Wednesday, June 08, 2005

OSX86: some reassuring news from users of the new development platform

Accelerate Your Macintosh! News Page - 6/8/05

A developer provides some details on the development version of OSX86: (MacTel)
First, the thing is fast. Native apps readily beat a single 2.7 G5, and sometimes beat duals. Really.

All the iLife apps other than iTunes, plus all the other apps that come with the OS are already universal binaries....

They are using a Pentium 4 660. This is a 3.6 GHz chip. It supports 64 bit extensions, but Apple does not support that *yet*. The 660 is a single core processor. However, the engineers said that this chip would not be used in a shipping product and that we need to look at Intel's roadmap for that time to see what Apple will ship.

It uses DDR-2 RAM at 533 MHz. SATA-2. It is using Intel GMA 900 integrated graphics and it supports Quartz Extreme. The Intel 900 doesn't compare favorably to any shipping card from ATi or nVidia. The Apple engineers says they dev kit will work with regular PC graphics cards, but that you need a driver. Apple does not write ANY graphics drivers. They just submit bug reports to ATi/nVidia. So, when we asked where to get drivers for better cards the engineers said "The ATI guys are here." He's right, they've been in the compatibility lab several times.

It has FireWire 400, but not 800. USB 2 as well. USB 2 booting is supported, FireWire booting is not. NetBoot works.

The machines do not have Open Firmware. They use a Phoenix BIOS...

They run Windows fine. All the chipset is standard Intel stuff, so you can download drivers and run XP on the box.

Rosetta is amazing.... The tests I've run, both app tests and benchmarks, peg it at between a dual 800 MHz G4 and and a dual 2 G5 depending on what you are doing.

... Rosetta tells PPC apps that it is a G3. Apps should fall back to their G3 code tree. Everyone I tested did.

The UI tests in Xbench exceed a dual 2.7 by a large margin. (other specific tests are much lower than a G5 per Xbench site results.-Mike [jf: I think Quart Extreme is enabled on this machine, it's disabled on OS X Tiger!])

I've been talking to and watching a lot of devs. There are a lot of apps from big names running in the Compatibility lab already. Some people face more pain, sure, but Jobs wasn't kidding when he said that this transition would be less painful than OS 9 to OS X or 68K to PPC.

Game devs seem optimistic. They see porting Windows/x86 to Mac/x86 as much easier. They look forward to the day they don't have to support PPC.

I was talking to a (game Developer) that said about 1/3 of the process is handling endian issues, the rest is Win32/DirectX. For the next 3-5 years, their job will be harder since they have to port to two processor architectures and most bugs *are* endian related and that they will have a hard time making the PPC versions run as well as the x86 versions.

This transition is not about current P4 vs G5. It is about the future directions of the processor families. Intel is committed to desktop/notebook and server in a big way. Freescale/IBM are chasing the embedded market and console market. Apple would have been in a lurch in 2 years.

Also, all the cell people and the AMD people need to be quiet. Apple evaluated both. AMD has the same, if not worse, supply problems as IBM. Their roadmap is fine, but the production capacity is not.

They tested Cell as well. That processor is NOT intended for PC applications. (it was designed for game systems, not as a general use CPU) The lack of out of order execution and ILP control logic creates very poor performance with existing software. Having developers rewrite for cell would have been MUCH more work than reworking for Intel. And that's what this is, you rework your codebase in ALL cases, not rewrite it.

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