27 February 2007

OpenGL News and SDK Released

Volume 3 of the OpenGL has been released, read it here.

In this volume there is a lot of good stuff. There is more about the OpenGL process, information about OpenGL ES (the embedded platform), a look at the OpenGL SDK, and plenty more.

The OpenGL SDK has been released here. It is not an SDK in a traditional sense but a collection of third-party constributions. It contains documentation, libraries, tutorials, and tools.

Improve your XP experience

Since going back to standard XP Pro I thought is there a way of making it look a bit more modern. I didn't fancy messing round with the theming DLLs and using what essentially amount to substandard themes.

I thought how about getting the MCE2005 UI on Windows XP Pro (not a recreation of it but the actual one). A few minutes Googling gave me my answer, Microsoft New Zealand had accidentally released the Royale theme, unfortunately they pulled it soon after. Luckily this being the Internet the cat can never go back in the bag.

The MCE2005 Royale theme for Windows XP is available at the link. You just need to run the installer and it puts it in the right place.

For those that like things a bit darker there is a Royale Noir theme leaked from Microsoft that did not make the cut into MCE2005. You can download the files here. You need to install this after the Royale theme. Extract it to c:\WINDOWS\Resource\Luna Noir. Then double-click on the luna.msstyles file, this will then give another sub-option to Royale on the Appearance tab in display settings.

26 February 2007

KDE News Roundup

There has been even more KDE information flying about recently. All very exciting leading up to the eventual release of KDE4 which is shaping up to be pretty impressive.

Dolphin has made its way into kdebase. There is talk of it now becoming the new default file manager.

The new KDE build system which uses CMake which is a fantastic open-source project.

The third KDE4 development snapshot has been released which has been christened Kludge (I don't know if that is better than Krash ;) ).

There is a possibility there could be a WebKit based Qt browser in the works.

There is a bit of news about Krita, the image manipulation program in KDE, for the upcoming KDE4 here and here.

That Is It! I Can Take No More!

Finally today I snapped.

No more Vista for me I am going back to Windows XP and hopefully a working life of sanity. I had been at work for two hours and accomplished nothing but fighting with Windows Vista for uninstalling, installing, and rebooting. Even then I didn't manage to finish what I was trying to do.

So then I snapped. I decided to go back to Windows XP. No more deathly slow animations or silent marches of death through the UAC for me. I have no idea if Vista is a good consumer OS, but it is awful for developers who have to constantly install, reboot, update, use large amounts of files, do incremental building, and other such things.

I can't see a service pack rectifying the problem, maybe in three years it will be usable if the XP lifecycle is anything to go by.

It was noticeable working on Vista then coming home to XP simply how much faster XP is. It is not anything to do with slowness drawing to the screen or the length of animations. It all comes down to things like context menus, and security running in the background that makes simple tasks like starting a program or switching applications into a waiting game. Nothing ever "locks up" as something is always moving and interactive, but it rarely lets you do a series of quickfire operations or run multiple IDEs without groaning. Don't even get me started on rebooting breaking C++ precompiled headers.

Well, this three month hell is over...

20 February 2007

Desktop Compositing In Linux

The desktop compositing situation in Linux is moving pretty fast. Compiz is the base, but Beryl, a branch of Compiz, is the one getting a lot of coverage mainly due to its speed of development.

There is an update about Compiz/Beryl from xdevconf07 about their relationship.

Additionally there is a variety of articles about some additional usability features in Beryl.

Google Summer Of Code 2007

Google have announced Summer Of Code 2007.

Last year it helped projects get more functionality and encouraged more people to get involved with open-source projects. They will start taking applications in March, and providing the successful applicants apply themselves well (many find they have to drop out or they are unable to commit anything) there should be a lot of good stuff from it.

You can check out more information here.

11 February 2007

C++ Programming - not for the faint hearted

Whilst scouring the Adobe ASL website (which contains an open-source GUI toolkit) I encountered a few interesting links and tidbits of information. The ASL is written in C++ utilising sections of Boost (part of which now includes Adobe's on GIL library) and the most hardcore of generic programming techniques.

The most interesting thing I came across was from Alexander Stepanov, the father of the STL, and writer of books about advanced template programming. Alexander Stepanov's Notes is a substantial PDF file (more of a book really) that collates and updates his notes from various lectures including those at Adobe and SGI. It is not entirely about C++ as such, it is just the example language used is C++.

This also lead me to find the Stepanov Papers website which provides a resource for reading his wide selection of papers.

And for a bit more background on Generic programming check out these overviews here and here.

10 February 2007

GUI Toolkits - Win32++

Win32++ is a GUI toolkit just for Windows. It is a C++ toolkit providing abstraction from the base Win32 functionality, kind of like MFC, but written much better and more clearly.

It is a small toolkit that is a thin wrapper around the Win32 API. It is not a drop-in replacement for anything else, but provides a simplified programming platform for beginners and intermediate programmers.

It provides facilities for MDI, rebars, toolbars, critical sections and more. I suppose it must be relatively easy to expand the number of classes if you have greater requirements. The advantage of this toolkit is that unlike MFC it works with the free compilers as MFC is only supplied with the professional versions of Visual Studio. Customisation of existing classes is suggested via subclassing, which is the simplest conceptual way of adding functionality in C++. With these classes you will not run into the problems with virtual destructors and the cobject derived class issues.

There are a variety of examples including a notepad program, some DirectX, some multithreading, and more.

The creator of this toolkit has written an article Why Beginners Shouldn't use MFC.

08 February 2007

Installers - Inno Setup

The best freely available installer program I have found is Inno Setup. NSIS2 is obviously the most popular and well known but when I was investigating both systems I found NSIS2 unwieldy and the scripting not very intuitive. When I saw the Inno Setup scripting it just made sense, the language design is around installing programs and files. It solves a very domain specific problem.

The installers look great on whatever Windows version you run them on and there has been recent work on Vista compatibility. The installers generated are really quite compact and in comparison to most MSI installers I have run it is substantially faster. Also it is capable of 32 and 64 bit installers.

What makes it even better is it comes with a great GUI frontend called ISTool. It provides a GUI for all elements available and has excellent built-in help using tooltips.

Inno Setup comes with a comprehensive set of translations and also provides non-supported translations on the website. So if your program is available internationally it is an easy feather in your cap.

Inno Setup is the simplest to use and the fastest to get up and running. You can knock up an installer in minutes without the need for consulting large manuals, I had my first test installer created from scratch in under ten minutes, so I imagine anyone can do it.

07 February 2007

Sabayon Linux

A new distribution on the block is Sabayon Linux. I don't normally make a habit of talking about Linux distributions, but I found it quite interesting.

Sabayon is based on Gentoo, the infamous source-based Linux distribution. What makes it interesting is it is a KDE distribution with Beryl installed by default. This gives lots of eye candy.

It is a live CD/DVD which means you can try it out with no risk, but also it provides the facilities to install to the hard drive. This is much like most modern Linux distributions (like Ubuntu).

The whole design looks really quite good with transparent menu bars and a unified theme throughout. You can see some screenshots here and here.

What I also noticed from the screenshots is that they are using Kickoff for the main program navigation. I mentioned it previously here. It fits in really nicely with all of the work that has obviously been lavished on the UI. Unfortunately it looks like the default theme is trying to make the window borders look like Windows Vista.

And finally the point of this post is there is a nice review of this distribution by Linux Tech Daily here.

06 February 2007

Windows Vista - Menus

Way back in November I made a post about menus on Windows Vista. Essentially it came down to the fact that custom drawing did not draw menu items correctly, and even Windows Explorer on Vista had the same rendering problems.

There is a post on Shell Blog about Vista style menus which starts a series about getting the menus to render correctly. The first part provides a solution for those people that want icons next to the menu items where custom drawing previously provided the solution. The most useful bit is there is a small bit of code to convert the HICON to a HBITMAP which is the main stumbling block for people trying to make the transition.

You will notice the difference in style once the custom drawing is removed and it will look much more integrated.

05 February 2007

Beryl 0.2.0 Preview

There is a nice long preview of Beryl 0.2.0 you can read here.

Beryl is a 3D compositing engine for Linux desktops. It can use 3D acceleration and provides lots of nice effects, including the new ones available in Windows Vista. There are lots of screenshots there showing the features running on Kubuntu. It probably isn't as polished (yet) as the commercial offerings but it is not like Windows Vista demanding a substantially more powerful computer in order to see these effects.

Even at the end of the article there is a nice walkthrough on how to install the package.


Nope, I haven't forgot how to type, but it is a new Java Library for game development. It provides access to OpenAL and OpenGL through Java.

LWJGL is designed to allow commercial quality game development in Java and represents many years of development. It's not a game engine in itself but provides the framework to develop them easily on Java. It is designed to work on anything with a JVM so it could be used in smartphones and the like.

It's interesting from the point of view that this would enable cross-platform development and hopefully give a platform like DirectX.

03 February 2007

Computer Games

The past week I have been compiling a list of free (open-source and closed-source) games available for Windows/Mac/Linux. It is amazing how much there is out there, so I'll probably have to divide it up into multiple posts.

There are lots of good quality open-source projects, which makes for lots of source code to eyeball which is really quite cool.

But before I start down that road, there is a great blog called Independent Gaming which has great indy, freeware and open-source games. The coverage is really comprehensive an has plenty of great reviews.

A Good Resource - An Update

I've mentioned this link previously, but there is a great resource for libraries that are freely available.

Free Game Development Libraries

The list has had a recent update with even more libraries. I just wish I had time to go through them all...

01 February 2007

KDE4 - More Information

The steady stream of information about KDE4 is still flowing.

There is a new interview with some of the developers porting KDE to Mac and Windows that can be read here. It covers the near future of being able to run KDE applications natively on all three platforms.

There is a small article here about some f the education tools to do with graphing and chemistry.

KDevelop 3.4 was released recently as well.