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developerWorks: Linux on Mac: A POWER Programmer's Primer

Jan 27, 2004, 07:00 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David Mertz)

"The POWER architecture describes a family of RISC CPUs that arose out of a consortium of IBM, Apple, and Motorola. Within this chip family, higher-end POWER4 chips are used in various IBM mid-range machines; at a personal computer, workstation, or workgroup-server level, the PowerPC branch of POWER chips are used in widely-used consumer machines from Apple Computer. Chips in the PowerPC family--especially those from Motorola--are also used in various embedded and specialized systems, including PCs from smaller manufacturers such as the phoenix-like current incarnation of Amiga.

"The interrelations among various POWER architecture chips are similar to those in the x86 world--for the most part, later generations of chips provide backward compatibility with earlier ones while also offering new and enhanced capabilities. Within the PowerPC family branch, five-year-old Apple machines used 601, 603, and 604 model chips. The current models have phased out the G3 but continue to use the similar G4, both 32-bit chips, running at various clock speeds; the recently introduced G5 is a 64-bit IBM chip that mostly adds some multimedia-specialized instructions to the POWER4 chip models.

"The bottom line on all these chips, from a Linux developer's perspective, is that they all run Linux happily and well. For the PowerPC branch of the chips, excellent consumer-friendly distributions are available and offer commercial customer support. IBM also installs Linux for customers of its high-end POWER4 machines..."

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