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All blog entries, ordered from most recent. Entry count: 1082.

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# Vulkan Memory Allocator 2.0.0

Mar 2018

At Game Developers Conference (GDC) last week I released final version 2.0.0 of Vulkan Memory Allocator library. It is now well documented and thanks to contributions from open source community it compiles and works on Windows, Linux, Android, and MacOS. Together with it I released VMA Dump Vis - a Python script that visualizes Vulkan memory on a picture. From now on I will continue incremental development on "development" branch and occasionally merge to "master". Feel free to contact me if you have any feedback, suggestions or if you find a bug.

Comments | #vulkan #libraries #productions #graphics Share

# Switchable graphics versus D3D11 adapters

Feb 2018

When you have a laptop with so called "switchable graphics" (like I do in my Lenovo IdeaPad G50-80), you effectively have two GPUs. In my case, these are: Intel i7-5500U and AMD Radeon R5 M330. While programming in DirectX 11, you can enumerate these two adapters and choose any of them while creating a ID3D11Device object. For quite some time I was wondering how various settings of this "switchable graphics" affect my app? Today I finally figured it out. Long story short: They just change order of these adapters as visible to my program, so that the appropriate one is visible as adapter 0. Here is the full story:

It looks like the base setting is the one that can be found in Windows Settings > Power options > edit your power plan > Switchable Dynamic Graphics. (Not to confuse with "AMD Graphics Power Settings"!) When you set it to "Optimize power savings" or "Optimize performance", application sees Intel GPU as first adapter:

When you choose "Maximize performance", application sees AMD GPU as first adapter:

I also found that Radeon Settings (the app that comes with AMD graphics driver) overrides this system setting. If you go to System > Switchable Graphics and make configuration for your specific executable, then again: choosing "Power Saving" makes your app see Intel GPU as first adapter, while choosing "High Performance" makes AMD graphics first.

It's as simple as that. Basically if you always use the first adapter you find, then you follow recommended settings of the system. You are still free to use the other adapter while creating your D3D11 device. I checked that - it works and it really uses that one.

It's especially important if you meet a strange bug where your app hangs on one of these GPUs.

Update 2018-05-02: Microsoft plans to add an API for enumerating adapters based on a given GPU preference (minimum power or high performance). See IDXGIFactory6::EnumAdapterByGpuPreference.

Comments | #directx Share

# Memory management in Vulkan and DX12 - my talk at GDC 2018

Feb 2018

If you happen to come to this year's Game Developers Conference (GDC), I'd like to invite you to my talk: "Memory management in Vulkan and DX12". During this lecture I will not only advertise my Vulkan Memory Allocator library, but I will also show technical details, tips and tricks for GPU memory management that you can use on your own when programming using Vulkan or Direct3D 12.

List of presentations made by my colleagues at AMD can be found here: GDC 2018 Presentations - GPUOpen, and list of all GDC talks is available as Session Scheduler on

Comments | #vulkan #directx #gdc #events #teaching Share

# When integrated graphics works better

Feb 2018

In RPG games the more powerful your character is, the more tough and scary are the monsters you have to fight. I sometimes get a feeling that the same applies to real life - bugs you meet when you are a programmer. I recently blogged about the issue when QueryPerformanceCounter call takes long time. I've just met another weird problem. Here is my story:

I have Lenovo IdeaPad G50-80 (80E502ENPB) laptop. It has switchable graphics: integrated Intel i7-5500U and dedicated AMD Radeon R5 M330. Of course I used to choose AMD dedicated graphics, because it's more powerful. My application is a music visualization program. It renders graphics using Direct3D 11. It uses one ID3D11Device object and one thread for rendering, but two windows displayed on two outputs: output 1 (laptop screen) contains window with GUI and preview, while output 2 (projector connected via VGA or HDMI) shows main view using borderless, topmost window covering whole screen (but not real fullscreen as in IDXGISwapChain::​SetFullscreenState). I tend to enable V-sync on output 1 (IDXGISwapChain::​Present SyncInterval = 1) and disable it on output 0 (SyncInterval = 0). My rendering algorithm looks like this:

Loop over frames:
    Render scene to MainRenderTarget
    Render MainRenderTarget to OutputBackBuffer, covering whole screen
    Render MainRenderTarget to PreviewBackBuffer, on a quad
    Render ImGui to PreviewBackBuffer

So far I had just one problem with it: my framerate decreased over time. It used to drop very quickly after launching the app from 60 to 30 FPS and stabilize there, but after few hours it was steadily decreasing to 20 FPS or even less. I couldn't identify the reason for it in my code, like a memory leak. It seemed to be related to rendering. I could somehow live with this issue - low framerate was not that noticable.

Suddenly this Thursday, when I wanted to test new version of the program, I realized it hangs after around a minute from launching. It was a strange situation in which the app seemed to be running normally, but it was just not rendering any new frames. I could see it still works by inspecting CPU usage and thread list with Process Hacker. I could minimize its windows or cover them by other windows and they preserved their content after restoring. I even captured trace in GPUView, only to notice that the app is filling DirectX command queue and AMD GPU is working. Still, nothing was rendered.

That was a frightening situation for me, because I need to have it working for this weekend. After I checked that restarting app or the whole system doesn't help, I tried to identify the cause and fix it in various ways:

1. I thought that maybe there is just some bug in the new version of my program, so I launched the previous version - one that successfully worked before, reaching more than 10 hours of uptime. Unfortunately, the problem still occured.

2. I thought that maybe it's a bug in the new AMD graphics driver, so I downloaded and installed previous version, performing "Clean install". It didn't help either.

3. In desperation, I formatted whole hard drive and reinstalled operating system. I planned to to it anyway, because it was a 3-year-old system, upgraded from Windows 8 and I had some other problems with it (that I don't describe here because they were unrelated to graphics). I installed the latest, clean Windows 10 with latest updates and all the drivers. Even that didn't solve my problem. The program still hung soon after every launch.

I finally came up with an idea to switch my app to using Intel integrated graphics. It can be done in Radeon Settings > "Switchable Graphics" tab. In a popup menu for a specific executable, "High Performance" means choosing dedicated AMD GPU and "Power Saving" means choosing integrated Intel GPU. See article Configuring Laptop Switchable Graphics... for details.

It solved my problem! The program not only doesn't hang any longer, but it also maintains stable 60 FPS now (at least it did during my 2h test). Framerate drops only when there is a scene that blends many layers together on a FullHD output - apparently this GPU cannot keep up with drawing so many pixels per second. Anyway, this is the situation where using integrated Intel graphics turns out work better than a faster, dedicated GPU.

I still don't know what is the cause of this strange bug. Is it something in the way my app uses D3D11? Or is it a bug in graphics driver (one of the two I need to have installed)? I'd like to investigate it further when I find some time. For now, I tend to believe that:

- The only thing that might have changed recently and break my app was some Windows updated pushed by Microsoft.

- The two issues: the one that I had before with framerate decreasing over time and the new one with total image freeze are related. They may have something to do with switchable graphics - having two different GPUs in the system, both enabled at the same time. I suspect that maybe when I want to use Radeon, the outputs (or one of them) are connected to Intel anyway, so the image needs to be copied and synchronized with Intel driver.

Update 2018-02-21: Later after I published this post, I tried few other things to fix the problem. For example, I updated AMD graphics driver to latest version 18.2.2. It didn't help. Suddently, the problem disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared. It happened during a single system launch, without a restart. My application was hunging, and later it started working properly. The only thing that I can remember doing in between was downloading and launching UIforETW - a GUI tool for capturing Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) traces, like the ones for GPUView. I know that it automatically installs GPUView and other necessary tools on first launch, so that may have changed something in my system. Either way, now my program works on AMD graphics without a hang, reaching few hours of uptime and maintaining 60 FPS, which only sometimes drops to 30 FPS, but it also go back up.

Comments | #directx #gpu #windows Share

# 6th tip to understand legacy code

Jan 2018

I just watched a video published 2 days ago: 5 Tips to Understand Legacy Code by Jonathan Boccara. I like it a lot, yet I feel that something is missing here. The author gives 5 tips for how can you start figuring out a large codebase that is new to you.

  1. "Find a stronghold" - a small portion of the code (even single line) that you understand perfectly and expand from there, look at the code around it.
  2. "Analyze stacks" - put a breakpoint to capture a representative moment in the execution of the program (with someone's help) and look at call stack to understand layers of the code.
  3. "Start from I/O" - analyze the code that processes data at the very beginning (input data, e.g. source file) or at the end (output data).
  4. "Decoupling" - learn by trying to do some refactoring of the code, especially to decouple some of its parts.
  5. "Padded-room" - find a code that doesn't depend on any other (has limited scope) and go from there.

These are all great advices. I agree with them. But computer programs have two aspects: dynamic (the way the code executes over time - algorithms, functions, control flow) and static (the way data are stored in memory - data structures). I have a feeling that these 5 points focus mostly on dynamic aspect, so as an advocate of "data-oriented design" I would add another point:

6. "Core data structure": Find structures, classes, variables, enums, and other definitions that describe the most important data that the program is operating on. For example, if it's a game engine, see how objects of a 3D scene are defined (some abstract base CGameObject class), how they can relate to each other (forming a tree structure or so-called scene graph), what properties do they have (name, ID, position, size, orientation, color), what kinds of them are available (mesh, camera, light). Or if that's a compiler, look for definition of Abstract Syntax Tree (AST) node and enum with list of all opcodes. Draw UML diagram that will show what data types are defined, what member variables do they contain and how do they relate to each other (inheritance, composition). After visualizing and understanding that, it will be much easier to analyze the dynamic aspect - code of algorithms that operate on this data. Together, they form the essence of the program. All the rest are just helpers.

Comments | #software engineering Share

# How to view CHM files on high DPI monitor?

Jan 2018

Using monitors with high resolution like 4K, where you need to set DPI scaling other than 100%, is pain in the *** in Windows - it causes trouble with many applications. That’s why I want to stick with FullHD monitors as long as possible. One of the apps that doesn’t scale with DPI is Microsoft’s own viewer for CHM files (Microsoft Compiled HTML Help). CHM is a file format commonly used for software help/documentation. It has been introduced with Windows 98 as a replacement for old HLP (WinHelp). Although we read almost everything online these days, some programs and libraries still use it.

A CHM document is completely unreadable on 4K monitor with 200% DPI scaling:

I searched Google for solution. Some sources say there is Font button in the app’s toolbar that lets increase font size, but it doesn’t work in my case. This page says that availability of this button can be configured when creating CHM file.  This page mentions some alternative readers for CHM format (Firefox plugin, as well as standalone app).

I know that apps which misbehave under high DPI can be configured to work in “compatibility mode”, when Windows just rescales their window. I found out that executable for this default CHM reader is c:\Windows\hh.exe, but I couldn’t find this setting in Properties of this file. I thought that maybe it’s because the file is located in system directory and owned by the system with insufficient privileges for administrators and normal users, so I came up with following solution that actually works:

  1. Copy file c:\Windows\hh.exe somewhere else, e.g. to D:\Soft\hh.exe
  2. Right-click file D:\Soft\hh.exe. Choose Properties -> “hh.exe Properties” window appears.
  3. Go to Compatibility tab. Check “Override high DPI scaling behavior. Scaling performed by:”. Set combobox below to “System (Enhanced)”. Click OK -> window closes.
  4. Launch this executable with command-line parameter to browse CHM file of your choice, e.g.: D:\Soft\hh.exe "d:\AGS_SDK-5.1.1\ags_lib\doc\amd_ags.chm" -> document should open in the browser with font size good for reading. Every pixel is just scaled to 2x2 pixels.

Comments | #windows Share

# Driver source code is not what you may think

Dec 2017

AMD just released Open Source Driver for Vulkan, with source code available on GitHub under MIT license. That’s a good opportunity to explain how drivers source look like. When I was developing graphics driver (I no longer do - I now have quite different position), people kept asking me "How is it like to code in C?" or "How is it like to code in kernel space?", unaware that none of it was true in my case.

Many developers think that coding a driver is some hardcore, low-level stuff. Maybe it is true for some small drivers in embedded systems world. What they may not know is that a modern PC graphics driver (and I bet other kinds of drivers as well) is a very complex beast, with only a small portion of it working in kernel mode and only a small portion (if any) written in plain old C or assembly. Majority of the code is just normal C++ with classes, virtual functions and everything. It is compiled into normal user-mode DLL libraries that get loaded into address space of a game. Sure the code may be a little bit different than standard desktop apps. It may be optimized for performance, as well as memory usage. It may not use exceptions, Boost or STL. It may have to handle out-of-memory errors gracefully. But it’s still a modern, object-oriented code that uses (relatively) new language features like constexpr or enum class.

Comments | #driver #graphics Share

# Rendering Optimization - My Talk at Warsaw University of Technology

Dec 2017

If you happen to be in Warsaw tomorrow (2017-12-13), I'd like to invite you to my talk at Warsaw University of Technology. On the weekly meeting of Polygon group, this time the first talk will be about about artificial intelligence in action games (by Kacpi), followed by mine about rendering optimization. It will be technical, but I think it should be quite easy to understand. I won't show a single line of code. I will just give some tips for getting good performance when rendering 3D graphics on modern GPUs. I will also show some tools that can help with performance profiling. It will be all in Polish. The event starts at 7 p.m. Entrance is free. See also Facebook event. Traditionally after the talks we all go for a beer :)

Comments | #teaching #graphics #gpu #optimization Share

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