Linux on the SGI Visual WorkstationsThe SGI Visual Workstations are Intel ® IA32 (aka x86) based SMP (Symmetrical Multiprocessing) workstations with standard PC drivers (serial, parallel, floppy, ethernet, PCI, USB etc.) However, the similarity ends here.
- These machines are based on a novel UMA (Unified Memory Architecture), an architecture which provides I/O and Graphics performance significantly higher (6 times AGP 2x speed, 12 times PCI-64 speed) than what's available in common PC clones and provides much greater flexibilty (i.e. VRAM is not separate from the main RAM).
- The booting process isn't standard. The VisWs uses ARC-PROM rather than that ancient BIOS technology, so it doesn't need LILO and you can boot directly from any image file on various devices.
- The main additions to the Linux kernel consist of code to detect and initialize the SGI Cobalt and Arsenic chipset.
Please note that while this enables you to boot Linux on the Visual Workstations, and run X11 unaccelerated using a dumb frame buffer, it does not include support for accelerated graphics, digital media, 1394, and a variety of other things, not to mention hardware accelerated OpenGL. In other words, there's a lot of work still to be done to make Linux really shine on these machines and use all the power of the hardware.
May 1999, USB news: As of Linux kernel 2.2.7, USB works fine on these machines.
Warnings and DisclaimersThis HOWTO is not recommended for end users. It is a preliminary, work in progress aimed mainly at developers and serious testers who want to give feedback.
This is not an official SGI product. It is unsupported by SGI. It is being put here due to repeating requests from some of our customers. Feel free to contact us here.
Here's the HOW-TO boot Linux on the SGI VisWS document.
These changes first appeared in Linux 2.2
The author is Bent Hagemark of Silicon Graphics.
The author of devfb is Jeff Newquist of Silicon Graphics.
Thanks to Bent, Jeff, Ingo and Linus for making this happen.