Sunday, November 27, 2005

Burning Transistors

All at once, my ol' Socket A machine decided to go dark. Afterwards it could no longer boot. The mobo could POST, but the CPU never quite woke up. Although a new layer of thermal paste and reseating the heatsink might have fixed it... I wasn't able to get it to awaken.

I decided to gut the machine and go with all new gear. Gone was the ATA/166, in was the SATA WD Caviar. Gone was the GeForce 5950, in was the GeForce 7800GSX. Out was the AthlonXP 1700+ (oc'd to 2133 MHz), in was the 2GHz AMD 64. Gone was single-channel PC2700, in was dual-channel PC4000. Out with the 380W PSU, in with a modular 500W PSU.

The case and the DVD/CD drives remained, but the rest was gutted. Since I've had some fun flexing my new vertex-processing muscle. I've been able to add window transparency and drop shadowing to my WinXP and SuSE 10 desktop, thanks to the NVidia drivers, XOrg's composite extensions and KDE. I never realized how nice those lil' add-ons could be, but its quite handy.

I was also able to try out the latest NVidia tech demos, showing all the luster of real-time sub-surface scattering, volume shaders and high dynamic-range lighting. I never realized how nice volume shaders could really be - it's something I need to look into closer. This is especially nice for the low-poly meshes I make... something decidedly low-poly could look very high-poly with the right shader. Add vertex shaders for hair & fuzz, then pixel shaders for lighting and reflection and it's a great combo.

I also tried out Valve's "Lost Coast" demo, showing HDR and the glossyness of their rocks and textures. It was a fantastic demo - and definitely made a solid case for HDR.

Exploring the native 64-bit land of SuSE 10 is interesting. Now I have things actually compiled and optimized for my platform... the closest I was able to get before was a x586 package for SuSE. But with a native 64-bit OS, things are going well. The only problem I've had so far have been interfacing with the old 32-bit Macromedia Flash plugin - I had to install 32-bit browser libraries to interface with it. Other than that, however, things have been great.

Of course, rebuilding a machine, prepping for Thanksgiving and Christmas, finishing the end-of-year strong at work, wrapping up some rather large projects and taking about fifteen days of vacation in December is taking a rather large bite of time out of finishing these Crystal Space & Blender tutorials I'm still writing. Hopefully we'll see a rough draft soon.

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