Jumat, 28 Januari 2011

Processor Architecture, Linux, and the Future

Twice in the past week I have gotten into discussions with friends about the topic of processor architecture. One of these discussions was about the cell processor. The cell processor is a Power-PC based, micro-processor that was designed to bridge the gap between traditional 64bit processors and GPUs. The second discussion was about another type of processor architecture most of us use everyday - the ARM processor (as of 2007 an approximated 98% of mobile phones use an ARM chip).

The topics of the discussions were fairly similar - why is it with all these other architectures have to offer x86/64bit processors still dominate our desktop computers? Cell processors are incredibly powerful and ARM chips use an extremely low amount of energy for the processing power they provide. Simple:

Cross Compatibility

The only reason we have even begun making the transition from x86 to 64bit is because 64bit is backwards compatible with x86 code.

ARM and PowerPC architectures require a recompile (and sometimes minor editing) of code before it will run. Those of us that use FOSS know that this recompile is normally only a minor inconvenience. This flexibility is something I love about open source software. It is one of the main reasons Linux is dominating the countless mobile handhelds and tablet computers we have seen released in the last couple years (and why you can easily install Linux on your PS3).

Most companies that write closed source software cannot be bothered to even cross-compile their software to different operating systems. In other words, I don't think we will see Adobe's photoshop or Mircosoft's office running on an ARM chip anytime soon. This lack of foresight on these companies parts will eventually be their downfall.

The computing world is rapidly evolving around us, ever changing and progressing. Just like in nature, it is only the adaptive that survive. I believe FOSS will be the one to come out on top some years from now - but then, only time will tell!

~Jeff Hoogland

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