Showing posts from October, 2018

Fedora 29 out

The IBM merger may be in, but Fedora 29 is out, and it's business as usual at Red Hat with its release today. Fedora is our distro here at Floodgap-Talospace and we'll be updating soon with a review focused on F29 and how it works on the Talos II.

Under the Fedora Alternative Architectures are server and "everything" install images for both big-endian ppc64 and ppc64le (though I still believe that ppc64's lifetime is limited on Fedora, and it's highly possible this issuance will be a dead end). You can then immediately download the components to turn these into workstation releases (I did a "quick" dnf install @workstation-product-environment on my own system but you can also go into gory detail).

More coverage in Fedora Magazine with update instructions (from F27 to F28, but the same steps will work from F28 to F29).

Also announced in parallel: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.6.

IBM buys Red Hat

Red Hat has been purchased by IBM in a deal worth US$33.4 billion or approximately US$190/share, well above its Friday closing price of US$116.68. The deal is clearly positioned to diversify IBM away from its stable but slow-growing legacy mainframe line of business, which recently had been the only major portion of the company with a positive showing, and jump-start its ailing cloud offerings.

What this means for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the company's premier enterprise offering, is continued stability for large customers and their service contracts. IBM has always served its large accounts well and this will increase confidence in using IBM server hardware outside of the traditional AIX and Z shops. It also almost certainly indicates an enhanced commitment to RHEL on IBM's POWER hardware, which due to being a Linux on Power partner was already the preferred Linux option on hardware IBM sold directly, and IBM may push RHEL to OpenPOWER hardware customers as a product more strongly in the future.

Fedora is also very unlikely to be affected by this: IBM has made substantial contributions to open source over the years, and fumbling a high-profile project like Fedora which even Linus himself uses (at least of late) would be an own goal of such epic proportions that even the sometimes brazenly incompetent IBM upper management would probably not do it. However, given that as far back as 2016 IBM said that ppc64le was the future for Linux on POWER, this all but guarantees big-endian ppc64 will not return to Fedora after its removal in the upcoming F29. (We run F28 on our own Talos II.)

The outlook for the various Fedora and Red Hat downstreams like CentOS is less clear, but it seems reasonable to assume that if Fedora remains intact, they will also continue to do so (albeit potentially with less official support post IBM-Red Hat, and it is possible CentOS developers who work for Red Hat may not be so employed after the merger). There is no word on what this means for Red Hat's other products.

From the perspective of the OpenPOWER ecosystem and the Talos systems specifically, there are good reasons for optimism. It more firmly weds IBM and Power ISA to Linux and will likely elevate ppc64le to a tier-1 offering within the Red Hat and Fedora ecosystem to further IBM's strategic goals with OpenPOWER. To the extent the underlying work makes its way back to the Linux source tree, it in turn can trickle down into better POWER9 and Power ISA support in any Linux distribution that chooses to take advantage of it, and that eventuality can only be positive. Unfortunately IBM management has recently become more ossified and less visionary than ever, and as a result the company has not shown good performance and innovation outside of its core large system competency and its research labs. The old joke during the Power Mac AIM (Apple-IBM-Motorola) alliance days was Apple plus IBM equals IBM, but no one was really laughing. Red Hat certainly has its own bureaucratic issues to deal with, but our worry is that the IBM monolith will affect Red Hat far more than the other way around.

Patches needed for Firefox 63

Unfortunately the most currently available package of Firefox 63 for Fedora 28 ppc64le doesn't even start, but again, it works fine if you build it from source. If you were able to successfully build Firefox 62 with our .mozconfigs, then you will need to install an updated cbindgen (preferably from your package manager, but I actually had to cargo install cbindgen to get a version recent enough that the build system would accept), node.js (?!), and the patches from bug 1494037 and bug 1498938. (The issue with the Fedora package has been filed as Redhat bug 1643729.)

Meanwhile, I'm about halfway through the code generator on my task to add a POWER9 JIT to Firefox based on the work in TenFourFox. Going from a G5 to POWER9 is a big jump. Lots of delicious new instructions.

Chromium for ppc64le builds available

While waiting for progress on accepting their patches to the tree, the ppc64le Chromium team has binary builds available.

Blackbird scheduled for availability in Q1 2019

From Twitter, Blackbird exists in hardware, and is estimated for general availability in Q1 2019. Our spies at OpenPOWER found the unit to be well-developed and functional, but a solid first impression obviously is no substitute for a full review. I'll be purchasing one to look at how well POWER9 systems can cover the low-end, as well as a test system for development work, and we'll be reviewing it here. The price is still planned to be less than the Talos II Lite, but no word on exactly how much less.

Ubuntu 18.10 now available

As reported in the official announcement, Ubuntu 18.10 is now out of beta and with many useful changes. A server install ISO image is available for ppc64le, which you can then convert to the desktop flavour.

MXE fix for ppc64le

One of my favourite tools is MXE, which ably builds Windows applications on your platform of choice as shown in the screenshot, and offers many libraries and toolks such as SDL, SDL2, Qt and NSIS. (I use it for OverbiteNX, for example.) However, the current version does not build on ppc64le because the gcc cross-compiler needs a later patch for POWER8+ which wasn't backported. Now it's been backported. While waiting for the pull request to enter the main tree, you can pull from our Github fork if you want to try it now.

The Talos II really performs nicely in QEMU, even with pure TCG emulation of the x86. ReactOS boots very smoothly on it.

Initial Blackbird specifications announced

Raptor in a series of tweets has made initial announcements about the specifications of the new Blackbird system. As expected, it is a single POWER9 CPU system with two ECC DDR4 2.666GHz RAM slots, two PCI slots (x16 and x8), onboard HDMI via an AST2500, same NIC as the Talos II, 4x onboard SATA and 5.1 sound with S/PDIF out. Combined with an estimated under 100W power consumption (with a 4-core CPU), which is very welcome, and you have a system that can live in many more settings than a desktop workstation. Maximum core count was not yet announced, but our guess is that the Blackbird will top out at 8, nor a price.

We're planning to preorder one of these and we'll review it (and compare it with the big T2) here.

Update: A Raptor Wiki entry is now available which seems to confirm that 8 cores is the limit on this machine "due to power delivery limitations." In addition, 8-core systems have a slightly slower all-core turbo frequency. Raptor says on Twitter they "should in fact be able to support the full 8 core device at listed clock speeds."

Raptor confirms Talos II not subject to Supermicro chip hack

Bloomberg dropped a bomb earlier today alleging Chinese state actors compromised thousands of Supermicro motherboards by infiltrating the supply chain to insert tiny, almost undetectable chips as exfiltration hardware. The chips, manufactured by the Chinese military, were designed to look like innocuous board components but actually contained memory, networking and sufficient processing power to apparently exploit the machine's BMC at a very low level. The devices could literally do almost anything, and do so in a way that could be nearly undetectable.

It should be said in the interest of journalistic accuracy that Apple, which jettisoned Supermicro servers from its data centers for reasons it said were unrelated to this issue in 2016 and disputes the account, and Amazon, which vehemently denied the report, have both attacked the article (as well as Supermicro, of course). Nevertheless, we are informed by Raptor today that the Raptor systems, from the Talos II to the brand-new Blackbird, are designed and manufactured in the United States and are not subject to this issue. In addition, Raptor verifies manufactured boards against their own schematics, and OpenBMC as used in the T2 family is completely open-source. The Supermicro case that the T2 comes in has not been reported to be affected, and so far no malicious components have been identified in the power supplies or power routing systems, nor are we able to currently detect any in our system at Floodgap Talospace.

"Tiny Talos" reveal scheduled for tomorrow

The mATX "Tiny Talos" has a reveal date tomorrow at OpenPOWER, and seems to have an official name: Blackbird.

Updated: It's official! Specs to follow.