Pandora Needs To Go X86 (eventually)


mdefender

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Let it be known that I think ARM is a great platform. Ideally, everything would be run on interchangeable virtual machines and it wouldn't matter what chip you use. Sadly, this is not the case.

I do not think that the power saving advantages of ARM beat out the ability of x86 to easily run just about anything in existence. Even older versions of Flash are very hard to get working properly (I speak from experience.) Flash 9 or 10, AFAIK, is an impossibility. This alone breaks a *lot* of the web, including many flash gaming sites.

I could run Internet Explorer or MS Office under Wine, if necessary. I could do QEMU with x86 operating systems without suffering horrendous performance hits.

And then you really have to consider Windows gaming. I admit, if I can spare the money I will probably eventually plunk down ~$330 for a Pandora. But if it were x86, I would gladly spend hundreds more... maybe even twice as much. There are so many awesome older Windows games available that run well on x86 Linux (sometimes natively, but usually with Wine): Starcraft, Morrowind, Diablo series, Fallout series, Neverwinter Nights series, Battlefield series... all of that would fit on an 16 gig SD card, and you'd still have more than enough room left over for every single NES, SNES, and Genesis rom.

I realize that the hardware can't be changed this late in the game, but I want to strongly urge the devs to move to x86 for the next generation. I really think that the first company to put an x86 in a reasonably-priced and full-featured UMPC will be the winner.

Netbooks are interesting, but a lot of people are confused about what they can and cannot replace. You can't compare them to Pandora... they are still fundamentally laptops. You can't put them in your pocket. They have to be carried in hand or in a shoulder bag. The line in the sand between laptop and UMPC (or cell phone) is that which you can keep on your person, in a pocket or a belt holster, at all times, with a minimum of discomfort. So far as I can tell, there are not any reasonably-priced x86 devices available that fit this description. Yet.

It's just a matter of time. Mostly it's a matter of power consumption, but x86 doesn't have to match ARM perfectly... its just needs to get somewhat close and then its other advantages will dominate. This should be obvious. Fully working flash 10 + ability to run Wine + QEMU'ed Windows without an insane performance penalty + ability to run native *nix programs not yet ported to ARM... you just can't counter that kind of usefulness by claiming a few more hours of battery life.

Atoms are everywhere, and they're figuring out ways to cut down its consumption. An Atom cell phone has already popped up in Japan. Via's Nano (which IIRC is more efficient than the Atom and has some really nice hardware encryption stuff) is up and limping, and AMD is busily trying to get Bobcat out the door.

Like it or not, virtual machines have not granted us hardware agnosticism. x86 WILL be the standard for all consumer general-purpose computing devices, no matter their size. The question is, do the people behind Pandora realize this or are they still thinking that people are willing to sacrifice things like Flash so they don't have to bother buying a car charger?


EDIT: Wth is going on with the apostrophes? They're multiplying.
 
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lulzfish

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I disagree.
Windows is only getting worse with age [There's no easy way to get a legal copy of XP, even if it wasn't an outdated piece of crap] and Apple is too afraid to try doing anything on other hardware platforms.

The Pandora has a lot of support as an open-source hacker machine, and the best way to do that is with ARM.

As for Flash, it's not a matter of ARM breaking the Web, it's a matter of Adobe breaking the web by creating a de facto standard that's closed and proprietary.
The Pandora obviously has the strength to pull this fully loaded 80,000 pound tractor-trailer strength to run Flash 10 and flash video, but it's a matter of Flash being owned by a single corporation.

Flash sucks, and I regret using it on any machine. If the dev team thinks the ARM is the best architecture for the Pandora, I will buy it. Proprietary standards like Windows and Flash can go die for all I care. Windows especially is getting worse with every iteration. WINE runs only a handful of games, and I would not waste the Pandora on something as old as XP or as locked down with DRM as Vista or Windows 7.
 
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MDave

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x86 is ancient in design. Intel are really struggling to reduce the power consumption, to the point they are removing a few things in the architecture I believe. That's backwards if you ask me, where as ARM is forwards.
 
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Elanzer

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x86 is almost entirely pointless on a device like this. For nearly all of the device's typical uses, there is a Linux variant available, the only thing you're missing out on is old PC games. Giving up over half the effective battery life for what's mostly redundancy is pretty stupid in my eyes.

If you want an x86 handheld, go with the atom based ones by Aigo or Gigabyte. They are about $1000, roughly the same performance of the Pandora, and only have a ~2.5 hour battery life under full load.
 
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mdefender

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'lulzfish' said:
I disagree.
Windows is only getting worse with age [There's no easy way to get a legal copy of XP, even if it wasn't an outdated piece of crap] and Apple is too afraid to try doing anything on other hardware platforms.

The Pandora has a lot of support as an open-source hacker machine, and the best way to do that is with ARM.
We've had open source hacker ARMs for a long time now. I myself have fiddled around with Zauruses extensively. For years now. At the end of the day, they just can't do 10% of what a netbook can do. Throw an x86 in them and yeah you would lose a lot of battery time, but they could probably do 99% of what your average netbook could.

Hackers produce enduring, large scale, popular projects when they hack popular things. The simple fact of the matter is, if it can't do youtube it will NEVER be popular.

And seriously now, why are my apostrophes reproducing?
 
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lucidchaos

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x86 is a dying breed and platform independence is becoming increasingly common. Although a native x86 chip would be nice for running current software, let's be honest - the ARM SOC is a better solution with it's built in GPU and very low power consumption.
 
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mdefender

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'Elanzer' said:
If you want an x86 handheld, go with the atom based ones by Aigo or Gigabyte. They are about $1000, roughly the same performance of the Pandora, and only have a ~2.5 hour battery life under full load.
See "reasonably priced". Under $500 will be perfectly doable, especially once competition from Via and AMD heats things up.

If Pandora 2.0 is unwilling to go there, I guarantee you someone else will.
 
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jakewastaken

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Welp, no argument could possibly counter these claims!


The hurdle for x86 and power consumption is MUCH larger than the hurdle for ARM and software availability.

Seriously now.


The battery to support your x86 pandora is going to far outweigh the rest of the components in the device. It would be either need to be gargantuan in size or youd only be getting 2 hours instead of 10. For a few old Windows games I really dont think this is worth it.
 

WizardStan

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Long story short, this has been brought up time and time and time and time (repeat ad nauseum) and for many reasons that will no doubt be reiterated following this post, you are wrong.
To demonstrate just a single reason why you are wrong: no Nintendo, Sega, or Sony video game system has ever had an x86, has never been able to run any sort of Windows system, and yet they do just fine. Why should the Pandora be unique in this respect?
If you believe you need to run some sort of Windows system in order to be effective, then you are thinking very narrow mindedly.
 

Alex.

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'Material Defender' said:
And seriously now, why are my apostrophes reproducing?
The board must be running on some sort of ARM chip.
 
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lulzfish

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The forum crashed recently and it's still a little buggy. Apostrophes are being duplicated and links are not working. I dunno why, but it's something on the server side.

As for YouTube, I really don't care. I'll use Flash on my desktop since it's available, but I'm not going to miss out on something as good as the Pandora just because it doesn't have YouTube.

Speaking of, why did Flash come out of nowhere and become the one media standard to rule them all?

Are there seriously no video sharing sites that use ACTUAL video, like AVI or MPEG or OGG? Everything's wrapped up in Flash, like regular video streams are going to kill me or something.
 
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mdefender

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'MDave' said:
x86 is ancient in design. Intel are really struggling to reduce the power consumption, to the point they are removing a few things in the architecture I believe. That's backwards if you ask me, where as ARM is forwards.
If ARM is so darned "forwards", then will you please help me make my Zaurus C1000 awesome like it should be? I've been waiting for three years now. Been through five distinct projects, all of which utterly failed to produce anything approaching x86 usability.

ARM is a great architecture, objectively speaking. But, from a general-purpose software dev standpoint, is a dead end. Everything I've read is trying to cast the Pandora in the light of an UMPC, a netbook alternative that can actually fit in your pocket. And that's just never going to happen; not with the coming Atom/Nano/Bobcat tsunami.
 
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lulzfish

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It's exactly like a netbook.
It will a Web standards-compliant browser, play media of all sorts, and let you do PDA-type stuff anywhere, for hours on end.

IF you really want to, you can watch YouTube with the VLC plugin or the MPlayer plugin, which both play FLVs.

Edit: "from a software dev standpoint, it's a dead end."

No, it's easy enough to develop for. It's just that none of the closed-source suck people are used to is available for it. Yet.
 
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Exophase

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Flash 9 and 10 aren't impossible as it is right now. More and more ARM mobile devices are going Flash, you really think the situation won't get better?

Most of the things that people insist on needing Windows for are also not really things that a device like Pandora excels at running. On the other hand, a lot of software has been made for ARM mobiles over the years. That you even mention Internet Explorer is actually kind of funny, who is interested in using IE in Wine exactly?

You mention qemu a lot, but how much of a divide do you think there is between doing x86->x86 on qemu and x86->ARM? Probably not as much as you think. ARM is not stuck going nowhere, they're being rolled out faster and faster (look at the difference in time between ARM11 and Cortex-A8, then compare A8 and A9, which is a huge difference despite the small change in nomenclature).

Factors like battery life, heat dissipation, and cost might not mean anything to you, but they're huge to a lot of people, and they get bigger the smaller you go (where you're more and more limited by battery size).

Bottom line is, too many of us don't want x86 to take over gaming devices. Intel is pushing hard but I don't think they have nearly as clear of a victory path as you do. The more time passes, the more the situation you're describing will change out of their favor. More and more software (including games) will be open source or made available for ARM in the first place. More and more old game engines will be recreated faithfully in new open source alternatives, and existing ones will be improved. The performance gap for old games that aren't will become greater and greater, making emulation more and more feasible. And companies will release source for their old games.

Long ago Intel found that abandoning legacy support was a lethal option for them. Because of this they've turned legacy into their trump card. Unfortunately for them, the situation has changed a lot since then, and it will continue to. x86's future in taking over every last platform is anything but certain.
 
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mdefender

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'WizardStan' said:
Long story short, this has been brought up time and time and time and time (repeat ad nauseum) and for many reasons that will no doubt be reiterated following this post, you are wrong.
To demonstrate just a single reason why you are wrong: no Nintendo, Sega, or Sony video game system has ever had an x86, has never been able to run any sort of Windows system, and yet they do just fine. Why should the Pandora be unique in this respect?
If you believe you need to run some sort of Windows system in order to be effective, then you are thinking very narrow mindedly.
It needs to be brought up again and again. Pandora is not billing itself as the next Game Boy. It's billing itself as a gaming system that doubles as an UMPC. Being able to view youtube clips is a necessary prerequisite for any device claiming to be a laptop or netbook substitute.

In the name of everything that's holy, I do NOT want it to run Windows. I have not run Windows on any of my main machines since 2005. I do, however, want it to be able to run Wine. And QEMU with x86 operating systems (at sane speeds.)

Also, re: flash... yes, it sucks. Flash sucks as a media standard. x86 sucks as a mobile processor standard. The problem is, suckage alone is not enough to change things. Something that sucks yet currently works will always beat something that doesn't suck but doesn't currently work.
 
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mdefender

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[quote name='Exophase' date='Feb 17 2009, 03:41 AM' post='701898']
Flash 9 and 10 aren't impossible as it is right now. More and more ARM mobile devices are going Flash, you really think the situation won't get better?
quote]

Do you really think that the Symbian or Blackberry or Windows Mobile flash players will help us in any way?

Android's flash player *might* save us. Might. It is Linux, after all, but it's also a very specialized, nonstandard breed of Linux.

Anyway, I'm not arguing that the current breed of x86 chips and chipsets are able to take on ARM. I am saying, the battle has just begun and it should be painfully clear who is going to be the winner here.
 
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MDave

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By the time you get your x86 handheld with a 10+ hour battery life, it will be the year 2015. And with missing instruction sets, possibly breaking compatibility with older software.

ARM is advancing in speed and features, while still keeping energy efficiency one of its top priorities. For embedded devices, your going to be stuck with that particular design of ARM, but once there is an ARM that does everything well and at top efficiency, the only difference between generations should be speed. This is something we are already seeing with the OMAP. And it looks a solid enough design to stay consistent in the future too. And to help push this forward, is why some of us are supporting the Pandora. Innovative design and setting GOOD standards from where ARM is standing right now looks to be a rather bright future to me.
 

darkblu

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@Material Defender
no, no and no. also, there are plenty of pocketable atom devices on the market today. you may have not searched enough.

CODE

http://www.umpcportal.com/2009/02/viliv-s5-is-top-of-the-charts
http://www.umpcportal.com/products/Viliv/S5
http://www.umpcportal.com/products/Aigo/MID/8888W
http://www.umpcportal.com/products/Gigabyte/MID%20M528/M528
http://www.umpcportal.com/products/UMID%20M1/MID



@lulzfish
QUOTE
.. and Apple is too afraid to try doing anything on other hardware platforms.

aha! that explains why apple bought pa-semi (one of the top experts on ppc embedded SoC designs) and stole a high-echelon cpu-design IBM fellow, at the threat of a lawsuit at that. omg, they want to go atom too!


apropos, MWC is upon us, and the fun has already started:

CODE

http://www.macrumors.com/2009/02/16/first-multi-core-mobile-platform-demonstrated
 

EdCa22

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So you like an hour and a half of battery life? Because even if you put an Atom in something the size of a Pandora, that's probably what you'd get, max. Then you'd have a much more difficult to design board because you need a lot of extra chips in an x86 (e.g. GPU) so you need more layers on the PCB as well so the whole thing will be even more expensive and take longer to design and test, and it may even be impossible to make it that small. Then you've got heat issues. I'll place money that a machine as small as the pandora but with an x86 will get hot, and your hands will get sweaty. Or worse, burn.

Why do you think there are no really small devices with x86? Why aren't they in your phone? Because they are not suitable!

In my opinion, the performance of ARM chips with each iteration of the architecture is increasing at a rate that x86 can't beat by decreasing power consumption. In fact, more often than not, x86 power consumption goes up with each iteration except in very specific implementations - they are only just cottoning on to making reduced power consumption a priority. And there are very few x86 SoCs, those that are available have poor feature sets compared to ARM SoCs, so the x86 design will have an increased number of chips, thus design complexity, thus design time, manufacturing cost and complexity, time etc...

The Atom is not designed for really small devices like the Pandora or a phone. It is designed for netbooks. Netbooks, though closer to the pandora in size than a laptop, are still significantly larger and have much more space. If netbooks were half or a third of the size they are, they would be far, far more expensive. Currently the drive is the other way - i.e. ARM processors are now powerful enough for netbooks, rather than x86 being low power enough for hand held devices.

Maybe one day x86 power consumption will be down to a point where they are suitable, or more suitable at least, to this kind of application, but right now they are not. So should we have Pandora now, or shall we wait 3 to 6 years? Or more? I know my answer...
 
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