September 14, 2009

785 words 4 mins read

The AMD Experience – Part 2

A 175’ display @ 11million pixels.

Last Friday I covered the AMD Experience on the USS Hornet. This is “Part 2” which is less technical stuff (though I have a ton of it, I just don’t think anyone cares that much) and more “cool shit” that I saw. The first of which is an “Ultra high definition 175” seamless display”. It is 5500×2000 resolution using 6 rear HD projectors for a total of 11 million pixels. And yes, they were playing Left 4 Dead on it; yes, it was totally bad ass. This “rig” was powered by one single computer and one single card, the new AMD 5870. I’ve got to say the guy from Mersive (makers of this bad ass screen) was very nice and took a fair amount of time to talk to me and answer my questions. Needless to say, if I could ever afford one of these, I’d totally buy it (I’m guess that it is expensive enough that they’ll toss the computer in for free).

Google Earth, 1:1 scale

Item #2, while not as technically impressive, was still damn cool. It was Google Earth spread across 3 very large TVs. I’d guess they were probably better than 46” each. I joke that the screens allow you to show Google Earth at a 1:1 scale. I think the reason why I think that was so cool was the fact that if you look at the picture, on the left TV you see the coast of California, on the right TV you can see the top half of Lake Tahoe (and part of Nevada). I know you’re saying “Hey, I can do that on my 15” screen”, yes, but you can’t have that view and have a meter and a half walk between the two features. If you need to show off a LOT of (whatever it is you show off) at once, this is definitely the answer.

I’m glad I don’t have their power bill.

Item #3 on my list of “kick ass”, while not quite as “cool” as say a giant Left 4 Dead demo, but far more impressive, was this monstrosity. That is 24 LCDs powered by a SINGLE COMPUTER (with 4 of these news graphics cards). According to the AMD employee I talked to, never before had this many screens been powered by a single computer. I’m inclined to believe him too. On screen was a very functional copy of X-Plane flight simulator. The employee was kind enough to let me take it for a spin, and damn… that was cool. I asked him how much work went into making the software compatible with this system, and he told me they only had to make 1 change (ONE!!! One!), which was to allow multiple copies of X-Plane to run on the same computer. You see, X-Plane already allows you to network multiple machines in, so instead he ran 4 copies of X-Plane on the same computer. Each copy ran one graphics card, which in turn ran 6 of the 24 screens.

That is a lot of monitor cables.

Now the one thing that really and truly impressed me about this entire demo. This computer is running Linux. Yes, you heard me right. A demonstration for the latest and greatest graphics card ever, is running on the bastard step child of operating systems, at least when it comes to graphics drivers. Earlier in the presentation that they gave to us “Community members”, they mentioned Linux support along with Vista and Win7. I think that is super cool of them. This display running Linux just made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Plus the guy made a few other tweaks that were cool, the one I want to mention which might be somewhat hard to tell in the previous picture, is bezel skipping. He did this on the linux side, rather than the graphics card — but apparently Windows will have this feature at some point also. Basically if you look really close, the computer renders as if the bezel were actually part of the displayable screen (and thus skips over that part of the image) which overall works very nicely in this display.

All and all, I was very excited to be there. I didn’t partake in the free food (well I did take 2 power bars and a bottle of water) or booze, but that’s ok. I’m a “cheap date” when I get invited to these tech shindigs. I’m far more interested in the technology than I am in abusing their free food budget. I took a bunch of pictures, which unfortunately I’m too lazy to generate thumbnails for, but if you are interested you can browse them.