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Tru64 UNIX for Hobbyists: $99 151

Anonymous Coward writes "For those of you out there with Alpha hardware, it seems that Compaq is now offering its Tru64 UNIX to 'technology enthusiasts' for a mere $99." A heavily restricted (VERY non-GPL) license is attached to the deal, but it looks like it would be a nice combination toy and "teach yourself commercial UNIX at home" tool.
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Tru64 UNIX for Hobbyists: $99

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  • "Any work that is performed or produced as a result of use of this Software cannot be performed or produced for the benefit of other parties for a fee, compensation or any other reimbursement or remuneration..."

    Let's think about this...

    1) Can't take part in cooperative ventures like since the winner receives monetary compensation.

    2) Fellow student Jon Doe's programming assignment is due tomorrow but he's having problems. He offers $100 if you'll help him. Too bad the license forbids you from using your Tru64 machine to help. Again, violates the monetary compensation clause.

    Then we can branch out into other forms of "compensation, reimbursement or remuneration".

    At Linux Expo two years ago, Eric Raymond discussed the motivating factors behind the open source movement. One point he made was that open source authors sometimes receive compensation in the form of fame and notariety. Could this mean that a system under this license couldn't be used to develop open source software? Well, other parties benefit from the work and you could be compensated in the form of fame. Hmm...benefits others and you receive compensation for it. Yep. Violation. I guess you could submit the software under an alias...

  • by greg ( 1058 )
    Err, no offense but that sounds like FUD; since when is Compaq killing OpenVMS? VMS is the core of the old Digital service business and is still driving a billion or more dollars of Compaq's revenue anually. Compaq Is currently readying the OpenVMS Galaxies architecture and Wildfire systems that it will run on, does that sound like they're killing VMS?

    Whoops never mind I see from your website that you migrate customers from VMS to Unix and NT and therefore have a financial interest in convincing people that VMS is being killed.
  • I have bought 4 machines from and had EXCELLENT luck with them. They know linux and they know Alpha.
  • What applications do you run where integer performance is a bottleneck?

    Every single application I run. Word processing, browsing, the OS itself, most spreadsheet work, webserving, distributed number crunching bits of Pi.

    You seem to misunderstanding what integer performance represents; it does not have to do primarily with integer number crunching. Remember, branching, string manipulation, pointer handling, GUI/pixel operations, are all built entirely out of integer operations. Integer benchmarks such as SPECint95 typically measure all of these and make a good proxy for general purpose computing (CPU) performance.

    Unless you are specifically doing intensive loops of floating point math for physics/math/financial number crunching, FP is mostly irrelevant. Even 3D, the one potentially general purpose use for FP, is about equally dependent on integer performance for all the other operations that the app performs (handling input, AI, sound, other app logic, etc.) Not to mention that once you are using a 3D card with a geometry engine (e.g. Nvidia's GeForce 256 or 3Dlabs Oxygen GVX1), FP becomes practically irrelevant again.

    Most CAD and financial apps, the bread and butter of RISC workstations, often used fixed point (i.e. integer-based) arithmetic to avoid past processor limitations in floating point performance; one survey I read indicated that CAD code was 70% integer. Obviously analysis jobs like FEA or CFD tend to be floating-point bound.

    Admittedly, I don't need a 700 MHz computer these days, so its true that in some sense, integer performance isn't my bottleneck; my network connection is the real bottleneck. But within the PC, integer is far more of a limiting factor than floating point in the vast majority of usage scenarios.

  • If you've dealt with NetBSD at all, you'd know that things don't get done unless they're done in an architecture-independent manner. Until XFree86 86s the x86 and uses sane bus abstractions instead of counting on directly diddling the PCI bus, nobody [1] from the NetBSD team is terribly interested in supporting it. The XFree86 team knows that architecture-independence is the way to go, and supposedly v4.0 will be implemented a lot more cleanly.

    [1] There are actually some NetBSD guys who'd rather have ``impure'' XFree86 support than none at all, and are working on getting it running under NetBSD/alpha.

  • I have just started to work with a Mega-Alpha (can you say 1.5 Gig of RAM?!?) running True64 and it really is sweet. There's a LOT of very nice things in this OS and it absolutely screems! If you want to see what the next setp in OS technology will be you should try this out. If you don't want to shell out the $99 (plus buy an Alpha system) you can testdrive it at - []


  • Because Compaq owns Digital.

  • Of course, the more software that's available for the Alpha architecture, the better. I think this software is so cheap because UNIX isn't as important as it used to be. My understanding was that UNIX had an edge over linux on these systems because of its highly-optimised, closed-source compilers.

    It is also my understanding that the libraries/compilers/etc.. needed are being developed for linux, so perhaps it will be more usefull for scientific applications.

    As for the comment made above about whether the Alpha is still the fastest, It is the fastest not just because of the processor, but the EV6 bus. For total system throughput, I don't know of anything that even challenges the Alpha.

    Dr. W
  • This is no more restrictive than the license for
    SCO OpenServer/UnixWare and Solaris. All are
    intended for home use, and the license is written
    as to not canabalize their business market.

    What do they hope to gain? Anyhone that is running Alpha NT needs a new OS. Would Linux or
    *BSD do the same for less cost? Probably - the
    only advantage that I can imagine is that True64
    was actually developed to run on Alpha.
  • You pay a hundred bucks and can't use it for commercial purposes? I suppose that running a commrecial website off it, for instance, would be out.

    They seem to be forgetting that the competitive free UNIX operating systems are long out of the toy stage. Why pay all that for something whose license not only restricts distribution, reverse engineering and all the usual stuff, but also restricts the product to a hobby horse.

    The question I would ask is, does this offer actually contain $100 worth of hobby value? I can see it as being useful to someone who wants to learn the idiosynchrasies of setting up and administering Tru64 for the sake of getting a job, and just knowing the things that are different about product but that's not a pure hobbyist motivation.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that if I'm going to run a POSIX shell and play with vi, I can get cheaper satisfaction. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The responses to this story give a very interesting view of the experience level of most Slashdot users. I think it would make quite an insightful poll to find out how many Slashdot readers have actually ever used a real (i.e. not Linux or pseudoBSD) Unix. With responses like "if you get this, can you run your fav linux games?", "You can get Linux or FreeBSD for nothing, and you get to *keep* your soul.", "Why would anyone pay $99 for a closed-source, unsupported, singl-architecture UNIX?", it really makes me wonder how many of these people had even HEARD of Unix 5 years ago. I especially love that "why would anyone pay $99" arguement... a Unix license used to run in the thousands! I find it so amusing that when Compaq does what is basically a *major favor* for the hobbyist computer user, they get blasted for "not being all cool and open sourced!" by people who more than likely only use their "rad bawXen" for bitchX and don't even know what C code looks like. Honestly, you people have no idea how good you have it nowadays.
  • Actually extrapolating G4 from G2 is good since the G4 is an evolution of the 604e just as the G3 was an evolution of the 603
  • Hey, as I recall, Linux had support for running Tru64 binaries IFF you have a copy (and for those of us who don't want to be sued, a license) of the Tru64 runtime libraries.

    If so, does this license give you access to the runtime libraries? This could be a big win, in particular since the Tru64 compilers and JVM's are much better than Linux's.
  • Microway sells a low end Alpha workstation. Take a look at l4 [].
  • There's one thing that few people mention when comparing Linux with Unix, and it's the prime reason why most big companies (eg., Fortune 200) aren't even considering Linux yet:

    In hacker terms, it's somebody you can sue if something goes wrong.

    In legal terms, it's a liable party -- a legal counterpart whom you can hold responsible for defects. With Linux there's no such thing; there is no "Linus, Inc." You can't sue Red Hat if there are bugs in the kernel. You can sue Compaq or Sun or HP or whomever if their Unix products (Compaq's Tru64, Sun's Solaris, HP's HP-UX, whatever) fail. Red Hat et al, however, only sell "distributions", and they're not liable for damages.

    This admittedly curious artifact might not matter to hackers, but for big companies that's the number one. Here's an example: A friend of mine works for a large commerce institution here in Norway, and essentially he told me they'd benched an untuned, default installation of Sybase ASE 11.4 (the free, 10-user-or-so Linux version that you can download) on a well-tuned Linux box (a well-specced PII), comparing it to a well-tuned, commercial Sybase installation on an extremely well-specced, extremely expensive HP-UX box. I can't vouch for their testing skills, but the benching scripts did something like insert 100,000 random records into a table, then manipulated them. While HP-UX is a pretty high-end, high-performing OS, the Linux box proved about 10 times as fast in the tests. This was on inexpensive hardware, but equally significant is the fact that Sybase licenses on Linux are iirc about half the price of that of other platforms. So moving to Linux would save lots of bucks and give them a tenfold speed increase. And still this company said no. No Linux for production servers. Why? They needed a liable party.

    Thankfully, things are changing with vendors such as IBM -- and, I think, SGI (can anybody confirm this?) -- becoming full-fledged Linux system supporters. Ironically, even HP is providing Linux support engineers nowadays.

    The difference between merely preinstalling Linux on machines (which IBM, Dell, etc. all currently provide) and selling Linux-based systems might not be much more than a subtle difference in semantics, but for large companies, this is the alpha and the omega, the yin and the yang, and the difference between relying on Linux, and merely using it.

    Sometimes, as the adoption of Windows so prominently illustrates, politics is all that matters.

  • This is a pretty cool idea. However, the best versions of Tru64 and its apps are for Alpha processors. Though this would be a cool learning tool, I can't afford to buy an Alpha machine for home (though I'd love to have one.)
  • Now if I can get an alpha box, I'll be all set.
  • Mmmmm - truclusters
    I wonder why they're not releasing a similar noncommercial trucluster server. darn shame.
    ----- --- - - -
    jacob rothstein

  • Not only the compilers and the JVM, but a working copy of netscape, too.
  • Its just a way for them to get some more money for their product. Commercial Unix is having problems because:

    • The user base is going down because of free unices like Linux and BSD. And becuase of Micro$oft.
    • Open source systems are growing at such a rate that they can't keep up. And because of the previous item they can't afford to put in extra funding.

    If the producers of all the commercial unices had got together many years ago - they might all be doing better now. But maybe its for the best. I don't believe that any company should have major control of the software or internet standards, as it always leads to abuse of power. The only alternative is a community. However I hope the companies will get behind the community its their only chance if they don't want a Micro$oft world. The community has no objection to companies making money with open source systems, in fact they want it to be used more, as long as the licence agreements are met. Some of this goes against the corporate model of doing things; maybe corporations need to redefine their purpose somewhat.

    Just don't spend too long thinking about it!

    Maybe Digital will use the money from this to put towards better support of Linux on the Alpha?

  • You _do_ have a motherboard that supports T64, right? The cheaper cloner motherboards (those that were meant for budget NT/Linux systems) don't have enough NVRAM to support a T64 installation. I'm not an Alpha nerd but definitely check into whether your Alpha board (or the board you want) actually supports T64.
    Your Working Boy,
  • I've bought QUITE a few Alphas off of EBay. Just to a (DEC,Alpha) search on Computers -> Hardware. You can (could?) get a AlphaStation complete system for 300+, usually a EV4 (21064) 233 mhz machine. I have also picked up a PC164SX motherboard/Cpu combo (533mhz EV5 21164PC cpu) that takes DIMMS and can do either Tru64 or NT.

    The main problem with Tru64 is that it supports VERY limited hardware. You have to have mostly Compaq/Digital hardware. An Adaptec SCSI card won't work - there aren't any drivers for it. A Matrox video card won't work - no drivers. A 3Com NIC on Tru64 won't work - no drivers. And Tru64 is notorious for not liking non-Digital hard drives and CD-ROMs. And this is all from experience, as I am currently a Tru64 administrator. But don't let this discourage you, as on my Tru64 box (the PC164SX box), I have an IDE CD-ROM and Quantum IDE hard drive on the box. Although I did order a 128 meg DIMM from Viking that was for this particular board. And BEay does have the individual parts and pieces available so you can get a DE500 NIC or perhaps a Digital/Compaq Qlogic ISP SCSI card. Of course, you can also order them from Compaq.

    But there are some manufacturers that offer Tru64 hardware and drivers. For example, check out []. They do SCSI cards for Intel, Sparc, and Alpha. They have drivers for Tru64, NT, OpenVMS(!) and Linux (and Solaris). So, of there's one, there may be another...

  • And how much DRAM/disk does it take?

    -- Robert

  • I can't wait to get my copy, so I can run oracle 8 on my alpha box at home!
  • Far be it from me to oppose the kneejerk "open the source" reaction from so many, but I'd like to point out that the commercial Unixes frequently contain large amounts of code that the vendor licensed from yet another vendor. So opensourcing (ugh, its a verb...) isn't always immediately viable, since there's huge chunks of the code which the vendor simply isn't ALLOWED to open up.

    Let's remember the problems when Mozilla was first put out, with missing pieces of the JVM, the encryption libraries, and the like.

    Not everyone takes "reinventing the wheel" to the level of most of the free Unixes.
    Brandon Hume
    hume -> BOFH.Halifax.NS.Ca, http://WWW.BOFH.Halifax.NS.Ca/
  • All true, but what is not so real about Linux and FreeBSD? Seems to work just fine for me- and I am not a hobbyist... Sure, I would put Solaris or True64 on a large server, but that does not make them any more real.
    Appropriate tool for each job..
  • The Company actually had a couple of Alpha machines that we were going to use for SPICE boxes, but DEC wanted several thousand $$$ per for a single-user license. Wasn't worth it. They sat around for a while and we loaded Alpha Linux on them and that was kool, but no executables for anything we really needed to do.

    So, a couple of weeks ago, they were officially scrapped. I hauled them home hoping to load them with a current Linux distro (still no Alpha RH6.1, though -- wonder why?) So while getting around to it along comes Compaq with a rush of brains to the head and guess what?

  • The joke on the Redhat Alpha mailing list today was "Cool! For $99 we can have a working Netscape!" (Forgot who actually posted that)

    [Linux/Alpha can run many Tru64 binaries provided you have the right set of libraries. Presumably, you get these libraries when you pay your $99. Netscape doesn't exist for Linux/Alpha, and Mozilla's still a little quirkier than most would like it.]
  • So true. Around 1990 I bought a copy of Esix Unix SVR3.2 for about $600. The big appeal of Esix was it included X and a C compiler and cost about half most other PC Unices. I wound up spending another $300 on the manuals. For less than a grand I had Unix, C, X, and a full set of manuals! I was in heaven.

    I ran that Unix until 1995 when I picked up a copy of Slackware (with book, CD, and 1.2.8 kernel for $40) in a local bookstore. About 6 months later I retired Esix for good.

    Now, shipping from Cheapbytes costs more than a CD of any of several much more modern distributions. Yep, we got it good alright. ;)
  • What about in Australia? Any hints on where to get good Alpha hardware?

  • Linux is no less a "real" un*x than anything else, unless you want to get narky about who owns the Unix(tm)(r)(c) trademark and source licenses these days.

    "Real Unix" is a misnomer. Linux/*BSD may not be as mature, but they're no less a "real" un*x.
  • All,

    For those who bash this idea. Take a second or two and think about it. Tru64 skills are thin on the ground as it is. With the upcoming WildFire (not official yet ?) the skills will be truly in demand. If you have an Alpha Box I would recommend it. Until Linux gets proper clustering capabilities, it is the commercial UNIXs that will rule the High End.

    Free UNIXs are fine for small Webservers, fileservers and all that. But it hasn't got the capabilities of the Big Iron yet.

    Tru64 is fine if you set it up properly, but if not it crashes quite regularly. Our 8400s do anyway.

  • With responses like "if you get this, can you run your fav linux games?", "You can get Linux or FreeBSD for nothing, and you get to *keep* your soul.", "Why would anyone pay $99 for a closed-source, unsupported, singl-architecture UNIX?", it really makes me wonder how many of these people had even HEARD of Unix 5 years ago. I especially love that "why would anyone pay $99" arguement... a Unix license used to run in the thousands!

    Irrelevant. The cheapest available electronic calculators were over a hundred dollars when I first got one. But nowadays, people give away better ones for free with your paid subscription to (whatever). What does the fact that Unix licenses used to run in the thousands have to do with the fact that by today's standards this is not a good deal. The fact that I was running a commercial Unix (SunOS primarily) over five years ago doesn't mean I'm too senile to have noticed the Unix world has changed a lot in the last five years.

    I find it so amusing that when Compaq does what is basically a *major favor* for the hobbyist computer user, they get blasted for "not being all cool and open sourced!"

    I would hardly call $99 for an OS with poor third-party hardware support and an excessively restrictive license a "major favor". If you have a use for it, fine, but it's a rip off for most.

    by people who more than likely only use their "rad bawXen" for bitchX and don't even know what C code looks like. Honestly, you people have no idea how good you have it nowadays.

    I know what C code looks like. Many styles, in fact. I was fluent in it before ANSI got their hands on it. But again, this is utterly irrelevant. Why on earth would my C programming experience have any bearing on my ability to note that, for my purposes, this is not a good deal?


  • A few others were inquiring about personal Alpha machines, so I thought I'd add. My Alpha box sports a EV56 21164 running at 600 Mhz with 256 Mb of RAM. Total cost of around US$300. It's quite nice running RH 6.1 or NT Workstation 4.0
  • For single processor performance Alpha servers came in with SPECint of 39.1 and SPECfp of 68.1
  • Without beginning talking about advanced features, there is the sole issue of stability and reliability. I am in no way claiming that linux is unstable or crashes frequently. But, Solaris and Digital UNIX do have a claim to both greater reliability and being able to handle _far_ greater loads without things breaking down. FreeBSD also claims this, but I've read enough BSD/Linux flames this week. Seriously, while I have greatest faith in the open source movement, and do hold a true distaste for Solaris, I would still choose it anyday over Linux as a high.y-trafficed production server. I think this is an incredible opportunity to obtain a commercial UNIX at the same price as the over-inflated RedHat 6.0 boxed set, and that's the real purpose of this article, not debating true Unices versus clones.
  • Yes and, for those who don't remember, the roots of Digital Unix are actually OSF/1 which dates back to the glorious days of the Unices war UI vs OSF. That was in the early nineties. The good old times are over, I'm afraid :)

  • teach yourself to install GNU tools on commercial unix, more like it...
    Tru64's basic tools SUCK. find doesn't have -maxdepth, du doesn't have -b, the list goes on. It's basically agony to work on w/o having GNU tools.

    But anyway, if you want to learn a commercial UNIX, why Tru64 (aka Digital UNIX, DG-UX)?? From what I've seen in job descriptions, Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX skills are in much higher demand. And Solaris can be had for like $20 for non-commercial purposes (with SCSL'd source forthcoming...).

  • (still no Alpha RH6.1, though -- wonder why?)

    Eh, don't forget Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 for Alpha.
  • About the only reason that I am not considering NetBSD is its seeming lack of support for XFree86 adapters. I did a fair bit of research on just what I was going to install on my Alpha, and it boils down to either Linux of FreeBSD as having the widest range of supported hardware. Even though it was a pain in the butt nailing down exactly what was supported in FreeBSD, I did choose that. Now Compaq goes and tosses a wrench into the works. Oh well to find a supported HW list.

  • Even if they gave the TruCluster software and license away, you'd still have to fork out for two Alpha's, shared storage, and memory channel (cards and a hub). Unlike earlier versions of TruCluster, Memory channel is a prerequisite for V5.0 because of the new Cluster Common Filesystem. I don't have figures for these things in front of me, but the bare minimum cost has got to be over $10K for the lot. Not really in the price range of a hobbyist/home enthusiast.


  • Actually, the hardest (or most time consuming) part of jumping around commercial unicies is getting to know the proprietary hardware they run on. Oh, that and the different System Admin tools that use.

  • by roystgnr ( 4015 ) <roystgnr&ticam,utexas,edu> on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:19PM (#1561953) Homepage
    Yeah, yeah, I know: you're not a real old school hacker unless you were working on Unix before Unix bacame popular. Good for you.

    I've only used Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, and Linux (and only written code for the last two), but frankly I'd much rather be using Linux than any of the above.

    I've heard Unix admins gripe about non-standard Linux-isms, but is a BSD/SysV syntax mix really that much of a problem compared to compilers that default to K&R instead of ANSI C, and system calls that were created solely to make your Unix source code incompatible and lock in software developers?

    And as for the quality of said systems... well, Solaris is pretty sweet, but AIX and HP-UX are dead as soon as someone finds a hole deep enough to bury the remains. I remember telling people how aggravating it was that you couldn't upgrade a shared library or program in Windows while it was in use... only to discover that HP-UX 10.20 had the same limitation, not to mention further bass-ackwards problems with dynamic linking.

    And don't get me started on CDE. The idea that multiple massive software vendors collaborated to produce the best desktop environment they could, and came up with *CDE* anyway, boggles the mind.

    Don't get me wrong, there's lots of things that commercial Unices have (64-way SMP, high availability clustering, more optimized compilers, etc.) that Linux has yet to catch up to. But just because they're too expensive for the unwashed masses doesn't mean they're always worth it.
  • How about an SGI Origin 2000? ;)
    Or a Sun Enterprise 10000?
    Or one of HP's high-end boxes?

    Seriously though, looking at the kind of machines NCAR (national center for atmospheric research) buys for doing their weather simulations, I see no Alphas at all. They have everything from lowly Sun Ultra workstations and SGI Indigo2's to a handful of Crays and a brand-spanking new 128-cpu Origin 2k. If clustered Alphas provided better performance or lower price, they'd use 'em.

    Of course, it *is* a US Gov't facility, so.... ;)

  • If you actually want the answer to "what features does it have," go download the free 75+ page paper [] examining commercial UNIX features from D.H. Brown Associates. Click on "1998 report (download PDF)." It's a little old, but quite thorough if you want to know more about Tru64 (and other $$$ UNIX) features. I think they have another white paper focusing just on the improvements in the newer Tru64 5.0 release somewhere on Compaq's website. Search, search, search... ok, here's more on Tru64 v5.0 features [] from them.

  • by LinuxParanoid ( 64467 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:37PM (#1561956) Homepage Journal
    The best fair metric for chip performance seems to remain SPECint95 and SPECfp95 ( []).

    By that metric, the fastest recorded RISC and CISC speeds (1 per architecture) are the following:

    700 MHz 21264A Compaq AlphaServer GS60E:
    39.1 SPECint95 / 68.10 SPECfp95 (or w/ minimum optimizations, 34.7 SPECint_base95 / 54.5 SPECfp_base95)

    733 MHz Pentium III (i840) Intel:
    35.6 SPECint95 / 30.4 SPECfp95 (no _base figures available, figures from Intel, not yet on SPEC website)

    440 MHz PA-8500 HP N4000:
    34.0 SPECint95 / 51.4 SPECfp95 (30.8 int_base / 48.7 fp_base)

    450 MHz UltraSPARC-II Sun Ultra 60 Model 1450:
    19.7 SPECint95 / 27.0 SPECfp95 (16.2 int_base / 23.90 fp_base)

    300 MHz MIPS R12000 Origin 2000 2-way:
    18.4 SPECint95 / 34.4 SPECfp95 (18.1 int_base / 30.1 fp_base)

    340 MHz PowerPC RS64-II IBM H70:
    16.0 SPECint95 / 21.2 SPECfp95 (13.7 int_base / 20.2 fp_base)

    Thus the answer to your question is "Yes, Alpha remains the fastest", with the important caveat that the 10% performance advantage over Intel comes at a significantly higher price. All other RISCs are slower than the fastest Intel systems, at least in terms of uniprocessor integer performance, the best single predictor for most CPU-limited applications.

    Note that Apple G4 performance, and performance of IBM's latest S80 (450 MHz Power RS-III) aren't discussed by their respective vendors. If you extrapolated the G4 performance from the mildly similar 340 MHz Power RS-II, performance of a 500 MHz part would be around 23.53 SPECint with SPECfp at 31.8. IBM's Power PC 604e parts have slightly lower integer performance and much lower floating point performance at the same clock rates as the RS-II (375 MHz 604e runs 15.1 SPECint, 10.1 SPECfp,) so even if there are some other G4 improvements, I doubt the 500 MHz G4 will be beating a 733 MHz Pentium III.

    Note that these benchmarks don't measure performance of vector-processing chip features like MMX used by a few apps like Photoshop.


    P.S. (Sidebar: The minimal performance value-add of RISC over Intel is is why I think Linux's highly touted multi-architecture support for RISCs is exactly a glowing scalability feature as some apparently make it. [] I guess 64-bits and floating point comes in handy for a few apps. Other than that, it's a nice plus for legacy hardware that grows less relevant by the day. )
  • by Axe ( 11122 )
    Can one compile a distribution of Linux for Alpha (kernel, library, tools, KDE, etc.) using Digital ccc?
  • It's good to see some people here recommending ovms!, I would recommend anyone with an old alpha or vax to try the openvms hobbyist program. Because, well, let's face it, sometimes unix can get a little bit, err, boring. old. learned. done. or maybe that is just me. further information on the OpenVMS hobbyist program can be found at and if I know HTML like I hope I do OpenVMS Hobbyist Program []
  • First of all, if you are interested in Alphas on Linux.. go to AlphaLinux [].

    There are vendors listed there that can get you set up (look to the right... I recommend Hard Data and DCG myself).

    As far as this *deal* forget it! Okay, probably a year ago I would have said yes, but not now. Not for Unix-guru-wannabe. I am having so much fun hacking linux up and especially XFree86 on Alpha. (VooDoo3 is really really fast on alpha!)

    You see, my friend, what makes the Alpha so fast, is *smart compiler technology*. A decent compiler like egcs is __NOT__ going to produce really optimized alpha machine code. What to do?

    Well, previously we were rolling and unrolling loops like a smoker. Then we were hand tuning. Using asm().

    And then Compaq did a stunning thing. They released an optimized math library. They released Compaq Fortran for LINUX. And then they stunned me again. They released their C compiler.. natively for Linux.

    Now before you go banging on the cathedral walls.. consider that egcs would require quite a rewrite to really do the "right" thing on Alphas. If I know jack about compilers, I'd try.. but compilers are spooky black magic.. right up there with human cloning for a application/driver hacker. (imagine a compiler, that compiles it's own source code.)

    Of course if you're considering Tru64, I assume that you don't have qualms paying for software in the first place. I don't have problems paying for software that doesn't pretend to non-commercial open-standards blah blah. A compiler produces an executable. Done. If I don't like it in the end, *toss*.

    Anyhow, this brings me to my final point. If you don't buy the developer tools for this system, you can only use gcc. Which at that point you might as well be using linux.. because I guarantee you that Digital Unix ain't going to make poop difference in performance if you're compiling using egcs/gcc. I don't think the developer tools are going to cost 99 bucks though.

    So if you're like me and just love the "beauty" of a well designed and implemented OS such as Tru64, then go for it. If you've got the right hardware and all.. it's perfect.

    Otherwise, skip it. Get a nice DS20 from Compaq(or at the least a 533 MHz 164LX. It uses PC100 SDRAM DIMMS.. and PCI slots) Load Linux. And when it comes time to compile.. consider that you might want to use the ccc (compaq c compiler) for intense programs. Gains of 10 to 30 percent speed increases are pretty good.

  • So Digital UNIX (actually called Tru64 UNIX) is dead now huh? Strange that, as they just announced a $100 million marketing campaign to promote its growth.

    I guess the folks at Compaq just like throwing good money after bad (NOT).

  • You can get a full working KDE 1.1.2 build for Tru64 UNIX now. Built for v4.0f, but it should run on V5 without changes. dist

  • Aren't they the old-style green-on-white New Hampshire plates, with the name "Digital" where the "New Hampshire" would be, "UNIX" as the tag number, and the customary "Live Free or Die" across the bottom?

    This is my opinion and my opinion only. Incidentally, IANAL.
  • They're trying to broaden their base of professionals who know the idiosyncracies (to say the least) of their OS, see...

    Incidentally, there's money to be made here. I use it at work. Extensively. We're a Tru64 shop. I get paid pretty well for knowledge I acquired a few years ago working for a company that happened to run its web server on Digital Unix because it's what we had lying around.

    Why, now, a Tru64 shop? Well... we're running HUGE Oracle databases with a 3rd-party ERP system layered on top of them, for one. Another box runs a commercial database package for libraries, for which Tru64 is the preferred install platform.

    And what sorts of nice things do you get out of Tru64 (TruCluster notwithstanding)? How about (this is a seriously incomplete list):

    1. AdvFS, a true journaling filesystem with the capability to layout filesets (think of them as partitions) across multiple drives, bundling drives together as logical devices, etc.
    2. The ability to do (or have it do for you) REAL hardware diagnostics on an Alpha. As in, "CPU1 fan failure, shutting down".
    3. The ability (if you're running Compaq hardware and are willing to pay for it) to get SPECTACULAR warranty work... as in, fast, friendly field-service -- essential if you're running a large data center.
    4. Options like C2 security...!

    Don't get me wrong... I love open source software. I run both Linux and FreeBSD. But, what we're talking about here is a large industrial product, as in, competing with E-class Sun boxes and IBM mmf's. It wasn't designed to run a website for "Joe's T-Shirt Shack" and it would be overkill to select it for that... unless you happen to have (like we did a couple jobs ago) the hardware lying around.

    This is my opinion and my opinion only. Incidentally, IANAL.

  • Actually, the ONLY versions of Tru64 are for the Alpha processors.
  • Sun's Workshop tools have a license gizmo which can do license management from a license server to multiple client workstations, as well as local compiles.

    cc(1) says that you need to check out a license to use the automatic loop parallelization stuff. (Workshop cc has the very cool feature of being able to generate a multithreaded program to run different parts of a loop on different CPUs. :)

    borg]~ $ cc -xlicinfo

    License server :

    Sun WorkShop Compiler C Version 4.200 expires on : Never

    Users of Sun WorkShop Compiler C Version 4.200 :


    Total Licenses : 25 Licenses Available : 25

    /opt/SUNWspro/bin/../SC4.2/bin/../../license_dir/s unpro.lic,1

    The information above is for the first occurrence of the requested
    feature in the first license server on the list.
    Set the LM_LICENSE_FILE environment variable
    differently to
    see information about other license servers or use lmstat(1).

    #define X(x,y) x##y

  • I'm not sure what JVM's you've used but we've tried with little success to get any of them to work properly on Alpha's running Tru64. Mind you, I'm a bit out of it now, so I don't know what the platform is any more, but I know they were trying to use fjvm the other day and it was just seg faulting everywhere.
    ------------------------------------- ----------------------
  • Compaq owns Digital now, so the proper heading is Compaq.

    Personally I always liked Digital Alpha over Compaq Alpha. All the Compaqs I've dealt with have been crap (for example, my school got a load of 8 Compaqs, I forget what model (desktop cases), and I was responsible for installing CD drives in them. Oh joy, the 5.25" bays were actually 5.125" bays), and while I'm sure their... skillful manufacturing process hasn't affected the Alpha line yet, it sure does make me worry about it's future.
  • I mean.. are there any other categories.. like

    "starving college students" -- price $0.00
    "professionals with more money
    than sense" -- price $999.99

    but seriously.. this might be worth it, except for the fact of how expensive Alpha boxes are.. anyone out there use one at home.. and how much did it cost?

  • compaq owns digital. digital makes tru64.

    don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.
    ----- --- - - -
    jacob rothstein
  • If I recall, Digital did this with OpenVMS a few years ago, too. In fact, that license may have been free. People with Alpha hardware may want to check that out as well; it's a good OS... probably the most user-friendly command-line based OS available.

    (Not that *nix isn't user-friendly. ;-)

    This is a good move on Digital's part, although I hope it helps Tru64 better than it did VMS which is still just hanging on.
  • Wow, not counting the shipping charge, that's almost as cheap as Sun's free developer program version of Solaris :)
  • I got the Intel copy of Solaris for about $20 last year under a developers program.

    I'm not too sure how valuable these cheap SCO, Tru64 and Solaris OS's are with Linux and the *BSD's out there but, as a Sun admin, I had a particular interest. However, I run my own projects under Linux.
  • (Off Topic) Is the Alpha chip still the fastest? After 5-6 years now? Or does the G4 now claim the title. (Apple debate ensues)
  • define "fastest"...

    floating point.. integer.. ??

  • Off Topic, but...

    You can get an Alpha box, and cheap. No... seriously...

    In the UK, a lot of companies (particularly Local Government) are selling off "old" equipment, drifting away from the centralised approach.

    An excellent example is my friend who was working for ICI (big Chemical company). He got a really nice SPARC, with a 21" screen etc for a few pounds (UK Sterling).

    I imagine some idiots are also letting go of Alphas for similar prices. At the place I worked (Local Gov), they were literally THROWING away machines, I nearly got me a huge VAX system, but realised that I had nowhere to put it, and probably no use for it...

    But anyway, you should probably "surf" and see if any surplus suppliers got there hands on any of these...


    * Paul Madley ...Student, Artist, Techie - Geek *
  • Alright, the time has come to get an Alpha. Does anyone have any good recommendations on where to buy an Alpha CPU/MB combo? I assume I can use standard parts to build the rest of the machine. (eg. Matrox video, 3Com NIC, Adaptec SCSI) Am I on the right track here?
  • Actually, they are already using them. There is a 48.6-GFLOPS Avalon cluster at Los Alamos. Ranked No. 160, the $400,000 cluster consists of Alpha processors.

    I believe that NOAH is commisioning a large scale ALPHA-based beowulf cluster as well. Can't remember the name, though (Lobos?)

  • DG-UX is not Digital Unix. DG-UX is made by Data General.

  • What about NetBSD? NetBSD was the first open source OS to port to the Alpha, supports most alpha systems, etc. I'd guess NetBSD is a good deal ahead than Linux.
  • I think one only needs the linker (ld) in order to rebuild vmunix.

    As far as I know (version 4.0d), the base installation did not offer the c compiler with the base license. You could install it, but the license manager would kick in saying that you don't have a license to use this.

    Their compiler was the only own I know of that actually made darn sure you never exceeded the license limit.. (We had 10 developers on a 3 license box.. made for interresting make files to say the least to compensate for "license overflow!!"


  • This sounds like it stops you from developing 'killer app for Tru64' and then selling it. This is a mistake. If the intention is to allow people to 'get used' to Tru64 then fine, but I fail to see what administering a single CPU, me and my dog as users box has in common with running a 100+ user live system.

    If they are trying to encourage developers onto the platform then why not go more in line with what Oracle offer. Their technology track license allows you to develop and sell your app as long as you do not use it to process data. This means you can get something together and its only your clients who pay for the run-time licensing and support. Smart, allows a lot of hobbyist developers a legitimate leg-in to the development of apps for the platform.


  • If I emember correctly, the origional plates were
    Live free or die

    and were given out to the origional UNIX hackers. I'm not surprised that DEC did that.. I have one from Linux world (from compaq) with Linux. The anervsity version is out too. Just an old cool thing Bell Labs did, and everyone copied.
  • Digital Unix (long live digital :P ), when setup properly, and on good hardware, rarely crashes. We have a bunch of Dig boxes and rarely have any problems that have to do with the OS.

  • An optimized compiler for one. Anyone working with linux on an alpha knows the performance of gcc is sub-par. If you want any real speed out of the alpha, it really helps to have digital and ccc. Linux on alpha is good, it just has a ways to go before it can catch up to the performance of digital. Try some tests on the digital machines vs the linux machines with compaqs testdrive. Im not sure if gcc is symlinked to ccc on the linux box though, you might want to check because ccc is definatly going to produce faster code than gcc but digital will still pull out ahead. Make sure to take note of the load though. Sure there are downsides to it but digital is about performance on the alpha first and formost. As for the unsupported part of your argument, whats linux?

  • Well, I've installed and run RH5.2 and NetBSD on my Multias without excessive trouble. RH6 is 'way too bleeding edge for me. Haven't done really heavy compiling, but kernels compile OK in 32 MB DRAM.

    -- Robert
  • I'm not going to argue with most of this, since I'm certainly no expert in this area. But even as a non-expert, there are some fairly poor assumtions here.

    SPECfp at 31.8. IBM's Power PC 604e parts have slightly lower integer performance and much lower floating point performance at the same clock rates as the RS-II (375 MHz 604e runs 15.1 SPECint, 10.1 SPECfp,) so even if there are some other G4 improvements, I doubt the 500 MHz G4 will be beating a 733 MHz Pentium III.

    How, exactly, are you extrapolating anticipated G4 results from a PPC 604e? Some background. Both the 603e and 604e PPC chips were so-called G2 chips. The 604e was marketed as the more high-end chip, with a 1MB L2 cache and so on, and the 603e found its way into consumer models like the Performa. The G3 was actually a highly suped-up version of the 603e, AFAIK, basically a 603e with a backside cache. If you look at the Motorola PowerPC Microprocessor Strategy diagram (sorry, I don't have the link, but it's a PDF file that was linked to some time back here on /. ) you can see that the 604e was actually an evolutionary dead end. They started phasing that chip out two years ago. Now, I'm not sure how much the G4 has in common with the G3, but major differences include that it is now a copper process chip, with an on-die L2 cache and Altivec instructions (the so-called "velocity engine"). Now, how can you possibly extrapolate G4 performance from 604e performance? AFAIK, about all they have in common is the instruction set. And even then, with Alitvec instructions, that isn't even true.

    Note that these benchmarks don't measure performance of vector-processing chip features like MMX used by a few apps like Photoshop.

    As I mentioned, PPC now has the Altivec (Velocity Engine) vector processing that is supposedly at least a match for MMX. Again, I don't know specifics on performance comparisons (other than from Apple propeganda. ;)

    Jeeze. Don't bash products whose evolution you clearly know little about. I mean, when a software guy like me can poke statements on hardware full of holes.... :)


  • One reason why we had to purchase Alpha boxes + Tru64 for InfoJump [] was because Linux machines have the limit of 2 GB per file, which Alpha/Tru64 doesn't have. Yes, there are patches for Linux that take care of this problem to some extent, but they don't always work (we had to buy a binary, precompiled app and couldn't recompile it to support >2 GB files).

    Does FreeBSD for Intel have the same 2 GB file limit like Linux does or does it allow >2 GB files? Anyone knows?

  • Why on earth would my C programming experience have any bearing on my ability to note that, for my purposes, this is not a good deal?

    The original post had nothing to do with whether this was a good deal or not. The poster was refering to the fact that it appeared that the other posters were clueless about Unix and what it really was marketed for.

    Tru64 and Linux have different marketable areas. I don't think that anyone using Linux would be considering Tru64. Statements like, "Can I play games on this?", as well as the ones mentioned in the first post prove this.

    No, Tru64 isn't for people who use Linux because they are rE411y r4d d00dz. For them, it isn't a "good deal". But then Compaq isn't focusing this offer on them anyways.

  • *sigh* Sadly, you perpetuated the invisibility of AMD. The AMD performs faster than the Pentium III in almost all tasks. You could've made your point even better that way.

    Also, in the rather silly arena of benchmarking based on SETI@Home results [], the alpha is the clear winner. There are no CPUs that come even close to the two alpha scores of 1:23 per data set, and 0:59 per data set.

    Of course, I would MUCH rather run Linux on an Alpha, despite the fact that Tru64 has some interesting features (like a journaling FS, and an amazing level of parameter tunability (how relevant when you have the source?)) that Linux doesn't.

  • Here here, good to see someone else who respects OpenVMS. I love em both, UNIX and OpenVMS. Too bad Compaq is killing OpenVMS
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It seems to me it takes a lot of poking around on the relevant pages to find out just what architecture Tr64 UNIX runs on. "Sure," you say, "everyone knows this is an Alpha-only OS," or maybe even "isn't the '64' part kind of a clue that this might not run on Intel chips?" but of the first six posts, one clearly thought this would run on something besides Alpha, and one had no idea why this was filed under "Compaq."

    I'm sure the opposite must be true, too: that someone will think that since this is offered by Compaq, that it must run on the boxes Compaq actually makes money selling.

    If I were Compaq, I'd be careful to mention here or there, maybe like on the order page, that this runs on machines that most people on this planet have never even heard of.

    Me personally, I'd have bought one of these here Alpha boxes, but I've been waiting and waiting for them to at least get to beta. It's been years; what's the holdup?

  • What would the purpose of this be? What could Compaq earn from this move? Any ideas?

  • People looking for cheap Alpha equipment should try the UK, like I said in a comment a few messages back...

    I've had a quick "surf", but can't find anything - but trust me, cheap Alphas DO exist :)


    * Paul Madley ...Student, Artist, Techie - Geek *
  • I picked up a copy of the latest Linux Journal and they were advertising two or three places where you could get Alpha hardware. Be warned that the stuff ain't cheap (You want a 21264 if you're going to go to the trouble of getting one...)
  • First off, this is a business/science operating system used for their respected fields, not for running games.

    As for the RPM tool, I seriously doubt it, its not RedHat after all.

    You and the rest of the world are looking for an Alpha system for under $3000 if they exist.
  • Compaq today announced that it would be shipping DOS for its line of personal computers to hobbyists for a mere $99. A Compaq spokesperson said, "This continues to reaffirm our position as offering the best dead technology for the most money." Supposedly, it comes with a BASIC interpreter, but you cannot edit your own programs.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't I see compaq switching to Linux a while back? Why this Tru64 garbage? Anyway, I got a copy of solaris for $16.63, shipped. Same deal - no cc, only ld. Why the expensive tag?
  • Your opinion may vary from mine, but I'll put money on my prediction that this offer from Compaq won't have too many takers.

    I absolutely concur with you. In fact, if you talk to Compaq, I would almost guarentee that they would agree with you. Just because someone markets something, that doesn't mean that they are marketing it to *you*.

    This is Tru64. It isn't a competitor to Linux. Those using Linux will use Linux. Those interested in Tru64, will find this offer interesting. And those interested people are those that Compaq is marketing this too.

  • Unfortunately, the Multia suffers from a common failure: a chip on the bottom of the board overheats and fails, and the machine throws repeated machine checks. I ran a Multia for a year or so as an NT primary domain controller; when it died, that was it. It'd probably be fine for an intermittent user who doesn't leave it on all the time, but I'd recommend staying away from it for server-style use.
  • My main Linux server at home is an AlphaStation 200 4/166, for which I paid less than $500, less RAM and disk. I'm about to replace it with a system based on the PC164 motherboard and a 500 MHz Alpha. The motherboard and CPU were on eBay for $249. The biggest expense with these is that you have to use true parity (36-bit) RAM and SCSI disk, but the reward is good, solid performance. Running Linux on one gives you a good vaccine against many script kiddie attacks, since they nearly always depend on replacing a binary, and the payload is almost always an Intel binary.

    I'll probably pop for a copy of Tru64 for the AS200; I've liked it ever since my first Unix job that I could put on my resume, with 1.3.
  • (Oh, and please lose or break up the wide screws up browser formatting, by forcing side scrolling when it wouldn't otherwise be needed.)
  • AIX and HP-UX are dead as soon as someone finds a hole deep enough to bury the remains.

    I wouldn't be so sure about AIX...after all, IBM is one of the lead developers of Monterey, the commercial Unix for Merced...

  • if I emember correctly, the origional plates were

    Live free or die

    and were given out to the origional UNIX hackers.

    You don't remember correctly.

    New Hampshire


    Live free or die

    wasn't a Bell Labs thing. It was Armando Stettner's personal New Hampshire license plate when he worked in the DEC facility in New Hampshire.

    DEC made copies of it a while back and passed out zillions of them.
  • My fault; I presumed AMD still wasn't publishing SPEC scores, but when I went to look, I discovered that hey, they released some with the Athlon launch in September! No 700 MHz results, but they do have 650 MHz Athlon scores, and Intel has released 650 MHz Pentium III scores. So here, hopefully better late than never:

    650 MHz Athlon, Microstar MS-6167 mboard:
    29.4 SPECint95 / 22.6 SPECfp95

    650 MHz Pentium III, SE440BX2 mboard (results from Intel, not SPEC directly):
    31.6 SPECint95 / 22.9 SPECfp95

    I'm not sure where you get your statement that "AMD performs faster than the Pentium III in almost all tasks." What tasks, exactly?

    Personally, I find differences of 5-10% irrelevant between any two chips anyway. Athlon and PIII appear quite comparable performance-wise.

  • Yeah, extrapolating G4 specs from G2/G3 is bogus. I tried to put in enough hedges so people wouldn't take it too seriously ("*if* you extrapolate", chips are "mildly similar", focused on comparing with a more recent Power RS-II chip rather than the older 604e, etc.) Perhaps I should have stuck to pointing out that when vendors don't publish performance results on industry standard benchmarks, it's generally because at best, they have no advantage on such benchmarks or at worst, their performance is significantly worse than competitors.

    Frankly, Apple was trying to claim the G4 was a supercomputer and 2-4x faster than Pentium III in its marketing ("for certain tasks", aka a highly selected and tuned group of Photoshop tasks and a few obscure Intel signal processing benchmarks (but not Intel's MMX media benchmarks interestingly)). Any benchmarks that showed the chips even close to being comparable would have undercut their hypy marketing. So they didn't release broad-based industry standard performance metrics (or even relevant niche performance metrics such as performance on desktop publishing and/or more common photoshop tasks.) And any performance edge would have been more exposed as Intel cranked up clock rates and overtook them.

    I guess the point of my extrapolation which I didn't drive home was that the G4 improvement over IBM's respectable March 1999 Power RS-II chip would require a further 50% improvement in SPECint per clock cycle to come close to matching today's topline 733 MHz PentiumIIIs. (24->36 SPECint) Unlikely given the similarities of timeframe between G4 and RS-II designs (March 99 vs. Sept 99) and similar process technologies. I just don't think the G4 is 50% better than the Power RS-II on a clock-per-clock basis. But this is admittedly a highly imprecise guessing game caused by Apple not releasing standard performance metrics.

    Perhaps I should have skipped the issue entirely, but since the previous post specifically asked about G4, I attempted to make the best assessment I could with the data available. I stand by my statement that I don't see any reasonable way a 500 MHz G4 can match a 733 MHz Pentium III on any broad benchmark of general purpose computing tasks. There may not be proof that is true, but the evidence I see all points that direction.

  • NECX's [] Outlet Center [] has 400MHZ Digital Server 3300's [] still in stock. Ignore the fact that they are the "UK" model. It takes exactly 5 seconds to convert it to "US" -- i.e. flip the power supply input voltage to 110 instead of 220 and plug in any US type IBM power cord. The UK model keyboard is a little weird by US standards, but you can use whatever PS/2 keyboard you want.

    Of course, it's sans disk and RAM :-( Adequate SCSI hard drives are not expensive (4G is more than enough.) RAM, being 3.3V ECC EDO DRAM DIMMs, is a small problem. I ordered mine from The Outpost [].
  • Also does this unix have an install tool like rpm?

    yes, although I forget the name at the moment.

    Also, well for the most of us alpha processor systems are toooo expensive? Anyone know where to get a sub $1500 system, that can handle (if not have) multiple processors.

    I got my two 3000/400s free, since a local university was going to throw them out, and I know one of the head sysadmins there. Remember that some of the early alphas are now five or six years old, and are considered ``junk'' by a lot of universities and businesses. Sure, a PIII may toast my piddly 133Mhz 20164, but floating point on even the old alphas is still pretty impressive. Plus there's the whole 64-bit thing.

    As for multiprocessor machines, you just might get lucky!

  • Actually, Digital is Compaq.
    As I recall it, Compaq bought Digital with everything; the company, their IP, and their brand.
    So nowadays "Digital" is only a brand, belonging to Compaq, and Digital as a sole company doesn't exist, so it's Compaq that makes Tru64, even if it's probably the same cool guys who once worked at Digital who's doing it under Compaq's name.

  • First off, the linux distributions for alpha are crap, and the FreeBSD ones are worse. Doesn't mean they don't run, but they weren't developed for alpha and it shows. This is an awesome deal (though a bit more expensive than the Solaris promotion) to run a true alpha OS. My friend had been running an older version of DEC UNIX on his multia, and I've been looking forward to picking up a copy for a long time. Stop trashing this for a minute and think, eh? For those of us that run low-end DEC boxes and want a real OS, this is a godsend.
  • There's a company called Lodgepole [] in Washington state (USA) that sells brand new alpha systems. VA Research [] used to sell them. There are other places out there...

    See also: my previous comment []
  • NetBSD [] is production-class on many alphas, but not all of them. OSF^WDU^WTru64 also supports more of the whacky proprietary DEC hardware (like turbochannel graphics cards) than NetBSD does at the moment... I'm sure Linux is in the same boat with its Alpha support.

    Having a working box with a proprietary OS today is sometimes preferable to having a non-working box with a soon-to-come free OS.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears