ATIís FireGL 8800
Part I: First, a little background

Page 1 of 1

The FireGL 8800: What Chris had.
Ever since I could remember, Iíve always wanted faster and better, usually at the cost of cheaper. But having financial resources less than Howard Hughes, Iíve always managed to hedge my bets faster than a 12 showing against the dealerís 18.

Today Iím a professional animator, and my tool is the PC. I demand premium performance at my work, and yet when I go home, I have to tuck my tail between my legs and settle. Thatís what Iíve thought, till just about three minutes ago when I started tinkering with a neat feature of my new graphics card, ATIís new FireGL 8800.

In addition to my alcoholic tendencies and an inability to put my towels in the hamper after I take a shower, Iím a space slut. Well, Iím not a hooker on the space stationóthough that does give me a cunning planóIím a whore for space; desk space, office space, backyard space, monitor space.

Multidesk is one feature Iíve fallen for faster than finding Gwyn Paltrow in my shower with a handful of baby powder. But Iím getting ahead of myself.
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A long time ago, I spied my good friend and San Diego Flash master Brett Jackson sporting two monitors on his Ikea desk. I immediately wanted to shove him to the ground and put my foot on his neck. I only had one monitor. I felt small and insignificant. I felt like a wind-up watch, like a 5 ľĒ floppy. I felt like china in a bull shop.

So, to sublimate my vicious anger away from my heterosexually cuddly friend, I decided to toss out my 3Dlabs Oxygen VX-1 card and find me a good two-monitor solution. But, since I make my way through the day with Maya, I need good OpenGL support and rock-solid stability. Simply throwing two GeForce cards in my Windows 2K rig would not do.

Looking to 3Dlabsí GVX210 and 420 dual head cards, I began to feel that way-too-obtrusive twitch in my wallet. I decided to hedge my bets and I went with two $150 eBay-procured GVX1 cards instead.

Having the two GVX1 cards in my system proved stable and sufficiently fast running Maya and other sundries. A little faster than my single VX1 card, and I had the added nicety of a second monitor. I put Brett in his hole, didnít I? Whoís the wind-up watch now?

Well, I was relatively content with the slower than fast refresh rates on my OpenGL windows, and my stuttering window drags. I was happy having Maya windows strewn on both my monitors like boxers all over my bedroom floor. But I was getting annoyed at the noise coming from one of the two fans on each of those cards. You see, I had further hedged my bets and bought these both on eBay. It was a wise maneuver, but ripe with small sacrifices, such as having a malfunctioningly loud fan.

Off came the cover of my rig, which had already been outfitted with the best in sound insulation measures. I dove in with a screwdriver in hand and a pair of Thermaltake VGA chipset coolers, copper heatsinks, 7 volt to 5 volt converters to reduce spin rate and fan noise and some silver thermal adhesive to correct the issue for good.

I replaced the fans on the AGP card with not a problem, smooth sailing. The PCI card, however, had a few ideas of her own. While I was prying the second fan off of this card, it decided to shift itself in my hand, and I ended up severing about four tiny connectors from the main GPU to the board itself. A few expletives and a shot of whiskey later, I sat down, shoved the card into a PCI slot, and prayed to our holy mother of binaries and hit the power switch.

ďIs a blank screen, no boot, and constant beeping bad?Ē I rhetorically asked my fiancťe. She flicked her eyes upward.

ďWhat did you do to your computer now?Ē

ďNothing,Ē I cried, putting the smoking gun back into my pocket.

ďDo you always have to mess with your computer? Canít you just leave it alone?Ē

An hour and a half bottle later, well into my whiskey haze, came a phone call from my coworker Chris. He could not stop beaming over his new FireGL8800, for which he had just laid down a few casino blacks. And there I was again, wishing I had my foot on someoneís neck. I was, in one fell swoop, back to one monitor, and hereís yet another friend of mine with two on his desk. My watch needed winding.

A few days after hearing non-stop about Chrisí new card and in between my eBay window-shopping for a replacement GVX1, I gave up. I decided to separate the men from the boys; I swallowed hard, and put down the greens for a new ATI FireGL 8800 of my own. If nothing else, I figured I could beat Chris to death with it.

Next week: Part II, in which I find true 3D nirvana putting the FireGL 8800 through its paces, and Chris gets a new lease on life. But for those of you who can't stand the suspense, here's a preview: FireGL 8800 good. Get it.

Dariush Derakhshani is an Animator at Sight Effects in Venice, CA He describes himself thusly: "30. Nicely bald. Fear of commitment. Mostly malaisey. Enlarged nasal turbinates. Taste for irony and digestive biscuits with chocolate. Has no idea how he got here, no idea of where there is to go. Animator. Teacher. A few awards and a couple degrees. Happy little man at Sight Effects in Venice, CA. Flat feet." He can be reached at

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