2011.01.10 in

Random Friday Adventure

The evening started out with a simple goal: to avoid paying extra for an Apple approved video card, and get more screens to work for Peter. For his Mac Pro, Peter made the unfortunate choice of a Radeon 5750, as this GPU does not have doubles. Doubles are a critical feature for Milkyway@Home. Apple's OpenCL implementation unfortunately seems to be missing support for doubles on GPUs which is also problematic.

We started out leaving Open Source Software Practice class and headed to Peter's apartment, stopping for pizza on the way. Peter gave us a tour of his scary apartment in the sketchy parts of Troy, and showed us the demon GPU. Tim and Peter argued for a while about something dealing with backups and new hard drives. Earlier Tim had been giving out hard drives after giving up on Jayne's disk situation and getting a new NAS box, in addition to random sale drives Peter had. Peter was concerned about preserving his torrents; his ratio is important to him. There was some kind of copy that was never going to finish.

To use this random GPU from Newegg in the Mac Pro, it needed new EFI friendly firmware or something like that. It's not exactly clear to me why it needs to be different. I had suggested to Peter getting the 5830, since the 5830 a much more acceptable card, with doubles! I found a comment on a blog post about these hacky firmwares which claimed to have it sort of working with some weird caveats about which outputs worked. The correct, good GPU with no work would be a 5870 from Apple, though that would be more expensive.

We sat around Peter's apartment for a while before heading to our apartment to use my desktop for flashing purposes. Peter drove us, but there wasn't parking near our apartment. We went one street over, a strange place I have never been before. I have had to swap my GPU on a daily basis recently to work on Milkyway@Home, so I put in Peter's new GPU. While waiting to be told the next step to try, I played with the AMD OpenCL examples. To flash the video card, we thought we needed to get a DOS boot disk with the flash utility, which couldn't be used from Windows. It turns out this is close to impossible. I don't really remember all the nonsense we tried, but there was all kinds of boot sector hackery, and 16-bit tools which wouldn't run. We spent many hours making various disks and trying to flash with each one. Files would just mysteriously not show up and pretty much everything was failing. While the garbage utilities we were trying to use were old, the whole experience seemed like an adventure in computer use from the very early 90s. We booted off of Tim's camera, although it didn't actually help.

We eventually gave up and decided we could try flashing it again after it was installed in the Mac Pro and see if it would just happen to work. We went outside and couldn't find Peter's car. We walked up and down the street looking for it, and Peter came to the conclusion that it was towed again. It turns out it was; the fence we parked in front of was apparently a driveway of sorts. The next day Peter was supposed to drive some person he had never met through some extended relation, and didn't really want to do it. He now had the perfect excuse to get out of it, but for some reason was determined to go get the car now. We didn't have any other way to get there, so we were going to walk.

We stopped at the pizza place briefly so Peter could get money for the tow from the ATM. We then started our walking adventure through Troy after midnight. I haven't really wandered through Troy yet in almost 4 years. This walking adventure took a bit more than half an hour to the fabulous garage. Some random people in a car parked there said the guy was calling back, but Peter still called the guy, who confirmed he was coming back. We headed around back to where the cars were and paid the tow guy, where some kind of sketchy guy showed up behind.

Peter paid $200 I think for the tow. It would have been cheaper to buy the Apple 5870 in the first place and avoid all of this. After that, we went to Denny's. Peter had commentary on some of the other patrons here at 2 am. I noticed that many of the people were old and wearing fancy clothes which I found strange.

I ordered some kind of food which I didn't quite understand what it was, so I pointed to it on the menu using my formidable social skills. I didn't quite get the right thing, but close enough. While sitting there eating, Peter explained that he had talked to Netkas about something or other related to the original GPU problem. Tim and I got excited, and sort of asked in disbelief about this conversation with him. It was kind of sad and hilarious that we both instantly recognized this completely random OSx86 hacker. We left Denny's and still didn't have a working GPU in a Mac Pro so everything was a complete failure.

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