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These are show notes for an interveiw I did with Jonathan Bartlett for Hacker Public Radio.

Download the original mp3

Download the remastered interview (choose format):mp3 ogg

Jonathan Bartlett's articles for IBM Developer Works

Jonathan Bartlett is a web developer at New Medio in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as being an Adjunct Instructor at Tulsa Community College. He is the Author of “Programming from the Ground Up,” a book about learning Linux assembly language, which is in use as a textbook at Princeton University.

In addition to this, Jon is also a PS3 Hacker. The PS3 has a processor on it called the IBM Cell Processor.

During this interview, Jon explains the difference between different modes of parallel processing by briefly describing how Single Core processing led to Threaded Processors, which led to Symmetrical Multiprocessing. The difference with the Cell Processor is that the cell is not a multiprocessor design (which has the core replicated more than once on a chip.) Rather, the IBM Cell has a CPU with is a stripped down Power PC, and eight Synergistic Processor Units, which are specialized cores that can be pushed to do heavy calculations simultaneously by the CPU. This actually is a mid point between having full multiple CPU’s, and having specialized vector processing registers like the traditional MMX technology.

All these processors (the CPU and the SPUs) run at 3.4 GHZ, in 64 Bits.

Jon then explains that these SPUs are not recognized by the Linux Kernel because they don’t support virtual memory and pre-emptive multitasking. They thus require the writing of specialized code. However, as they are not full cores, they don’t generate the heat of a full core; so they don’t need all the cooling and power that a multi core processor would need.

The concept of a home computer based around the PS3 and Cell processor is explored, touching on the video output of the PS3, and logging in over the X-server protocol.

Cost is discussed, including the idea of the PS3 being subsidized so Sony can recoup money on game licensing, and the use of Cell Processors that have a defective core, which would be locked out.

Different Linuxes for the PS3 is discussed, including Yellow Dog and Debian, as well as NetBSD having been reported to run on the PS3.

Note on sound quality:This is one of my earliest recordings, and as such the sound quality leaves much to be desired. However, it is still usable and interesting.


Here are show notes as written by diggsit:

Deepgeek, gets the low-down on the amazing Cell BE processor that runs on the PlayStation 3. Author, instructor, and developer, Jonathan Bartlett, explains how the chip's unique architecture (how many cores?!), makes it a multimedia master.

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