Sound and graphix cards to assist cpu?

Forum: Hardware Talk
Topic: Sound and graphix cards to assist cpu?
started by: curaga

Posted by curaga on April 24 2007,14:59
We all know they have way overkill powers for what they mostly do nowadays. I thought "hey why not lend some of that power to help the cpu?"
And then I remembered Creative X-Fi in player mode does exactly that (but on WinXP), it uses it's awesome powers to help the cpu, reducing cpu's load and so speeding everything up..

X-Fi does that transparently, xp doesn't see 2 processors. But it would be great to get their unused power even in SMP-like style..

It would gain just immortal speed. Just think about: integrated graphix and sound, graph card in Agp and Pci-e, and graph cards in those 7 pci-slots (Yes my comp does have 7 pci-slots).. Even if they were cheap cards, they would give an awesome boost when there is 11 of them...

Does anyone know how to do this?

Posted by ^thehatsrule^ on April 24 2007,15:46
Afaik, dedicated sound devices only help offload the cpu usage for sound.

Also, using integrated chipsets would be defeating your purpose, since it takes cpu usage (and usually memory) out from the system.

However, the use of cpu (ie x86) instructions on a gpu has already been marketed... such as AMD Stream Processor.
The current, general term for this technology is GPGPU.

Posted by curaga on April 24 2007,15:57
The purpose would be to use already existing cards, not buy some new ones for it (like that Stream Processor)..

Even using some kind of software SLI to gain great graphics performance using many gfx cards but having output on only one of them would be good...

Posted by ^thehatsrule^ on April 24 2007,23:02
Well yes, the video cards that share the same capable family of gpus can also use it (think that card uses a r580+).

But with older devices, I'd seriously doubt if any of them will be capable...
With today's video cards its R5xx or G8 (or newer) which are pretty new hardware.

I've heard some things about mixing different brands of gpu's on one system for greater graphics processing, but I haven't seen one yet...? (maybe false rumours?)
(though the reference to SLI would mean only nvidia boards I suppose, which can be already done)

Posted by curaga on April 25 2007,09:46
SLI was also the marketing brand for two Voodoo 2-cards working together, output on only one card.
Nvidia's SLI and Ati's Crossfire aren't so good, they need two similar cards, otherwise the stronger is weakened to the weaker card's level...

If someone could do a software co-op mode for different gfx cards, like one that is only 2d will use it's full potential for 2d, and the rest is to other cards, dependig on their capabilities, that would Seriously bring people to Linux....

Posted by curaga on April 25 2007,09:47
BTW X-fi is a sound card, but it takes all kinds of instructions....
Posted by ^thehatsrule^ on April 25 2007,19:21
Well yes... nvidia bought voodoo's technology (though SLI means differently now I think)
Using different gpu's is like saying to use different cpu's on the same board...

I don't see how this would attract people to Linux since these features came out on Windows, if not first (or unavailable under Linux). (And SLI is currently quite flaky under Linux)

I see that the X-fi card has extra processing power, but I haven't seen info that allows programmability of it other than sound-related use.

Posted by lucky13 on April 25 2007,23:05
why not lend some of that power to help the cpu?

In a sense, that's what it does by offloading sound/video from system requirements of the CPU. I know you're talking about using it as a co-processor; like hats has already answered, that's a work in progress with some of the newer hardware (see link below).
Even if they were cheap cards, they would give an awesome boost when there is 11 of them...

Eleven cards in seven PCI slots?
Does anyone know how to do this?

Not yet. I also think the jury's out about how functional this will be in the long run -- a la the hammer:jackhammer analogy (a jackhammer is an immensely more powerful tool than a regular hammer, but it's not a better tool for driving a nail into a specific juncture of two pieces of wood). For now it looks like it's best suited for clustering. For an example, see "Why Use CUDA technology?" (which looks like is supported on RHEL4 and WinXP):
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...would Seriously bring people to Linux

I'm not sure that will do much beyond enterprise-level clustering and companies or universities looking for cheaper super computing options -- (edit) who are already using Linux or for whom Linux is already an option.

Many people are holding off from upgrading to Vista because it requires either a brand new computer or some serious upgrades (including video card if they want Aero). I don't see how they'd be lured by a distro recommending two or more video cards for a mini/home GPGPU cluster when Linux is a viable option with the hardware they already own and they're already reluctant to add new hardware (video cards).

X-fi is a sound card, but it takes all kinds of instructions

I think at that level, it would be more efficient -- cheaper and easier -- to either upgrade a CPU or even to overclock (which I don't recommend). That's what I would do because I see that as solving one "problem" (slow CPU/motherboard) with another (using a different piece of hardware to solve the original "problem" which remains in place).

And even if you do offload a few CPU cycles to a sound or video chip, you're still confined by things like FSB speed, etc. On older systems, probably not worth the hassle. On newer systems (XP-level +), it could be more useful but that takes me right back to the point above about the reluctance people have to adding extra hardware as well as the point about using video cards to solve a mobo "problem" (if it is a problem).

Posted by curaga on April 26 2007,10:30
Gaming, people, gaming... Cube 2, new unreal tournament, Wow or F.E.A.R or something on Wine... And which costs less? A new cpu, or an old video card? For the cpu you also need to get a cooler.. And a card is way easier to install than a cpu...

Eleven cards in seven PCI slots?
7 pci, 1 agp, 1 pci-e, 2 integrated, that makes 11 cards

So it's not possible to use old gfx and sound cards for cpu instructions.
But how about combining them for graphics and sound respectively? I could see some people getting a second hand gfx card if that raises their Wow fps from 10 to 25 or something...

Posted by ^thehatsrule^ on April 26 2007,19:14
It's actually cheaper to buy and install new cpu's or gpu's, since the cost in developing the technology to utilize all of that would be too high, not to mention too complicated (too many different kinds), and that the performance increase, if any, would be marginal with the use of old hardware.

If you're talking about gaming, people who want multi graphics card setups and performance can only look at Windows right now.  The use of Wine greatly offsets the performance. And (as I have already stated) the use of multi graphic card solutions for consumers aren't going that well for Linux yet.  However, we can look forward to this as developments advance.

Posted by lucky13 on April 27 2007,11:49
And which costs less? A new cpu, or an old video card?

Depends on the age of the system. Note that I distinguished between older systems (upgrade doesn't necessarily mean "new") and newer systems in this regard.

As far as using GPUs in mainframe gaming environments, this article in my morning download says IBM is going to do it on their z series:
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