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From Russia with ports

By Chris Williams. Published: 12th Oct 2002, 15:55:49 | Permalink | Printable

drobe.co.uk speaks to Russian RISC OS coders eQ about SDL games and TinyGL 3D graphics

Regarded as one of the more enthusiastic RISC OS developer groups, eQ R&D are starting to rack up some mildly eyebrow raising software releases on their eqlab website. Based in Russia and kitted out with ARM7500FE powered machines, eQ's released work ranges from the Kino MPEG video player to their remote desktop client to their TinyGL 3D graphics library port and now to their SDL port. drobe.co.uk got in touch with David Feugey of eQ regarding their recent developments and put a couple of friendly yet typically drobe.co.uk style nosey questions to him. There's also some screenshots too that we've prepared, linked to at the end of this article.

So what's this SDL release all about?
"This is basically a port of SDL", David coolly replied. "Without sound for now because of the lack of threads in RISC OS. It works great on StrongARM and even on ARM7500FE (at full speed).
"SDL is a good cross platform library, available on all platforms (except OS/2 and Atari computers). So it's a good starting point for all our future projects."

acornarcade.com jumped on the SDL news first, NoughtPointOne editor thedoctor commenting, "They [SDL example games] vary in quality but show what can be done with the new SDL library. My favourite of these is Bomberman. This is a Bomberman style game (surprise!) with nicely animated high resolution graphics. There is no sound at the moment, but I see no reason why this couldn't be added at some point in the future." According to the SDL website, SDL (Simple DirectMedia Layer) is a cross-platform multimedia library used by MPEG playback software, emulators, and many popular games. eQ's SDL port comes complete with source code, libraries and various demos and games engineered to impress an eager public. That's you, by the way.

G'on, tell us how you developed this funky new library?
"For development, we did use GCCSDK (thanks GCCSDK team) under Linux and some ARM7500FE boxes for testing purpose", David explains. "The more difficult part was to design a fast engine to manage color palettes. All the rest was quite easy. Now the SDL port for RISC OS is at the same level as the port for MacOS 9, for example."

And what else could eQ possibly have up their sleeves?
David revealed that eQ France will open in November and they have even more software planned for RISC OS, including a CD packed with goodies. In the meantime after having played with their SDL kit, you could try out their TinyGL port too. TinyGL stems from OpenGL, which is an extremely popular and heavyweight portable 2D/3D graphics library. Due to the current limitations of RISC OS hardware, OpenGL built graphics applications will bring your StrongARM system to its knees. The Mesa3D port by David Boddie is another OpenGL based graphics library and whilst it's very processor intensive (read slow), the results can be quite surprisingly pleasing.

TinyGL then is a small, cut down and fast subset of OpenGL and an ideal minimal development environment for RISC OS, seeing as the library is also targetted for embedded systems.
"The main strength of TinyGL is that it is fast and simple because it has not to be exactly compatible with OpenGL", boasts the French based TinyGL website. "In particular, the texture mapping and the geometrical transformations are very fast. TinyGL is a lot faster than Mesa or the software Solaris OpenWin OpenGL implementation for the VReng Virtual Reality engine for example."

eQ's port of TinyGL features the library source code, built libraries and a collection of demos including a 3D object viewer with we were suitably impressed with.

Public health warning
Sigh. This is the second time we've had to do this recently and drobe.co.uk has to point out that some of the eQ SDL software will crash your machine totally and remorselessly. It's mainly the SDLDemos application which has several little demons in one, we recommend you tread very carefully. We seriously hope that this is not going to become a growing trend amongst RISC OS software authors. Test your software folks before release or face our bitter and unforgiving wrath.

Screenshots
Ok, let's see this eQ gear in action, note we've scaled the images down - they are supposed to be full screen. Yeah baby.


Links


eQ labs website eQ projects page

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Next: TEK1608 review online

Discussion

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It appears that many of these demos use byte-size writes to the screen. This isn't so hot because (a) it's not as fast as word-size and (b) it messes up on ViewFinder - characterised by blue and yellow pixels appearing around some objects.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 12/10/02 4:52PM
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That's bad.

 is a RISC OS Usertakkaria on 12/10/02 5:17PM
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I can't be bothered to get my VF out of its box so I'll trust you :)

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 12/10/02 5:21PM
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diomus is so fussy about VF technology. :)

This SDL port looks great! eQ continue to do super work for the platform. It's nice that you people at drobe.co.uk are working to get us readers interviews as well as the standard news announcements!

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 12/10/02 6:29PM
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We couldn't do it without people actually doing the hard work and developing RISC OS stuff. it's not hard, you just need commitment.

I keep saying this and I'll say it again. RISC OS developers are worth their weight in gold.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 12/10/02 6:32PM
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That's because there aren't that many of them. Still it's nice to know what is going on.

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 12/10/02 8:18PM
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Nice article Chris, :-) Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 13/10/02 8:21AM
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What does SDL mean?

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 14/10/02 8:33AM
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Simple DirectMedia Layer

 is a RISC OS Userjohnstlr on 14/10/02 3:35PM
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