Maximum PC's blunt no-BS review policy may lead some folks to believe that we're a bunch of hardassed curmudgeons, but actually, we're big softies sometimes. We love cuddling up with a nice, warm graphics card, for example (assuming the proper cooling systems are in place, of course). And everyone enjoys a good open-source project. OpenGL combines the best of both worlds; awesome graphics backed by open-source standards. Today, the Khronos Group, the nonprofit organization in charge of OpenGL, gave the platform a boost with the release of the OpenGL 4.2 standard.
Don't expect Microsoft to endorse WebGL (Web-based Graphics Library), the Khronos Group's cross-platform, low-level 3D graphics API for the web. Though it's supported in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, and will be coming to future versions of Apple Safari and Opera, Microsoft is refusing to support WebGL in its current form because several security risks make it harmful, the Redmond software giant said.
The Khronos Group on Monday announced it has officially ratified OpenCL 1.1, the open source programming standard for the parallel execution of tasks across multiple processors. So what's different with the new spec? According to Khronos, all of the following:
New data types including 3-component vectors and additional image formats
Handling commands from multiple hosts and processing buffers across multiple devices
Operations on regions of a buffer including read, write, and copy of 1D, 2D, or 3D rectangular regions
Enhanced use of events to drivea nd control command execution
Additional OpenCL C built-in functions such as integer clamp, shuffle, and asynchronous strided copies
Improved OpenGL interoperability through efficient sharing of images and buffers by linking OpenCL and OpenGL events
If that all sounds like Greek to you, the gist of what they're saying is that like most updates, OpenCL 1.1 brings improved performance to the table. Perhaps equally important, Khronos pointed out that the spec is fully backwards compatible with OpenCL 1.0.
OpenCL competes with Microsoft's DirectCompute API, which is part of the DirectX family. One of OpenCL's biggest assets is support from a range of heavy-hitting industry giants, including AMD, Apple, ARM, IBM, Intel, Nvidia, and several others. Coinciding with the announcement, Nvidia said it already has an OpenCL 1.1 driver available to show that their "full weight is behind" the spec.
Since WebGL depends on the OpenGL graphics API, it is better suited to Linux and OS X as compared to Windows. But Google has just announced a new initiative called Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine, or ANGLE, to “layer WebGL's subset of the OpenGL ES 2.0 API over DirectX 9.0c API calls.” For those not comfortable with the technical argot, ANGLE will help execute WebGL on Windows systems using DirectX 9.0, and “without having to rely on OpenGL drivers.”
According to Henry Bridge, a product manager at Google, ANGLE will also prove to be useful for those developing applications for mobile and embedded devices. “ANGLE should make it simpler to prototype these applications on Windows, and also gives developers new options for deploying production versions of their code to the desktop,” he wrote on the Chromium Blog.
If you sometimes use your computer for something other than gaming, your ultra-powerful GPU might be twiddling its thumbs, waiting for some 3D deathmatches - until now. This week, Nvidia released the final 1.0 version of its OpenCL specification, which enables programmers to use the power of the GPU for general-purpose data crunching (aka General Purpose GPU or GPGPU). OpenCL enables programmers who aren't accustomed to shoving around vertices or telling hardware T&L registers what to do to write code for GPU execution without using OpenGL or DirectX commands.
Nvidia isn't exactly new to GPGPU, as its CUDA parallel processing architecture is somewhat similar to OpenCL. CUDA is currently supported by virtually all current GeForce, GeForce Mobile, and Quadro FX GPUs when equipped with at least 256MB of dedicated video memory.
To demonstrate the "Open" in OpenCL 1.0, Nvidia has worked closely with Apple Computer, which first proposed a parallel processing standard as part of its forthcoming Snow Leopard OS X release, with arch-rival ATI's parent company AMD, and with other partners including 3DLABS, Activision Blizzard, Apple, ARM, Barco, Broadcom, Codeplay, Electronic Arts, Ericsson, Freescale, HI, IBM, Intel Corporation, Imagination Technologies, Kestrel Institute, Motorola, Movidia, Nokia, NVIDIA, QNX, RapidMind, Samsung, Seaweed, TAKUMI, Texas Instruments and Umeå University.
So, who's managing the OpenCL standard, and what about Microsoft's rival DirectX 11 Compute standard? Updated 12-11-08:And, what class of computers can benefit from OpenCL coding?To learn more, and for your chance to sound off, join us after the jump.
The ink was hardly dry on the Khronos Group's August 11th announcement that they released the OpenGL 3.0 API specification, when Nvidia releases beta drivers supporting the standard. These new drivers implement the OpenGL 3.0 API and the GLSL 1.30 shading language for both Windows XP and Vista on selected GeForce and Quadro videocards. This isn’t totally unexpected since Nvidia is a member of the Khronos Group
“OpenGL 3.0 is a significant advance for graphics standard and we’re proud that NVIDIA has played a major role in developing it,” said Barthold Lichtenbelt, Manager, Core OpenGL Software at NVIDIA and chair of the OpenGL working group at Khronos. “OpenGL 3.0 will be a first-class API on both GeForce and Quadro boards. Shipping drivers two days after this new specification is released demonstrates our strong commitment to the OpenGL developer community and our partners who rely on the standard.”
There has been much speculation on how the OpenGL 3.0 API will compete with DirectX 10. Some truly great games were made with previous OpenGL API specs like Far Cry, any of the Quake series, Starsiege: Tribes, and the original Half-Life. These games are pretty long in tooth, and newer games have been made with Direct X, including the engine that drives Valve's Source engine.
We can look forward to developers putting out some new games in the future using this standard. With all they accomplished with OpenGL 2.1, I am pretty excited about what’s coming.