back to article What did they do – twist his Arm? Ex-Qualcomm senior veep joins SiFive as CEO, RISC-V PC for devs teased

Ex-Qualcomm exec Patrick Little will today take over as CEO and president of Arm-wrestling RISC-V chip design upstart SiFive. Little will replace Dr Naveed Sherwani, who was appointed in mid-2017 and will remain as chairman of the board. Little was a senior veep at Qualcomm overseeing its push into the automotive space. Prior …

  1. LeftyX

    SiFive's HiFive1

    SiFive now sells the $59 HiFive1 Rev B board, which looks like a good entry point:

    1. crispybrown

      Re: SiFive's HiFive1

      I looked at these recently but haven't pulled the trigger get.. This cheaper clone looks like a better way to get the same FE310 chip:

      They really need something affordable that runs Linux though.

  2. Mage Silver badge

    Acorn 1990s?

    Acorn Archimedes was released in June 1987 is 33 years ago

    It had Risc OS and there was a Unix before 1990.

    There may have been TEN models before 1990.

    I welcome another option. Keep ARM on their toes. Just think, if it wasn't for AMD keeping Intel alert we'd be using Itanium laptops! Ugh!

  3. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge


    I'm interested in how the CPU of the RISC-V PC stacks up to a modern x86 CPU. My guess is that it will be comparable to a 15 year old Intel or AMD part.

    In terms of GPU it will most likely be even worse, since there's no RISC-V support for modern ATI or NVDIA GPU's. And it's not coming anytime soon either.

    1. Joe Burmeister

      Re: Comparison

      Or the RISC-V gets used with an existing GPU. I'm betting all the ARM SoC guys with their own GPU are looking at how hard to that is for them. With PCIe just plug it together compile the old drivers.... ok and cross your fingers and debug it... but once someone else has done that, jobs a good one.

    2. rcxb Silver badge

      Re: Comparison

      there's no RISC-V support for modern ATI or NVDIA GPU's. And it's not coming anytime soon either.

      What are you even talking about? The CPU has nothing to do with video card interoperability. In the old days when there were competing workstation architectures you could put the same ATI PCI card in an x86 system, an Alpha system, a SPARC system, etc, and it would work just fine on all.

      1. Chappy

        Re: Comparison

        If you can get driver software support for that plug in card that runs on your CPU architecture and platform. Not so easy as most of the GPU vendors refuse to release open source versions of their full feature drivers.

        1. rcxb Silver badge

          Re: Comparison

          most of the GPU vendors refuse to release open source versions of their full feature drivers.

          No one expects GPU vendors to release their driver's source code to the world, only to provide adequate documentation for them to be re-implemented. AMD does this, so there are good open source drivers for their GPUs. Intel goes even further, but unfortunately doesn't sell discrete graphics cards.

          Nvidia is the worst offender, but they have done the work to develop functional Linux drivers. While it's closed source, chances an architecture vendor could sign an NDA and get access to their code-base to port it, although the community wouldn't be particularly happy with that approach.

          So, stick with AMD GPUs and you're good.

      2. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

        Re: Comparison

        You will still need to write or recompile a driver for it. And many video drivers have assembly parts inside them that will need porting.

        It's certainly not as easy as compiling and letting it rip. It's a substantial amount of work. And since there's no market (zero) for this stuff, I doubt a manufacturer will want to spend the time.

    3. Bruce Hoult

      Re: Comparison

      I'm expecting something definitely faster than the Raspberry Pi 3 or 3+ (the 2.5 year old FU-540 roughly matches the 3+), but probably not *quite* the raw performance of a Pi 4. The MHz will be higher, but the architecture is like the CPU in the Pi 3+. It's also likely be surrounded by higher spec memory, cooling and other bits like that to let the CPU shine.

      Something around the last Pentium 3s or PowerPC G4s would be about right.

      No problems with the graphics. It will have PCIe. If you add the expansion board to that 2.5 year old HiFive Unleashed then you just plug in a Radeon graphics card and run the open source driver (which is written in C) and accelerated graphics works fine. I've played with a HiFive Unleashed set up with this..

      This chip jut brings all that onboard and hopefully sells for a lot less. It should be in the $250 to $500 range I'd think.

      1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

        Re: Comparison

        PowerPC G4? You're talking about a 20 year old part.

        I don't think there will be much of a market for a PC with the performance of a 20-year clunker.

  4. thames

    RISC-V Raspberry Pi

    What they really need is a RISC-V Raspberry Pi equivalent, not a PC.

    Getting people to find room and budget for a PC equivalent is going to be a lot more difficult than getting them to have a small cheap box they can SSH into from their existing PC, and to use it to test software on. A RISC-V PC isn't going to replace an existing x86 (or even ARM) PC because the software support won't be entirely there yet, so people aren't going to use it as their normal desktop PC. it will have to be in addition to their normal PC.

    What they need is not so much dedicated full-time RISC-V developers as they need people who are running existing Linux software projects to test their software on RISC-V as another target along with their other testing. That will get people working on fixing platform specific bugs and doing platform specific optimisations which in turn will make RISC-V a more competitive platform overall.

    I've got a Raspberry Pi that I use entirely for testing ARM versions of open source software that I write and support. I drive the testing process via bash over SSH and it's entirely automated along with the series of x86 VMs that run on the PC. I could easily add a RISC-V device to that, but I'm not going to if it costs too much money or takes up too much space. I would do it however if it was as cheap and unobtrusive as as Raspberry Pi, just for the sake of the experience.

    Too many CPU developers are only thinking of selling expensive development systems to full time hardware developers and neglect the broader development that makes up the software which is required to make their hardware viable. This is a good part of why the CPU world has narrowed down to just x86-64 and ARM these days.

    1. Bruce Hoult

      Re: RISC-V Raspberry Pi

      You say you're happy to ssh in to the board and run things automated from your standard PC. Me too, and that's exactly how I use my Pi 3 and Pi 4 and Odroids.

      It's also exactly how I've been using my HiFive Unleashed RISC-V board for 2.5 years now. Quad 64 bit CPUs running at 1.4 GHz, 8 GB DDR4-2400, gigE, USB serial console, SD card to boot from, then NFS mount big stuff from the PC, run a RISC-V desktop using the PC as an X server or VNC. It all works great and my $999 got me a (so far) 2.5 year headstart.

      However I think that's probably not most people.

      I've actually been running a poll on this for the last few days (it ends in 12 hours). More than 50% of people say they want to plug an HDMI monitor, kb&mouse in to the board itself -- as most people do with a Pi.

      1. thames

        Re: RISC-V Raspberry Pi

        A copy of the Rasberry Pi but with a RISC-V CPU instead of an ARM CPU would be great, but I don't know if off the shelf silicon exists for that. What made the Raspberry Pi practical was there was a chip already in existence which had a lot of stuff integrated into it, including graphics.

        A lot of very difficult design work went into the Raspberry Pi to make it cheap, compact, and low powered. A lot of hard decisions about what to leave out and what to leave in had to be made to hit the price target. You can do anything if price is no object, it's when price is one of the design goals that the hard decisions have to be made. The Raspberry Pi was designed by setting a price target and then designing the hardware to fit into that target.

        What the RISC-V backers have to do is start with a price target and see what they can fit into it. The Raspberry Pi has set the standard on that, so not many people are going to willing to spend $1000 on a RISC-V board just to expand the platform support for existing software.

    2. Morten Bjoernsvik

      Re: RISC-V Raspberry Pi

      Totally agree, I want to tinker with my sensors on a dead cheap platform. the pi is perfect for it, performance is more than good enough and it is expendable. But the real gem is all the people writing howtos and small programs for it.

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