I recently sent a few old machines off for recycling. Both had relevance to the early days of the FATE testing effort. As is my custom, I photographed them (poorly, of course).
First, there’s the PowerPC-based Mac Mini I procured thanks to a Craigslist ad in late 2006. I had plans to develop automated FFmpeg building and testing and was already looking ahead toward testing multiple CPU architectures. Again, this was 2006 and PowerPC wasn’t completely on the outs yet– although Apple’s MacTel transition was in full swing, the entire new generation of video game consoles was based on PowerPC.
Click for larger image
I remember trying to find a Mac Mini PPC on Craigslist. Many were to be found, but all asked more than the price of even a new Mac Mini Intel, always because the seller was leaving all of last year’s applications and perhaps including a monitor, neither of which I needed. Fortunately, I found this bare Mac Mini. Also fortunate was the fact that it was far easier to install Linux on it than the first PowerPC machine I owned.
After FATE operation transitioned away from me, I still kept the machine in service as an edge server and automated backup machine. That is, until the hard drive failed on reboot one day. Thus, when it was finally time to recycle the computer, I felt it necessary to disassemble the machine and remove the hard drive for possible salvage and then for destruction.
Someone asked me for performance numbers for the PowerPC, i.e., how efficiently can a PowerPC CPU decode certain types of multimedia via FFmpeg. So I ran my compiler benchmark script on the 5 compiler configurations currently in FATE. I did 2 runs, one with and one without AltiVec optimizations. I used the 512×224 MPEG-4 part 2 video with MP3 audio (104 minutes, ~144,000 frames). These tests were run on a 1.25 GHz PowerPC G4 (Mac Mini running Linux). The FFmpeg source code was at SVN revision 18711.
Interesting stuff: The performance trends do not parallel the chaos we have seen with x86_32 and x86_64. Instead, we see continuous improvement.
Suggestions for improvement welcome, though there don’t seem to be a lot of tunable parameters for PowerPC in gcc.
Someone notified me today that gcc 4.4.0 has been officially released. Then I went numb. Maybe it was the fact that I would have to compile it several times over for various configurations for FATE. Maybe it’s the fact that this portends a new round of compiler output benchmarks. But I think it might be due to the fact that I was negligent in investigating the fact that experimental versions of gcc 4.4.0 from SVN compiled on PowerPC have been producing problematic FFmpeg results for several months. The newly released 4.4.0 has the same problems.
I guess there’s always 4.4.1. Either that, or formal deprecation of 32-bit PowerPC.
Thanks to Reimar, Linux on 64-bit PowerPC is now a supported configuration in FATE.
Let’s keep the architectures coming.