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Old 13th November 2008
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Before Reading:
I know there's an already active topic on this matter, but my hardware needs are a bit "special".
I'm joining the US Navy (leave for RTC in less than a week) and will have a very limited space for my personal belongings and unfortunately no laptop I've seen will meet my needs well. My computer will be used primarily for software development, porting, and testing; but also for more typical things like gaming and websurfing.
Because my computer will be used for software porting and testing, I will have at least the following systems installed: Windows XP, Windows Vista and GNU/Linux. Most likely I will also install a *BSD (FreeBSD probably) and Solaris on a second hard disk.


I'm looking at getting a MicroATX form factor case and motherboard to meet the space requirements more easily.

I'm looking at an ATI Radeon HD 4850 for my graphics card. I would like to be able to CrossfireX multiple of them, but won't cry about it if I can't. If there's a reason I should look into a different card (other than general performance), please speak up.

I'll be wanting a dual or quad-core processor.

I plan on having at three SATA hard disks: Two for the various systems and data, and one Solid State Drive for virtual memory.

I would like to have a DVD and Blue-Ray player, so I'd need either an extra SATA an ATA controller for that.

To avoid too many messy wires, I'll probably be looking into a good wlan card and a wireless keyboard and mouse.

There may be some occasions where I'll need to transfer data between computers without access to the internet or a local connection between them, so a couple of USB ports are a must.

A friend of mine recommended the "Creative Labs X-FI Xtreme Gamer Fatality" Sound Card for gaming and listening to music, but I have no idea whether or not there is even any GNU/Linux support for it.

I don't care about whether or not I have a floppy drive or a memory card reader.

I'll be wanting at least 2GB of DDR2 memory to run Vista smoothly.

Money is not an issue, but feel free to save me some where you feel it's wise.
As you can see I have a pretty good idea of what I want, just not the very specifics (I am far from "up-to-date" with hardware technologies and know little about what hardware is unsupported or poorly supported by Linux and FreeBSD).
I understand that MATX is pretty limiting, so if I can't have *everything* I won't freak.
If all the hardware is compatible I'll have no issue putting it together.

EDIT:
If you can find them all at TigerDirect, where I've been bought my computer hardware since my very first one, that'd be great.

Last edited by nfries88; 13th November 2008 at 01:54 AM.
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Old 13th November 2008
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Code:
I'm looking at getting a MicroATX form factor case and motherboard to meet the space requirements more easily.
Check Intel Q35.

Quote:
I'm looking at an ATI Radeon HD 4850 for my graphics card. I would like to be able to CrossfireX multiple of them, but won't cry about it if I can't. If there's a reason I should look into a different card (other than general performance), please speak up.
This one will work only at Linux and Windows, no drivers for Solaris nor FreeBSD. If you want working binary blobs for all OSes you mentione, then you need nVidia card.

Quote:
I'll be wanting a dual or quad-core processor.
Dual core is more then enought, get some Intel E8xxx series.

Quote:
I plan on having at three SATA hard disks: Two for the various systems and data, and one Solid State Drive for virtual memory.
Better get VelociRaptor SATA2 10.000RPM + 1TB for storage.

Quote:
To avoid too many messy wires, I'll probably be looking into a good wlan card and a wireless keyboard and mouse.
You can (and prolably will) have problems with these at FreeBSD and Solaris, propably also at Linux.

Quote:
A friend of mine recommended the "Creative Labs X-FI Xtreme Gamer Fatality" Sound Card for gaming and listening to music, but I have no idea whether or not there is even any GNU/Linux support for it.
Onboard Intel HDA is more then enought.

Quote:
I'll be wanting at least 2GB of DDR2 memory to run Vista smoothly.
Get 800MHz 4-4-4-12 for best results.

I understand that MATX is pretty limiting, so if I can't have *everything* I won't freak.
Intel Q35 will fir there without any problem.
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Old 13th November 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nfries88 View Post
Before Reading:


I'll be wanting at least 2GB of DDR2 memory to run Vista smoothly.
After all that money you want to spend you want to put only 2GB of RAM
You are crating bottle neck. Even we poor OpenBSD guys have more ram than that
Code:
OpenBSD 4.4 (GENERIC.MP) #1812: Tue Aug 12 17:22:53 MDT 2008
    deraadt@amd64.openbsd.org:/usr/src/sys/arch/amd64/compile/GENERIC.MP
real mem = 3199037440 (3050MB)
avail mem = 3102326784 (2958MB)
Also little bit of multiprocessing
Code:
cpu0 at mainbus0: apid 0 (boot processor)
cpu0: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 4300 @ 1.80GHz, 1800.19 MHz
cpu0: FPU,VME,DE,PSE,TSC,MSR,PAE,MCE,CX8,APIC,SEP,MTRR,PGE,MCA,CMOV,PAT,PSE36,CFLUSH,DS,ACPI,MMX,FXSR,SSE,SSE2,SS,HTT,TM,SBF,SSE3,MWAIT,DS-CPL,EST,TM2,CX16,xTPR,LONG
cpu0: 2MB 64b/line 8-way L2 cache
cpu0: apic clock running at 199MHz
cpu1 at mainbus0: apid 1 (application processor)
cpu1: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 4300 @ 1.80GHz, 1799.97 MHz
cpu1
If you are planning on running FreeBSD amd64 (you were talking about
quads and core 2 duos) I would get between 4-8 GB of RAM.
Quads are so cheap now that I would not think twice to get quad core processor. On new egg where I shop (much better than Tiger direct in my opinion) today's least price for Quad core is $179 that is probably only $60 more than Core 2 Duo. I would put 8 GB or RAM with Quad.
If I am spending all that money I would not use cra**y board since that is the most important component. You probably need to spend well over $100 for mother board if not $200.

Last edited by Oko; 13th November 2008 at 10:56 AM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden View Post
Code:
I'm looking at getting a MicroATX form factor case and motherboard to meet the space requirements more easily.
Check Intel Q35.

This one will work only at Linux and Windows, no drivers for Solaris nor FreeBSD. If you want working binary blobs for all OSes you mentione, then you need nVidia card.

Dual core is more then enought, get some Intel E8xxx series.

Better get VelociRaptor SATA2 10.000RPM + 1TB for storage.

You can (and prolably will) have problems with these at FreeBSD and Solaris, propably also at Linux.

Onboard Intel HDA is more then enought.

Get 800MHz 4-4-4-12 for best results.

Intel Q35 will fir there without any problem.
Onboard audio is what I use now on Linux/FreeBSD (my sound card has no Linux drivers), so I guess I'd be okay with that.
The Unix variants have poor support for wireless peripherals then?
What nVidia card would you suggest?

Thanks for the other recommendations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko View Post
After all that money you want to spend you want to put only 2GB of RAM
You are crating bottle neck. Even we poor OpenBSD guys have more ram than that
I've been running Windows XP, the newest version of Ubuntu Linux, and FreeBSD-i386 pretty well on only 256MB of RAM. I've had this computer for four years now (although I've only been using Linux about 10 months and FreeBSD about 2 months and regularly switch between the three systems).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko View Post
If you are planning on running FreeBSD amd64 (you were talking about
quads and core 2 duos) I would get between 4-8 GB of RAM.
Quads are so cheap now that I would not think twice to get quad core processor. On new egg where I shop (much better than Tiger direct in my opinion) today's least price for Quad core is $179 that is probably only $60 more than Core 2 Duo. I would put 8 GB or RAM with Quad.
How is power consumption of a core2quad compared with that of a core2duo?
That's also a factor I should consider.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko View Post
If I am spending all that money I would not use cra**y board since that is the most important component. You probably need to spend well over $100 for mother board if not $200.
I wasn't planning on getting a cheap motherboard.
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Quote:
The Unix variants have poor support for wireless peripherals then?
You should be ok with Linux with wireless, but I cant tell you for FreeBSD and Solaris.

Quote:
What nVidia card would you suggest?
Depends what you need it for.

You can even do other thing.

If you will get Intel Q35, then you will have Intel 3100 GMA inboard (in Q35) which is great for all UNIX systems and Linux, and tak your wanted 4850 card to play gamez at Linux or Windows.

If it goes for nVidia, I would go for something like: 8800GS < 9600GSO < 9600GT < 8800GT < 9800GT (check benchmarks @ anandtech.com)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nfries88 View Post
How is power consumption of a core2quad compared with that of a core2duo? That's also a factor I should consider.
The truth of the matter is that you do not need anything of above but
you started with quads and 2 duos so I poured little bit oil to the flame. If you want really elegant solution go with MicroITX and fanless VIA chip-sets. That is what I really like these days beside SUN's sparc hardware. If I was building Wintel box I would go with quads and 8 GB of memory.

By the way I had couple boxes that where running even X on 128 MB of RAM and some old PIIs and they worked well. It is definitely one option to
get old Wintel hardware for free. The problem is if you want to use your rig for storage you have to use new hard disks and how are you going to hock them up to such rig?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden View Post
You should be ok with Linux with wireless, but I cant tell you for FreeBSD and Solaris.

Depends what you need it for.

You can even do other thing.

If you will get Intel Q35, then you will have Intel 3100 GMA inboard (in Q35) which is great for all UNIX systems and Linux, and tak your wanted 4850 card to play gamez at Linux or Windows.

If it goes for nVidia, I would go for something like: 8800GS < 9600GSO < 9600GT < 8800GT < 9800GT (check benchmarks @ anandtech.com)
Well maybe I'll look into a keyboard and mouse that work wirelessly but can also be plugged in (do they even make those? I know they have controllers for game systems like that...)

As for inboard Intel graphics controllers, I've found the performance of my inboard Intel controller (865 or whatever is what Ubuntu tells me) to be less than satisfactory on Linux (it's not great on Windows but much better than on Linux). I assume they'll use similar drivers for all the Unix variants, so I hope drivers for those inboard graphics are better?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko View Post
The truth of the matter is that you do not need anything of above but
you started with quads and 2 duos so I poured little bit oil to the flame. If you want really elegant solution go with MicroITX and fanless VIA chip-sets. That is what I really like these days beside SUN's sparc hardware. If I was building Wintel box I would go with quads and 8 GB of memory.

By the way I had couple boxes that where running even X on 128 MB of RAM and some old PIIs and they worked well. It is definitely one option to
get old Wintel hardware for free. The problem is if you want to use your rig for storage you have to use new hard disks and how are you going to hock them up to such rig?
Yeah, although this system has been fine for me for the past few years (although compiling any decent-sized project with GCC takes forever and makes the system pretty much useless until it completes), buying new hardware for it leaves me pretty limited so I'm just gonna get a whole new system.

I might try SPARC some day if it's affordable, but for now I'll just go the more common AMD64 route (I'm also gonna be getting a mac - but certainly a SPARC system could be useful for porting to SPARC).


Also is there any simple way to use an AMD64 to build and test i386 binaries? Or would I need to set up a cross-compiler and run in an emulator?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nfries88 View Post
As for inboard Intel graphics controllers, I've found the performance of my inboard Intel controller (865 or whatever is what Ubuntu tells me) to be less than satisfactory on Linux (it's not great on Windows but much better than on Linux). I assume they'll use similar drivers for all the Unix variants, so I hope drivers for those inboard graphics are better?
i865 is several generations of Intel graphics ago mate.

Like that: 865 --> 910(GMA 900) -> 945(GMA 950) --> 965(GMA 3000) --> Q35(GMA 3100) --> G35 --> G45 ...

Intel GMA 3100 (Q35) is more then enought for desktop, at least COMPIZ says so.
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I know it's quite old, so is most of my system. I'm going to take your response as "Intel drivers have improved".
I guess if Compiz says it's good enough it's probably good enough.

EDIT:
Wikipedia specifically says "DirectX9" for GMA 3100, but no mention of DirectX10, Shader Model, or OpenGL 2.1/3.0. Any information on those?

EDIT2:
Wikipedia again, "FreeBSD 7.0 supports the following Intel graphic chipsets: G965/Q965/GM965/GME965/GME945. Support for G33/Q33/Q35 is also included, but disabled due to lack of testing." Would it be difficult to enable Q35 drivers?

EDIT3:
I'm thinking this may be a good motherboard for me: GIGABYTE GA-Q35M-S2
6 SATA, 1 IDE, 2 PCI, 1 16x PCI-e, 1 1x PCI-e, 4 DDR2 memory slots, 6 USB 2.0 ports in the back, etc. Intel Q35 integrated graphics and Realtek ALC888 integrated sound.
Pretty well-rounded for an MATX board.

Last edited by nfries88; 13th November 2008 at 04:04 PM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nfries88 View Post


Also is there any simple way to use an AMD64 to build and test i386 binaries? Or would I need to set up a cross-compiler and run in an emulator?
I am not sure that we use AMD64 terminology in the same sense. For me AMD64 is native 64bits processor architecture and has nothing to do with
the manufacturer. Both Intel and AMD manufactured processors can run it without any problem. The same processors can run in 32 bits mode which
is popularly called i386. If the system runs in 64 bits mode compiled binaries will not be able to run on machine which runs in 32 bits mode. You are right about processor emulators. I am familiar with SPIM which emulates MIPS processor (the best processor architecture by a mile) and also GXemul which can emulate ARM, MIPS, and PPC. I am not aware of the AMD64 emulator for i386 processor.

Cheers,
OKO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko View Post
I am not sure that we use AMD64 terminology in the same sense. For me AMD64 is native 64bits processor architecture and has nothing to do with the manufacturer. Both Intel and AMD manufactured processors can run it without any problem.
We're on the same page here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko
The same processors can run in 32 bits mode which
is popularly called i386. If the system runs in 64 bits mode compiled binaries will not be able to run on machine which runs in 32 bits mode.
I know 32-bit systems cannot run 64-bit binaries.
All AMD64 processors can run in 32-bit mode? Is that a BIOS option?
Also, 64-bit processors can run 32-bit binaries? I thought that was only a Windows feature.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko
You are right about processor emulators. I am familiar with SPIM which emulates MIPS processor (the best processor architecture by a mile) and also GXemul which can emulate ARM, MIPS, and PPC. I am not aware of the AMD64 emulator for i386 processor.

Cheers,
OKO
I'll have to look into those emulators though, seems like I could make use of them. If I'm correct all of those are most commonly used in mobile devices?
Know of any SPARC emulators?
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Quote:
I know it's quite old, so is most of my system. I'm going to take your response as "Intel drivers have improved".
I guess if Compiz says it's good enough it's probably good enough.
Let me put it this way, I was able to play Flatout 2 [not Fallout ] 1024x768 without any problems on GMA X3000 (965G).

Quote:
EDIT:
Wikipedia specifically says "DirectX9" for GMA 3100, but no mention of DirectX10, Shader Model, or OpenGL 2.1/3.0. Any information on those?
Everything is detailed here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_GMA

Quote:
EDIT2:
Wikipedia again, "FreeBSD 7.0 supports the following Intel graphic chipsets: G965/Q965/GM965/GME965/GME945. Support for G33/Q33/Q35 is also included, but disabled due to lack of testing." Would it be difficult to enable Q35 drivers?
Its pretty old info (from 7.0-RELEASE?) that was about a year ago.

Quote:
EDIT3:
I'm thinking this may be a good motherboard for me: GIGABYTE GA-Q35M-S2
6 SATA, 1 IDE, 2 PCI, 1 16x PCI-e, 1 1x PCI-e, 4 DDR2 memory slots, 6 USB 2.0 ports in the back, etc. Intel Q35 integrated graphics and Realtek ALC888 integrated sound.
Pretty well-rounded for an MATX board.
I have MiniATX POSITIVO/MSI Q35 motherboard, best would be Tyan/Supermicro, but they are too $$$. Generally any Gigabyte, Asus, MSI, Foxconn will do. Just remember to check NIC, to get Intel e1000 instead of some Realtek. I have PSITIVO/MSI and it has Intel e1000 NIC, from what I recall also Asus has it, and of course Intel version of Q35 motherboard, but with Intel, forgot about any O/C
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nfries88 View Post
We're on the same page here.
I'll have to look into those emulators though, seems like I could make use of them. If I'm correct all of those are most commonly used in mobile devices? Know of any SPARC emulators?
You are obviously very young guy SGI (Silicon Graphics) high end
graphics Unix stations and servers were using MIPS until last year. We older people see MIPS as the best processor architecture for computers but reality is that you are right and that MIPS and ARM are today mostly used in embedded devices (which is well over 80% of processor market).
PPC is IBM although MAC also used to be MAC PPC. PPC processor used in MACs are manufactured by IBM but they are different processor architecture then IBM PPC used in servers.

Cheers,
OKO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden View Post
Let me put it this way, I was able to play Flatout 2 [not Fallout ] 1024x768 without any problems on GMA X3000 (965G).
I'm afraid I've never heard of the game so I don't see the signifigance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden
Everything is detailed here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_GMA
Yeah, that's where I was reading. This is all it has for GMA 3100:
Quote:
Originally Posted by wikipedia
GMA 3100

The G31, G33, Q33 and Q35 chipsets use the GMA 3100, which is DX9 capable. The 3D core is very similar to the older GMA 3000, including the lack of hardware accelerated vertex shaders. However, the RAMDAC is reduced to 350MHz, and the DVO ports were reduced to 225Mpixel/s.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden
Its pretty old info (from 7.0-RELEASE?) that was about a year ago.
7.1 is only beta, so 7.0 is the newest "stable" release of FreeBSD (which is what I plan to use).
So the information is still relevant to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden
I have MiniATX POSITIVO/MSI Q35 motherboard, best would be Tyan/Supermicro, but they are too $$$. Generally any Gigabyte, Asus, MSI, Foxconn will do. Just remember to check NIC, to get Intel e1000 instead of some Realtek. I have PSITIVO/MSI and it has Intel e1000 NIC, from what I recall also Asus has it, and of course Intel version of Q35 motherboard, but with Intel, forgot about any O/C
The NIC on the board I was looking at was Intel gigabit LAN.

Tyan boards look awesome and aren't far outside my "expected" price range, but I didn't see any MATX ones so I'm not interested.
As for super micro, I see a few suitable boards but they aren't looking as good to me as the Gigabyte board I'm already looking at. The only one I'd actually consider is the "MBD-X7DCA-L-O", but it only supports a small set of Xeon processors, just barely misses the maximum size for a MATX board (meaning there may be issues fitting it in a MATX case), and has XGI graphics (which wikipedia says are less-than-competitive with ATI or nVidia and might not even be supported on Linux or *BSD).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oko
You are obviously very young guy SGI (Silicon Graphics) high end
graphics Unix stations and servers were using MIPS until last year. We older people see MIPS as the best processor architecture for computers but reality is that you are right and that MIPS and ARM are today mostly used in embedded devices (which is well over 80% of processor market).
PPC is IBM although MAC also used to be MAC PPC. PPC processor used in MACs are manufactured by IBM but they are different processor architecture then IBM PPC used in servers.

Cheers,
OKO
Yeah, I'm pretty young (19) and have only been using the internet for a few years now and have never had experience with any "high performance" hardware. I'm a bit of a computer hobbyist although I've never really sunk much money into computers. Thanks for the info, though I'm not sure how useful it is.

Last edited by nfries88; 13th November 2008 at 06:02 PM.
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Quote:
I'm afraid I've never heard of the game so I don't see the signifigance.
For example:
http://img207.imageshack.us/img207/1...redaconkx6.jpg
http://www.projectlan.de/uploads/Art...latout2_12.jpg

Quote:
Yeah, that's where I was reading. This is all it has for GMA 3100:
I was thinking about the table ...

Quote:
7.1 is only beta, so 7.0 is the newest "stable" release of FreeBSD (which is what I plan to use).
So the information is still relevant to me.
7.1-RELEASE will be out at about a month or so, acually its best to grap BETA2 ISO, packages and so works as good as for release now.
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Wow. Okay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden
I was thinking about the table ...
Skipped over that part.
So it supports Vertex Shader 3.0, Pixel Shader 2.0, Direct3D 9.0c, and OpenGL 1.4.
"Good enough" I guess.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vermaden
7.1-RELEASE will be out at about a month or so, acually its best to grap BETA2 ISO, packages and so works as good as for release now.
Eh, then it'll be out by the time I'm out of RTC (when I'll be ordering the parts as well). May as well wait.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nfries88
Also is there any simple way to use an AMD64 to build and test i386 binaries? Or would I need to set up a cross-compiler and run in an emulator?
The processor used to host the compiler, has less effect effect on the binaries generated by the compiler, then most people think. If it wasn't this way, the word "cross compiler" would have a different meaning.

You can use the machine flags (-m) to adjust the output created by the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), -m32 -> 32-bit environment, -m64 -> 64-bit environment. I don't know off hand if you need both a 32-bit and 64-bit version of binutils for the platforms in question, but you probably do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nfries88
I know 32-bit systems cannot run 64-bit binaries.
All AMD64 processors can run in 32-bit mode? Is that a BIOS option?
Also, 64-bit processors can run 32-bit binaries? I thought that was only a Windows feature.
The x86-64 chips we usually call AMD64, understand the instruction sets used for 32-bit/16-bit x86 programs + the relevant 64-bit portions of the instruction set / Long Mode, etc.


So, as the processor can understand the machine code, the Operating System can be made to understand the binary format used for the executable images -> this is ELF in 32-bit/64-bit forms; in the case of modern Linux/BSD systems if memory serves.
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Old 13th November 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TerryP View Post
The processor used to host the compiler, has less effect effect on the binaries generated by the compiler, then most people think. If it wasn't this way, the word "cross compiler" would have a different meaning.

You can use the machine flags (-m) to adjust the output created by the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), -m32 -> 32-bit environment, -m64 -> 64-bit environment. I don't know off hand if you need both a 32-bit and 64-bit version of binutils for the platforms in question, but you probably do.
Interesting to know.
How would I get GCC to use the 32-bit binutils then?
Also guessing that I can't build a 64-bit binary on 32-bit x86 using -m64 if a 64-bit binutils is required?
Just making sure I understand all this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TerryP
The x86-64 chips we usually call AMD64, understand the instruction sets used for 32-bit/16-bit x86 programs + the relevant 64-bit portions of the instruction set / Long Mode, etc.

So, as the processor can understand the machine code, the Operating System can be made to understand the binary format used for the executable images -> this is ELF in 32-bit/64-bit forms; in the case of modern Linux/BSD systems if memory serves.
I had assumed that was the case (I already knew 64-bit processors understand 32-bit instructions the same way that 32-bit processors understand 16-bit instructions) but am completely uncertain as to whether or not systems other than Windows support that behavior.
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Old 13th November 2008
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The behavior is built into the chip for all intents and purposes ;-). With that in place, it's just a matter of making the kernel understand what format the binary is in, for example:

Code:
Terry@vectra-$ file /bin/ls
/bin/ls: ELF 32-bit LSB executable, Intel 80386, version 1, for OpenBSD, statically linked, stripped

I'm not sure how the implementations of binutils are done. The software in bintutils basically amounts to an assembler, linker, and associated utilities needed to work with code for the target platform. (You would basically be setting GCC up for cross compile to a different processor.) All of which should be using libraries to handle some of the lower level specifics, such as the GNU Binary File Descriptor and opcodes libraries, I know BFD supports various processors/arches and the exact implementation for a platform is very non-portable stuff; but at the end of the day it's still basically generating code, not running it.

I personally see no reason why you shouldn't be able to compile a 64-bit program on a 32-bit OS, *as long as the necessary tools/libs to manipulate the code can be compiled on the 32-bit box*, it's just the processor won't be able to use the machine code it creates. _Exactly what you can cross compiler from a 32-bit OS_, that I don't know -> I don't do cross compiling; someone else here or on the reliveant mailing lists might be able to help you on the limitations involved.

But doing i386 on AMD64 will be easy.
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Old 14th November 2008
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Originally Posted by nfries88 View Post
I know 32-bit systems cannot run 64-bit binaries.
All AMD64 processors can run in 32-bit mode? Is that a BIOS option?
Also, 64-bit processors can run 32-bit binaries? I thought that was only a Windows feature.
It's an OS feature. Pretty much all Linux distros support running 32-bit programs on 64-bit OS installs. FreeBSD supports this as well. Don't know about the other BSDs.

There are two different methods for doing this:
- the chroot method, where you install a complete 32-bit userland in a directory on the system, where it all runs on top of the 64-bit kernel, and you just "chroot" into it before running 32-bit apps
- the "32-bit compat" method, where you install all the 32-bit libs and apps right into the OS, into directories like /usr/lib32. Then, when you execute a 32-bit app, it looks in the /usr/*32/ directories for its libraries, and runs just like any other app.

FreeBSD supports both of the above. The compat method is what you use when you install 32-bit apps via the ports tree.
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