of the few licenses most of us really trust is the GNU General Public License. Especially in light of things like the Netscape Public License. Most people use the term "open source software" in the way Richard Stallman talks about "free software", but they're not exactly the same thing. Just because it's "open source" doesn't mean the software is free (liberated, whatever.. I'm talking about freedom here, ok?), as licenses such as the NPL makes quite clear.

    These companies aren't very likely to gain the trust of the free/open source community if they continue to develop spin-offs of the GPL that often end up trying to screw over contributors.

  • by EngrBohn ( 5364 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @07:46AM (#1682142)
    They made the announcement back in March. I remember talking to one of my professors about the research & academic opportunities it presented.
    http://slashdot.org/articles/99 /03/02/1133216.shtml [slashdot.org]
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • I must question the whole point of releasing this code. Put simply, it is fairly useless to the bulk of developers.
    The solaris IP stacks are (well, should) be better than the current Linux ones.. at the very least, they should be threaded. So the initial reaction is 'Yes! We have a stable threaded IP stack to put into the Linux kernel'.
    There's just one problem .. If I'm right in believeing that the SCSL is incompatible with the GPL, only two things can be done with this code .... third-party developers can develop improvements to the code for Sun to roll back into Solaris (bet those developers would be happy) .. or someone could make a start on a SCSL OS (highly unlikely).
    So what's the point? All we can seemingly do with this code is free QC work for Sun. It kinda reminds me about all the fuss MS made over the 'release' of it's IPv6 stacks. Anyone remember that?
  • by Compuser ( 14899 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @07:48AM (#1682144)
    Sun's license may be better for hardware than software, since hardware doesn't "want to be free" :).
  • So you're saying that Sun's going to fire their staff of chip architects, scrap the UltraIII and rely entirely on ad-hoc extensions to an old 32 bit processor contributed by the enormous pool of bored and unemployed hobbist microprocessor designers, just to save a few bucks?

    Are you stupid?

  • by aheitner ( 3273 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @07:49AM (#1682146)
    The MicroSPARCII is not a particularly exciting processor. It's the chip that was used in the SS5, and it ran up to 170MHz in the last SS5 offered. It's not designed for SMP (Turbo- and HyperSPARCs did that in SS10 and SS20). It's a 32bit chip, a bit faster at floating point than an equivalent Pentium. (it's also the chip in my SPARCBook 3 :).

    So don't expect cheap high powered crazy Suns floating around soon. Sun wants people using MSII's where they're now using R4xxx's and ARMcores and m68k's in PDAs.

    An advantage is of course Linux already runs fine on it :) But it does on the ARM, Motorola and MIPS chips too.
  • by jmalicki ( 1764 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @07:49AM (#1682147)
    Microsoft estimates that 65% of NT crashes are due to third-party drivers. Why is this significant? In Linux, there are VERY few non-GPL'd drivers, but if the trend increases, then there will be a LOT of binary-only drivers for Linux making it almost as unstable as NT.

    No driver at all may very well be better than one that is not open source, as it prevents people from developing their own GPL'd drivers, which will work more correctly and be more stable in the long run.
  • Licenses like these are a threat to the free software movement and anything that doesn't conform to the accepted definition of free (ie DFSG or OSD) should be shunned.
  • Last I checked the licensing: yes. I believe, if I recall correctly, you can either go for the "artistic license" sort of thing if you plan on using Java to just play around or, for those of us who feel like accomplishing something, doing neat new free software. However, to get a license that allows you to produce commercial software with it you have to pay Sun some bucks. This could have changed (not something I track, I hate Sun), but I sort of doubt it.

  • For years, one of the biggest arguments from the hacker community against the harsh prosecution of people like Kevin Mitnick has been the idea that looking at source code doesn't harm a company.

    *You* lose. Now, if ever you write something again, you run the risk of accidentally incorporating Sun's IP into it, which breaks the SCSL and they can sue. This is why companies go to such effort to have clean room development.

    I should just note I don't believe this is Sun's intention. It's just a consequence of the licensing terms.

  • For a rather verbose description of his thoughts on the matter, check out this piece [gnu.org] on the GNU site [gnu.org]. Ugh. That place is so hard to navigate.. I'm sick of having to find that link. The only remark I have to correct myself on is that the NPL is indeed a free software license. I wouldn't use it though. As far as DFSG goes, they also thought it was cool to use BIND and everything in it. See previous discussion [slashdot.org] for details.

    Anyway, if you want to screw yourself over with weird licenses, go right on ahead. And, to be honest, I can say whatever I want, for whatever reason I want. Pretty weird. However, I like to stick to the facts, so yeah, I'm in sort of agreement. I'll be sticking with my guns and the GPL myself, though.

  • But wasn't it possible before to make Sun compatable boxes?

    Yes, Sun licensed out the design, but at an initial cost. Now, the only cost related to the license is royalties once you start selling systems. A huge difference, since the initial costs are zilch plus tax.

  • Unfortunately, I think it's one doomed to failure.

    There are two main reasons why Open-Source is practical in software. One, software is available in infinite supply; I could make as many copies of a given program as I wanted and always have one more, and furthermore I can do it at zero cost. Two, software is pretty easy to modify; all one needs is a compiler (which GNU and the EGCS team have given us already) and source code (which is readily available). Because of these two facts, anyone with a computer can get into the business quickly and cheaply.

    Hardware doesn't have these two attributes. First, it's not available in infinite supply; if I have one chip and give it away I have no chips. I can, of course, make more if I have the right machine. The problem is, the cost of said machine (several million dollars, last I checked, and I don't seem to be able to find any of them on EBay for less) keeps pretty much every man, woman, and child on the face of the planet from getting one. Even if I have the machine, I still have to buy the materials, which gets expensive if I want to make many chips.

    Second, hardware is very difficult to modify on the level of the individual chips. Many people on Slashdot probably built their computers from preexisting parts. Some probably have managed to build one from preexisting chips and constructing even the boards themselves. But I'd love to see someone here running Linux on a chip that he or she made as a Computer Engineering project in college (granted, such courses do tend to include constructing a simple microprocessor as a final project, but now try making a whole computer out of it). Besides which, EPROM's and EEPROM's notwithstanding, one cannot modify a chip which has already been made; you must literally throw it out and start again if you want to change the chip.

    These two major factors are going to keep the idea of an Open-Source processor from being truly feasible. It's not that no one will work on it (a fallacy often used as FUD against Open-Source software). It's that almost no one is able to work on it (certainly not enough to derive much of an advantage), and those that are typically already work for a chip company which is going to take a very dim view of an employee who's helping out someone else's chips, so in the interest of job security they aren't going to work on it either. Opening the specs is still a Good Thing from a trustworthiness standpoint, but I seriously hope Sun isn't hoping to get the next generation of Sparcs this way.
  • Clearly you haven't been to the bay area. It's been cold as hell. I don't think summer has reached the san francisco area yet.
  • 1. bits not atoms. It's not "chips", it's "hardware designs as represented in HDLs and C++ hardware generators".

    2. FPGAs are different. They are $10 to buy and $0 to reconfigure.

    3. A RISC CPU is simpler than a Unix kernel. A few experts can design and document a kernel which others can use, extend, and add value. The same thing is true for a RISC CPU design.

    4. Open sourced and well documented 33-50 MIPS FPGA RISC CPU designs are coming, and I predict an FPGA CPU will boot Linux before 1/2002, perhaps even before 1/2001. One such CPU won't replace your desktop Linux box, but it will appear in embedded systems. And longer term, there's always MP configurations.

    See also http://www.deja.com/getdoc.xp?AN=354667900&fmt=tex t.

    Jan Gray

  • I've seen a lot of complaints that the SCSL isn't open enough - but does it need to be? I can't really see anyone privately trying to fab a chip anyway... :-) I'm yet to be convinced that Open Source hardware will work until desktop PCs come with FPGAs in them.

    As a PhD student trying to design a new processor type [gla.ac.uk], having the source of an existing processor to modify, rather than write one from scratch, is great. It'll save me a lot of time hopefully. From reading the list of points on the web page, this is more the type of market they're aiming at with this release. That and allowing SoC developers "try before they buy". More of a shareware licence than an open source licence in the later respect.

    Just my thoughts on the matter :-)

    -- Dougal

    BTW: Can anyone see the actual download page for this? I can only find the download for the picoJava core.

  • Perhaps. But there's little point in writing something you can't test. A person who's modifying data to use in chip production is going to want to be able to build one and test it; that can't be done without the machines.

    Besides which, you're right about FPGA's and such. But the Sparc isn't an FPGA anyway, so it doesn't apply in this case.
  • Yeah, OK, I was in a rush last night and Sun's server seemed to be going really slowly for me (prob. something to do with a large download I was attempting at the time). So I've got to apologise for jumping to the wrong definitaion of 'IP'.
    OTOH, most of my argument still holds true.. releasing a full system (Java, StarOffice) under SCSL has some eneits to developers as that whole system is useful and 'free' (I don't want to get into license wars). However, releasing only a component in this manner does not apear to help anyone other than Sun.
    I don't know that much about proceessor design but, it appears to me, that you would still need a lot of other information, bus interface technologies etc. to make much use of it as a discrete system. Like I said, I don't know too much about this field so I can't be sure wether all this type of information has been released.
  • First off, I'm not arguing anything. I'm posing a question. Go be a troll somewhere else.

    I find it difficult to believe much of anything told to me by someone in a childish manner. Most people at least attempt to have a civilized conversation and not flame people just for the hell of it. Such taunts are mostly the realm of those who can not articulate themselves properly. Been to any good English classes lately? You should try them. Find that source yet, by the way? If anyone happens to own a copy of Sam's Just About Anything Dealing with the Java language they could probably tell me what I want to know. Other than that, I don't see any reason to be a big baby about everything. Grow up already, people.

  • Bwahaha.. no.. it's funny though how people who know me from the Amiga days still ask me about every new product name which ends with X.

    (For those of you to whom this makes no sense, I wrote mostly freeware stuff on the Amiga - things like DiskX, ScreenX, TaskX, VirusX, WindX, FEdX, PointerX... It made it really easy to come up with a name for a new program).

    Hey - I gave out source for some of those, too. Why didn't RedHat send me an invitation to their IPO? :)

    - Steve
  • Been to any good English classes lately?

    Nope. If you have trouble understanding my English, we can continue this conversation in Finnish. How's yours?

    I am having a real hard time believing anyone would post such ignorant facts about Java in public as you have. Java developers do not have to pay royalties to Sun if they want to sell their applications. If you cannot grasp the license text for Sun's JDK, then the problem is yours, not mine.

    Since you seem to be quite happy being an ignorant FUD spread machine, expect to get flamed. If you bother to do some real research and back your claims that I, in fact, have to pay Sun for distributing my own Java applications, please feel free to enlighten me.

  • What other people have tried to tell you is true.

    To sell java-based applications you pay no royalties to Sun. To download the JDK you pay no royalties to Sun. To look at the source code of the JDK you pay no royalties to sun.

    If you modify the source code of the JDK and sell it, you pay royalties to Sun.

    The "full source release to Sun's JavaTM Development Kit software" is not required to ship a Java application. It is only of interest if you are interested in the internals of the Java language -- perhaps if you were writing your own VM, or JDK or debugging tools. If your reasons
    are for "educational, evaluation or research" purposes, you are (apparently) free to look at the code. If however you are "borrowing" the code or the code concepts for commercial purposes, you'll need to negotiate with Sun.

    Strictly speaking, you don't even need Sun's source code to write your own VM, JDK or debugging tools. They have specifications for the VM and the core libraries which are publicly available.
  • GPL is set up to control what other people do with the code, ...

    By whom?
  • dude, IP stands for Intellectual Property, not Internet Protocol.
  • But just how many students, corporations, and consumers have an extra fab or two to produce and test their improvements? The high cost of entry and production is a primary reason why open source hardware does not have significant benefit except to those with very deep pockets.
  • So what's the point? All we can seemingly do with this code is free QC work for Sun.

    Well, yeah. But isn't that, to a large extent, what Eric Raymond is promising companies -- that out of our own interest in having a better product we'll debug for them? Come to think of that, isn't that the point of Richard Stallman's free software epiphany with the buggy printer driver?

  • by Yarn ( 75 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @08:00AM (#1682172) Homepage
    'Build your own SPARC' in an absolutely ANCIENT issue of Byte I have lying around somewhere. I seem to recall it also had the first ever local bus PC, a discussion about OOPS vs DDE, a bit on Unix fragmentation and a sort of SGML tutorial. I'll have to dig it out and read it again.
  • Did you read the article? Sun get's 3% flat rate of anything made in bulk with it..
  • Sun has been promising now for 9 months that JavaWorkShop will be SCSL'd by this Summer, which now is LAST Summer ( how do they define Summer in California anyway??????)

    Looong Talk and maybe soon action?????

  • by stange ( 23848 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @08:11AM (#1682176)
    This is for the MicroSparc IIep, which is an embedded processor; it includes support for the PCI bus, for example.

    It wasn't used in the Sparc 5, that was the Microsparc II, with an SBUS controller. The fastest speed of the Microsparc II was 110 Mhz.

    The TurboSparc ran at 170 Mhz in the Sparc 5.

    The Sparc 10 and Sparc 20 used the SuperSparc and the HyperSparc. The SuperSparc was the first V8 architecture Sparc processor from Sun.

    It is expected that Sun will also be releasing the same information for the UltraSparc processors in the near future.

    The point that is being lost here is that the IIep is a current product that is used in embedded solutions. Sun want's people to use this chip, and in an effort to increase sales, is releasing this information. For those who are unaware, the embedded cpu market is vastly larger than the PC/Workstation market.

  • If I want to extend GPL commercialy, I can't because of the GPL.

    I assume you mean proprietarily (real word?).

    If something is to be free, it should be free to eveyone.

    Why would a proprietary version make it non-free? The code is still free.
  • Let me try to answer some of the questions: 1) MicroSPARC II is not exciting - its no more exciting than any other RISC CPU that you can build for $10 in modern technology. Its comparable (and has plusses and minuses compared to your latest ARM and MIPS stuff) in feature set - the difference is free upfront and minimal royalties if you do build a $10 thing. More details on this will be available on the Sun web page in a week or so. I am happy to share comparative data, but that can be controversial. So, my tendency is to avoid it. 2) MicroSPARC is the first processor coupled with Linux that will enable one to build an entire system based on open/scsl models. The real cost to embedded designers is nothing upfront - other than design-in cost and perhaps royalties later. This is important if you are build $1-$10 things that run linux and runs around your house. There are some companies who plan to offer such a chip with 4MB of Embedded DRAM for $10. Imagine linux on it as well. Lots of neat applications can crop up. 3) Free Hardware IP is essential in this new world of highly integrated devices. One cannot re-invent the entire system everytime. Copying and re-using IP is important (quality can be questioned). But if you want to build a $10 device that can pack 10m transistor - neither you can pay a lot of royalty nor can you waste time negotiating getting it. Thus SCSL. 4) MicroSPARC IIep is used in the SunRay box. So we released the SunRay, the protocol for SunRay and now the processor. Hopefully we will have different people build cheaper and cheaper SunRays over time. That should be enough for today... renu raman
  • Yup! If we can run an entire processor in a FPGA (albeit at a low MHz) and with Linux - this makes for a very interesting CPU/OS class - take real world stuff and analyze. I hope MicroSPARC fits into one of the newer FPGAs and I hope somebody does it and gives it away. There is a C based performance model as an instruction simulator where you can boot OS like Solaris or Linux is also included in the distribution. Hopefully it helps some folks... renu raman
  • Interesting to note about SPARC V9 clone.... The plan (which is not revealed publicly yet) is not to stop at RTL. We intend to publish cookbooks to get to gates and beyond. If you look at the web pages, there are design partners, there are EDA partners and Fabs. Obviously you can read between the lines in terms of what can happen with all these folks.. stay tuned...
  • Err, someone doesn't have to be "out to get you" to be a threat to you.
  • I can see this as not much more than a PR move. About the only benefit that I can see to this is that now anyone can find bugs in the chip and suggest to Sun how to fix them. And, as has already been mentioned, this is one of Sun's older processors, so any bugs have long since been found and fixed.
  • The SCSL requires that you get a license from Sun in order to do a commercial redistribution of the product in question. For software, this is kind of okay because software can be redistributed for free pretty easily. It costs just about nothing to put up an FTP server somewhere.

    On the other hand, to redistribute hardware you have to setup an assembly line and distribution chain at considerable expense. I don't see how this can possibly work under the SCSL. As soon as you want to recover the cost of manufacturing your modified hardware, WHAM! you have to pay sun a (hefty) license fee. Think of this as a "open source" license which is open until you compile the program, because that's exactly what it is.

    It remains to be seen whether even GENUINELY open sourced hardware will work -- I can't see any way that this will work.

  • that's not what i'm saying at all. If they want to encourage open source they should forget about the liscense. they might as well say 'Whoever wants to play with out stuff for free can do it if they just give us some money.'
  • I obviously shoulda checked my references rather than do this off the top of my head....

    I'm only saying: I don't see what advantage microII has in embedded applications -- I don't see a particular incentive for embedded chip designers to pick it up.

    Does anyone know what its power needs etc. are? Have there been advanced, low-power versions of this chip produced? The microII 85MHz in my SB3 is pretty power hungry :)

    Now an embedded Ultra ... that would be interesting. I wouldn't mind an Ultra based subnotebook :)
  • by ryanr ( 30917 )
    I was hoping for the source code to their IP stack when I saw the title!

    This doesn't do me much good... my chip fab is at the cleaners.

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @08:30AM (#1682187) Homepage Journal
    Bell [of HP] characterized Sun's CSL -- for both hardware and software products -- as "an obvious attempt to gain the advantages of open sourcing without the obligations."

    At least someone in the industry catches that.

    I found out that Sun did say the SCSL was an Open Source license at the StarOffice press conference. Of course, that's a bald-faced lie. A reporter who was there, and seems to be a responsible person, asserted that fact to me in private mail. I'd like to know if they did the same thing at this most recent press conference.

    I wonder if they're just trying to buy the idea of Open Source by releasing so much almost-Open-Source software that they confuse people into believing that what Sun does is really Open Source?

    I personally am not going to have anything more to do with Sun and its products while they insist on foisting the SCSL on the world. I'd suggest that people who maintain GPL-ed SPARC port of Linux and the SPARC port of GCC consider if they are really helping the cause of free software.


    Bruce Perens

  • When talking about 'free' hardware, a classic example is the IBM PC. The clone makers churned them out by the bucket load, and all they had to license was the BIOS code (that is till Phoenix came along.)

    'Nuff said.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.