Can Open Source Processors Thrive?

I recently attended part of the RISC-V workshop at the Google campus. RISC-V is a fully open source CPU instruction set developed at UC Berkeley developed by Krste Asanovic, Andrew Waterman, and Yunsup Lee.

An academic instruction set is all well and good, but the RISC-V spawned SiFive, which plans on building commercial processors using RISC-V. Can RISC-V and SiFive compete against ARM? More appropriately, can SiFive compete against smaller, agile proprietary players like Andes Technology, Synopsys, and Cortus? Unlike operating systems like Linux and BSD, CPUs need externalities such as semiconductor fabs — taping out a processor costs a bunch of money and wafer starts are not cheap.

Eric and I discuss the open source model, and how it might apply to processors, and what companies like SiFive might need to do in order to succeed against the likes of Intel, ARM, and others.


I talk about the rare times I have to edit PDFs and what tools do I use. I also discover that it’s easy to repair cycling shoes, Allbirds don’t work for me, and the idea that Netflix now lets you download, not just stream. Meanwhile, Eric buys a new 4K TV plus multiple Xbox One S’s. ON the other hand, his GlowForge has been delayed. He’s also been diving deep into his new Surface 4 Pro.


Movies, movies, movies. I watch Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, and Dr. Strange. And yes, I have opinions! I also wrap up Dishonored 2 and liked it enough I’ll probably give it a second run-through. Meanwhile, Civilization 6 has my gaming attention, though I’m not fully up to speed on some of the new features, like districts. And I loved the Supergirl/Flash/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow crossover episodes. Sure, the writers tried to cram just a wee bit too much and created a couple of derpy moments, but it turned out to be a fun ride, warts and all.

Eric’s passion for Westworld seems to have cooled slightly, but he’s still deeply immersed in Grim Dawn. Eric’s cheesy movie of the week: London Has Fallen. And both of us now have tickets to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story shortly after release. We can’t wait.


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