AMD is using a game CD running on a self-contained distribution of the Linux operating system to show off the gaming potential of its new 64-bit processor, the Athlon 64.
Users who have bought PCs running the Athlon 64 -- one of the first to provide 64-bit computing capabilities for desktop computers -- have not yet been able to sample the hardware's full capabilities because of the lack of 64-bit software. Several flavours of 64-bit Linux for the chip are already available, but most games are written for Windows, and Microsoft's 64-bit version of Windows is still in testing.
In the meantime, AMD, Super Computer Inc. (SCI), Nvidia and the United States military have collaborated on a Linux-based CD that runs a 64-bit version of the popular "America's Army: Operations" strategy game. The CD was announced late last month in the wake of the Athlon 64 launch.
The CD does not need a pre-installed operating system to work. When inserted, it scans the PC's hardware, loads the operating system and finally launches the game, much in the fashion of a gaming console. SCI, which makes tools for game development and deployment, said the gameplay is like a "console on steroids" because it lacks the processing overhead of a typical operating system.
SCI said the US Army would be using the CD when it demonstrates the game at events around the US, allowing the demonstrations to be carried out on any PC without the need to install software on the hard drive. Similar CDs have been created to demonstrate the benefits of various flavours of Linux.
The CD, using a SCI technology called GameStorm, is an attempt to get around a problem facing the Athlon 64 as well as other 64-bit processors, such as the IBM G5 used in new Macintosh PCs, and even Intel's 64-bit Itanium server chip: the lack of a wide range of 64-bit software.
The Athlon 64, like the G5, delivers high performance on 32-bit applications, but AMD is eager to demonstrate that there is more to its chip than currently meets the eye. The 64-bit measurement refers to the amount of data that the PC's data bus can access at any moment.
Microsoft last month released a beta version of 64-bit Windows for the Athlon 64, but the final version isn't due until the first quarter of next year.
SuSE Linux will begin selling a 64-bit version of its Linux distribution later this month.