Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nvidia, AMD, Intel and GPGPU

As of now it looks like AMD is hitting Nvidia hard. The latest 5xxx series from AMD is impressive. The theoretical single precision performance is over 2TFLOPS and double precision is is over 500 GFLOPS. Nvidia won't have a competing product until next year. Intel is working on it's answerLarrabee, which should ship next year.

Both Intel and AMD are providing specs to create open source products. Because of this, I've been supporting them. Most of my recent purchases has been AMD products. The open source video drivers have been working. I don't do a lot of 3d stuff so that's not so important. I'm hopeful that open source video acceleration will soon be possible.

I've not been buying a lot of Nvidia hardware. They were the best at producing binary drivers and supporting the various distributions. Now that AMD has reasonable opensource driver support, it's more of a hassle to worry about getting the binary drivers installed. It's fairly easy to install the binary drivers if your distribution has a non-free repo that maintains them. But, sometimes stuff breaks and if you have to fix it. Also, binary drivers may not immediately support the latest and greatest kernel/xorg for your distro. I'm glad that the we've got opensource drivers that are fixing this problem.

The biggest problem now is the lack of opensource drivers for the GPGPU hardware capabilities of the newset equipment. AMD and Nvidia both require binary drivers to allow general purpose programming access through OpenCL. This presents a problem, because we're back to the problem of being reliant on the whims of a company to be able to write programs to make use of hardware.

This is where Intel comes into play. They've been providing the information to developers to create the necessary drivers for their hardware. I'm hopeful that they'll do the same with Larrabee. If they provide opensource software/drivers, they'll take a big chunk of the market from AMD and Nvidia. They'll take it because it'll be easier to use Intel hardware in compute clusters. The necessary drivers and software will come with the distributions by default and will be very easy to use just like the Intel CPUs.

Herb Sutter's article on multicore system gives you an idea of what it might be like when Larrabee comes along.

In 2006, instead of shipping a dual-core Itanium part, with exactly the same transistor budget Intel could have shipped a chip that contained 100 decent Pentium-class cores with enough space left over for 16 MB of Level 3 cache.

If Larrabee is a massively parallel x86 ISA that is open, it could really shake things up. Hopefully, they'll provide it on a PCI-E card and not tie it to their CPU, otherwise it'll be a while before I can buy one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BCM5752 no Jumbo Frames

According to the programming guide for the BCM57XX chipset (pg 133/pdf pg 198):
The BCM5705, BCM5788, BCM5721, BCM5751, and BCM5752 devices do not support Jumbo Frames and hence both

This chipset is used on a lot of dell laptops. The one that I use for work is Dell M65. The Dell D820 has the same problem.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Network Television Season Premier Dates

Why is it that most of the networks don't put their season premiers on the main page of the shows? Do they think that they'll get us to watch their re-runs more? It's just another reason why they're failing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

AR9285 driver for linux

The Atheros AR9285 driver, ath9k, is barely usable in Fedora 12 Alpha and Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha. I've been using the Ubuntu on the Gateway LT31. The wireless will fail under heavy load. I've not tested F12 Snapshot 1 yet, but I don't expect much better behaviour. There's a bugzilla entry for it. The number is 520539.

Update 2009-09-26: I updated my install of Ubuntu 9.10 alpha and received that latest interface changes and such. Suspends seem to be working. However, I have to use the NetworkManager applet to stop the networking and start it again before I get acceptable performance leves out of it.

I've not tried Fedora 12 Snapshot 3, but 2 works about as well as the Snapshot 1. I've noticed that the I have to restart the NetworkManager applet know matter what laptop I try. I don't know if it's the LiveCD or what. I'll wait until F12 Beta comes out before I try it again. FYI, I've been using unetbootin to test F12. If you use unetbootin, make sure that you re-label the USB key's volume name to LIVE.

Update 2009-10-10:Using the Fedora 20091007 nightly of the desktop livecd, I was able to get reasonable performance after a suspend/resume of the card. I need to do a throughput test to see if it works now. I'm able to use the desktop affects on fedora which I can't on Ubuntu.

Update 2009-10-25:I've moved over to using Fedora 12 Beta. (Sorry Ubuntu.) Performance of the card isn't what I would like it to be, but it is working. It continues to disconnect from the AP under heavy load, but will reconnect. Transferring a large files will cause it to disconnect 2 - 3 times per minute. I've updated the Fedora Bug report. Fedora 12 works reasonably well and I can enable the 3D effects for the desktop with the open source driver.

Update 2010-05-01: I'm now running Fedora 13 Beta. The card hasn't given me any issues. The Gateway LT31 seems to be working reasonably well. I haven't had a corruption issue with the ATI video while using the opensource driver. So far so good.

Update 2010-12-31: I've tried the the AR9285 with a N router. I was pushing almost 13MB/s (~90Mbps) when sitting about 5 feet away. I had to set the router to N only with Turbo enabled.