Thoughts&questions on Cameron's Blackbird semi-review

Just yesterday (at least from my timezone point of view) Cameron published A semi-review of the Raptor Blackbird: POWER9 on the cheap(er). Go and read it, before you continue reading following text. Go. Do it.

I read it twice and wasn't happy from what I found there. At first I wanted to write my response on PNUT, then I thought I'd send him an e-mail, but then I said: hey, there may be another people like me, so why not doing it in public? So...

I used PowerPC-based computers as my primary between 2004 and 2018. Couple of years before that I had a Mac on my desk as a secondary machine as I do now, in the last two years. I'm more Linux/Unix kind of guy than a Mac one, so even though I like Mac OS 9, it was much more convenient for me to use Linux on a generic PC box as a primary before Mac OS X matured enough to replace it for my daily usage. That happened somewhere between 10.3 and 10.4, then in 2005 i bought a new iBook G4, after that a second-hand PowerBook G4, PowerMac G4, PowerMac G5 and that's pretty much is where I left the platform in the beginning of 2018 as you can read in one of my earlier posts.

When I decided to retire my G5, there was no POWER/PowerPC based replacement available. Talos II was and still is out of question, I'm simply not in the position to buy a computer with the price tag of a cheap new car, no matter how open, fast or POWER is it and no matter how much I'd like to have it. But Blackbird is completely different kind of bird - the board, a quad-core POWER9 and a heatsink with oversea shipping and local taxes will be about $1850, which is still way above any mainstream computer with the same performance, but it's doable. There are several local shops with 16 GB DDR4 ECC Reg. modules around $140, I already have some SATA SSD and for sure will dig out an ATX case somewhere. It won't be exactly a nice, eye-catching computer, but it will be my own POWER9 machine and nothing else matters. I'm trying to get back in the good old PowerPC mood and it seems that I'm already on the right track, so the last thing I want to read about my possible (and probable) future computer is, that it's not even fit to boot the OS properly to working desktop and when it boots it's not exactly fast enough to do things I do on 5-year-old Core-i5 laptop or even a G4 Mac Mini.

So, Cameron, here are my questions, I don't think there is anyone more eligible to answer them:
  1. Is there any possibility that you are spoiled by the Talos? Would you think that quad-core Blackbird is not fast enough as a primary daily machine if you switched to it from your quad-core PowerMac, not Talos?
  2. How is Mac OS X virtualization performing? My G4 Mini has 812 points in Geekbench2, my PowerMac G5 had 1745 points in Geekbench2 and the absolutely fastest PowerPC machine I ever had - RackMac3,1 - was just above 2000 points. Every single POWER9 core should be faster than any of this.
  3. How does the machine perform with some light window manager? I use things like i3 even on Xeon-based workstations, because I don't think the looks of the desktop is worth any performance penalty, even if you have plenty of performance.
  4. How are supposedly 2D tasks like batch photo editing performing without dedicated GPU? These days there is GPU code everywhere, so what's the penalty here?
I think that at least some of this could be of interest for more people than just me - the group of  PowerPC enthusiasts eager to replace their PowerMac with something newer, may be as large as  people wanting POWER9 HTPC or a low-end POWER9 machine without any previous experience with the architecture.
Written by Logout | Sunday, June 09, 2019 | Permanent link | Comments: 7