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Hardware-Accelerated Graphics On SGI O2 Under NetBSD 75

Posted by timothy
from the progress-in-unexpected-places dept.
Zadok_Allan writes "It's a bit late, but since many readers will remember the SGI O2 fondly, this might interest a few. The gist of the story is this: NetBSD now supports hardware accelerated graphics on the O2 both in X and in the kernel. We didn't get any help from SGI, and the documentation available doesn't go beyond a general description and a little theory of operation, which is why it took so long to figure it out. The X driver still has a few rough edges (all the acceleration frameworks pretty much expect a mappable linear framebuffer, if you don't have one — like on most SGI hardware — you'll have to jump through a lot of hoops and make sure there's no falling back to cfb and friends) but it supports XRENDER well enough to run KDE 3.5. Yes, it's usable on a 200MHz R5k O2. Not quite as snappy as any modern hardware but nowhere near as sluggish as you'd expect, and since Xsgi doesn't support any kind of XRENDER support, let alone hardware acceleration, pretty much anything using anti-aliased fonts gets a huge performance boost out of this compared to IRIX."
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Hardware-Accelerated Graphics On SGI O2 Under NetBSD

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  • Related news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2009 @04:00PM (#27981099)
    I finaly replaced the carb on '84 accord, and now the engine doesn't stall. Too bad, it's all rusted and missing a wheel.
    • In searching the internet you can add fuel injection to an 84 accord if you'd like. I'd put a thicker jet if i were you. Does it have a roter or a coil pack?

    • This seems really, really pointless. I mean yes, I understand these were high end graphics workstations. Ok, fine, but it has been so long, and consumer technology has progressed so much that now regular consumer graphics cards run circles around them. I can understand interest in them even some time after their prime, since their high end hardware had support for things that much consumer hardware didn't, even if the consumer hardware was pushing triangles faster, but that's not the case any longer. A GeFo

    • The computer equivalent of that would be a Dell 486. The O2's would be at least a Corvette.

  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by crumbz (41803) <<remove_spam>jus ... o spam>gmail.com> on Saturday May 16, 2009 @04:05PM (#27981133) Homepage

    Weird. Yesterday I was just perusing the SGI discard bin on eBay to see if I could pickup (another!) workstation for under $200 or so. I love those machines, despite IRIX, for surfing the web, e-mail, etc. Now if only Valve would release TF2 for IRIX 6.3 so I can play the sniper update....

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Jurily (900488)

      (another!) workstation for under $200 or so.

      Does it support Xinerama with hardware acceleration? If not, there's no possible selling point compared to my $500 Dell laptop whatsoever (Intel video card).

      • (another!) workstation for under $200 or so.

        Does it support Xinerama with hardware acceleration? If not, there's no possible selling point compared to my $500 Dell laptop whatsoever (Intel video card).

        An X driver with lots of rough edges and lots of hoops to jump through? This is different than my Dell laptop with Intel graphics running Linux how, exactly?

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by Jurily (900488)

          This is different than my Dell laptop with Intel graphics running Linux how, exactly?

          It's not. Learn to read. That was exactly my point.

        • An X driver with lots of rough edges and lots of hoops to jump through?

          You may want to read the article again, it said nothing like that. There are no hoops to jump through for the user and you invented the 'lots' of rough edges. The hoops mentioned in the article are about the driver having to keep the Xserver from trying to scribble into video memory.

      • by evilviper (135110)

        there's no possible selling point compared to my $500 Dell laptop whatsoever (Intel video card).

        Let's see:

        Price: $300 less.
        Historical significance: Infinitely higher
        Styling: Undeniably better
        Architecture: MIPS
        Reliability: Vastly more error-resilient hardware

        So, those would in fact all be selling points. The fact that they aren't important enough factors for YOU is about as interesting as knowing what computer a single random person someone in the world prefers... In fact, it's EXACTLY the same! So why

    • next to vax/vms, irix was my fave dev. platform;-)

    • by kramulous (977841)

      At work we were going through our storeroom and came across three SGI O2's, 4 Octanes, 2 indigos and an Onyx (Ok, it's a big storeroom). The boss wanted them to be thrown out. I managed to convince him not too. That these are the sort of machines that may start to increase in price.

      I used the Onyx 6 years ago when I first started as a remote X display (or was it an Indigo)? But that's about it. All of them still work.

      • by prefect42 (141309)

        I doubt they'll increase in price fast enough to justify storing them. The octanes alone would be worth a mint melted down, as there's an unnatural amount of metal in those things.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It was a pretty box, with a software stack that was pretty solid. Prodev, Inventor and Performer, in particular, were pretty cool.

    Sometimes, though, you just have to let the sleeping dead lie. This box symbolized exactly why SGI ran itself into the ground. Perfect being the enemy of good, and all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2009 @04:50PM (#27981509)

    There is no one left at SGI who understands how to get X11 to talk to this old hardware. Those people were layed off back during the dot.com bust in early 2000's when SGI shifted focus from Irix to WinNT. Since then Irix has been on absolute minimum life support until it was EOL'ed in 2006.

    Therefor it is nearly impossible to get any programming or hardware documentation even if the current SGI wanted to co-operate. It's all been shredded long ago and the people who wrote it are gone, gone, gone!

    • That's probably exactly what happened. Too bad we won't be able to support any of their newer graphics hardware for that reason.

    • There is no one left at SGI who understands how to get X11 to talk to this old hardware. Those people were layed off back during the dot.com bust in early 2000's when SGI shifted focus from Irix to WinNT. Since then Irix has been on absolute minimum life support until it was EOL'ed in 2006.

      Therefor it is nearly impossible to get any programming or hardware documentation even if the current SGI wanted to co-operate. It's all been shredded long ago and the people who wrote it are gone, gone, gone!

      In fact that shift from hardware that ran Irix to WinNT could have happened well before the dot.com bust in 2001. It might have been as early as 1999.

  • According to http://bsd.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=00/06/30/087234 [slashdot.org], BSD was ported to the O2 in 2000.
  • Octane / Onyx (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slash d o t . f i renzee.com> on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:49PM (#27982803) Homepage

    I don't have an O2, but i have a couple of Octanes and an Onyx, both of which should run rings around an O2... Is there any way to get acceleration working on these, or is IRIX the best that's available?
    I seem to remember IRIX having an xrender library available, possibly from sgifreeware or nekochan, or does it just do software rendering? IRIX used to make a very fast X terminal, but modern apps always seemed very sluggish on it and perhaps that's why..

    • by rbanffy (584143)

      Well... Just don't hold your breath.

    • by armanox (826486)
      I haven't had too much luck with the Octane I've been playing with (ok, it's been like a year now). Gentoo is fun on it, but, I can't seem to even get X working with it (X DOES work from the old live cd though, so I know it can be done).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Zadok_Allan (158400)

      I seem to remember IRIX having an xrender library available, possibly from sgifreeware or nekochan, or does it just do software rendering? IRIX used to make a very fast X terminal, but modern apps always seemed very sluggish on it and perhaps that's why..

      That's the client library, as far as I know there is no Xrender extension for Xsgi so all anti-aliased text is rendered client-side, by software, which burns lots of CPU cycles. On slow CPUs like the R5k that really, really hurts.

      About Onyx and Octane - the

  • Desktop (Score:2, Funny)

    by Vinegaroon (1166281)
    Could this mean we are nearing the year of NetBSD on the desktop?
  • by fluffy99 (870997) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @10:39PM (#27983751)

    This is an honest question. Aside from the hobbyist and novelty aspect, why would you want to run BSD on old SGI hardware?

    The O2 was a low end SGI workstation that marginally outperformed the x86 platform when it was introduced. Unless you have a reason like hardware or system specific coding, why not move to BSD on a cheap x86 platform?

    Yeah, I know about big endian versus little endian - had to rewrite a bunch of code when we dumped the Sun E3500s in favor of running Solaris x86.

  • We've seen plenty about projects to use modern GPUs for heavy-duty calculations. These old SGI's were roughly 50% GPU by volume, energy, and cost. Has anyone found a way to use the SGI GPU for computations?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I want to chime in here to answer back to all the "Why? WHY?!!" posts...

    I used NetBSD on an old PC I got for free. I like Linux and have had good experiences, but there was something in this PCs hardware the linux kernel didn't like, and NetBSD installed just fine. The man pages for NetBSD were very good, as was the FAQ, and I was able to get everything working just by reading the directions that came with it. I didn't have to scour the web for some obscure web page for the memoirs of some hacker overse

  • Sooo..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    is information about hardware interfaces in NetBSD enough to reverse-engineer most of the O2 machine so it could run IRIX natively?

    If so, it would be very cool to make a clone of old SGI workstations like O2, but with faster CPU, better OpenGL pipeline, more RAM, USB ports, solid state drives while still being able to run software like original IRIX, Maya, Photoshop, etc. Wouldn't be too bad for the design of the case to stay the same :)
  • One interesting O2 oddity is that the native pixel format is RGBA rather than ARGB (the alpha channel is at the other end of each 32 bit word).

    Fixing that flushed out a whole bunch of assumptions in X driver and application code, which helps keep non SGI specific X and application code portable. Interesting to think that a user who only runs x86_64/Linux may be running an app with slightly cleaner code thanks to Michael's work on an ol' SGI O2...

    (He has also fixed up and extended the accelerated driver for

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