Friday, March 27, 2009

The World Wide Web is Twenty Years Old – An Industrial Technology for All

In many posts in this blog I highlight technologies from the commercial space that can be used by the industrial user. The World Wide Web which is 20 years old this year was conceived by Tim Berners-Lee and is one example of an industrial technology that the commercial and private world adopted for their use.

It came about by Tim Berners-Lee writing a paper called "Information Management : a Proposal" which his managers found to be somewhat vague. Despite this fact, CERN decided to test out the concept and in 1991, an early version of the system was launched to the high energy physics community which included the simple browser, web server software and a library.

By offering it free the barriers to adoption were low. The other driving force was the growing presence of PCs in the 90s and mobile devices in post-millennium that offered access through a web browser. In this article the author distinguishes between the internet which is the basic infrastructure using IP addresses to connect computers and servers and the web which is the layer of software on top called a browser that lets users interface with the web to share information and documents.

This all raises the question, what other technologies could be provided by the industrial space for the commercial?

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gaming Technology -- Graphical Processing Units

A Graphical Processing Unit is a dedicated graphical rendering device for the computer primarily related to 3D computer graphics.

The primary vendors for graphical processing units are Intel with their Laterbee due out in 2010, NVidia and AMD/ATI.

GPUs work particularly well for parallel programming which is where they come into use for virtual instrumentation. You can see more about the underlying architecture here. LabVIEW which provides parallel programming through a graphical interface needs an underlying hardware technology to realize the full potential of the language. While GPUs are not the only answer, they are part of it.

Applications for graphical processor units in the world of virtual instrumentation include parallel control of high performance applications such as found in a medical device for numerical computation, a large array of actuators for controlling an accelerator ring, or simulation of flow control system with a large number of variables to compute.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gaming Technology—Multicore Processing

The gaming industry pushes the envelope on several technological fronts. The first is the GUI. The graphical user interface on gaming applications is state-of-the-art. The renderings in today’s game has come a long ways and mimics reality to a high degree. For sports games, the developers use motion capture techniques to capture the realism of the human body. I’m sure this technology could also be applied to physiological measurements and simulation.

Gaming systems make use of multicore programming. In this paper, the company outlines how multicore improves the rendering of graphics.

For a list of tips and tricks in programming multicore systems, check out this blog which does a nice job of explaining the difference between multi-threading and multicore programming, reducing contention, and trashing.

For a counter-intuitive view of multicore programming check out this post which focuses on storage rather than processing power as the key to better programs. Since there’s not enough memory to hold the data infinite data storage becomes the key rather than faster processing.

An interesting source of information focused solely on multicore programming can be found here.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Gaming Industry—No Recession Here with a 22 by 22

I’ve blogged on the gaming industry before noting how it has surpassed the movie industry in revenue and most other industries in terms of technological developments. Now, in the midst of the worst economic environment since the Great Depression, comes the news that the gaming industry grew by 22% last year. According to the Entertainment Software Association the gaming industry topped $22B in sales in 2008 which represents a 22% increase over the year before. (Hence, the 22 x 22 in the title). Over 267M games were sold in 2007 across all platforms.
According to Ars Technica the gaming industry will hit $68B by 2012.

The early days of virtual instrumentation came with the advent of the personal computer. In the 1980’s which had its share of recessions and stock market drops, there was no recession in the PC-based software segment. The emerging gaming world at the time brought forth games such as Pacman, DonkeyKong, and others. Because of this market force, hardware and software vendors found it possible to continually expand and upgrade their systems to meet the demand for more computing power and usability. Virtual instrumentation applications caught a free ride on the back of gamers by using the personal computer hardware and software for measurement and automation applications.

Best regards,
Hall T.