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Approach to keeping up with Apple's ARM chip


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Hello.

 

The actual situation is like in the beginnings of OSx86. A new year started, and Apple began the transition to a new CPU architecture. But something is different: There's no ARM-based platform which could keep up with Apple's chip. And if Intel is just so long supported as the PowerPC-CPUs, we will mybe have a second version, then it's the end of the Hackintosh scene.

 

I have to admit that I have no clue how the M1 CPU works, how it is included in the OS or whatever. But probably the nearest method available it would be trying to emulate it in hardware.

 

This sounds weird, but I have examples. The Amiga still uses the Motorola 68000 series, with the 68060 as best processor. These are very rare, expensive (>200 Euro) and often fakes will be sold. So the Apollo team reverse-engineered it and the result was the 68080 core. It is an optimized 68060 with more functions and up to 250x faster. This is astounding: A huge company like Motorola spent millions of money and years of to develope an upgrade to the 68040, and a team of retro computing enthusiasts rebuild this thing much improved to be burned in a easily available FPGA chip. So, if you WANT to do something, it may be possible.

 

My idea is to use a powerful modified nVidia graphics card for the emulation. I presume Apple won't support nVidia anymore, so the board will probably not be detected as graphics card anymore. GPU's are often faster than customer CPU's and not all functions a normal CPU provides will be neccessary for beging the only purpose as a processor emulation. Emulation has a lot of advantages: Errors in the emulation can easily be fixed by modifying the software. If Apple releases a new version of their M chips, new functions,, Device ID's and so on could be added rather easily. It would even be possible to add own functions which could be used for improving the OSx86 system, maybe even a bootloader in hardware. Reverse engineering, software emulation or virtualization of hardware is also not illegal. Examples are the Nintendo 610x PIF security chips which were reverse-engineered by decapping the chip. The base hardware should be a standard graphics card, so there's unlimited hardware available. It probably has to be modified with extra hardware and FlashROM to have the emulation code already available at power-up. Flashing the software should never be allowed from macOS, otherwise Apple could try to crash the emulation device. A hardware bootloader could probably be done by simulating an USB stick which is selected in UEFI as boot device.

 

So, that would be my idea. I'm no coder or hardware expert, but it is an approach. It's not the idea to have a processor emulation which is as powerful as Apple's real processors, it's just having something to have the possibility to install the newest macOS. But there are other advantages of having a powerful M1 emulation card in a PC: it could be used in other operating systems like Windows or Linux. I presume a lot of you will be critical with this idea, but there's one thing: Saying NO from the beginning is never good.

 

What are your thoughts?

 

Greets, naquaada.

 

Edited by naquaada
  • 2 months later...

Interesting idea. I don't think we will know what direction Apple goes until the pro desktops are launched. I suspect there is a need for discreet GPU options the M-series SOC won't be capable of matching. But then we only have 7 and 8 core GPUs in the current M1 systems. If they can scale up to 32 core GPU systems in an iMac Pro replacement or higher in the Mac Pro, it's possible they outperform or at least match.

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