Mac Pro graphics card options

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So we're running Houdini on Mac Pros, OS X 10.6.4, mostly Nehalem 2009 Mac Pros, some 2008's, but no new 2010 Westmere versions yet). Are there any graphics card options for these that don't have huge GL issues? I feel like I'm back on Houdini version 4 or 5, on the bleeding edge!

Does Houdini really run better with the Quadro FX 4800 than the GT-120 that shipped with it? I know that drivers (at least on Linux) are supposed to be better for the Quadro FX series). Remaining choices are few and far between: the nVidia GeForce 8800GT that shipped with the 2008 Mac Pros, the nVidia GTX-285 (of which we have a couple), and the ATI HD 4870.

Does anyone have a setup that's working reliably?
Antoine Durr
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I also would like to know what exactly is recommend for a Mac pro early 2008. I'm having a ati radeon hd 4870 and with the today's build (469) I get a crash after starting with a fatal error. The previous build (468) works fine so far.

I've reported a bug and get a fast answer:

  Are you able to upgrade your card to the ATI Fire Pro?

So I don't know what to do with a ATI FirePro which doesn't exist for my Mac pro?!?

I also have no budget to buy a nvidia quadro and that should be considered from sesi, hm does students have that budget?

Lastly I want to point out, that other 3d programs works very well and with the same viewport features as houdini 11 with that kind of graphic card, which I have.
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The ATI crash was a temporary glitch that's been corrected for tomorrow.

Lately, ATI cards have been much more stable on OSX than Nvidia cards. The exception may be the Nvidia GEForce 285 and Quadro 4800, which Nvidia provides a driver for. All the other OpenGL drivers are produced by Apple, and they are pretty seriously lagging the Windows/Linux drivers provided by Nvidia and ATI, in terms of features (OSX is still at OpenGL 2.1, which is roughly DirectX 9), stability and performance.

As far as Houdini 11 is concerned, the ATI cards on OSX support all H11 viewport features, while Nvidia cards have certain features disabled due to display corruption and crashing due to GLSL compiler bugs (area light shading, environment lights, infinite lights (only 8 ). These issues have been logged with Apple.
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twod
Lately, ATI cards have been much more stable on OSX than Nvidia cards. The exception may be the Nvidia GEForce 285 and Quadro 4800, which Nvidia
If you mean the GTX-285, I beg to disagree on its stability. We're rebooting 3-4 times a day, as the whole machine is brought to a grinding halt. Even ssh'ing in and running reboot won't successfully shutdown the machine.

On the issue of drivers, does doing a System Update automatically update the drivers to their latest version, or is that something I should do separately?
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Lately, ATI cards have been much more stable on OSX than Nvidia cards. The exception may be the Nvidia GEForce 285 and Quadro 4800, which Nvidia provides a driver for. All the other OpenGL drivers are produced by Apple, and they are pretty seriously lagging the Windows/Linux drivers provided by Nvidia and ATI, in terms of features (OSX is still at OpenGL 2.1, which is roughly DirectX 9), stability

I'm wondering which ATI card provided for Mac pro (2008/2009) are your recommended workstation-class card?
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Antoine Durr
Lately, ATI cards have been much more stable on OSX than Nvidia cards. The exception may be the Nvidia GEForce 285 and Quadro 4800, which Nvidia
If you mean the GTX-285, I beg to disagree on its stability. We're rebooting 3-4 times a day, as the whole machine is brought to a grinding halt. Even ssh'ing in and running reboot won't successfully shutdown the machine.

Is Houdini causing this, or is this a general systems stability problem? Have you tried downloading the driver from Nvidia instead of using the Apple-supplied driver?

I ran into one issue with rendering to a framebuffer object with multiple attachments that caused the system to freeze, then go into a “flicker-fit” as vsync went all crazy, requiring a reboot. Is this the sort of thing you're seeing?

On the issue of drivers, does doing a System Update automatically update the drivers to their latest version, or is that something I should do separately?

System Update does automatically update to the newest driver, which is often bundled in with the OS point update (10.6.3, 10.6.4). Unfortunately this makes it extremely difficult to roll back a driver, as you'd need to reinstall 10.6, then install 10.6.1, 10.6.2, etc. The last one that worked well with Houdini (before we had to start working around serious issues) was 10.6.2. We've tried to work around various issues, especially with Nvidia cards, on the Mac in later versions.

I have a Mac Pro (early 2008) tested with both a ATI 2600XT and Nvidia GT120, triple booted with Vista & Linux64. The same hardware works fine under these OS's and Houdini. While I've heard other rumblings that 10.6.4 had its issues with Nvidia cards, supposedly 10.6.5 is providing another big update to the drivers. Hopefully this will mean that I can start re-enabling features I had to disable because of driver problems in 10.6.3/4.

roughsporty
I'm wondering which ATI card provided for Mac pro (2008/2009) are your recommended workstation-class card?

Apple does make this difficult since they don't offer workstation cards at all as an option when building a Mac Pro, nor does any ATI FireGL/Pro card work in the system due to EFI. The current options, the ATI 5770 and 5850, should both work well because of their 1GB framebuffer. The 4850 should work ok as long as you're not driving multiple displays with Houdini, as it has 512MB. The older ATI 2600XT is a little sluggish, and I wouldn't recommend the ATI X1600 at all.
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Apple does make this difficult since they don't offer workstation cards at all as an option when building a Mac Pro, nor does any ATI FireGL/Pro card work in the system due to EFI. The current options, the ATI 5770 and 5850, should both work well because of their 1GB framebuffer. The 4850 should work ok as long as you're not driving multiple displays with Houdini, as it has 512MB. The older ATI 2600XT is a little sluggish, and I wouldn't recommend the ATI X1600 at all.

What do you think about the EVGA GEFORCE GTX 285 PCI-E GRAFIKKARTE 1 GB RAM ?
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I haven't tried it personally, but you're actually better off sticking with an ATI card on OSX, for the moment. I had to disable a fair number of viewport features on OSX with Nvidia cards to workaround shader issues.
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What do you think about the EVGA GEFORCE GTX 285 PCI-E GRAFIKKARTE 1 GB RAM ?
FYI, Apple no longer sells that card, at least on store.apple.com
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Is Houdini causing this, or is this a general systems stability problem? Have you tried downloading the driver from Nvidia instead of using the Apple-supplied driver?

I ran into one issue with rendering to a framebuffer object with multiple attachments that caused the system to freeze, then go into a “flicker-fit” as vsync went all crazy, requiring a reboot. Is this the sort of thing you're seeing?
We've seen the flicker-fit on just about every machine we have. But what's happening here is that flipbooks cease to function, mplay will have a sequence loaded and start showing black frames. Houdini will start eating 100% of a single core, and once you've killed Houdini and all the mplays, the rest of the UI is unresponsive (as if the Finder was busted). Eventually you're stuck in a corner and have to reboot.
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FYI, Apple no longer sells that card, at least on store.apple.com

But it is still available even if it's not available on apple store
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Antoine Durr
FYI, Apple no longer sells that card, at least on store.apple.com

But it is still available even if it's not available on apple store
But you have to wonder why they took it off the market so soon after introducing it. There are still plenty of 2008/2009 Mac Pros out there to warrant having it available unless…
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ok, I haven't know that fact
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Hey guys,

I'm running a Mac Pro early 2009 (I think… model 3,1) running 10.6.4 with a GTX285 on H11.0.460 - just chiming in that updating to the NVidia Cuda drivers ver 3.1.10 [bit.ly] fixed some issues I was having with the viewport and flicker-fits during IPR renders. I also updated to the lasted nVidia drivers. I haven't really tested everything, and it certainly seems like we really need to wait for apple to address the problem on their end, but it's certainly something worth looking into.
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Hi twod, so as you said drivers for NVidia cards in Mac are done by Apple rather than Nvidia?
What about ATI cards?
This makes me think that Apple is not still a good platform for 3D, if after using Nvidia cards in the mac platform Apple for years is unable to have a decent drivers support this is a serious point to leave the mac platform for 3D work.
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Pablo Giménez
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The low-level video drivers are done by ATI and Nvidia, while the OpenGL implementation is done by Apple. Since OSX uses OpenGL to do the rendering of its desktop, it makes sense that they'd want some measure of control over the the OpenGL API. However, I think it'd be a lot better if they left the OpenGL implementation up to ATI and Nvidia, since both those companies have a tremendous amount of experience with graphics APIs (IMO). Realistically, I just don't see that happening.
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twod
The low-level video drivers are done by ATI and Nvidia, while the OpenGL implementation is done by Apple. Since OSX uses OpenGL to do the rendering of its desktop, it makes sense that they'd want some measure of control over the the OpenGL API. However, I think it'd be a lot better if they left the OpenGL implementation up to ATI and Nvidia, since both those companies have a tremendous amount of experience with graphics APIs (IMO). Realistically, I just don't see that happening.
So, nowdays, Windows or Linus is a much better platform for 3D animaion.
And seems things are not going to change too much in the next months.
Writing thid from my MacBook Pro
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Well seems we have some news from Apple about an update for graphics drivers, ther is a new developer release of Mac OS X 10.6.5:
http://www.macrumors.com/2010/08/13/apple-seeds-first-developer-build-of-mac-os-x-10-6-5/ [macrumors.com]

Would be good to know if this new changes could help to solve some problems with the OpenGL
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twod
As far as Houdini 11 is concerned, the ATI cards on OSX support all H11 viewport features, while Nvidia cards have certain features disabled due to display corruption and crashing due to GLSL compiler bugs (area light shading, environment lights, infinite lights (only 8 ). These issues have been logged with Apple.

I wish this were true. I just got a mac pro 6-core westmere up and running with the default ATI 5770, osx 10.6.4 and the artifacts in houdini 11.0.497 are pretty rough. Not only do “all H11 viewport features” *not* work, but even turning them all off there are still artifacts. attached are a few images of a cube and grid. The first pic is all viewport options off, the other is with shadows, AO and high quality shading turned on. I'd happily use a fire pro card, but that's simply not an option with an apple. Thoughts?

.z

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h11_osX_ogl.jpg (378.0 KB)

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You need at least H11.0.480 to workaround the ATI driver bug introduced with the new Graphics Driver Update (Aug 19). For some reason, some textures that were generated by rendering to framebuffer objects would contain garbage unless they were first read back to system memory via a glGetTexImage() call. This affected the depth buffer texture primarily, which is why most effects stopped working along with the displayed garbage.
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