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MathGroup Archive 2010

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CUDA Support Issues on Current Laptops

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg113950] CUDA Support Issues on Current Laptops
  • From: telefunkenvf14 <rgorka at gmail.com>
  • Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2010 05:08:22 -0500 (EST)

Short version:

Before you purchase a new laptop make sure to thoroughly research the
CUDA support and ability to upgrade graphics drivers. Do you have to
use OEM drivers or can you install drivers directly from NVIDIA?

Long version:

For those interested in CUDA on a newer laptop, or those interested in
purchasing a new laptop because it claims to support CUDA, a warning:

Lack of support from your laptop manufacturer may make it difficult to
dive right in to CUDA programming in Mathematica 8. (So don't blame
WRI, or even NVIDIA, if/when it doesn't work!!!) Based on what I've
learned, the warning is especially valid for machines with some sort
of switchable graphics.

Why?

Drivers for these systems are a combination of Intel and (in my case)
NVIDIA drivers, and a lot of tweaks go into making them play nice
together. As such, the NVIDIA drivers currently packaged in OEM laptop
drivers (from companies like Dell, Sony, Acer, etc.) are often way out
of date in terms of CUDA version support.
Even more frustrating is the fact that these companies appear
unconcerned with maintaining updated graphics drivers and CUDA
support. I say this given that they continue to sell supposedly CUDA
compliant machines---ok, yeah, but it's CUDA version 2 or 2.2. (These
versions are waaaay out of date in CUDA land.) **I'm not aware of
Apple's CUDA support, but presume it's probably better.**

Aren't there some workarounds?

Not really unless you are willing to try either:

(1) bios hacks (so you can shut switchable graphics off completely and
force the NVIDIA driver to be used full time). Windows *might* then
let you install the new version of the appropriate driver. Of course,
you might also void your warranty and/or brick your machine. Great
combo! :D

(2) hacking together newer versions of Intel and NVIDIA drivers for
your machine, or trying hacked driver packages produced by others and
downloaded from shady corners of the web. This is also PITA because
you'll have to deal with driver signing on 64-bit versions of Windows.

-RG

FYI: I've been using the last two prereleases of Mathematica v8 and
haven't been able to get any version of CUDA working on my brand new
Sony Z12 laptop. I love the laptop overall---check the specs on these
things and you'll see why---but, after all this hassle, I wish I'd
just gone with a new MacBook Pro or at least Googled Sony Z CUDA
Support prior to ordering.


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