Monday, February 09, 2009

Video and other APIs

I read today a short article about video acceleration in X. First of all I was already unhappy because I had to read. Personally I think all the news sites should come in a comic form. With as few captions as possible. Just like Perl I'm a write-only entity. Then I read that Gallium isn't an option when it comes to video acceleration because it exposes programmable pipeline and I got dizzy.

So I got off the carousel and I thought to myself: "Well, that's wrong", and apparently no one else got that. Clearly the whole "we're connected" thing is a lie because it doesn't matter how vividly I think about stuff, others still don't see what's in my head (although to the person who sent me cheese when I was in Norway - that was extremely well done). So cumbersome as it might be I'm doing the whole "writing my thoughts down" thing. Look at me! I'm writing! No hands! sdsdfewwwfr vnjbnhm nhn. Hands back on.

I think the confusion stems from the fact that the main interface in Gallium is the context interface, which does in fact model the programmable pipeline. Because of the incredibly flexible nature of the programmable pipeline a huge set of APIs is covered just by reusing the context interface. But in modern GPUs there are still some fixed function parts that are not easily addressable by the programmable pipeline interface. Video is a great example of that. To a lesser degree so is basic 2D acceleration (lesser because some of the modern GPUs don't have 2D engines at all anymore).

But, and it's a big but ("and I can not lie" <- song reference, pointing out to let everyone know that I'm all about music) nothing stops us from adding interfaces which deal exclusively with the fixed function parts of modern GPUs. In fact it has already been done as the work on a simple 2D interface has already started.

Basic idea is that the state trackers which need some specific functionality use the given interface. For example the Exa state tracker would use the Gallium 2d interface, instead of the main context interface. In this case the Gallium hardware driver will have a choice: it can either implement the given interface directly in hardware, or it can use the default implementation.

The default implementation is something Gallium will provide as part of the auxiliary libraries. The default implementation will use the main context interface to emulate the entire functionality of the other interface.

Video decoding framework would use the same semantics. So it would be an additional interface(s) with default implementation on top of the 3D pipeline. Obviously some parts of the video support are quite difficult to implement on top of the 3D pipeline but the whole point of this is that: for hardware that supports it you get the whole shabangabang, for hardware that doesn't you get a reasonable fallback. Plus in the latter case the driver authors don't have to write a single line of hardware specific code.

So a very nice project for someone would be to take VDPAU, VA-API or any video framework of your choice and implement a state tracker for that API on top of Gallium and design an interface(s) that could be added to Gallium to implement the API in a way that makes full usage of the fixed functionality video units found in the GPUs. I think this is the way our XvMC state tracker is heading.
This is the moment where we break into a song.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Latest changes

I actually went through all my blog entries and removed spam. That means that you won't be able to find anymore links to stuff that can enlarge your penis. I hope this action will not shatter your lives and you'll find consolation in all the spam that you're getting via email anyway. And if not I saved some of the links. You never know, I say.
I also changed the template, I'd slap something ninja related on it, but I don't have anything that fits. Besides nowadays everyone is a graphics ninja. I'm counting hours until the term will be added to the dictionary. So my new nickname will be "The Lost Son of Norway, Duke of Poland and King of England". Aim high is my motto.

As a proud owner of exactly zero babies I got lots of time to think about stuff. Mostly about squirrels, goats and the letter q. So I wanted to talk about some of the things I've been thinking about lately.

Our friend ("our" as in the KDE communities, if you're not a part of it, then obviously not your friend, in fact he told me he doesn't like you at all) Ignacio CastaƱo has a very nice blog entry about 10 things one might do with tessellation.
The graphics pipeline continues evolving and while reading Ignacio's entry I realized that we haven't been that good about communicating the evolution of Gallium3D.
So here we go.

I've been slowly working towards support for geometry shaders in Gallium3D. Interface wise the changes are quite trivial, but a little bigger issue is that some (quite modern) hardware, while perfectly capable of emitting geometry in the pipeline is not quite capable of actually supporting all of the features of geometry shader extension. The question of how to handle that is an interesting one, because just simple emission of geometry via a shader is a very desirable feature (for example path rendering in OpenVG would profit from that).

I've been doing some small API cleanups lately. Jose made some great changes to the concept of surfaces, which became pure views on textures. As a follow up, over the last few days we have disassociated buffers from them, to make it really explicit. It gives drivers the opportunity to optimize a few things and with some changes Michel is working on avoid some redundant copies.

A lot of work went into winsys. Winsys, which is a little misnomer, was a part of Gallium that did too much. It was supposed to be a resource manager, handle command submission and handle integration with windowing systems and OS'es. We've been slowly chopping parts of it away. Making it a lot smaller and over the weekend managed to hide it completely from the state tracker side.

Keith extracted the Xlib and DRI code from winsys and put it into separate state trackers. Meaning that just like WGL state tracker, the code is actually sharable between all the drivers. That is great news.

Brian has been fixing and implementing so many bugs/features that people should start writing folk songs about him. Just the fact that we now support GL_ARB_framebuffer_object deserves at least a poem (not a big one, but certainly none of that white, non-rhyming stuff, we're talking full fledged rhymes and everything... You can tell that I know a lot about poetry can't you)

One thing that never got a lot of attention is that Thomas (who did get one of them baby thingies lately) released his window systems buffer manager code.

Another thing that didn't get a lot of attention is Alan's xf86-video-modesetting driver. It's a dummy X11 driver that uses DRM for modesetting and Gallium3D for graphics acceleration. Because of that it's hardware independent, meaning that all hardware that has a DRM driver and Gallium3D driver automatically works and is accelerated under X11. Very neat stuff.

Alright, I feel like I'm cutting into your youtube/facebook time and like all "Lost Sons of Norway, Dukes of Poland and Kings of England" I know my place, so that's it.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


I missed you so much. Yes, you. No, not you. You. I couldn't blog for a while and I ask you (no, not you) what's the point of living if one can't blog? Sure, there's the world outside of computers, but it's a scary place filled with people that, god forbid, might try interacting with you. Who needs that? It turns out that I do. I've spent the last week in Portland on the OpenCL working group meeting which was a part of the Khronos F2F.

For those who don't know (oh, you poor souls) OpenCL is what could be described as "the shit". That's the official spelling but substituting the word "the" for "da" is considered perfectly legal. Longer description includes the expansion of the term OpenCL to "Open Computing Language" with an accompanying wikipedia entry. OpenCL has all the ingredients, including the word "Open" right in the name, to make it one of the most important technologies of the coming years.

OpenCL allows us to tap into the tremendous power of modern GPUs. Not only that but also one can use OpenCL with accelerators (like the physics chips or Cell SPU's) and CPUs. On top of that hardware OpenCL provides both task-based and data-based parallelism making it a fascinating options for those who want to accelerate their code. For example if you have a canvas (Qt graphicsview) and you spend a lot of time doing collision detection, or if you have image manipulation application (Krita) and you spend a lot of time in effects and general image manipulation, or if you have a scientific chemistry application with an equation solver (Kalzium) and want to make it all faster, or if you have wonky hair and like to dance polka... OK, the last one is a little a fuzzy but you get the point.

Make no mistake, OpenCL is little bit more complicated than just "write your algorithm in C". Albeit well hidden, the graphics pipeline is still at the forefront of the design, so there are some limitations (remember that for a number of really good and few inconvenient reasons GPUs do their own memory management so you can not just move data structures between main and graphics memory). It's one of the reasons that you won't see a GCC based OpenCL implementation any time soon. OpenCL requires run time execution, it allows sharing of buffers with OpenGL (e.g. OpenCL image data type can be constructed from GL textures or renderbuffers) and it forces code generation to a number of different targets (GPUs, CPUs, accelerators). All those things need to be integrated. For sharing of buffers between OpenGL and OpenCL the two APIs need to go through some kind of a common framework - be it a real library or some utility code that exposes addresses and their meaning to both OpenGL and OpenCL implementations.

Fortunately we already have that layer. Gallium3D maps perfectly to the buffer and command management in OpenCL. Which shouldn't be surprising given that they both care about the graphics pipeline. So all we need is a new state tracker with some compiler framework integrated to parse and code generate from the OpenCL C language. LLVM is the obvious choice here because unlike GCC, LLVM has libraries that we can use for both (to be more specific it's Clang and LLVM). So yes, we started on an OpenCL state tracker, but of course we are far, far away from actual conformance. Being part of a large company means that we have to go through extensive legal reviews before releasing something in the open so right now we're patiently waiting.
My hope is that once the state tracker is public the work will continue at a lot faster pace. I'd love to see our implementation pass conformance with at least one GPU driver by summer (which is /hard/ but definitely not impossible).