Breathing new life into those old Silicon Graphics machines


Silicon Graphics have always made great workstations. I’m not just talking about brutal 3D monsters that could apply video feeds as textures in real time (over a decade ago). The machines are responsive and balanced, and this makes them perfect for general desktop use.

My Octane can’t be bogged down no matter what I throw at it, and since I upgraded to a Fuel I’ve found it almost impossible to overwhelm it. Annoyingly, too, as it means when I’m on the road and using my Macbook, I’m constantly frustrated by a gutless machine with a glitzy UI that gets in the way and slows things down.

With IRIX officially dead, the Open Source community is the only place any sort of IRIX-related development is happening. The crew over at Nekochan have developed Nekoware, an entire distribution of Open Source apps ported to IRIX, tuned and optimised for MIPS.

More power to the IRIX desktop, then. However, exciting changes are afoot, and it bodes well for older machines. Maybe it’s my UNIX background, but I don’t subscribe to the whole upgrade, upgrade, upgrade cycle that seems to define the PC industry. About 75% of all my work is done on kit that’s at over 5 years old. And I’m not talking scripting or coding, I’m talking web development, writing white papers and proposals, creating presentations, managing websites – all the baggage that goes along with running your own business.

What does cloud computing mean to you? With Microsoft’s recent talk about Windows 7 and a cloud version of Office, along with Google Apps, what do you actually need to have a productive and up-to-date desktop system, that can share files and data with anyone?

Turns out, it’s just a web browser. And what better platform to run a browser than the one used to serve out that first version of Netscape Navigator – IRIX.

So if you have an old Silicon Graphics machine – or you’ve got the chance to acquire one – grab the latest Nekoware release, and start playing with all those cool apps in the cloud. If we’re all going to have terminals again, well – they can be powerful and stylish ones.

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