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Using GPUs For General-Purpose Computing

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the transfer-of-duties dept.

Graphics 396

Paul Tinsley writes "After seeing the press releases from both Nvidia and ATI announcing their next generation video card offerings, it got me to thinking about what else could be done with that raw processing power. These new cards weigh in with transistor counts of 220 and 160 million (respectively) with the P4 EE core at a count of 29 million. What could my video card be doing for me while I am not playing the latest 3d games? A quick search brought me to some preliminary work done at the University of Washington with a GeForce4 TI 4600 pitted against a 1.5GHz P4. My Favorite excerpt from the paper: 'For a 1500x1500 matrix, the GPU outperforms the CPU by a factor of 3.2.' A PDF of the paper is available here."

cancel ×

396 comments

First Post? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098511)

First Post!

Re:First Post? (-1, Offtopic)

JollyGoodChase (562568) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098527)

Curse you and your first post...the next time the cards will play out their hand!

The day is saved (5, Funny)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098517)

Now I finally have a use for the 20 Voodoo 2 cards I have in a box in the basement. Now I can have my very own supercomputer. I just need some six pci slot motherboards.... Instant cluster!

Re:The day is saved (-1, Offtopic)

JessLeah (625838) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098544)

I'll take 'em off your hands if you don't need 'em :)

Re:The day is saved (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098677)

Unless those Voodoo 2s have magically grown T&L units, they're not going to do you much good.

Re:The day is saved (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098715)

Give them to me jerkwad!

What?!?!?! (5, Funny)

DarkHelmet (120004) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098518)

What? Matrix operations run faster on a massively parallel form of vector processor over a general purpose processor? How can that be?

Intel's been telling me for years that I need faster hardware from THEM to get the job done...

You mean........ they were lying?!?!?

CRAP!

Re:What?!?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098669)

Yeah, Gerneral Purpose Units for
Gerneral Purpose Computing.

There's a stack of withered lettuce for you. Damn the weekend, It forces Americans to go limp. ;)

Re:What?!?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098731)

There's a stack of withered lettuce for you. Damn the weekend, It forces Americans to go limp. ;)

I don't understand what you mean. I googled for withered lettuce [google.com] , but that provided nary little insight.

Re:What?!?!?! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098756)

Don't worry, the Intel processor is *much* faster at the internet thingy. Graphics cards only do the upload to screen thing, and everyone knows the internet is all about downloading.

And besides, nobody needs or wants Matrix operations anyway. Did you see how bad Matrix Reloaded was? That was *just* reloading, imagine how bad Matrix Multiplying is. You get the idea.

It's Beer + 12:00 thirty (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098522)

Ask if I give a good goddamn. There's a lady waiting for me.
SeeYa - losers

Re:It's Beer + 12:00 thirty (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098591)

Your mom? Hot...

Re:It's Beer + 12:00 thirty (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098709)

Your mom? Hot...

Yeah, She is. But only in your dreams.
As soon as she saw your tiny prick, she'd decimate it with a single .22 pistol blast.

Re:It's Beer + 12:00 thirty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098733)

thought you said you were out of here? Liar...

sigh.. no woman at all

Re:It's Beer + 12:00 thirty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098749)

I think most dinks would be decimated by a .22 pistol blast. A .22 is nothing to scoff at really.

Re:It's Beer + 12:00 thirty (1)

Anhaedra (760705) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098800)

It is when you are holding a .45 revolver...

frsit psot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098523)

frsit pso

Re:frsit psot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098537)

froset pisoot?

Link to previous discussion on same/similar sub... (5, Informative)

8282now (583198) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098526)

Re:Link to previous discussion on same/similar sub (4, Interesting)

hype7 (239530) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098767)

There's some good stuff in there.

However, it seems a few organisations have actually beaten us to it.

Apple, for example, uses the 3d aspect of the GPU to accelerate its 2d compositing system with quartz extreme [apple.com] . Microsoft, as usual, announced the feature after Apple shipped it [microsoft.com] , and with any luck Windows users might have it by 2007

-- james

Not the Point (-1, Insightful)

poofyhairguy82 (635386) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098531)

The whole point of graphic cards is that they have a dedicated purpose. Using the cards for anything that is general purpose is like using a motorcycle to tow a pop-up camper.

Re:Not the Point (4, Interesting)

JonoPlop (626887) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098554)

The whole point of graphic cards is that they have a dedicated purpose. Using the cards for anything that is general purpose is like using a motorcycle to tow a pop-up camper.

No, it's like using your pop-up camper for storage space when you're using it on holidays.

Re:Not the Point (4, Insightful)

Amiga Lover (708890) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098585)

The whole point of graphic cards is that they have a dedicated purpose. Using the cards for anything that is general purpose is like using a motorcycle to tow a pop-up camper.


What's relevant is that to the processor on a graphics card, its dedicated purpose is simply a bunch of logic. There's no dedicated "this must be used for pixels only, all else is waste" logic inherent in the system. there are MANY purposes for which the same/similar logic that applies in generating 3D imagery can be used, and that seems the purpose of this paper. Run THOSE type operations on the GPU. Some things they won't be able to do well no doubt - but those they can, they can do extremely well.

Not the Point-headbanger. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098678)

There is however one thing to keep in mind. Presently our GPU's may have the headroom to play with, but with Apple's Quartz, and Microsoft's Longhorn, let alone what's coming with X. That headroom may disappear, and our video cards will have to go back to being video cards.

Re:Not the Point-headbanger. (4, Insightful)

Amiga Lover (708890) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098724)

There is however one thing to keep in mind. Presently our GPU's may have the headroom to play with, but with Apple's Quartz, and Microsoft's Longhorn, let alone what's coming with X. That headroom may disappear, and our video cards will have to go back to being video cards.

On those operating systems that require them, that could very well be.

Still makes a nice thought that a linux box without even X installed, but a kickass graphics card, could crunch away doing something 4 times quicker than any windowed machine.

Not so... (4, Interesting)

oboylet (660310) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098642)

High-powered GPUs can make for really good general-purpose devices.

Apple's Newton had no CPU, only a GPU that was more than adequate.

Ideas like these are good in general. I'd like to see the industry move away from the CPU-as-chief status quo. Amigas were years ahead of their time in large part because the emphasis wasn't as much on central processing. The CPU did only what it was supposed to do -- hand out instructions to the gfx and audio subsystems.

Hardly using a "motorcycle to tow a pop-up camper." If anything, the conventional wisdom is, "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Re:Not so... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098784)

Hmm. My Newton has a "160Mhz StrongARM SA-110 RISC Processor". Doesn't sound like a GPU to me.

Re:Not so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098802)

Get back under your bridge, stupid troll.

How is an ARM [oldschool.net] a GPU?

Re:Not the Point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098651)

The whole point of graphic cards is that they have a dedicated purpose. Using the cards for anything that is general purpose is like using a motorcycle to tow a pop-up camper.

Or using the intel 8086 drive controler as a general purpose cpu?

Re:Not the Point (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098703)

Dude, you obviously have never tried to sleep in a motorcycle.

KFG

Googled HTML (5, Informative)

balster neb (645686) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098535)

Here's a HTML version of the PDF [216.239.57.104] , thanks to Google.

PDF to HTML (2, Informative)

Libraryman (721151) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098566)

Here [adobe.com] is a link at Adobe where you can turn any PDF into HTML.

Re:Googled HTML (1)

JPriest (547211) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098597)

Adobe really needs to create a seperate "lite" version of reader. That app does way more than I need it to do.

Re:Googled HTML (1)

dawnsnow (8077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098744)

You could make lighter version by removing unnecessary plug-ins. It seems my browser displays pdf documents more quickly. http://texturizer.net/firefox/faq.html#acrobat

video stuff (4, Interesting)

rexguo (555504) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098538)

At my work place, I'm looking into using the GPUs to do video analysis. Things like cut-scene detection, generating multi-resolution versions of a video frame, applying video effects and other proprietary technologies that were previously done in CPU. The combination of pixel shaders and floating-point buffers really make GPUs a Super-SIMD machine if you know how to exploit it.

audio stuff (4, Interesting)

RobPiano (471698) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098594)

At my work we do audio stuff. It would be really neat if I could do some of the more complicated audio analysis (FFT etc) that requires lots of vector math using the video cards gpu. There is probably even some way you could sync the timing for multimedia stuff.

I know nothing about CPU design though

As has been said many time before ... (5, Insightful)

keltor (99721) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098542)

The GPU are very fast ... at performing vector and matrix calculations. This is the whole point. If general computing CPUs were capable of doing vector or matrix calcs very efficiently, we would probably not have GPUs.

Altivec (1, Interesting)

ensignyu (417022) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098681)

I'm curious how GPUs stack up against the Altivec engine in G4/G5s.

Re:Altivec (2, Informative)

John Starks (763249) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098702)

I would guess the difference would be comparable. Altivec is no more impressive than the SSE/SSE2/etc. types of instructions of the modern x86.

Re:As has been said many time before ... (5, Interesting)

lazy_arabica (750133) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098705)

The GPU are very fast ... at performing vector and matrix calculations. This is the whole point. If general computing CPUs were capable of doing vector or matrix calcs very efficiently, we would probably not have GPUs.
Yes. But 3D graphics are not the only use of these mathematical objects ; I wonder if it would be possible to use a GPU to perform video encoding or digital sound manipulation at a higher speed, as both operations require matrices. I'm also sure they could take advantage of these processors vector manipulation capabilities.

178 Million in the P4EE (5, Insightful)

2megs (8751) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098548)

The Pentium 4 EE actually has 178 million transistors, which puts it in between ATI's and NVIDIA's latest.

In all of this, keep in mind that there's computing and there's computing...the kind of computing power in a GPU is excellent for doing the same numeric computation to every element of a large vector or matrix, not so much for branchy decisiony type things like walking a binary tree. You wouldn't want to run a database on something structured like a GPU (or an old vector-processing Cray), but something like a simulation of weather or molecular modeliing could be perfect for it.

The similarities of a GPU to a vector processing system bring up an interesting possibility...could Fortran see a renaissance for writing shader programs?

Re:178 Million in the P4EE (5, Informative)

Knightmare (12112) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098556)

Yes, it's true that it has that many transistors BUT, only 29 million of them are part of the core, the rest is memory. The transistor count on the video cards does not count the ram.

Re:178 Million in the P4EE (3, Informative)

LinuxGeek (6139) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098641)

If they are ignoring the cache on the P4 EE, then why mention the Extreme Edition at all? Cache size is the only difference between the Xeon based EE and a regular Northwood P4. Also, modern GPU's certainly do have cache. Read this old GeForce4 preview [pcstats.com] .
The Light Speed Memory Architecture (LMA) that was present in the GeForce3 has been upgraded as well, with it's major advancements in what nVidia calls Quad Cache. Quad Cache includes a Vertex Cache, Primitive Cache, Texture Cache and Pixel Caches. With similar functions as caches on CPU's, these are specific, they store what exactly they say.
Another good article [digit-life.com] has a block diagram showing the cache structures of the GeForce FX GPU. Nvidia and ATI both keep quiet about the cache sizes on their GPUs, but that dosen't mean that the full transistor count is dedicated to the processing core.

Re:178 Million in the P4EE (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098560)

Ahh...but how much of the 178 million is devoted to cache and how much is devoted to core? From what I understand, GPUs don't have much if any cache as it ties directly into video memory (which serves as its cache as well).

Re:178 Million in the P4EE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098573)

The writeup stated "core" transistor count - that is, not memory.

The P4EE has 178 million transistors, yes, but the vast majority of them are the L1/2 cache. The GPUs have most of their transistors as their core, not as memory.

Re:178 Million in the P4EE (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098607)

The transistor count you state probably includes the L2 cache, not the core transistors of the respective GPUs and CPUs.

Re:178 Million in the P4EE (2, Funny)

alphakappa (687189) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098690)

Please ANYTHING BUT FORTRAN!!!!!!! Seriously, FORTRAN needs serious reworking to be user friendly in today's age. It was fine a decade or two ago when people were not used to user friendly languages. COBOL anyone? FORTRAN has its uses, but it's horribly, horribly tough to use if you want to combine number crunching with other stuff such as string manipulation.

Re:178 Million in the P4EE (5, Insightful)

gunix (547717) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098748)

Well, it's like UNIX, it's userfriendly, it's just selects it's friends very carefully.
IMHO, the perfect friend is someone interested in maximum performance and knows how to program and knows something about computer hardware.

Have you looked at fortran 90, 95 or 2000?

Website on this topic (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098550)

General-purpose computation using graphics hardware has been a significant topic of study for the last few years. Pointers to a lot of papers and discussion on the subject are available at: www.gpgpu.org [gpgpu.org]

and a sourceforge project too (4, Informative)

Lord Prox (521892) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098645)

BrookGPU [stanford.edu]
from the BrookGPU website...
As the programmability and performance of modern GPUs continues to increase, many researchers are looking to graphics hardware to solve problems previously performed on general purpose CPUs. In many cases, performing general purpose computation on graphics hardware can provide a significant advantage over implementations on traditional CPUs. However, if GPUs are to become a powerful processing resource, it is important to establish the correct abstraction of the hardware; this will encourage efficient application design as well as an optimizable interface for hardware designers.

From what I understand this project it aimed at making an abstraction layer for GUP hardware so writing code to run on it is easier and standardsied.

While not playing games? (4, Funny)

pyrrhonist (701154) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098562)

What could my video card be doing for me while I am not playing the latest 3d games?

Two words: virtual pr0n

Re:While not playing games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098747)

virtual pr0n

As opposed to?

Re:While not playing games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098795)

virtual virtual p0rn

it's just like virtual p0rn!

DSP using GPUs (3, Interesting)

crushinghellhammer (727226) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098563)

Does anybody know of pointers to papers/research pertaining to using GPUs to perform digital signal processing for, say, real-time audio? Replies would be much appreciated.

here ya go (3, Informative)

dave1g (680091) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098630)

some one else posted this...

www.gpgpu.org [gpgpu.org]

Website on this topic (Score:0)
by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 09, @01:57AM (#9098550)
General-purpose computation using graphics hardware has been a significant topic of study for the last few years. Pointers to a lot of papers and discussion on the subject are available at: www.gpgpu.org [gpgpu.org]

Hacking the GPU (5, Informative)

nihilogos (87025) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098572)

Is a course being offered at caltech since last summer on using gpus for numerical work. Course page is here [caltech.edu] .

What comes next. (5, Funny)

CherniyVolk (513591) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098576)


"Utilize the sheer computing power of your video card!"

New market blitz, hmmmm.

SETI ports their code, and within five days their average completed work units increase 1000 fold. 13 hours later, they have evidence of intelligent life at 30000 locations within one degree.

Microsoft gets the hint, and comes out with a brilliant plan to utilize GPUs to speed up their OS and add bells and whistles to their UI.

And, once again, Apple and Quartz Extreme is ignored.

Re:What comes next. (4, Funny)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098593)

Then they throw away the results because the gpu's are not able to calculate at double precision floating point, but only at 24 or 32 bits.

Re:What comes next. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098692)

That mod parent up sig is quite clever.

Re:What comes next. (1)

BSDKaffee (729432) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098729)

Yeah, except it says Mon, February 30 next to it.

Re:What comes next. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098737)

And it was posted at 13:37pm :)

Re:What comes next. (1)

jfern (115937) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098789)

Oops, that gives it away. February 30th is never a Monday.

Re:What comes next. (1)

Krid(O'Caign) (766854) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098804)

I'm more concerned with the fact that: A: If it were true, then that would mean that either Slashdot is sitting on stories and discussions for well over 4 months, or that somebody has a temporal ISP. B: It's above the [Reply to post | Parent] tag.

Re:What comes next. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098668)

If SETI does begin to use GPUs, will nVidia recommend 10000W PSUs for their 6800s?

It's nice, but could be nicer (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098580)

Before you get excited just remember how asymmetric the APG bus is. Those GPUs will be at much better use when we get them as 64bit pci cards.

Not just the GPU : the RAM (5, Interesting)

ratboot (721595) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098588)

What's interesting with new video cards it's their memory capacity, 128 or 256 MB and that this memory is accessible on some new cards at 900 MHz with a data path of 256 bit (which is a lot faster than a CPU with DDR 400 installed).

Re:Not just the GPU : the RAM (1)

Indy1 (99447) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098700)

its also a big reason why high end video cards cost so much. That uber high speed ram has a uber high price.

Wow (5, Interesting)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098589)

All that processing power, and the latest games still run at about 22 frames per second, if that.

The CPU can do six billion instructions a second, the GPU can do 18 billion, and every last cycle is being used to stuff a 40MB texture into memory faster. What a waste. Yeah, the walls are even more green and slimy. Whoop-de-fucking-do.

Would it be great if all that processing power could be used for something other than yet-another-graphics-demo?

Like, maybe some new and innovative gameplay?

No (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098673)

What we need are bigger and more powerful weapons, larger playing fields till the gameplay is nothing but a mess of missles and who ever has the fastest mouse click wins.

Oh wait.. That's quake.

Re:Wow (4, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098794)

You don't seem to understand that GPU's are very specific purpose computing devices. They aren't like a general purpose processor like you CPU. They crunch matrices, and that's about it. Even all the programmable stuff is just putting parameters on the matrix churning.

Maybe that's the answer... (0, Offtopic)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098603)

to all our compatibility woes. I keep hearing about how much faster G5's and Alpha's are than x86's, but it doesn't really matter if it won't run the apps I want. Now that processors are so cheap, why not just throw an x86 in for compatibity and then start over with a better design? Kinda like what the PS2 does so it can play PS1 games (I think).

Re:Maybe that's the answer... (0, Offtopic)

John Starks (763249) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098671)

This is offtopic, but...

You keep hearing that they're faster because people don't like to admit they spent too much for inferior technology. Yes, arguably the x86 instruction set is inferior to newer, better engineered ones. But the newest offerings from Intel and AMD eclipse the G5 in speed. Apple failed to follow Spec guidelines when they released their benchmarks, thus allowing them to claim the performance crown unfairly.

Read about it [overclockers.com] if you're unconvinced. This news has been floating around. I like Macs, but please don't spread lies for Apple. They're efficient enough without you.

I see this a lot on Slashdot, and I try to always call people on it. I think people are just uninformed, but I also think the general Mac bias here influences it as well.

Re:Maybe that's the answer... (3, Interesting)

trg83 (555416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098758)

From the link you mentioned: "while Apple used a compiler you've never heard of (at least in the x86 world)."

My understanding is that they used GCC.

Further, "Another said that some version of Linux had to be used to compare apples to apples. Well, MacOS X isn't Linux, and the desktop standard for x86 machines is Windows (not that using a properly optimized Linux bothered the Opterons very much). You want to know what machine is fastest, you test in their native environment."

Oh, silly me. Processors are so obviously made to run only one operating system!

I'll take this site's info with a grain of salt.

Re:Maybe that's the answer... (3, Insightful)

John Starks (763249) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098798)

GCC is an inferior compiler for the x86, whether you like it or not. Intel's optimizing C/C++ compiler is much faster according to numerous benchmarks (I'm sorry, it's too late to find the links.) On the other hand, I understand that GCC is great on the Mac, since Apple optimized it properly. (Certainly I appreciate the hard work of the various GCC teams over the years; hopefully new optimizations will continue to improve the quality of the release until it is as fast as Intel's offerings.)

In any case, why do you believe all of Apple's conveniently high numbers, but you don't believe Spec numbers reported by Dell, AMD, etc.? These are not numbers pulled out of a hat; they are standard Spec results. Thus, the numbers should be comparable from company to company. But Apple retested other companies' products and released new numbers without properly optimizing for the x86. Why is it when Microsoft pays for benchmarks, people freak out, but when Apple PERFORMS benchmarks, people believe them instantly?

There are plenty of other links out there that provide similar information. It is patently false advertising for Apple to claim that they use the fastest chip of any PC.

Oh, and re: the Linux issue, you're right. But you'll find that the x86 is faster in Linux with a proper optimizing compiler.

My issue is basically that at best -- at best! -- the results are inconclusive. At worst, Apple blatently lied. It's foolish to believe Apple blindly just because they're the underdogs and produce a pretty, Unix-based OS. And it's foolish to hold this strange hatred for all that is x86. I don't understand this mentality.

This is BIG (5, Insightful)

macrealist (673411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098612)

Creating a way to use the specialize GPUs for vector processing that is not graphics related is ingenious. Like a lot of great ideas, it is sooo obvious AFTER you see some one else do it.

Don't miss the point that this is not intended for general purpose computing. Don't port OoO to the graphics chip.

Where it is huge is in signal processing. FPGAs have begun replacing even the G4s in this area recently because of the huge gains in speed vs. power consumption an FPGA affords. However, FPGAs are not bought and used as is, and end up costing a significant amount (of development time/money) to become useful. Being able to use these commodity GPUs for vector processing creates a very desirable price/processing power/power consumption option. If I were nVIDIA or ATI, I would be shoveling these guys money to continue their work.

Siggraph 2003 (5, Informative)

Adam_Trask (694692) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098626)

Check out the publication list in Siggraph 2003. There is a whole section named "Computation on GPUs" (papers listed below). And the papers for Siggraph 2004 should be out shortly.

If you have a matrix solver, there is no telling what you can do. And i remember, these papers show that the speed is faster than the matrix calculations of the same stuff using the CPU.

# Linear Algebra Operators for GPU Implementation of Numerical Algorithms
Jens Krüger, Rüdiger Westermann

# Sparse Matrix Solvers on the GPU: Conjugate Gradients and Multigrid
Jeff Bolz, Ian Farmer, Eitan Grinspun, Peter Schröder

# Nonlinear Optimization Framework for Image-Based Modeling on Programmable Graphics Hardware
Karl E. Hillesland, Sergey Molinov, Radek Grzeszczuk

http://www.gpgpu.org/ is a great resource (4, Interesting)

aancsiid (135857) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098628)

http://www.gpgpu.org/ [gpgpu.org] is a great resource for general purpose graphics processor usage.

So when do we get unified memory? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098646)

Many of the problems stated in using a GPU for non-graphics tasks would be implicitly solved if the GPU and CPU shared memory. While this would slightly slow down the GPU's memory access, in 3 years, I don't think that would be an issue. Especially compared to the benefits of having only one memory pool.

I can see it now.... (3, Interesting)

TypoNAM (695420) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098649)

...Several indies and companies figure out how to use the powerful GPU's in an efficient manner that would benefit everyone who uses computers on a daily basis and improves the usefulness of the computer making it the best thing in the world again then some greedy bastard comes along flashing his granted patent by the U.S. Patent Office which makes us all screwed...

Ohh well the idea was good while it lasted. ;)

Re:I can see it now.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098707)

Fire Rumsfeld! Fire Rumsfeld!

Imagine... (4, Interesting)

rokzy (687636) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098661)

a beowulf cluster of them.

seriously, we have a 16 node beowulf cluster and each node has an unnecessarily good graphics card in them. a lot of the calculations are matrix-based e.g. several variables each 1xthousands (1D) or hundredsxhundreds (2D).

how feasible and worthwhile do you think it would be to tap into the extra processing power?

Re:Imagine... (2, Interesting)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098760)

It's a good idea if your datasets take a long enough time to process. You could run 6 or so cards (maybe 1 AGP super fast, 5 PCI slowish (eg FX5200)) in your machine and send a dataset to each GPU and the main CPU, then get the results back. The trick is to keep them working without blowing all your bandwidth or PSU. Also depends on the resolution required, because the GPU is only 32 bits FP, compared to 80 bits for the CPU.

All I can suggest is download the Brook [stanford.edu] libraries and try it out. See if it helps, and see if the results are accurate enough. And yes, Fortran can be used if you can bind it - Intel's compiler suite worked for me.

When... (2, Insightful)

alexandre (53) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098662)

...will someone finally port john the ripper to a new video card's graphical pipeline? :)

How will they converge? (1)

Thinkit4 (745166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098664)

Anybody can see that this is all coming together someday. What is needed is a way to change the circuitry to approach whatever n-bit problem you need solved. Graphics is around 80h bit. Sound might be sixteen bit.

The future should be more elegant and flexible. Drop your precision and instantly gain speed. We'll wonder why we dealt with graphics drivers and other such complications.

Apple's getting there (0, Redundant)

blackula (584329) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098685)

Apple, innovative as always, is already making headway. Not in the way that paper describes, per se, but in other ways.

They, of course, designed the first OS that takes advantage of the user's GPU in situations other than CAD and games; in situations for general purpose computing. The OS uses the GPU to render the UI; obvious sounding at first glance, but revolutionary in practice.

Small steps though they may be, Apple is, as seemingly always is the case, ahead of the game.

Apple's getting there...Workstations. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098797)

"Small steps though they may be, Apple is, as seemingly always is the case, ahead of the game."

The guys at Next would agree with you.

Finally (5, Funny)

Pan T. Hose (707794) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098693)

Using GPUs For General-Purpose Computing

I'm glad that finally they started to use the General-Purpose Unit. What took them so long?

Re:Finally (-1, Flamebait)

rokzy (687636) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098732)

your huge ignorance was blocking the screen.

it stands for "Graphics Processing Unit".

Re:Finally (1)

Knightmare (12112) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098777)

What do you expect, he's a phd, you can't expect him to be based in the real world...

Obligatory joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098697)

In Soviet Russia CPU outperforms GPU by factor 3.2x.
;-)

Maybe time for a new generation of math-processor? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098699)

Remember the co-processors? Well, actually I don't (I'm a tad to young). But I know about them.

Maybe it's time to start making co-processing add-on cards for advanced operations such as matrix mults and other operations that can be done in parallell on a low level. Add to that a couple of hundred megs of RAM and you have a neat little helper when raytracing etc. You could easily emulate the cards if you didn't have them (or needed them). The branchy nature of the program itself would not affect the performance of the co-processor since it should only be used for calculations.

I for one would like to see this.

Daisy-chaining the world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098783)

Long live the Transputer. Or I'll settle for just a lowly DSP, hiding out in a sound-card, or hard drive.

3dNOW! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098803)

There have been studies of the 3dNOW! capabilities of AMD processors in just such a capacity.

Documentation (2, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098708)

Do any of the video chip manufacturers make free and complete documentation available for their GPUs? Everything that I have read in the past has said that they are encumbered with NDAs and claims of trade secrets. I'd prefer not to waste my time dealing with companies that treat their customers as potential enemies.

It doesn't have to be asked.... (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098716)

... but hopefully the 'overrated' mods won't act as double negatives....

With all the talk about how the GPU's are so great at Matrix calculations, the question should not be "What can my GPU do when it's otherwise 'Idle'?", but "What is the Matrix?"

-Rusty

Bass Ackwards? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9098725)

Perhaps offloading the CPU to the GPU is the wrong way to look at things? With the apparently imminent arrival of commodity (low power) multi-CPU chips [slashdot.org] , maybe we should be considering what we need to add to perform graphics more efficiently (ala MMX et al)?

While it's true that general purpose hardware will never perform as well as or as efficiently as a design specifically targeted to the task (or at least it better not), it is also equally as true that eventually general purpose/commodity hardware will achieve a price-performance point where it is more than "good enough" for majority.

SETI (1, Interesting)

ryanw (131814) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098735)

I would what seti could do by the extra cycles in parallel with the CPU. Is it possible to get 2x or 3x the crunching of data for seti clients?

Violation of Compartmentalization (2, Insightful)

BlakeB395 (772298) | more than 10 years ago | (#9098762)

From a design standpoint, I can imagine a GPU that donates its power to the CPU would be a nightmare. It violates the fundamental tenet that everything should do one thing and do it well. OTOH, that tenet focuses on simplicity and maintainability over performance. Is such a tradeoff worth it?
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