Houdini: Magic Doesn't Just Happen
We all know about those movies with the great special effects: The Matrix, Armageddon, The X-Files Movie, Godzilla, Lost In Space. The list goes on and on. Up until now, most of those effects have been done on SGI workstations. SGI has been a leader in this field for many years. However, in the past few years, a migration to low-end, low-cost, Intel-based PC hardware has occurred. This migration has included Windows, the only OS considered to work well on those Intel desktop computers. That situation is about to change.
Side Effects Software (http://www.sidefx.com/), a graphics software company founded in 1987 in Toronto, Canada, is porting its only product, Houdini, to Linux. This is big news in the graphics world. Houdini is the software used to create many of the stunning effects in the movies I just mentioned. To those in the graphics arts world, this is the equivalent of Oracle, Corel or Lotus porting to Linux. It gives credibility to the platform in an area where it had been mostly a curiosity.
Linux has had a major role in a few movies in the past. Darryl Strauss' article (LJ, February 1998) about Digital Domain's Linux render farm for Titanic proved that, but Linux hasn't been used as the primary graphic artist's platform for these movies. Like so many other industries, the film and video industries have been using Linux as a server, a box off in the corner happily crunching numbers or dishing out files over high-speed networks. Now, Linux gets to take center stage on the desktop.
Side Effects' Houdini product is a complete 3-D solution, encompassing modeling, compositing, lighting, particle systems, texture management, rendering and animation features. Currently in its third release, Houdini was one of the first modeling and animation products to adopt a procedural approach to 3-D. Recently, Houdini received an Academy Award for “Technical Achievement”, presented to four of the company's original developers. Used by companies like Digital Domain, Blue Sky/VIFX Studios and Centropolis Effects, Houdini is a heavyweight in the film industry.
Previously, Houdini has been supported only on SGI Irix workstation class systems. They recently announced support for Windows NT. The port to Linux comes at a time when many hardware vendors are looking for reasons to bring their high-end graphics cards into the Linux fold. Paul Salvini, Director of R&D at Side Effects Software, talks of it as the “chicken and egg” problem:
Doing a product like this for Linux required hardware acceleration to make it really viable, but hardware acceleration often requires applications in order to warrant drivers to be written. From a graphics workstation point of view, Linux isn't ready. There haven't been that many proper drivers for hardware acceleration for OpenGL under Linux. There are a number under development, but as far as state of the art, there aren't that many in production. The reason is that there aren't any applications pushing the need for these drivers. The applications want the drivers; the drivers are looking for applications.
Linux is a viable, popular, rendering platform. Many houses that formerly used SGI servers for rendering are moving to, or at least considering, low-cost Linux platforms for their rendering farms. This might be due to their familiarity with UNIX or concerns with Windows NT stability or even if they just prefer not to have a mixed UNIX/NT environment.
With Linux, most of the current software development is driven from the bottom: what happens in the kernel drives what happens with applications. Side Effects thinks, for the high-end graphics market at least, this needs to be a bit different. Houdini is an application, with low-level needs that aren't quite available the way Side Effects wants them. Salvini said:
What will happen is the missing pieces underneath will just naturally fill in—development is being driven from the top of the software chain. This is an exciting change in the way development happens for Linux.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide