News of the day (May 10, 2011)

 A GPU computing framework for the Linux kernel
  Posted on 1305031181 by Guillaume

NVIDIA Logo 2010The University of Utah, in partnership with NVIDIA, has just made available an original project for Linux known as KGPU. The idea is to offer a GPU computing framework for the Linux kernel in the form of a mini driver that can communicate with CUDA modules, which will nevertheless continue to be executed in user mode. On paper it looks interesting as it can offload some systems taks onto the graphics card and its GPU. To illustrate the concept, the authors have rewritten an encryption module for eCryptfs to demo GPU augmentation. You can see the test for this here. While the read results are convincing, the gains in write depend enormously on the size of the data written.

KGPU remains more of demonstration of what might be done than anything else for the moment, largely because the encryption algorithm currently encrypted (ECB) isn’t considered to be secure. In absolute terms, the point of encryption that requires the transit of data in a user memory space because of the KGPU framework can also be questioned. In addition, although the method, which consists in using a mini driver on the kernel side and a driver in user mode, is fine for most tasks, in the case of critical tasks, such as disk accesses, handling of memory may become problematic.

In any case, it is an interesting initiative and may well encourage those currently pushing GPGPU computing to offer OpenCL drivers that can also execute code on the kernel side.

 A watercooled Radeon HD 6990 from PowerColor
  Posted on 1305029732 by Guillaume

PowerColor has just put a new Radeon HD 6990 online equipped with a waterblock. The card is part of the PowerColor LCS range which historically includes mono GPU models (HD 4870, HD 5870 and more recently the HD 6970) as well as bi-GPU models such as the HD 5970.

No change when it comes to the cards specs and it still has the double BIOS. The base GPU clocks remain at 830 MHz for the 375W mode and 880 MHz for the 450W mode. Note that when it comes to the guarantee, PowerColor has committed itself to covering cards that use the 450W mode, a question we spoke about on release of this bi-GPU card.

 The Atom Cedar Trails will use PowerVR graphics!
  Posted on 1304983251 by Guillaume

VR-Zone have once again got their hands on a nice scoop: Intel are reported to have chosen to abandon their internal graphics solutions for its 32nm Atom platform (Cedar Trail) and replace them with a PowerVR SGX545 graphics core (presented by us here).

Of course, this won’t be the first time that Intel has used external graphics IPs but up until now the manufacturer has restricted their use to very specific segments. The Atom Z500 and Z600 both used “GMA 500/600s” in their time, which were in fact PowerVR 535s (clocked at 200 MHz and 400 MHz respectively). Atom Zs were reserved exclusively for ultra-mobile segments such as smartphones or other concepts (MIDs) pushed by Intel at one time or another. Atoms designed for Netbooks and desktop products used a GMA 3150 chip developed by Intel and which is in fact quite an old graphics core used on Intel’s G33 chipsets. This core only included DirectX 9 support, which was a problem in comparison to the competition which used AMD APUs as we have previously noted.

Another addition remarked on by VR-Zone is HDMI 1.3a and DisplayPort 1.1 support. Previously Atom platforms were limited to VGA, so this is a positive development.

This drastic change in direction from Intel is of course related to the new competition introduced by AMD with its APUs, such as the Brazos platform which does particularly well in comparison with the GMA3150. In itself, moving over to the PowerVR SGX545 chip seems a good thing in purely hardware terms, but it remains to be seen how the question of drivers will be resolved. You may recall, GMA 500/600 support wasn’t necessarily exemplary in Windows. With deployment across the Atom range, it goes without saying that Intel will be going all out on this point. There must also be question marks over Intel’s longer term strategy with the acquisition of Silicon Hive in February, a company that also develops graphics IPs for mobile solutions.

 AMD Catalyst 11.5 and 11.5a hotfix
  Posted on 1304980110 by Guillaume

Barely two weeks after the release of the Catalyst 11.4s, AMD has today brought out two new drivers for its graphics cards. Firstly, the Catalyst 11.5s introduce several corrections to the control panel. The update concerns users of multi-screen Eyefinity technology which now correctly supports screen frame compensation. Automatic alignment of screens has also been added. AMD also says that it has corrected several problems in terms of its transcoding module:

  • Crashes with MPEG-2 to H.264 transcoding
  • Lags during some H.264 to H.264 conversions
The other corrections concern PowerDVD and you can consult the full list here. Linux users will find support for OpenSUSE 11.4 and RHEL 6.1.

AMD has also launched a hotfix version to add corrections to the game Brink, which will be released in Europe at the end of the week. This driver also corrects flickering problems on the mouse as well as on some games on the Radeon HD 6600 DDR3s in DirectX 9 modes (Civilization V, Dead Rising 2, Fallout 3, Mafia 2, NBA 2010, ShenGuiChuanQi, Starcraft 2, Warcraft 3 and World of Warcraft). Another transcoding bug has also been addressed, namely lags during mutliple H.264 to MPEG-2 Blu-ray conversions.

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