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Intel pays for Pentium support from Linux compiler

Cygnus wins wedge to add MMX, SSE et al and Celeron, PII, PIII optimisation to GNUPro

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Intel's attempts to inveigle its way into the Linux world -- Lintel, anyone? -- continued yesterday when it announced a deal with software developer Cygnus to modify leading Linux programming tools to support key Intel chip features. Cygnus said it had already begun work on adding support for the Pentium III's Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) instruction set to its own GNUPro Linux compiler. However, the focus of the development effort centres on supporting Pentium II and Celeron features, such as MMX support and better code optimisation. The company claimed software developed using the new GNUPro would run 30 to 40 per cent faster than previous releases' code. The software will be released in the second quarter, at which point the company will detail its plans to add Pentium III support to the compiler. Intel is clearly the driving force here, having essentially paid Cygnus to carry out the work. As Cygnus' own release put it: "Winning Intel's business to optimise GNUPro software technologies..." (Our italics). This money-led approach follows the company's earlier investment in Linux distributor Red Hat to ensure the OS keeps up with its own processor developments. Interestingly, GNUPro is currently only certified to run under Red Hat Linux -- a version guaranteed to work under SuSE Linux too is coming (presumably with the PII/Celeron-optimised release) and the toolkit will "probably work fine on Caldera, Debian, and other releases of Linux. However, these platforms have not been tested and validated with the GNUPro Toolkit, so we cannot guarantee 100 per cent compatibility at this time," according to Cygnus' FAQ. Indeed, Intel's Linux strategy strongly resembles the carrot-and-stick approach it has been taking with memory chip manufacturers, using large cash incentives -- sorry, investments -- to persuade them to ramp up production of Rambus Direct DRAM (see Intel to pour $100 million into Samsung and Intel tempts Toshiba with cash carrot). ®

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