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Hardware accelerated 3D graphics approaching

By Chris Williams. Published: 5th Jul 2005, 12:00:38 | Permalink | Printable

Coming "soon" to an Iyonix near you [Updated]

Mesa Teapot example modelHardware accelerated 3D graphics on RISC OS took a step closer to reality, thanks to Simon Wilson. Simon, who authored PCITV, claims to have ported Mesa 3.2, a 3D graphics library that sports an OpenGL software interface. More importantly, he says he has also ported an Nvidia graphics accelerator from BeOS to harness the GeForce2 video card in the Iyonix to plot graphics fast in hardware.

The software is, according to Simon, in a "pre-alpha" stage and will eventually release the software under the GPL. A previous port of Mesa performed its graphics operations in software and was ultimately, painfully slow. Graphics drawn by the dedicated Nvidia chipset are expected to be lighting fast in comparison.

He said: "The first image rendered was the classic OpenGL teapot. The driver is capable of double-buffering, texturing (including mip-mapping), lighting and shading, all in hardware. It also provides a number of 2D functions such as sprite cacheing and plotting, which may be provided as a library for 2D games."

Downloads and source code are said to appear on a website "soon". We also understand that the developer of Geminus is considering adding 2D hardware acceleration to his RISC OS 5 display driver.

Update at 15:21 5/7/2005

Simon tells us that a demo application of the new software is a few days away, whereas the driver is a possibly two to three weeks away.

On the subject of speed and benchmarks, Simon explained, "I have not yet had time to perform and speed measurements. The driver is capable of around 120fps in 1024 x 768 x 32bpp with the OpenGL teapot on x86 hardware, but we don't have floating point hardware on the Iyonix, and Mesa makes heavy use of floating point for transformations.

"The first phase will be to speed up the driver as it currently stands, and then to move to fixed point. The move to fixed point (as opposed to floating point) will likely be a moderate task, but hopefully I can gather some help."

He added: "Well-written games could certainly hold off on converting to floating point till the last minute and perhaps use a table lookup. Sending vertices to the graphics card in floating point is not much different to sending them in fixed point (they both typically use 4 bytes per coordinate)."

He is also willing to put the software under the LGPL licence until there is "proper ELF support in RISC OS". Whilst Simon would like the driver to be free software, he says he will not require games built with the library to be forced to follow the GPL.

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Now thats cool. Something that RISC OS has been lacking for a long time has been proper 3D acceleration in hardware. Hopefully (and inferring this from the article) other 'drivers' can be done (depending on how easy it is to get the info on the gfx card, etc, etc) to enable this kind of thing with other cards too. But one step at a time,.. How long before we see a RISC OS game that makes use of this? :)

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 5/7/05 12:41PM
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piemmm: I imagine the first things that might be done are GL conversions of things like the Doom engine, and the Quake engine.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 5/7/05 2:12PM
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There's a thread on The Iconbar [link] where this project is being discussed.

 is a RISC OS UserHertzsprung on 5/7/05 2:43PM
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Does [link] work, I wonder?

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 5/7/05 2:58PM
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oooo OpenGL.....nice :@D

Is it software re-lease season again ;@)

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 5/7/05 3:25PM
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Excellent.

Well done Simon. Just the perfect thing for embedded medical imaging in things like realtime 3D dopler ultrasound. Hint at a market. :-)

All the best Bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 5/7/05 3:35PM
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This is really great news! Getting Mesa working and usable from RISC OS would be great for the platform, but getting it accelerated too, that would be exceptional. Kudos to Simon.

As Bob suggests, I'm sure this could lead the way for some really interesting new software releases, as well as opening the door for game ports.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 5/7/05 3:58PM
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What is the relevance of the GPL here? Unless of course, this applies to the BeOS nVidia (note caps) driver which jmb notes is rather unclear. Why does ELF change this?

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 5/7/05 4:17PM
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Peter - some advice in this area would be appreciated. I wish for the port to be made freely available for everyone to use, including source. Mesa is under the XFree86 licence. The licence of the NVidia driver is unclear. Using ELF was an idea of mine to allow applications to link in at runtime, following a message on the Icon Bar thread regarding LGPL. I thought this would sidestep the need to include the source of any games using the library, but it looks like I was mistaken. I am not sure of the best way to proceed without stepping on any toes. I believe just using the same licensing model as the BeOS people used (the origin of the driver) would be an OK way to go for now.

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 5/7/05 4:28PM
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Which fool is modding me down? The specific licencing remains an important issue for RISC OS software, and Simon is correct to seek advice if he doesn't understand it properly. There was a good reason that the GCCSDK developers have invested and continue to invest a good deal of time ensuring we're following it correctly, and making it easy for others to do so.

My advice to Simon is to lean on the BeOS developers to ensure that their licence is much clearer, perhaps by pointing out its uptake on non-x86 platforms will be easier if it is. LGPL remains a sensible choice for your own work if it's compatible with what they've done or are planning to do.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 5/7/05 5:53PM
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ELF in itself changes nothing. Dynamic linking changes the situation dramatically, however ;)

The overriding factor when considering Mesa licensing is the LGPL (unless, of course, you strip the LGPL bits from it ;) For a reasonably plain-English explanation of the implications of this, see [link] The recommended reading sections of the above document are also worth a look.

The licensing status of the BeOS driver code does appear to be somewhat vague - parts (mainly interface with the BeOS driver architecture) are licensed under the Be Sample Code Licence (a copy of which may be found at [link]) This looks very similar to 3-clause BSD to me.

As for the rest of the driver (i.e. the bits that actually do the work) it's somewhat less obvious as there's no clear copyright/licensing statement in the source code or surrounding files. This page, however, appears to suggest that it's BSD/MIT licensed (although I'd be inclined to email the author and check) - [link]

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 5/7/05 6:00PM
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Another step forward is always welcome.

Well done Simon. For our purposes, anything RO that gets closer to a 3D environment for simple architectural modelling is appreciated.

Does this mean that previous softwares such as TopModel will enjoy a new lease of life, I think X-ample are about to re-release it. Maybe they'd like to play with this addition?

(BTW, their website renders strangely under !Netsurf, weird when they claim to be very 'AnyOS Browser' friendly).

 is a RISC OS Userpetermcc on 6/7/05 11:50AM
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About Rudolf Cornelissen's BeOS nVidia 3D *driver* ([link]) :

That's not easy to find out, but his driver is part of Haiku ([link]) project, and is licenced under Haiku license terms. Which is basicly a BSD/MIT license. Like Mesa core source. So, nothing to worry there, really, guys. But a short email to notify Rudolf about your port can't hurt, and even will make him both happy and interested.

- Philippe Houdoin, Haiku's OpenGL kit team leader.

 is a RISC OS Userphoudoin on 7/7/05 3:19PM
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BTW, I've just sent a quick email to Rudolf to tell him about your port. Maybe he could give you some hints...

 is a RISC OS Userphoudoin on 7/7/05 3:43PM
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Thanks for the info there, Philippe! I will make sure to get in touch with Rudolf asap. This is good news about the licensing - it will ensure the software remains free.

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 7/7/05 5:41PM
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Just spotted this interview with Simon Wilson about his RISC OS Mesa port on Haiku News:

[link]

It's good to have a bit of celebrity in RO land ;)

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 10/7/05 1:36PM
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