December 2009

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The news for the day is that the current hardware version of Larrabee, Intel’s new graphics processor, for the consumer market has been delayed (or cancelled, depending on what you mean by “cancelled”). Intel is not commenting on possible future Larrabee hardware, so the Larrabee project itself exists. I don’t see an official press release (yet) from Intel. The few solid quotes I’ve seen (in CNET) is:

“Larrabee silicon and software development are behind where we hoped to be at this point in the project,” Intel spokesperson Nick Knupffer said Friday. “As a result, our first Larrabee product will not be launched as a standalone discrete graphics product,” he said.

along with this:

Intel would not give a projected date for the Larrabee software development platform and is only saying “next year.”

The Washington Post gives this semi-quote:

Intel now plans its first Larrabee product to be used as a software development platform for both graphic and high performance computing, Knupffer said.

See more from The Inquirer, CNET, ZDNet, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Many more versions via Google News.

In my opinion, Intel has a tough row to hoe: catch up in the field of high-performance graphics, when all they’ve had before is the ~$2 chip low-end GMA series. This series probably has a larger market share in terms of units sold than NVIDIA and AMD GPUs combined (basically, any Intel computer without a GPU card has one), but I assume makes pennies per unit and by its nature is limited in a number of ways. Markets like high-performance computing, which make the most sense for Larrabee (since it appears to have the most flexibility vs. NVIDIA or AMD’s GPUs, e.g. it’s programmable in C++), is a tiny piece of the market compared to “I just want DirectX to run as fast as possible”. The people I know on the Larrabee team are highly competent, so I don’t think the problem was there. I’d love to learn what hurdles were encountered in the areas of design, management, algorithms, resources, etc. Even all the architectural choices of Larrabee are not understood in their particulars (though we have some good guesses), since it’s unreleased. Sadly, we’re unlikely to know most of the story; writing “The Soul of An Unreleased Machine” is not an inspiring tale, though perhaps a fascinating one.


See this post on Cyril Crassin’s blog (I just saw it linked on Tim Farrar’s blog and had to mention it here since it is wicked awesome and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss it).

Cyril is the primary inventor of the Gigavoxels technique which has been the subject of several recent publications.  The Mandelbulb is similar to the Mandelbrot set, but in 3D.  Cyril evaluates the Mandelbulb on the fly to fill the brick cache used by the Gigavoxels.

Mandelbulb + Gigavoxels = real-time Mandelbulb visualization = pure win.

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The Royal Society (full name: Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge) is marking the start of its 350th year by putting pdf versions of 60 notable papers from its journal, Philosophical Transactions (founded in 1665) on the web.  Although all the selected papers are crucial to the history of science, I wanted to call out those particularly related to the fundamentals of rendering.

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