09 April 2009 - IRIX for x86 and the 700MHz O2

As I was testing Radeon Kernel Mode-setting on Alpha, I casually started a conversation with Jesse Barnes, an Intel Graphics developer. I recalled that he was an ex-SGI employee, and being interested in SGI computers myself decided to ask him a question or two. What I learned about SGI absolutely floored me.

When Chicago Joe hacked a 600 MHz PMC-Sierra CPU into an SGI O2, the quest for newer, faster chips for the aging O2 began. 600 MHz is a nice upgrade, but why stop there? A 900 MHz CPU should be possible as well, but it would require changes to the O2's PROM at the source level. Due to one thing or another, SGI has been unwilling to release the PROM source code. I decided to ask Jesse if he knew the right people to contact at SGI to lobby for the release of the code.

The conversation went –

<mattst88> jbarnes, you used to work at SGI, no?
<jbarnes> yep
<mattst88> the holy grail of O2 hardware hacking is replacing the desoldering the CPU and replacing it with a a 600 MHz chip.
<mattst88> theoretically, 900 is also doable, but it would require the release of the O2's PROM code
<jbarnes> I played with some that had pmc 700MHz chips
<mattst88> rumor has it that Microsoft owns most of the code, from the MIPS consortium days
<jbarnes> I think we ended up not shipping due to some weird fp bug
<mattst88> any idea if SGI is even _able_ to legally release this code?
* jbarnes even did an irix kernel patch for that chip
<mattst88> btw, SGI just got bought out.
<jbarnes> yeah I'm still in touch with people there
<jbarnes> yeah they could release a lot of it
<mattst88> jbarnes, _SGI_ was going to ship 700 MHz chips for the O2?
<jbarnes> it's just a pain due to external contractors doing some etc
<jbarnes> yeah
<jbarnes> we even did an x86 port in 2000
<mattst88> never heard that before, that's cool stuff
<mattst88> x86 port of IRIX?
<jbarnes> yep
<mattst88> holy crap
<jbarnes> well time to go home...
<mattst88> do you think it's possible to pull the right strings to get as much code as possible to be released?
<mattst88> the PROM, that is?
<mattst88> btw, do you mind if I reproduce this conversation?
<jbarnes> sure sgi got sold so I guess it's ok for it to be widely known
<jbarnes> as for the prom... dunno who you'd talk to about that these days
<jbarnes> rich altmier is at intel now, otherwise he'd definitely be the guy
<mattst88> if you get any ideas, please let me know. there are definitely a lot of people who would love to hack at it
<mattst88> so, any more secret tidbits to share before you head for home?
<jbarnes> hehe
<jbarnes> I'm sure someone will write a book
<mattst88> why was the IRIX port to x86 not released?
<jbarnes> just show up to la fiesta in mtn view on any given wed evening and keep your ears open
<jbarnes> various reasons
<mattst88> saving them for the book? :)
<jbarnes> heh
<jbarnes> ok bbl
<mattst88> do you mind if I reproduce this conversation?
<jbarnes> sure np
<mattst88> thanks

*blink*

No commentary needed...

Tags: irix sgi