16 July 2008 - Open Sourcing Compaq's Alpha Tools for Linux

I'm in the (long and arduous) process of becoming a Gentoo/Alpha developer. This involves, firstly, becoming an Architecture Tester. This in turn, requires that I complete a quiz, mail it to the head of the Alpha team and wait. The developer who manages the alpha arch testers, of which there are none, currently, has been missing in action for 18 days.

Once I prove myself worthy, or whatnot, I'll then complete a longer version of the arch tester quiz. Once my quiz has been reviewed, I'll be mentored for 30 days. After this 30 day period, I'll officially be a Gentoo/Alpha developer.

At this point, I'll try to get Compaq's alpha compilers and libraries back into portage in one fashion or another. libots is already in portage. The math library, libcpml, whose value I showed will be next on my agenda. Compaq's C, C++, and FORTRAN compilers, having been unmaintained for years now, have quite a few incompatibilities with modern Linux distributions. I think the best course of action for these is to get them into a portage overlay.

Compaq's alpha optimized compilers, unmaintained and bit rotting, still hold a wealth of knowledge. Compaq's cc still produces code much better than gcc in certain cases. libcpml and libots have incredibly optimized routines for all sorts of common functions. It's such a shame for them to rot as they're doing now.

With this attitude, I emailed Linda Knippers of HP, who in some capacity orcestrated the AdvFS code release under the GPL.

Hi Linda,

There are a few tools and libraries Compaq/HP has provided for Alpha Linux in the past that have been totally unmaintained in the last few years but still hold great value and knowledge to the open source community. I'm emailing to (1) see if there's any possibility that they may be open sourced in the future, or (2) be directed to contact someone more appropriate.

The tools and libraries in question are Compaq's Alpha-Optimized C, C++, and FORTRAN compilers, libots, libcpml, libcxml, and ladebug. Other Tru64 tools that we Alpha Linux users would love to use include spike and pixie.

Do you know of any plans to release any code for any (hopefully all) of these products? It seems a shame to have them bit rot when GNU Compiler Developers could learn a thing or two from ccc, and when the GNU libc Developers could incorporate libcpml routines into their math library and so forth.

Thank you for your time,

Matt Turner

She kindly responded (9 minutes later!) and told me that although she didn't know of any plans to open source these products, that it may be something HP would consider. She forwarded my mail to a former Tru64 developer to get his thoughts.

While I don't have code in hand (yet), it appears that they are at minimum receptive to this idea. Hopefully in the near future we'll be reading through Digital/Compaq's code, learning more about alpha optimization, and implementing what we learn in gcc and glibc.

I'll definitely post back any new information I find out.

Tags: alpha gentoo linux