Tag Archives: Systems

The Cube

Meet The Cube – this is the Transputer Power-House successor to the Tower of Power, which was a bit of a hacked frame-case and based on somewhat non-standard TRAM carriers with a max. capacity of just 24 size-1 TRAMs…

The Cube hardware

This time I went for something slightly bigger  😎 …A clear bow towards the Parsytec GigaCube within a GigaCluster.
The Cube uses genuine INMOS B012 double-hight Euro-card carriers, giving home to 16 size-1 TRAMs – Parsytec would call this a cluster and so will I.
Currently The Cube uses 4 clusters, making a perfect cube of 4x4x4 Transputers… 64 in total. Wooo-hooo, this seems to be the biggest Transputer network running on this planet (to my knowledge)
If not, there still room left for more  😯

Just to give you a quick preview, this is what ispy responds when ran against the Cube:

Using 150 ispy 3.23 | mtest 3.22
  # Part rate Link# [ Link0 Link1 Link2 Link3 ] RAM,cycle
  0 T800d-24 276k 0 [ HOST ... ... 1:1 ] 4K,1 1024K,3;
Display all 64 lines
1 T800d-25 1.7M 1 [ ... 0:3 2:1 3:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 2 T800d-24 1.8M 1 [ ... 1:2 4:1 5:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 3 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 1:3 6:2 5:1 7:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 4 T800d-24 1.8M 1 [ ... 2:2 6:1 8:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 5 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 2:3 3:2 8:1 9:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 6 T800d-24 1.8M 2 [ ... 4:2 3:1 10:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 7 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 3:3 10:2 9:1 11:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 8 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 4:3 5:2 10:1 12:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 9 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 5:3 7:2 12:1 13:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 10 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 6:3 8:2 7:1 14:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 11 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 7:3 14:2 13:1 15:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 12 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 8:3 9:2 14:1 16:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 13 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 9:3 11:2 16:1 17:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 14 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 10:3 12:2 11:1 18:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 15 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 11:3 ... 17:1 19:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 16 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 12:3 13:2 18:1 20:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 17 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 13:3 15:2 20:1 21:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 18 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 14:3 16:2 ... 22:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 19 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 15:3 22:2 21:1 23:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 20 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 16:3 17:2 22:1 24:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 21 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 17:3 19:2 24:1 25:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 22 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 18:3 20:2 19:1 26:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 23 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 19:3 26:2 25:1 27:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 24 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 20:3 21:2 26:1 28:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 25 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 21:3 23:2 28:1 29:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 26 T800d-25 1.7M 0 [ 22:3 24:2 23:1 30:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 27 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 23:3 30:2 29:1 31:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 28 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 24:3 25:2 30:1 32:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 29 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 25:3 27:2 32:1 33:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 30 T800d-25 1.8M 0 [ 26:3 28:2 27:1 34:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 31 T805d-20 1.7M 0 [ 27:3 ... 33:1 35:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 32 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 28:3 29:2 34:1 36:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 33 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 29:3 31:2 36:1 37:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 34 T800d-24 1.8M 0 [ 30:3 32:2 ... 38:0 ] 4K,1 2048K,3; 35 T800c-20 1.8M 0 [ 31:3 38:2 37:1 39:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 36 T805d-20 1.7M 0 [ 32:3 33:2 38:1 40:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 37 T800c-20 1.6M 0 [ 33:3 35:2 40:1 41:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 38 T800d-20 1.6M 0 [ 34:3 36:2 35:1 42:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 39 T800d-20 1.7M 0 [ 35:3 42:2 41:1 43:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 40 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 36:3 37:2 42:1 44:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 41 T800d-20 1.7M 0 [ 37:3 39:2 44:1 45:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 42 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 38:3 40:2 39:1 46:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 43 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 39:3 46:2 45:1 47:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 44 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 40:3 41:2 46:1 48:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 45 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 41:3 43:2 48:1 49:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 46 T800d-20 1.7M 0 [ 42:3 44:2 43:1 50:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 47 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 43:3 ... 49:1 51:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 48 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 44:3 45:2 50:1 52:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 49 T800d-20 1.6M 0 [ 45:3 47:2 52:1 53:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 50 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 46:3 48:2 ... 54:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 51 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 47:3 54:2 53:1 55:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 52 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 48:3 49:2 54:1 56:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 53 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 49:3 51:2 56:1 57:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 54 T800d-20 1.6M 0 [ 50:3 52:2 51:1 58:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 55 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 51:3 58:2 57:1 59:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 56 T800d-20 1.7M 0 [ 52:3 53:2 58:1 60:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 57 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 53:3 55:2 60:1 61:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 58 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 54:3 56:2 55:1 62:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 59 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 55:3 ... 61:1 ... ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 60 T800d-20 1.7M 0 [ 56:3 57:2 62:1 63:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 61 T800d-20 1.6M 0 [ 57:3 59:2 63:1 ... ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 62 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 58:3 60:2 ... 64:0 ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 63 T800d-20 1.8M 0 [ 60:3 61:2 64:1 ... ] 4K,1 1024K,3; 64 T800d-20 1.7M 0 [ 62:3 63:2 ... ... ] 4K,1 1024K,3;

Here are some more figures:

  • 32 x T800@25Mhz/2MB  (my very own AM-B404 TRAMs)
  • 32 x T800@20MHz/1MB  (mainly TRAMs from MSC and ARADEX)
  • -> 96MB of total RAM
  • -> 70-130 MFLOPS (single precision)
  • ~800MIPS combined integer power
  • ~60Amps @5V needed (That’s 300W  😯 )

So we’re talking about 70-130 MFLOPS here – depending which documentation you trust and what language (OCCAM vs. Fortran) and/or OS you’re using. That was quite a powerhouse back in 1990 (Cray XM-P class!)… and dwarfed by a simple Pentium III some years later 😉
Just for to give you an comparison with recent hardware:

Raspberry Pi Model B+ (700 MHz) ~40 Mflops
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (1000 MHz – one core) ~92 Mflops

Short break for contemplation about getting old…

Ok, let’s go on… you want to see it. Here it is – the front, one card/cluster pulled, 3 still in. On the left the mighty ol’ 60A power supply:

Cube_Front_4x

Well, this is the evaluation version in a standard case, i.e. this is meant for testing and improving. I’m planning for a somehow cooler and more stylish case for the final version (read: Blinkenlights etc.).

And here’s the IMHO more interesting view… the backside. It shows the typical INMOS cabling.

CubeBack

As usual, I color coded some of the cables.
The green arrow points to the uplink to the host system to which The Cube is connected to. Red are the daisy-chained Analyse/Reset/Error (ARE) signals. The yellow so-called jumper-cables connect some of the IMSB004 links back into the boards network. And in the upper row (blue) four ‘edge-links’ of each board are connected to its neighbor.

This setup connects four 4×4 matrices (using my C004 dummies as discussed here)  into a big 4×16 matrix. Finally I will ‘wrap’ that matrix into a torus. Yeah, there might be more clever topologies, but for now I’m fine with this.

Building up power

For completeness, here’s a quick look at how things came together.

The 4 carriers/clusters with lots of size-1 TRAMs… upper right one is the C004-dummy test board (now also fully populated). Upper left is pure AM-B404 love <3

ITEM_futter

Fixing/replacing the broken power-supply (in the back), including the somewhat difficult search for a working cooling solution:

ITEM_repairing

The Cube software

Well there isn’t any specific software needed to run The Cube, but it definitely cries out loud for some heavily multi-threaded stuff.

So the first thing has definitely to be a Mandelbrot zoom. As usual, I used my very own version with a high-precision timer, available in my Transputer Toolkit.

Here’s the quick run in real-time – you can still figure out visually each Transputer delivering its result:

Other Transputer and x86 results of this benchmark can be seen in this post over here.

We need (even) more power, Igor!

So this is running fine – using internal RAM only. On the other hand, it seems that the current power supply has some issues with, well, the electric current.
When booting Helios onto all 64/65 Transputers which uses all of the external RAM, very soon some of them do crash or go into a constant reboot-loop.
By just reducing the network definition (i.e. not pulling any Transputers) to 48, Helios boots and runs rock-solid.
Because measuring the voltage during a 64-T boot shows a solid 5.08V on all TRAM-slots it most likely means the power supply either can’t deliver the needed amount of Amps (~60) or produces noise etc.  😥
So this is the next construction site I have to tackle.

To be continued…

Sparky 2

Meet Sparky 2, my main Solaris box. Yeah, Sparky2 isn’t exactly a roman or greek mythical figure, even the ‘sun theme’ would give you hundreds of possible god, godess and daemon names but there’s a reason.
Sparky2s main reason d’etre is Helios core development. As far as my research in the sources went, Perihelions main dev-box was called Sparky – so to honor their work I continued to use this name.

Hardware

Sparky2 is actually the 2nd incarnation of my Solaris dev-box. “Sparky-1.5” was/is a lovely SparcStation 20, dual SuperSparc-60 CPU, 384MB RAM and even a on-board CG14-Framebuffer.
But that beast is just loud. Loud fans and a loud SCA-SCSI drive. As with most of my vintage computers, I was thinking and planning to replace everything to make it nearly noiseless but while the power-supply fan was doable, the hard-drive replacement would result in unjustifiable costs… and still it wouldn’t been any faster then.

So here it is, the ultimate “Solaris-Box-which-can-run-even-in-your-bedroom™”: A Blade 150.

case

Yes, you’re right, pretty recent stuff (2000-2006) for Axels ususal crap equipment, and in a Sun hardware evangelists view, it’s not even worth being called “a SUN”, but I needed it to run silent, and because the Blade 100/150 series is mainly build from standard PC parts, it’s perfect for noisless tuning.
It comes in a small ATX-desktop case, uses IDE drives, a standard ATX power-supply, standard PC133 ECC DIMMs (cheap these days!) and the 650MHz UltraSparc IIi CPU is fast enough to compile any vintage project in matters of minutes and not hours.

internals

So out went the power-supply fan as well as the case-fan in the front and both were replaced by my noise-killer-of-choice: BeQuiet! fans.
The supplied Seagate IDE drive is already very silent, so I didn’t replaced that by some IDEtoSDCARD adapter or even a SSD (no, it wouldn’t be faster, the interface is ATA66).
As for the CPU-fan I was told that some (more silent) NVIDIA fans perfectly fit – need to try that later found a better solution, see post below.

Software

Depending what you’re planning to do with it, a blade supports IIRC Solaris from version 7 up to 10. In my humble opinion Solaris 8 is the best OS to fiddle around with vintage sources: “Modern” enough and still featuring SunOS 4.1.x compatibility through the ‘SunOS Binary Compatibility Package” (called SUNWbcp).

While not necessarily needed for vintage coding, I still think it’s a must-have: pkgutil from the OpenCSW project – especially since Sunfreeware is unixpackages.com now, which isn’t free anymore.
Contrary to this, pkgutil is the ultimate & free package-manager and just works as you might got used on other platforms (yum, ipkg and such). It’s much of a relief when you finally got basics like bash, less and another-editor-than-vi etc. Here’s how to get started.

Most important of all, you’ll obviously will need gcc. I had good results with GCC 2.95 which is not available on OpenCSW, but if you know how to Google, you’ll find it for sure 😉