19 Oct 2017

feedPlanet Debian

Clint Adams: Scuttlebutt at the precinct

So who's getting patchwork into Debian?

Posted on 2017-10-19
Tags: bamamba

19 Oct 2017 10:10pm GMT

Lior Kaplan: Hacktoberfest 2017 @ Tel Aviv

I gave my "Midburn - creating an open source community" talk in Hacktoberfest 2017 @ Tel Aviv. This is the local version of an initiative by DigitalOcean and GitHub.

I was surprised about the vibe both the location and the organizers gave the event, and the fact they could easily arrange t-shirts, pizzas and beer.

Looking at the github search, it seem the worldwide event brings many new contributions. I think we have something to learn how to do a mass concept like that. Especially when it crosses both project limits and country limits. (e.g. not a local bug squashing party).

Filed under: Open source businesses

19 Oct 2017 9:22pm GMT

Steinar H. Gunderson: Introducing Narabu, part 2: Meet the GPU

Narabu is a new intraframe video codec. You may or may not want to read part 1 first.

The GPU, despite being extremely more flexible than it was fifteen years ago, is still a very different beast from your CPU, and not all problems map well to it performance-wise. Thus, before designing a codec, it's useful to know what our platform looks like.

A GPU has lots of special functionality for graphics (well, duh), but we'll be concentrating on the compute shader subset in this context, ie., we won't be drawing any polygons. Roughly, a GPU (as I understand it!) is built up about as follows:

A GPU contains 1-20 cores; NVIDIA calls them SMs (shader multiprocessors), Intel calls them subslices. (Trivia: A typical mid-range Intel GPU contains two cores, and thus is designated GT2.) One such core usually runs the same program, although on different data; there are exceptions, but typically, if your program can't fill an entire core with parallelism, you're wasting energy. Each core, in addition to tons (thousands!) of registers, also has some "shared memory" (also called "local memory" sometimes, although that term is overloaded), typically 32-64 kB, which you can think of in two ways: Either as a sort-of explicit L1 cache, or as a way to communicate internally on a core. Shared memory is a limited, precious resource in many algorithms.

Each core/SM/subslice contains about 8 execution units (Intel calls them EUs, NVIDIA/AMD calls them something else) and some memory access logic. These multiplex a bunch of threads (say, 32) and run in a round-robin-ish fashion. This means that a GPU can handle memory stalls much better than a typical CPU, since it has so many streams to pick from; even though each thread runs in-order, it can just kick off an operation and then go to the next thread while the previous one is working.

Each execution unit has a bunch of ALUs (typically 16) and executes code in a SIMD fashion. NVIDIA calls these ALUs "CUDA cores", AMD calls them "stream processors". Unlike on CPU, this SIMD has full scatter/gather support (although sequential access, especially in certain patterns, is much more efficient than random access), lane enable/disable so it can work with conditional code, etc.. The typically fastest operation is a 32-bit float muladd; usually that's single-cycle. GPUs love 32-bit FP code. (In fact, in some GPU languages, you won't even have 8-, 16-bit or 64-bit types. This is annoying, but not the end of the world.)

The vectorization is not exposed to the user in typical code (GLSL has some vector types, but they're usually just broken up into scalars, so that's a red herring), although in some programming languages you can get to swizzle the SIMD stuff internally to gain advantage of that (there's also schemes for broadcasting bits by "voting" etc.). However, it is crucially important to performance; if you have divergence within a warp, this means the GPU needs to execute both sides of the if. So less divergent code is good.

Such a SIMD group is called a warp by NVIDIA (I don't know if the others have names for it). NVIDIA has SIMD/warp width always 32; AMD used to be 64 but is now 16. Intel supports 4-32 (the compiler will autoselect based on a bunch of factors), although 16 is the most common.

The upshot of all of this is that you need massive amounts of parallelism to be able to get useful performance out of a CPU. A rule of thumb is that if you could have launched about a thousand threads for your problem on CPU, it's a good fit for a GPU, although this is of course just a guideline.

There's a ton of APIs available to write compute shaders. There's CUDA (NVIDIA-only, but the dominant player), D3D compute (Windows-only, but multi-vendor), OpenCL (multi-vendor, but highly variable implementation quality), OpenGL compute shaders (all platforms except macOS, which has too old drivers), Metal (Apple-only) and probably some that I forgot. I've chosen to go for OpenGL compute shaders since I already use OpenGL shaders a lot, and this saves on interop issues. CUDA probably is more mature, but my laptop is Intel. :-) No matter which one you choose, the programming model looks very roughly like this pseudocode:

for (size_t workgroup_idx = 0; workgroup_idx < NUM_WORKGROUPS; ++workgroup_idx) {   // in parallel over cores
        char shared_mem[REQUESTED_SHARED_MEM];  // private for each workgroup
        for (size_t local_idx = 0; local_idx < WORKGROUP_SIZE; ++local_idx) {  // in parallel on each core
                main(workgroup_idx, local_idx, shared_mem);

except in reality, the indices will be split in x/y/z for your convenience (you control all six dimensions, of course), and if you haven't asked for too much shared memory, the driver can silently make larger workgroups if it helps increase parallelity (this is totally transparent to you). main() doesn't return anything, but you can do reads and writes as you wish; GPUs have large amounts of memory these days, and staggering amounts of memory bandwidth.

Now for the bad part: Generally, you will have no debuggers, no way of logging and no real profilers (if you're lucky, you can get to know how long each compute shader invocation takes, but not what takes time within the shader itself). Especially the latter is maddening; the only real recourse you have is some timers, and then placing timer probes or trying to comment out sections of your code to see if something goes faster. If you don't get the answers you're looking for, forget printf-you need to set up a separate buffer, write some numbers into it and pull that buffer down to the GPU. Profilers are an essential part of optimization, and I had really hoped the world would be more mature here by now. Even CUDA doesn't give you all that much insight-sometimes I wonder if all of this is because GPU drivers and architectures are meant to be shrouded in mystery for competitiveness reasons, but I'm honestly not sure.

So that's it for a crash course in GPU architecture. Next time, we'll start looking at the Narabu codec itself.

19 Oct 2017 5:45pm GMT