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Via Unveils 1-Watt x86 CPU 276

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the new-and-improved dept.
DeviceGuru writes "Taiwanese chip and board vendor Via Technologies has introduced a new ultra-low voltage (ULV) processor aimed at industrial, commercial, and ultra-mobile applications. Touted as the world's most power-efficient x86-compatible CPU, the 500MHz 'Eden ULV 500' processor debuted at an Embedded Systems Conference in Taipei this week. Via says its chip draws a minimum of 0.1 Watts, when idle, and a maximum of 1 Watt, making it a great candidate for consumer electronics devices such as UMPCs, PVRs, and such."
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Via Unveils 1-Watt x86 CPU

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  • laptop anyone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IceFox (18179) on Friday August 24, 2007 @04:17AM (#20341309) Homepage
    A nice laptop cpu if I ever saw one.
    • How does it compare? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Friday August 24, 2007 @04:29AM (#20341379) Homepage
      How does this chip compare in performance per watt against ARM, PowerPC and the like?

      The article doesn't say what socket and interface the chip uses. Are they still on Socket 370?
      • by pslam (97660) on Friday August 24, 2007 @04:54AM (#20341513) Homepage Journal

        How does this chip compare in performance per watt against ARM, PowerPC and the like?

        Pathetically badly. Most modern low power ARM variants are in the range 0.3-0.5mW/MHz. At 500MHz you'd see them chewing up about 150-250mW. Last I checked the Via x86 chips were single issue, so it's not too unfair to compare an ARM11 (or similar) against them. Quite frankly an ARM11 will outperform the Via chip and run lower power.

        The idle power figure is a joke. I can't recall the last time I used an ARM chip that idled at 100mW. More like 1-10mW. Still, it's nice to see an x86 chip get into sub-watt territory.

        Of course, ARM doesn't run native x86... and that's pretty much the only reason there's such a large market for these Via x86 chips. It's also the reason you never see them in deeply embedded systems where people don't really care so much about what ISA you're running.

        • by dan the person (93490) on Friday August 24, 2007 @06:06AM (#20341831) Homepage Journal
          I think the popularity is half x86 compatibility(windows users) and half retail cost / availability.

          When i was building a linux based PVR, x86 compatibilty was not a deciding factor *. What i wanted was a cheap fanless board that could playback mpeg2 and divx, with a PCI slot for a tuner card, TV-Out, and SATA.

          When i was looking there were hundreds of Via C3/C7 based boards from heaps of manufactures, with countless different options. There were one or two ARM and PPC boards, even one with a transmetta CPU, but they didn't have TV-Out, or they had TV-Out but no USB or PCI.

          I would have loved to go with another architecture but the market for retail consumers just isn't there.

          * Actually, now i've said that i imagine compatibilty of the tuner drivers with non-x86 could be an issue.

        • Problem with the arm stuff is, you cannot get it from retail for a decent price, the via boards at least are available. I agree arm is an excellent solution, and used probably more widely than x86 in sheer numbers, but the problem is it is almost non existent on the pc side of things, the few boards you can get cost a fortune compared to their via counterparts, and while via even is somewhat slower than arm you still have full x86 compatibility and board and processor availability. This is somewhat the sam
          • by LWATCDR (28044)
            It does depend. The GummStix is pretty cheap but it isn't a PC.
            For putting a DIY media center I don't think this VIA or an ARM would be a good choice. Both would tend to lack the power to transcode video at anything like a reasonable speed. The one thing this VIA chip has over the other CPUs in the embedded space is that it uses the X86 isa. It is annoying but there are some Linux drivers that ONLY exist for the X86! they are nasty binary blob or wrapped windows drivers but if you want that hardware to wor
        • by jcr (53032)
          Wow, I didn't realize that the ARM manufacturers had made such impressive gains in power efficiency. I know that I'm seeing ARM cores on a lot of ASICs and FPGAs these days, I guess that's why.

          -jcr

        • by jimstapleton (999106) on Friday August 24, 2007 @07:41AM (#20342437) Journal
          comparing two chips on their power:mhz ratios... Not exactly a good comparison, even within the same general architecture (say both are x86), but when you go cross arch, it gets worse.

          Ex. Take an Barton core Athlon and compare it with a 1st Gen P4, running both at the same clock speed. That Barton will significantly outperform the P4, even with the same Mhz. Conversely, thake a Core2 Duo and an Athlon64 X2 of the same clock speed - the Core2 Duo will wipe the floor with the Athlon64 X2.

          Mhz only means something when the processors are of the same line. Different lines in an arch can drastically modify the CPUs relative performance by Mhz, varying app to app, and changing the arch completely will destroy most comparisons.

          Another example, would be to compare a 500Mhz EV6 Alpha to a 1Ghz Athlon - There are many tasks at which that Alpha will pretty much destroy the Athlon in terms of performance, even at half the clock speed.

          So, what you want is power:performance-at-desired-tasks ratios, it's more complex, but it's not useless (and in some cases, counterproductive/counter intuitive)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by pslam (97660)
            I am very much aware that comparing power:mhz is often an incredibly bad thing to do, but I am also very much aware of the internal architecture of these two cores.
            • Via is single issue like ARM11. (At least, last I checked, but maybe they've changed that)
            • ARM1176 (a common variant) has hit-under-miss caches, some SIMD extensions (slow compared to Via, though), and a decent FPU (optional). No write order dependency issues on ARM. Very comparable to Via.
            • ARM11 has much lower memory latency than Via. It only
    • Re:laptop anyone (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cnettel (836611) on Friday August 24, 2007 @04:29AM (#20341385)
      Yes and no. If we're going to have a backlit screen anyway (even with LEDs), we can only gain so much by reducing the CPU consumption. Amdahl's law and all that. I think the summary is quite right in pointing out UMPCs and similar devices instead.

      A really low-power Dothan or single-core Yonah will sure draw a few multiples of this beast, but they will do so while giving much better performance.

      • I think the summary is quite right in pointing out UMPCs and similar devices instead.

        Not entirely sure why we specifically need x86 for embedded stuff like PVRs though... It's not like you're having to run something Windows on it, which is tied to specific architectures.
        • It's not like you're having to run something Windows on it, which is tied to specific architectures.
          And even if you were, you'd probably run Wince, which, last time I checked ran on MIPS, ARM and SuperH (not sure about PowerPC).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pla (258480)
        Yes and no. If we're going to have a backlit screen anyway (even with LEDs), we can only gain so much by reducing the CPU consumption.

        For a user-oriented workstation, true. Even with the Via C7, a single HDD (at spin-up, anyway) could consume more than the CPU.

        I think, though, these things mostly don't go into actual desktop machines. They go into car audio solutions (with a 4x20 non-backlit LCD or even VFD), or routers (headless and with CF or USB storage) or various low-demand servers (also headless
    • Re:laptop anyone (Score:5, Informative)

      by arivanov (12034) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:09AM (#20341573) Homepage
      Not really.

      I have used every single Via CPU from the original Eden 533 up to 1.5GHz C7 and IMO the C3-C5 spec Edens are just about useful for a dedicated appliances, small firewalls, small specialised servers and such. They do not have enough grunt for a laptop. The fact that most of them have are shipped bundled with relatively weak video does not really help either. Even the mpeg support on some motherboards cannot really help. Xterm is probably the most you can do with them as far as clients are concerned. Still better than similarly clocked Crusoe though (now that is a drag of all drags).

      C7 is a completely different beast. This is probably the best CPU for a corporate laptop out there at the moment. A laptop is worthless without a "link to the mothership". Intel Core and AMD have to use CPU resource to do all of the encryption and decryption. This may amount to 30-40% of your CPU on a 54G wireless lan. Compared to that Via C7 has hardware AES acceleration so you can actually protect your traffic properly while using less than 1% of your CPU. It also has enough grunt to run most common road warrior apps at acceptable speeds. It is a pity it is not available as a laptop choice anywhere outside the far east.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Ed Avis (5917)
        Hardware AES? Can OpenSSH use it?
        • by Calinous (985536)
          By what I remember, yes. And encryption using the included hardware module is faster than most anything else x86 wise (or was when I've seen that benchmark). (But it was slower than mostly anything else in any other non-accelerated encryption tasks).
                I think it was tested under OpenBSD.
        • Re:laptop anyone (Score:4, Informative)

          by arivanov (12034) on Friday August 24, 2007 @08:15AM (#20342749) Homepage
          By what I recall - no, but I have not looked at the OpenSSH latest and greatest (it has been 6+ months since I looked at this).

          The reason is that at least as of the versions present in major distros openssh does not for some reason support openssl engines. AES (and RSA in latest Via CPUs) is done using an openssl engine which has to be initialised and loaded. This can be done for OpenVPN, Apache, Pound and nearly any other piece of software using OpenSSL, but not OpenSSH. For some reason Theo's people in their infinite wisdom left that part out (it is trivial). There was a patch, dunno if it has made it into the main tree.

          As far as non-OpenSSL software is concerned, the kernel itself can use the hardware AES for filesystems and IPSEC. I have run it for quite a while for both OpenVPN and IPSEC. It can run around a Dual Xeon in circles. I would expect it to have the same killer performance for encryption of filesystems and encrypted backups as well. In fact this is possibly the only CPU on the market at the moment where having all of your data encrypted is a realistic proposition. The rest will choke on it and crawl like a 486.

          There is also further improvement from having true on-CPU hardware RNG which all programs in need of good random numbers can use as it is implemented at kernel level.

          Probably the highest praise to it is the fact that most of these features have now started showing up on Intel roadmap documents for the future x86 CPUs destined for the embedded market. It is the Athlon history repeating. When someone else is doing something right Intel copies it, claims innovation and launches a marketing salvo trying to lie that "they have been doing it all along".
    • Not really considering most new laptops now are duel core, with 2 ghz each.... And Vista still runs slow on those. For laptops people want Performance of a mid-to high mid range PC. They defiantly don't want 500 mhz where they can run all their cool apps from 1999.
  • by spagetti_code (773137) on Friday August 24, 2007 @04:35AM (#20341433)
    My mythtv PVR uses the MII12000 (1.2GHz), which is rated at
    20-30W. With HDD, DVD, encoder card etc, it draws 80W on start,
    and somewhere between 30-60W when running.

    Take 10-20W off my figures by using their 1.5GHz ULV
    and you get potentially more processing power at less
    than 50W!

    I know that VIA chips are pretty feeble (i.e. their 1.5GHz
    chip is probably closer to a 1GHz intel chip), but with an
    encoder card (dual actually) I can be recording two
    channels with the CPU at 10%. Given their mobos have
    mpeg decoders on board, I can add watching a DVD or TV
    for another 30-40% CPU time.

    The only thing is ad-skipping and re-encoding are pretty
    slow.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tknd (979052)

      The VIA epia platforms like the one you have weren't that great. I had their 600mhz chip and ITX board and on the meter it was still drawing about 40 watts idle at the plug. The power supply probably wasn't the greatest but still I had higher hopes. That was only the ITX board plus a normal 3.5" 7200rpm hard drive. The cpu was barely enough for most tasks and some tasks you didn't even want to do. It is probably much better with your cpu but you're still drawing more power than necessary.

      As a comparison

  • Why not make 64 of these on a single chip? 64W + some additional overhead shouldn't be bad.
    • by imbaczek (690596)
      That additional overhead will amount to quite a lot, and performance in most applications scales sublinearly with amount of processors.

      IOW, I'd take a Core2 quad core over 64 Vias anyday.
    • by dcapel (913969)
      Ignoring the nickle and dime losses you'd have just by design, you run in to the same old problem: What are bad at writing for multiple cores/cpus.

      Concurrency is perhaps the biggest problem to modern day CS.

      If we could figure out how to use all those cores effectively, it would be awesome. Until then, its of dubius as a archaeticture
    • by Fred_A (10934)

      Why not make 64 of these on a single chip? 64W + some additional overhead shouldn't be bad.
      Presumably because they need to have some space left on the motherboard to put all the rest of the stuff, like memory, controllers, expansion slots, etc. If the CPU takes all the motherboard it's not practical.
      • There is a reasonable extreme to this though, why not a 2P or 4P setup though? Make it so you can fully shut off (re: relay) other cores. That'd rock. Of course I don't know what their cache is like but it'd have to be a decent size to make it worthwhile.

        Tom
  • Cool! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zubinix (572981) on Friday August 24, 2007 @04:54AM (#20341511)
    Put this in SBC (Single Board Computer) form together with wireless support and a nice sized flash hard drive would make it ideal for applications such as home monitoring and other uses around the typical house for us home automation geeks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alioth (221270)
      ARM11 is already better for that kind of application - much lower power still, and for embedded stuff, the need for x86 compatibility really doesn't exist.
    • Not to mention this thing would be great in crash cart like equipment. For instance with one of these I could have my crash cart, my Fireberd 8000, and a whole suite of test equipment all in one easy to manage package. It would have to be a specialty built system, but the reason I like these with their low power requirement means that a cart with a good battery can run all this for a while and I don't have to rely on rack power or pulling a tile to get at one of the power mains underneath.
  • I wonder, how far can these things be overclocked? Certainly there shouldn't be a problem with cooling, so it should be possible to push these things to the maximum they're capable of.
  • PVRs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ffejie (779512) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:05AM (#20341555)
    Without actually taking the time to do any calculations, shouldn't this chip be a little weak to be powering PVRs and other media devices? With the proliferation of HD, I see more and more people (thankfully) going to h.264 to reduce their file sizes. However, to play a 720p file that is encoded with h.264, you need some serious punch in the processing realm. Recording/encoding to h.264 is a level far beyond that. I don't have the specs in front of me, but even the most minimal player is going to require more than 500 MHz. Now, if you're talking about a few of these in one system you may be on the right track. Anyone have more experience than me in this kind of thing and can comment further?
    • by Stevecrox (962208)
      Your right, I recently tried to build a Media Centre out of old computer parts, I built a:

      700Mhz Intel Pentium 3
      512mb SDram
      Nvidia 5200
      Avermedia TV card

      Windows Media Centre was barely able to run on the machine taking recordings was pointless using windows media centre or the avermedia PVR software. This 500Mhz chip would definitly not be enough, the 1Ghz and 1.5Ghz chips would do it though and even at 7.5watts the 1.5Ghz is redicoulously low power.
    • If you want a very low power PVR, you would probably use dedicated MPEG-1/2/4(including H.264) hardware, which would use less power than a general purpose CPU doing the same thing. Mind you, you'd probably use something like a PowerPC 405 instead of an x86 chip.
    • by DrXym (126579)
      I have trouble believing that a 500Mhz PC device is going to manage it though the PSP can play 480p H264, so perhaps the CPU requirements aren't that great for playback. My experience of encoding H264 is that they're pretty horrific. I doubt this chip would be any use at all for PVR devices unless the H264 already arrived at the CPU encoded, e.g. it was extracted from a DVB-T signal or similar.
    • I'm guessing that these new chips use the same MPEG acceleration as their older models. When I had a Nehemiah running at 1Ghz on a Gentoo setup it was an absolute bitch to get Unichrome support. I believe that has all been sorted out now and the software is more stable. My box used to play both DivX at 720p and H.264 at 720p without any problems. For H.264 you are locking up the box and can't do anything else, for DivX it was more like 20% cpu.

      For encoding - just don't bother. I thought that encoding H.264
    • You're right, this really wouldn't be suitable for a DVR. Just look at the MythTV requirements. Usually if you're going to do best quality video recording you need at LEAST 1-1.5ghz if hardware encoding and 2ghz+ if you are doing it all in software. Granted the last time I tried this kind of thing I was using a Hauppauge WinTV (good linux support) but couldn't get the mpeg2 hardware encoding to work, and it chocked on my 1ghz machine. That was regular video not HD, and was recording in mpeg and not some h
  • Redundand? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spectrokid (660550) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:08AM (#20341571) Homepage
    Isn't everybody always complaining how x86 is an awefull archtecture dragging 20 years of backward compatibility like a block of concrete? A one watt processor surely aims at the mobile/embedded market. Backward compatibility is not an issue there. I can't see anybody running his old Windows 3.11 accounting software on his mobile, and this thing won't come with a "Vista-ready" sticker...
    Linux and Windows CE (or whatever they call it today) run just fine on ARM and similar. Will a low-power x86 compete performance-wise with a low-power RISK architecture?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aclarke (307017)
      There are lots of uses for a CPU like this. I, for example, run a VIA CPU/mobo in my truck. It draws very little current which means my auxilliary battery will run the computer for a lot longer. It also produces less heat than my AMD/Intel options, which means the computer needs no fans, which also saves power and keeps the system quieter. I run Windows XP on there as pretty much all the good GPS software runs on Windows. An ARM chip wouldn't do me much good there, unfortunately.

      I agree though, this
      • I am planning to build such a system precisely for the reasons you've mentioned - low power consumption, low noise. The problem is that I did not find any benchmarks that compare VIA's CPUs with alternatives.

        Can you tell me which CPU and motherboard you are using? Is Window XP usable on that machine? (I intend to run a flavour of Linux on mine, but your feedback will be valuable anyway)
    • No, it does not compete with ARM, MIPS and others at the embebbed market, simply because it consumes a lot of power and is seriously unpowered.

      If sucessfull, that chip will open a market on its own for legacy software to run on small power appliances.

  • by DrXym (126579) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:12AM (#20341583)
    I wish the EU would start rating PCs by their energy consumption, perhaps accompanied by an energy tax for the worst categories. The amount of power in a modern PC from CPUs & GPUs wasted as heat, fans etc. is just ridiculous.
    • To clarify, if the EU slapped a tax on the worst offending PCs, it might focus consumers and the industry on producing more efficient designs. Most domestic appliances such as fridges and dishwashers already get rated in the EU and it clearly does shape people's decisions.
    • That is like saying that there should be a tax on buying a non-econobox car.

      Yes, some people want to buy a video card that requires some amps to play the current games. Some people want to buy a car that performs well. (I'm not talking about SUVs or huge waste hogs)

      Everyone pays for the power they consume, be it gasoline or electricity. Who cares?
      • by DrXym (126579) on Friday August 24, 2007 @06:24AM (#20341917)
        Everyone pays for the power they consume, be it gasoline or electricity. Who cares?

        Exactly. Who cares? People are generally selfish and sometimes you must do things that benefit people as a whole instead of individuals. If slapping a tax on the most energy consuming devices in some category causes people to buy the more efficient ones, that is a benefit to every one. If you still want to buy that device despite the tax then nobody is stopping you. But I guarantee that for everyone who does than many more will choose one which doesn't.

        It does not mean either that you're getting a crappier machine as a result. While there is a relationship between CPU / GPU performance and power, I doubt it is a 1:1 mapping. Some processors and GPUs are going to deliver more operations per watt than others. Companies and consumers should be encouraged to favour the more efficient designs over the less efficient designs and a tax for the worst offenders in any class is one way of going about that.

        • by afidel (530433)
          My problem is the whole idea of using the government and tax policy to punish "bad" behavior. I would prefer to include the cost of ALL externalities into the price of the consumable and have everyone pay the same amount per unit used, that way people would be free to use however little or much as they chose and everyone would be paying there fair share. If you want to make the scheme progressive you offer a yearly refund up to a certain amount to allow for lifting up of the disadvantaged.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Not sure if parent was a joke, but i found it funny.

        In some EU countries economic cars have less yearly tax already, I think it's calculated from the CO2 emission pr. km.
        And cars that can't perform 15km/l or more, have had their price tax raised, while longer running ones have had it reduced.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DrXym (126579)
          Ireland sets the rate of annual motor tax based on the size of the vehicle engine. Someone with a 1.6 litre engine pays over a hundred more euros than someone with a 1.3 litre engine. It's probably explains why SUVs are quite scarce in Ireland. Which isn't a bad thing at all.
          • 1.6L is considered big? I have a 2L 4cyl Focus in Canada, and that's considered "small" by our standards. Not that I really push my car, but I am curious as to how a 1.3L accelerates [to say hwy speeds]. Because even in my car I have to really floor it [re: 5000 RPM] to hit highway speeds before I exit the ramp, well that's exaggerating a bit. usually I hit speed before the dotted lines (that let you get out of the merging lane). So I probably could accelerate at like 3-4K RPM just fine.

            A 1.3L must be
            • by david.given (6740)

              1.6L is considered big? I have a 2L 4cyl Focus in Canada, and that's considered "small" by our standards. Not that I really push my car, but I am curious as to how a 1.3L accelerates [to say hwy speeds].

              Very nicely, actually. Bear in mind that these engines are in what you'd consider to be small cars; typically two- or four-door hatchbacks. I used to have a Ford Fiesta with a 1.4l engine (IIRC), and while admittedly I'm a conservative driver, I had no complaints about acceleration. (There is one hill near

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by DrXym (126579)
              I mentioned 1.6L more as a way of showing that the scale goes up proportional with engine size. I have a 1.3L car (a Citroen C4 coupe) which has no trouble at all on Irish roads even with passengers. Naturally there are still luxury vehicles, SUVs on the roads, but the overall emphasis is generally on what Americans probably call compacts - hatchbacks, saloons and so on. Most of those are probably 1.6L or less with a lot of 1.3, 1.2 and 1.1 size engines. If you drive around in a 3L SUV in Ireland you're goi
              • by DrXym (126579)
                Oops correction, my engine is 1.4L. I should have thought more carefully before saying 1.3L. My last car was 1.3.
            • Or it's a diesel and produces all it's torque down low.

              I have a 'tiny' 1.9L diesel and shifting at 3000 RPM I can be at 80 or 90 by time I merge and that's carrying around a fat (by european standards) Jetta. But hell, in the states my car counts as compact and I can park in those compact spots.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by KlaymenDK (713149)
              (I've found discussing car performance where USians can eavesdrop always leads to flaming. Still...)

              In Denmark, a sizeable chunk of the total car park are small or family cars with engines in the 1.3-2.0L range. Sporty cars (Alfa Romeo et al, not Ferrari) are probably in the 2-3L range, no more. Of course the SUV-style cars will have way bigger engines (but I suspect that's more to help push the ego rather than the car).

              A relevant tidbit: we pay ~7$ per gallon of petrol.

              I drive a VW station wagon. It's 4 cy
              • I cruise at 100km/h doing about 2.1K RPM or so. Heck, even at 40km/h my car is still in the 950-1K RPM range.

                I can't see going from 40km/h to 100km/h without hitting at least 3K RPM, unless you're the type that merges on the highway at 20km/h under the limit (of which there are plenty around here). And I get about the same mileage as you do btw (well for highway driving).

                Tom
                • by KlaymenDK (713149)

                  I can't see going from 40km/h to 100km/h without hitting at least 3K RPM,unless you're the type that merges on the highway at 20km/h under the limit.

                  Ugh no, I rather dislike that, too. But I do shift as early as possible, and for casual accelleration (that is, NOT highway ramps) I often shift directly from 3rd to 5th (the ratio difference between 4th and 5th is not that great; when accellerating away from a red light I will usually spend only about 1/2 to 1 second in 4th).

                  The only time I do high rpms is when I'm in 5th, driving fast. Or so I think! You know, now you got me curious ... I'll make a note of my rpm at various intervals when I drive home fr

                  • I think Canadian cars differ very little from the american style. When I was shopping for my car I wanted a small sedan that was light on the gas. I didn't plan on entering any races, or towing an RV. The 2L Focus was the smallest I could find that was reasonably priced. It's not bad on the gas when I treat it right. Though lately, I've been accelerating a bit faster than normal to stave off th assholes [re: french quebecers] who can't be bothered to do 60km/h in a 60km/h zone.

                    Though justice was handed
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by gnasher719 (869701)
              '' 1.6L is considered big? I have a 2L 4cyl Focus in Canada, and that's considered "small" by our standards. Not that I really push my car, but I am curious as to how a 1.3L accelerates [to say hwy speeds]. Because even in my car I have to really floor it [re: 5000 RPM] to hit highway speeds before I exit the ramp, well that's exaggerating a bit. usually I hit speed before the dotted lines (that let you get out of the merging lane). So I probably could accelerate at like 3-4K RPM just fine. ''

              Get a Diesel e
            • Moving back to Europe was quite a shock for me after 6 years in Australia. I had become quite used to my (perfectly normal) 3.6 litre V6 engine in my Holden Commodore. Here, that's considered quite a monster of an engine. You don't achieve "monster status" in Australia until at LEAST the 4 and half or higher litre V8 beasts.

              When I moved here, I bought myself a 2.0 litre Renault Megane and I've had a couple of people ask me why I didn't buy something with a smaller engine - to me, 2.0 litres IS small! I'
      • by imbaczek (690596)

        That is like saying that there should be a tax on buying a non-econobox car.
        Yes. Exactly.

        Everyone pays for the power they consume, be it gasoline or electricity. Who cares?
        Those who understand that money is not everything.
      • Power rating (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dolda2000 (759023)
        I, too, do not agree with the GP's idea of actually taxing high-power computers, but I do think he might well have a point in just rating the computers after their power usage. If people buying computers see some real statistics of how much it is going to cost them in electricity to run their new computer, it is very likely that they are going to choose after that criterion, which will drive manufacturers to make more power-efficient computers. Which is good, because if they make computers that draw less po
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pimpimpim (811140)
      Any start is a good start, and one is already been made for supercomputers: Next to the top500 [top500.org], a few people have started a new list, ranking supercomputers on performance per watt, the green500 [green500.org]. This is actually not an easy task, as to be honest one also has to include the power consumption of the cooling. Taking into account that one server room can contain various supercomputers, some estimated guesses are needed.

      With the relatively low cost and high availability of computing speed nowadays, the green5

    • The decTOP [dataevolution.com] is a tiny AMD Geode-based box that consumes a total of about 8 watts, doesn't have a fan, runs Linux [librenix.com], and the only noise is the hard drive. With a flash-based drive, the power would drop to around 5 watts, perhaps, and it'd be totally silent.

      The 1 watt AMD Geode in the decTOP runs at 366 MHz and makes a fine light-duty server.
  • by value_added (719364) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:19AM (#20341619)
    Soekris is now shipping a New and Improved product, the net5501 [soekris.com]. Early reports suggest that this is their first product that's able to route at line speed. I have two on order that I should receive next week.

    The release of Vista suggests that we need more and more powerful systems to do our work, but the irony, at least for me, is that I keep buying more of the little guys. Being able to use fanless cases and/or flash drives is a definite selling point, but there's a surprising amount of processing power available in such products and their uses are as limitless as your own imagination. Besides, hacking those ubiquitous blue boxes can never be as satisfying as building your own.

    The VIA units I own could be described as underpowered, but having onboard MPEG decoders, for example, can make up for the shortcomings.
    • What does 'route at line speed' mean?
      Can you mount the board in a regular ATX case?
      Can it be hooked up to a regular ATX PSU?
      Who is Soekris? Do you work for them? What's the warranty like?
      Does it run Linux? I mean really. lspci output?
      Is there video out? How do you 'interact'? COM port?

      Seems interesting, but not enough to trawl the website!
      • by Calinous (985536)
        "Route at line speed"? I don't know
        Mount the board in a regular ATX case? I think it comes with a case.
        Same with ATX PSU.
        Power consumption is (I suppose) in the tens of watts maximum, so ATX PSU is overkill.
          I know Soekris as they make boxes which can run OpenBSD and their PF firewalling solution.
          If it runs OpenBSD, then you can find some Linux for it.
        Once installed, you can access it by network (it has two or three LAN interfaces).
      • What does 'route at line speed' mean?

        The new model can fill 100Mbit ethernet. Fairly useful, given that with 4 NICs, you might have more than one network (aside from your slow cable/ADSL link) through which to pass traffic.

        Seems interesting, but not enough to trawl the website!

        Judging from your laundry list of questions, you're unaware of both Soekris products and their widespread popularity. I'd suggest first visiting the link I provided for people in your position, and then do a Google search for 'Soekr
        • Judging from your laundry list of questions, you're unaware of both Soekris products and their widespread popularity. I'd suggest first visiting the link I provided for people in your position, and then do a Google search for 'Soekris' using 'inurl:slashdot'.

          lol. Probably the least helpful response I've had on slashdot. Cheers.
    • by e2d2 (115622)
      Interesting board. I just picked up an AVR32 based SBC that may interest you also:
      http://www.atmel.com/dyn/products/tools_card.asp?t ool_id=4102 [atmel.com]

      Here is a dev kit for the same chip:
      http://www.atmel.com/dyn/products/tools_card.asp?t ool_id=3918 [atmel.com]

      It's not an x86 platform, but there is gcc support and it runs linux just fine out of the box.

      Check out avrfreaks.net [avrfreaks.net] for a great community based on atmel's AVR offerings (from 8bit to 32 bit). What really draws developers in is how great the community is for these devi
  • I seem to have had the impression that my Soekris firewalls, running a National (today AMD) Geode SC1100 at 266MHz, a P1-class CPU that, coupled with 3 100MBit NICs, 128MB of RAM, IDE, USB etc eat a whopping 3-5 Watts for the entire machine, was x86.

    The FreeBSD kernel I run on them seems to think so too.

    Kudos to Via for taking ULV to a whole new level and giving us P2-class performance in that watt range, but this is by no means revolutionary, just evolution that allows us to do more with a ULV box.
    • I seem to have had the impression that my Soekris firewalls, running a National (today AMD) Geode SC1100 at 266MHz, a P1-class CPU that, coupled with 3 100MBit NICs, 128MB of RAM, IDE, USB etc eat a whopping 3-5 Watts for the entire machine, was x86.

      I have a WRAP machine based on a 266MHz Geode. It is not a P1-class machine, it's a fast 486, with some minor tweaks, but still a fairly nice CPU given that it's x86. I believe some of the new Geodes (500MHz sort of speed) are based on a newer design, which is 586-class.

      The FreeBSD kernel I run on them seems to think so too.

      OpenBSD runs very nicely on them too, which makes them ideal for firewalls. Recently, OpenBSD dropped support for i386, in the basis that it cluttered up the tree (potentially hiding bugs) and only half a dozen people were using it. A

  • ``Via says its chip draws a minimum of 0.1 Watts, when idle, and a maximum of 1 Watt, making it a great candidate for consumer electronics devices such as UMPCs, PVRs, and such."''

    Of course, in consumer electronics devices, you could just use any kind of MIPS or ARM or whatever other CPU you want, and have even lower power usage and/or better performance. It's not like you're gonna be running Windows on these devices, anyway, which is pretty much the only reason you would need an x86 in my book.
  • It makes me happy that someone is still catering to those who realize they don't need more CPU power and would rather, say, save money, or save the environment.
  • but just what is "x" in this case? I mean, it'd be ridiculous if it was 286 of course because we'd need protected mode and 32 bit support to be even remotely relevant to today's software market. Oh, and TFA mentions it running XP, so yeah definitely at least 386 (my uni currently had a project to get XP running on a 386 and it succeeded - naturally slow as crap). But there's still a pretty decent gap between 386 and 486, 486 and 5x86 (Pentiumish level), and each subsequent iteration.

    I mean, 500 MHTZ wi
    • i686 + MMX + SSE1-3 + NX + some hardware cryptography.

      With 400Mhz FSB and 128 KiB L1 and L2 they have compromised, but they are more Pentium-M then 286.

      The companion North/South bridge chips are even better, with integrated video, network, memory, sata, and hardware MPEG2/4 acceleration for a couple of watts more. You could have a responsive desktop system including memory, video, network etc. etc running ~10W full load (So long as you don't spin up the hard disk). Couple that with very aggressive power sav

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