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Interview with Terry Makedon – AMD

Terry Makedon is one of the most well known and highly respected AMD employees on the tech scene. While most of the high profile company representatives hide behind a desk and keyboard, Terry has always been the person talking to the end user on many of the leading forums – even when it meant he often took abuse. He is also one of AMD's ‘company personalities' who hosts an extremely popular twitter page.

He is also a very good friend of mine, we go back a good 10 years now — and when I asked him if he would answer some questions for our growing site he jumped at the chance. For those of you who don't know, Mr Makedon recently became a father and he was willing to share a few pictures of himself enjoying a bit of downtime.

As I have been out of the scene myself for a few months before opening KitGuru I sat down with him and we had a chat about AMD, graphics cards and what the future might hold for AMD.

Allan: Terry its great to speak to you again, and I am very happy you agreed to be the first interview we have on kitguru.net, please introduce yourself to the few people who don't already know you.

Terry: Allan I am extremely excited to be part of the launch of your new venture. I am the manager of software product management at AMD (and have been at ATI before that). I have been doing this for over 9 years now and really what it means is that I am responsible for Catalyst and all GPU related software at ATI.

Allan: I know you love to game, what is the fastest graphics card on the planet and what do you see happening over the next few months?

Terry: The HD 5970 holds that crown today, and with some of our add-in-board partners differentiating the design to create uber-editions such as the Sapphire HD 5970 4GB Atomic Edition, XFX HD 5970 4GB Eyefinity-6 Edition, and the ASUS Ares, we don't see this changing in the near future. These boards all feature 4GB of GDDR5 and huge overclocks, for performance thats 15%, 20% or even more over the standard HD 5970. The first XFX board just sold on eBay for $10,499 – of course that’s not what an end user would pay for it, but it does show the appetite for speed in gaming!

Allan: What engineering tradeoffs do you consider when designing such a product?

Terry: The whole process of defining a product is one long series of trade-offs, and it's our job to weigh these all against one another to best match the target segment. The tradeoffs that we make generally change depending on whether we're dealing with mainstream-class, performance-class, or enthusiast-class products. On enthusiast products, full feature set is generally a given so no major features are every at risk of being cut. Our biggest balancing act comes in the form of performance, power, and acoustics. We wanted to keep the HD 5970 under 300W so we tweaked clock speeds and voltages to get it there (along with a lot of other behind the scenes changes). This left a lot of headroom for end-users to push the boards back up to full HD5870 clocks, or for our AIBs to create OC boards like the ones I mentioned above. Another big balancing act we always have is acoustics versus temperature. Loud AND hot is not a good position to be in (and we don’t envy those that are in that position right now J), so we go through a lot of testing to compare different fan tables all which result in different combinations of temps and acoustics. In the end, we end up tuning fan speeds to what we consider is the optimal point.

Allan: What are the top 3 tips to enable eyefinity for a new user?

Terry: Eyefinity sure has had a lot of interest since it launched. Being able to play your games on 3 or even 6 monitors is really a mind blowing experience. Here are my top three suggestions:

1.       Hardware DisplayPort Connections. ATI Eyefinity technology leverages DisplayPort to drive up to 6 displays from a single GPU.  As a result, Eyefinity Display Groups of more than 2 displays require at least one DisplayPort connection. To get around the requirement for a DisplayPort monitor, one use an active DisplayPort adapter to connect DVI monitors.  A list of supported dongles is posted online at http://support.amd.com/us/eyefinity/Pages/eyefinity-dongles.aspx

2.       Bezel Compensation. One thing that can affect the gaming experience in Eyefinity is the thickness of the display bezels, and how that causes discontinuity in the way static objects cross the bezel gap, and in the way that objects in motion transition from one display to the next.  To enable a smooth and more pleasing experience, access the bezel compensation tool through Catalyst™ Control Center (in the ‘Desktops & Displays’ section).  In bezel-compensated mode, pixels are removed that should be obscured by the display bezels.  Note that Bezel compensation only works with monitor groups that have a pixel resolution and density within a 5% tolerance of each other.

3.      Profile Manager. ATI Eyefinity technology has very flexible setup options accessed through Catalyst Control Center.  Different configurations can be saved and accessed using the Profile Manager in Catalyst Control Center.  So, you can define a 3×1 Landscape Display Group for gaming, and easily switch back to 3 extended desktops for productivity and entertainment.

Allan: Where can users get information about Eyefinity and what games are supported on it.

Terry: Many popular games work with ATI Eyefinity resolutions out of the box – the application just treats the Display Group as one very large monitor. AMD maintains a list of game titles and applications that have been tested by our labs to verify compatibility with ATI Eyefinity technology.  That list is available at http://support.amd.com/us/eyefinity/Pages/eyefinity-software.aspx

Allan: What is new in the area of Stream? Tell me a bit about the new SDK you released last week.

Terry: We just released our latest update for our development kit, the ATI Stream SDK v2.1. One of the key themes with v2.1 was to provide developers with ways to better optimize their ATI Stream applications for performance. This release of the SDK adds some pretty useful features, including byte writes, access to the texture cache and filtering through OpenCL images, and support of several common media operations in OpenCL C kernels, such as pack/unpack and bit alignment. Developers can use these new features to really improve the performance of their application. In particular, byte writes and media operations are important for image processing applications. Access to the texture caches on the GPU provides a level of application controlled data caching which is applicable to many types of applications, keeping commonly used data on chip instead of requiring the kernels to go out to the GDDR5 on the card. In addition to all of those new features, v2.1, in conjunction with ATI Catalyst 10.4, really improves upon the performance that was already there in v2.01. We’ve had some developers tell us that their v2.01 code performance has improved anywhere from 30-300% simply by recompiling their code with the new SDK. If you haven’t had a chance to download and use the ATI Stream SDK v2 yet, now is a great time to give it a try. And if you have been using v2.01, definitely upgrade!

Allan: How has OpenCL been adopted by the industry? Has it been as successful as you wanted

Terry: We have been engaging with several ISVs both in the consumer space as well as the professional space. While I can’t tell you the names of some of the companies we are working with just yet, there is definitely quite a bit of interest in OpenCL and work being done porting applications from C to OpenCL as well as CUDA to OpenCL. Adoption is looking good and continuing to increase. You are going to see a few well placed applications using OpenCL later this year and early next year.

Allan: Catalyst Control Center has had the same look and feel since it was launched. Any thoughts of changing it?

Terry: That’s an excellent point Allan. The ATI Catalyst Control Center hasn’t really changed too much in almost six years!  Obviously I can’t say too much, but yes we are starting to look at the current user interface design, and we’re thinking about what kinds of things we could change to make it easier to use.

Allan: What are some of the most exciting Catalyst features you have worked on this year?

Terry: ATI Catalyst 10.3 was a huge release for us; it included so many cool features, but the top 3 had to be:

a.      The huge performance gains: Our driver performance team did it again – they worked really hard for months and everything just lined up perfectly for ATI Catalyst 10.3.  As we always say, ATI Catalyst is a huge part of a customer’s investment in an AMD graphics card – we’re always going to keep improving your product performance for many months after your initial purchase.

b.      ATI Catalyst Application Profiles: This is a feature we know our end users have been asking for many years, and it was really great to finally get this functionality out there – now when ever we get a new title in house, we don’t have to wait for the next Catalyst release (or sometimes 2 Catalyst releases ahead) – within a few days we can just update the profile, and get CrossFire scaling where it should be on our products.

c.       ATI Catalyst Mobility: Although we actually introduced this feature many years ago for Windows XP, it was good to get it back out there again with a much wider acceptance rate from notebook manufacturers, so that just about all of our notebook users with Windows 7 / Windows Vista can now get all of the great monthly updates we’ve been providing our desktop users with for years.

Allan: It seems that AMD has embraced social media and a lot of you guys seem to be on Twitter interacting with end users. Is there any interesting AMD people in particular to GPU’s you would recommend for our readers interesting in following their updates?

Terry: You bet! A lot of us are really enjoying the direct interaction that Twitter provides to our users. I personally do like giving Catalyst related exclusive news content on Twitter and even have game giveaways on it as well. It’s really cool to have over 6000 people interested in my real time updates. My recommended list of guys to follow is as follows:

i.      Myself of course – http://twitter.com/catalystmaker

ii.      The product manager of Eyefinity – Shane Parfitt – http://www.twitter.com/shaneparfitt

iii.      The product manager of the 58xx products – Dave Baumann – http://twitter.com/wavey_dave

iv.      The product manager of the 59xx products – Devon Nekechuk – http://twitter.com/thehamrock

Allan: Any last words?

Terry: Congratulations on your new website again. I have already bookmarked it and will be looking forward to your exciting style of journalism. As a kick off I would like to give your new readers a chance to win some prizes!

Yes, we have a MEGA AMD competition coming soon, to win some amazing AMD graphics hardware and games -we will be announcing this very shortly! Special thanks to Terry Makedon for dragging himself away from work to talk to me again.

You can say hello to Terry over here.

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