Tiny Corp launches Nvidia-powered AI computer because 'it just works'

Startup slams AMD for buggy firmware

After a weeks-long struggle to get its AMD RX 7900XTX-based TinyBox working on open source firmware, Tiny Corp says it will be launching an Nvidia RTX 4090 version for users who want something that "just works."

The AI startup founded by security hacker George Hotz originally selected AMD's flagship gaming GPU for its TinyBox, a computer equipped with six graphics cards to tackle AI workloads. Initially, Tiny Corp was happy to use AMD GPUs as it felt customers were "overpaying for petaflops" with Nvidia hardware, and criticized the CUDA software stack for being closed source.

Earlier in the month, however, the Tiny Corp X account (likely piloted by Hotz) began complaining about driver and firmware issues that caused crashes and hangups, threatening to undermine the Radeon GPU-powered computer. Several times Tiny Corp publicly asked AMD to make the Micro Engine Scheduler (MES) firmware open source so that it could fix the bugs in question rather than waiting for AMD's in-house patch. This put the launch of the TinyBox on hold.

Meanwhile, Tiny Corp suggested it might use Intel's Arc Alchemist GPUs instead since Intel also has a large open source presence, though its graphics cards don't reach into the top end. Even a GeForce RTX 4090-powered TinyBox was being considered reluctantly since "at least we know the software is good there."

Eventually, Hotz says he was able to chat with AMD about the issues, and although he was "70 percent confident" AMD would make the MES open source, he confirmed on March 23 that CEO Lisa Su herself had turned Hotz down. Since making the firmware open source to debug it was a key priority of Tiny Corp, it seemed to signal the end of the AMD model of the TinyBox.

However, earlier today the startup announced it would be going through with the RX 7900XTX TinyBox after all thanks to a "umr" repository it found. "If you like to tinker and feel pain, buy red. The driver still crashes the GPU and hangs sometimes, but we can work together to improve it," says Tiny Corp. The AMD TinyBox will sell for $15,000 and will arrive in June.

Additionally, Tiny Corp says "expect an announcement from AMD, it's not everything we asked for, but it's a start." This may mean AMD has partially addressed Tiny Corp's stability issues with the RX 7900XTX, though it's not clear whether this solution is at least in part open source.

As for the RTX 4090 TinyBox, it's still coming as well despite the company being conspicuously unenthusiastic about it. "If you want 'it just works' buy green," said Tiny Corp on X. "You pay the tax, but it's rock solid. Not too much more to say about it." The Nvidia TinyBox will demand a much higher price at $25,000 and also launches in June.

Tiny Corp may also ship an Arc A770 TinyBox in the future, though it says there's only a prototype and that there are no plans to launch it at the moment. A tentative price of $10,000 was suggested in an X poll by Tiny Corp earlier this month. ®

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