Thursday, February 10, 2005

Using the GPU

GPU (Graphics card) programming is one of my pet projects, and it has been interesting to see the gradual harnessing of the GPU as a fast streaming coprocessor. A new direction is an even tighter coupling with a computer's underlying GUI and window management system.
  • OS X: "Quartz Extreme uses a supported graphics card built into your Mac to relieve the main PowerPC chip of on screen calculations. This dramatically improves system performance, making Panther much more responsive."
  • Longhorn: "Longhorn will feature a graphics subset called WGF (Windows Graphic Foundation). Its goal is to unify 2D and 3D graphics operation in one and will bring 2D Windows drawing and 3D operations together. Nowadays, 3D is done using a Direct X subset with the current version 9.0c. Longhorn will also use 3D menus and 3D interfaces and will require at least Shader 2.0 compliant cards, so it will make the graphics card an important part of your PC."
  • And late to the party, but getting there, Unix/X (via Thane Plambeck): " David Reveman, who became a Novell employee a couple of weeks ago, has been writing a new X server on OpenGL/Glitz called Xgl. Because Xgl is built on GL primitives it naturally gets the benefit of hardware acceleration. For example, window contents get rendered directly into textures (actually they get copied once in video memory for now), and so you get the benefit of the 3d hardware doing the compositing when you move semi-opaque windows or regions around."
Graphics cards will get even cheaper, since everyone will need one. Intel will probably put even more effort into the little joke they call their onboard graphics accelerator. Interesting times....

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