Newbe question on GPU computing performing calculations on an older GPU


I’m new to the application development arena so forgive me if I ask silly questions.

I’m a high energy physics graduate student at Northern Illinois University and my current research project involves running simulations of particle detectors using GEANT4. I’ve been using the school’s computers, but my personal computer is MUCH faster. I plan on setting up Linux on an external hard drive and using my personal computer for running my simulations.

Now for my question:
I saw the CUDA development tools for the GeForce 8000 series and on and I’d really like to know if there’s a way to use some of the older cards for processing something other than graphics. My system is one of the first sup’ed up laptops that offered SLI video cards. I have dual GeForce Go 7900 GTX’s in my computer.

Thanks for the help

only by programming your algorithm as a graphics problem.

Yeah, the only way to do it (from Linux at least) is through OpenGL. This is less than ideal, as you’ll have to shoehorn everything into a graphics model, which means things like

  • no arbitrary memory writes
  • say hello to driver problems (Driver: "oh, this isn’t actually writing anything to the screen, is it? I’ll just delete it and make the shader 50% faster! :D ")
  • GLSL is ugly, and you’re going to have to deal with float packing
  • toolchain might actually be worse (things are certainly harder to debug)

So yeah, it’s doable, but it’s not fun. I played with it some in college and stopped very quickly once CUDA was available. Separating from the 3D driver alone makes it worthwhile.

If your school has a graphics lab, you could always see what’s in there and if it’s usable for development.

So it’s possible, but difficult and frustrating. Not great, but not nothing either.

Thanks for all the help. At least the graphical portion of my simulation will be fast. I may have to look into upgrading to a CUDA compatible video card.

For a cheap, yet relatively FLOPS heavy solution, look into the sub $100 (70 EUR) range of 9600 GSO cards (rebranded 8800 GS). Available with 384 and 768 MB of memory. I think the limitation here is memory bandwidth.

I’m getting 4 of these with limited impact on my wallet.