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ARM Powered OLPC XO-1.75 Laptop Is Faster Than X86 229

Posted by Soulskill
from the hand-crank-technology dept.
Charbax writes "Not only is power consumption halved to less than two Watts and price of the motherboard reduced, the performance of the next generation OLPC Laptop is actually better for running full Fedora Linux compared to x86. Here's a video interviewing OLPC's CTO, Edward J. McNierney, where he explains how and why OLPC's world class engineers are making this change of CPU architecture. If OLPC XO-1 threatened Intel enough to start the netbook market and has reached two million poor kids in third-world countries thus far, XO-1.75 may help start the ARM-powered Linux laptop market. Do you think Fedora/Sugar will do, or should OLPC attract Chrome OS and Android solutions for education to get faster help from the big boys of Silicon Valley in bringing Linux software successfully to the next billion PC/laptop users?"
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ARM Powered OLPC XO-1.75 Laptop Is Faster Than X86

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  • Funny (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's the intel laptops that cost an ARM and a leg.

  • If they plan to sell the machine widely so as to produce as many units as possible then ideally it would run Android. If they're only selling it for educational use then it doesn't much matter what is on it so long as it isn't (only?) Windows.

    • by aheath (628369) *
      I am not sure that Android would be any better than Sugar. I participated in the buy two get one program so that I could look at the original OLPC XO 1.0 laptop. I was not impressed by Sugar. I would prefer to see OLPC provide a path from the XO to a full blown Linux distribution that does not require children to learn a new UI. OLPC should stick to developing affordable hardware and ask Canonical to provide optimized versions of Edubuntu and Ubuntu for the OLPC XO-1.75 laptop.
      • by takowl (905807) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:04PM (#34909480)

        ... a full blown Linux distribution that does not require children to learn a new UI...

        You know, I think any computer UI is likely to be a new one for many of the children they're targetting. They've got a rare chance to design an interface for people who don't already have expectations of how to use a computer. I know I'd take that opportunity to see if I could work out a better model.

        • They've got a rare chance to design an interface for people who don't already have expectations of how to use a computer.

          There is the risk that the new UI can't ever beat the standard one, the risk that it won't because actually implementing it well is astronomically difficult (how many people and years have gone into each of the normal UI implementations?), the certainty that apps will be badly ported or wrappered, and the cruelty of wasting people's time on a UI that not even its own developers will tolerate.

          When the developers and some unrelated non-developers start using a new UI exclusively, then we can rightly begin to

          • by naz404 (1282810)
            Hi. Just reminding everyone that the current default OLPC OS now allows dual-booting to Fedora+Gnome aside from initially booting into the kid-oriented Fedora+Sugar desktop environment, making it suitable for more traditional uses by older users as well as being capable dev machines.

            http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Release_notes/10.1.3 [laptop.org] Will be posting this multiple times here (please don't mod as redundant) as Slashdotters really need to be made aware of this fact.
      • by Charbax (678404)
        I think the OLPC laptops by default all come with a full fedora linux desktop, as you can see in the video, which the kids can easily dual-boot into if they want "advanced mode", with full Gnome desktop.
      • by DrXym (126579)
        I am not sure that Android would be any better than Sugar.

        Well it would be if they ever intend to produce a tablet version. Come to that, it might be better for a desktop too since it would allow apps to be written in Java and developed on Windows, Linux or Mac. This could help enormously to popularize the project and might even allow some crossover with apps being a downloadable for other Android devices.

      • by c0lo (1497653) on Monday January 17, 2011 @08:00PM (#34910536)

        I would prefer to see OLPC provide a path from the XO to a full blown Linux distribution that does not require children to learn a new UI.

        Since when being in a position to learn new things is bad for a kid?

        Note that it is not the knowledge that's important, but rather to "flex that muscle" involved in learning and make learning (and, if possible, critical thinking) a constant through the life. Something that the westernalized "civilizations", so blinded by efficiency/cost-reduction, have lost the focus long ago - I'd venture to say for as long as 1950-ies [wikipedia.org]. No wonder the "taming" process now called "education" is seen by the kids like a burden and also as a "cost" by the society in general.

        No wonder a constructivist like Negroponte, in addition to a very low price, took another radical step: to make the OLPC not feel like a pure laptop but as a tool for leaning. A disputable choice, as there are many other choices leading to the same result, but at least the mission is very well defined [laptop.org]:

        To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

        Also, some other quotes from Negroponte's personal vision:

        It's an education project, not a laptop project.

        Laptops are both a window and a tool a window into the world and a tool with which to think They are a wonderful way for all children through "learn learning"

        .

      • by LingNoi (1066278)

        The goal is to use the laptops to further education and creativity, not to learn linux or the gnome desktop. I've seen a lot of open source advocates simply not get it and think the whole thing is about pushing linux. It's not.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      If it ends up being anything like this
      http://www.reghardware.com/2010/11/03/review_netbook_toshiba_ac100/ [reghardware.com]
      then no.

      • by Charbax (678404)
        That hardware is basically awesome, it's now just a question of software to make it fully Intel Atom netbook killer. It's nearly half the weight, potentially 50% of the price, runs 3x longer on a battery, may run even twice as much or more with a reflective Pixel Qi screen.
      • by elgaard (81259)

        That is a good point. I have been playing with the AC-100.

        The Android is not impressive on the AC-100.

        But you can install Ubuntu on it; which is slow.

        But it you use LXDE and trim Ubuntu a bit, it is actually good, much faster than Android.

        I do like how the Android browsers make excellent use of the screen.

        The Ubuntu/Debian package system is so much better than the silly app markets. More usefull applications and much easier to install.
        (i didn't even manage to install Emacs on Android).

  • by Cyberax (705495) on Monday January 17, 2011 @05:44PM (#34909288)

    I want to buy a powerful ARM laptop, with the fastest CPU, most cores and the biggest screen (15" is preferable).

    Is there anything like this on the market?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I want ARM power!

      Curls, reverse curls and seated presses are what you need to do.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What about cheese curls? I do those all the time!

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      I want to buy a powerful ARM laptop, with the fastest CPU, most cores and the biggest screen (15" is preferable).

      Is there anything like this on the market?

      No, not really. Dual-core 2Ghz ARM chips are supposed to come out this year.

      I just bought a Tegra 2 tablet to play around with (got the Viewsonic G-Tablet for cheaper than it would have cost to upgrade my midrange Android phone). It's all right. But the performance system you're looking for is still a ways off.

    • Re:I want ARM power! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Charbax (678404) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:11PM (#34909554) Homepage
      I also filmed a 14" 2Ghz ARM Cortex-A9 laptop at CES, see here: http://armdevices.net/2011/01/07/nufront-arm-powered-laptops/ [armdevices.net] In Europe Toshiba has released the best looking ARM Cortex-A9 Tegra2 Powered 10.1" Laptop, it's available for 160 euros for new (sub $200 retail price, consider Europeans pay approx 25% taxes). The only problem with that Toshiba AC-100 is current lack of decent laptop-oriented software, the Android that's loaded on it is not mature enough and Toshiba is very secretive about software update status. That Toshiba AC-100 has been rooted and impressive hackers have loaded Ubuntu on it but it's buggy for now, sound doesn't work yet for example, and it's risky to install, some people have bricked their units doing it. Shuttleworth said at recent Ubuntu conference that the Toshiba AC-100 is his favorite device. Much more may be coming soon in ARM Powered laptop segment. You can follow my site if you want news, or even post your news on it if you find something.
    • I don't think there are any today.

      As for the article, I remember back in the mid and late 1990's when Acorn Computers had ARM powered desktops that were faster than x86 at the time, faster than what both IBM and Intel had to offer.

      Intel 386DX vs. ARM 6 66MHz or Pentium II 300MHz vs. StrongARM 600MHz. It's a shame Acorn Computers are no longer.

  • Build the hardware and sell it at cost or maybe less then create an app store to make more money.
    WIth that money develop new version and or subsidize the sale of the hardware.
    If you want to put a GPL app in the store it is free if you want to put in a none GPL it costs x and if the app isn't free as in beer you take y% of the price.

    Not only are you getting the device into the hands of people that really could use them but you are opening up development and ways of making a live to people that may not have t

    • Build the hardware and sell it at cost or maybe less then create an app store to make more money.

      Huh? So, only the "rich" poor people can afford the "cool" apps?

      Besides, it already has a free "app store" (AKA activity repository [opensuse.org]).

      openSUSE has packaged about 50 activities in total for Sugar, with more activities available for installation from the sugarlabs.org activities repository. Activities that haven't been packaged can be downloaded directly from http://activities.sugarlabs.org/ [sugarlabs.org] and installed by the user through the browse interface (the repository is similar to firefox addons.)

    • by Charbax (678404)
      Definitely they should add Android apps support somehow, I think the kids in Peru are going to enjoy Angry Birds.
    • by Pharmboy (216950)

      Build the hardware and sell it at cost or maybe less then create an app store to make more money.

      Yeah, brilliant plan. Surely no one will figure a way around that. All they have to do is install DRM on Linux for that to work, which will surely be bulletproof. Ask Sony or Apple or anyone else trying to have a monopoly for software on hardware they built but no longer own.

  • by schlachter (862210) on Monday January 17, 2011 @05:46PM (#34909310)
    Anyone else notice that they are building an Arm powered ARM powered computer? Now requiring only half as many cranks.
    • by Duradin (1261418)

      The OLPC hasn't had the integral crank since the design phase.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Dumb move. I kind of wanted one, but if they've nixed the crank, then what's the point. I know that they get really good battery life, but I thought a part of the point of it was not needing to plug them in.
        • Well, if your arm is already worn out what what could you possibly need a computer for?
        • Dumb move. I kind of wanted one, but if they've nixed the crank, then what's the point. I know that they get really good battery life, but I thought a part of the point of it was not needing to plug them in.

          I reckon a foot pedal would be more suitable, you have your hands free that way.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by macraig (621737)

      My family and friends insist that I'm seriously cranky, so I volunteer. Half - 1.

    • by Caerdwyn (829058)
      If cranks can power an OLPC, Slashdot should be able to light up Las Vegas.
  • by AcidPenguin9873 (911493) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:06PM (#34909498)

    The original XO-1 uses an AMD Geode LX 800, which was released in 2002/2003 or thereabouts. This latest XO-1.75 uses a Marvell Armada 610, and the marketing material I'm looking at from Marvell has a copyright of 2010 on it. The CPU in there is a Marvell Sheeva which the earliest reference I can find is from 2008, but that's not even a fair date because that's when they announced it, not shipped it.

    So yes, this processor is faster than an 8-year-old AMD Geode. I would like to see power/performance tradeoffs vs. today's Atom and AMD Fusion stuff before everyone goes nuts about how ARM is faster than x86 for half the power.

    • That's what I was waiting for. I didn't believe for a second this ARM-powered box was anywhere near as fast as the current x86 offerings.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        It does not need to be, it only needs to be faster/watt.

      • by mikael (484)

        I was told the ARM instruction set [simplemachines.it] combined multiply and addition instructions into one, much like DSP chips do. As multiplication and division instructions are traditionally the most energy-hungry operations due to all the transistors required to implement them in hardware, it's more energy efficient to emulate them.

        Even more optimisation include logical shift instructions are implement using a barrel shifter, and multiplication is implemented using Booth's algorithm on 8-bit blocks. Thus, instead of one b

    • Yeah, it's a misleading title, to say the least. Should have said "... faster than X86 version" or so.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:15PM (#34909584)

      Atom is a power hungry son of a bitch compared to Arm gear. The lowest power PineView based one is at 6.5 Watts and that is the CPU alone, the Arm stuff is all SoC. The whole SoC power budget is going to be less than that.

      Once you start to value power consumption above all else Arm really starts to make sense. When you can plug in your laptop every couple hours well less so.

      • So you're saying an ARM SoC is lower powered than an x86 system? I agree! That's not what the title of the article says though.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          The title refers to the x86 version of the OLPC, clearly. I believe that. I also believe that these ARM SoCs are faster than any x86 system constrained to the same power budget.

          • The title refers to the x86 version of the OLPC, clearly.

            That was not at all clear to me.

            I also believe that these ARM SoCs are faster than any x86 system constrained to the same power budget.

            I completely disagree. If you allow both CPUs 20W, there is not an ARM microarchitecture available today that will outperform a Core i3 in the 18W TDP, and I doubt that the Cortex-A9 (coming soon) would either. An A-15 is in the ballpark but that's a couple years away right now.

            If you allow both systems 500mW, there isn't an x86 available to do a comparison. Designing a CPU for 500mW power budget with the expected (relatively) low performance is an entirely different game

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              No Core i3 system will make it on 18 watts. Only the CPU will, which is great if you don't want to actually use it. Even at 20 watts, no x86 system can compete.

              By the same power budget I meant the one the OLPC operates on. I should I have more clear.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Atom is a power hungry son of a bitch compared to Arm gear.

        It also performs a whole lot better. In x86 terms, the raw CPU power of an ARM is like a Pentium 300Mhz.

        Intel might even be able to throw together some recycled 90s technology with comparable performance and end up with something ARMs equal in power.

        That was the model for mobile computing for a time (adapt outdated desktop tech).

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          You need to look at more recent numbers. Intel could make a CPU maybe with similar power, but we are talking about SoCs here. So you need everything in that low a power budget.

      • by KiloByte (825081)

        Or, alternatively, put a chip with four of those instead of one. Being faster with one means you'd suddenly be more than four times faster than x86 at the same power.

      • According to this, Silverthorne maxes out at 2W. Dimondville is 2.5W. We don't need to put the highest end Atom chip in the machine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Atom [wikipedia.org]
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Cool now add in the FSB and the South bridge, and the video card, etc. All that stuff is on the ARM SoCs.

    • by Ossifer (703813)
      Definitely faster than an Intel 8086 [wikipedia.org].
    • by Charbax (678404)
      You won't find a sub-5Watt system (including the screen) running Intel Atom or AMD Fusion, so those cannot be compared. Why AMD or Intel don't go lower power, go ask them. the VIA Nano allows for a 4Watt system, which is a bit lower than AMD Geode.
      • by hedwards (940851)
        You can do a lot if you're changing the instruction set that drastically. The AMD and Intel processors in use today include a lot of kludge from previous revisions which are necessary for backwards compatibility. I don't think that you need an emulator for the processor bit until you get at least to the 386 and probably not till earlier revisions. You can still run DOS on modern hardware if you wish, you mostly just don't get all the features or the RAM.
    • I suppose that by "x86 OLPC" they mean the current XO 1.5 which is powered by a 1GHz VIA chip.

      http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Hardware_specification_1.5 [laptop.org]

    • by Tanktalus (794810)

      You're calling this a false comparison because the title/summary are vague, and you have an expectation of comparing modern to modern. But that's far from the only way of comparison. Often you'll see products compare model-to-model. "We've managed to squeeze 13% more mpg out of this year's vehicle" or "we've added feature X to the new version" or "we've fixed 100 more bugs this release than we did last release."

      Sounds to me like the article (which, of course, I've not read, and don't plan on) is comparin

    • by MikeURL (890801)
      Can you be a slashdot editor? Please? In a few minutes you did more research than the entire staff has in 6 months.
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:23PM (#34909678) Homepage Journal

    It doesn't solve a problem that XO has. Linux fits very well.

    Windows on ARM doesn't solve any problem XO has either, and potentially causes some, like licensing and lock-in. between you and me, if we're gonna start kids off with computers in the Third World, Linux makes WAY more sense than Windows. Even more than Android. Crome is not ready, and the cloud may not be Third-World-Friendly for a long time. try not to rely on resources that are either not available, cost more than food, or can be taken away by other nations, or even their own.

    If ever there was a project that leverages the maximum potential for freedom via the Internet, this is it. Really, give the kids someething they can work with and watch out. Somethings wonderful will happen.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Licensing, ad tracking and lock-in is all an Apple, Microsoft or Google has. Think of the shareholders, trusts and sovereign wealth funds that need that flow of new consumers.
      The world faced this with oil and mineral rights after decolonisation.
      Past generations sold out to Washington or Moscow, expect the same with MS and Google.
      Linux is the perfect fit, but will it be seen as a hardware base for a night of the long install by a MS or Google as a national 'gift'.
  • Gigahertz-class CPU, integrated full HD 1080p encode and decode, 6MP image captures, integrated audio processing engine, advanced 3D graphics. Renders 45Million triangles-per-second. Includes 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 3.0, HDMI, USB 2.0, 3G Baseband, SD/MMC card, and camera. It is powerful enough to simultaneously decode 4 1080p video streams at a time. Some videos of an early reference design here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s17KwfzTFY [youtube.com]
  • Poor children and those in third world countries generally are not customers who would be spending money. This is a key point to this whole issue, where the idea that just because there may be thousands or even hundreds of thousands of users does not mean that there is a lot of money that can be gained from that market. Two billion of these machines will still not end up as profitable for software developers as two million regular PCs running MacOS or Windows for that reason.

  • by chipwich (131556) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:45PM (#34909908)
    As I've watched Android dominate the tablet market, I'm bothered by the fact that these devices do not give root access without "jailbreaking". Isn't Android a major step toward the very scary world of "Trusted Computing"? That is, the hardware manufacturer, government, or whoever else has power can deny the ability for a user to run a program (or all programs!) at whim. Right out of the box, the user is denied permission to use their hardware in the way that they see fit.

    I feel much more comfortable with a full Linux distro that empowers its users, rather than makes them comfortable with someone else holding the keys to their machine. Besided, android hardly seems compatible with the "open" goals of OLPC. A full distro would take advantage of a real JVM and a much richer software eco-structure instead.
    • by Charbax (678404)
      Archos officially allows you to root your Archos Android Tablet using a "Special Developer Edition" firmware. Thing is, for official root support on such compact embedded devices you have to loose the warranty. At least for now. For example, you could write code that constantly over-clocks the processor or abuses something else in there and that can harm the hardware, so manufacturer is not able to support that.
    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Android dominate the tablet market? Where are the sales figures that back that up?

  • What about MeeGo? [meego.com] Already runs on the Nokia N900's ARM processor.
  • Wrong Target. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crhylove (205956) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Monday January 17, 2011 @07:54PM (#34910484) Homepage Journal

    I don't want Windows. I don't want Sugar. I don't want Fedora. I don't want Ubuntu. I don't want Anroid with their crappy market.

    I want Linux Mint. It's faster, more stable, and more feature filled than any of those OSes out of the box. Dead simple, my mom was even a convert, and it is rock solid. I put Mint on a machine, and never get a tech support call back, which is exactly what I want.

    Mint and Forget. And in this case I mean forget the other operating systems. Linux year of the desktop should be 2011, and it should be Mint version 10 which is incredible.

    Don't flame me or troll me until you've installed it on 3 or 4 machines. It will shock you. I literally haven't hunted for a driver since the new mint came out. Not one. On about 20 different machines.

    The only post format chore I have to do in Mint is make video files default to VLC, change the shortcuts a bit in the start menu, and install audacious and delete rhythmbox. It already has Firefox, Open Office Write, Brasero, Pidgin, and almost every other program an end user needs. Oh, except for Skype. I have to install that often as well.

    • by Charbax (678404)
      You are welcome to get a XO development machine and show that Mint works great on it.
  • If OLPC XO-1 threatened Intel enough to start the netbook market and has reached two million poor kids in third-world countries thus far, XO-1.75 may help start the ARM-powered Linux laptop market.

    Deployment of XO laptops [wikipedia.org]

    Global: 1.8 million

    Latin America: 1.5 million

    Peru: 870,000
    Uruguay: 460,000
    Columbia 65,000
    Argentina 60,000
    Mexico 50,000

    Africa: 135,000

    Rwanda: 120,000

    Asia: 24,200

    Oceania: 10,000

    Australia: 5,000

    The geek has some explaining to do when his allegedly potent combination of durable, cheap, laptop

  • I want one of these as my home 24/7 web/mail/project server. My power bill would be grateful.

  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @04:39AM (#34913714)
    What the video says is that the ARM chip is more powerful than the old x86 chips that OLPC used. Considering it's a SOC, and much newer technology (the original processor was 130 nm node, and the Armada is 65 nm node) it really should be.

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