TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Nov 00 Online

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: MacTech Online

Online

by Jeff Clites <online@mactech.com>

A few months ago we covered Quartz, Mac OS X's new 2D graphics technology based on the imaging model of Adobe's PDF. Quartz will be responsible, directly or indirectly, for most of what the user sees on the screen. What we didn't emphasize directly is that Quartz is 2D-only. Under Mac OS X, 3D graphics will be based on OpenGL. So what's OpenGL?

OpenGL is in, QuickDraw 3D is out

OpenGL is a 3D graphics library developed by SGI (then called Silicon Graphics). It's a high-performance, cross-platform library, available on Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Windows, and many Unix variants, and many video cards provide hardware acceleration. It is the library of choice for sophisticated 3D development, most notably the gaming industry. In particular, OpenGL is the basis if id software's Quake games, and according to the company allows them to develop their products with only a tiny amount of platform-specific code. This is important for the Macintosh community, because it makes it that much more likely that games and other 3D-graphics-intensive software (such as scientific data visualization, CAD, and architectural design packages) will be available.

If you've done any 3D programming on the Macintosh in the past, you probably used QuickDraw 3D, the 3D library on Mac OS 9 and, technically, part of QuickTime (and therefore available on Windows as well). The sad news is that OpenGL is replacing QuickDraw 3D on Mac OS X, not just providing an alternative. The worst part is that, while OpenGL is the industry standard, QD-3D is much easier to use for simple 3D graphics. In fact, you could make the argument that OpenGL has a prohibitive learning curve for anyone wanting to do something simple—for instance, creating a 3D bar graph. It has a large procedural API, and it's yet another conceptual barrier you have to cross to get your application written. It also lacks QD-3D's elegant object-oriented (though still C-based) API, and well as its file format for storing 3D objects. On the other hand, you could make a strong counterargument that "simple" uses of 3D graphics are few and far between, and somewhat of an oxymoron—when's the last time you saw 3D graphics outside of a game, a screen saver, or a splash screen? In this light, there are certainly more people cheering the availability of OpenGL than are mourning the loss of QD-3D, but it would have been nice to retain an easy-to-use, high-level API, possibly layered on top of OpenGL. Although they seem to fit well together, there's no indication that Apple will go this route, and if there really are very few developers using QD-3D, it makes sense not to devote the resources to it.

Enter Quesa

Now the good news. The good news is Quesa, a third-party, open-source (LGPL) effort to recreate QD-3D from scratch—in other words, and independent library which is API-compatible with QD-3D. This approach is really a win-win situation for the Macintosh community, because it frees Apple from the burden of maintaining an API which may not be widely used, yet it will still be available to those who need it, for as long as anyone is interested enough in it to maintain it. The needs-based focus of many open-source projects is clearly present in Quesa, which was started because its founder wanted to be able to run his 3D screen saver on Mac OS X. The project is under active development, and in fact is mostly complete at this point. As a side benefit of the open-source approach, it is now truly cross-platform, available now on Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, and coming to the BeOS as well. And as you might expect, Quesa can run on top of OpenGL, and so it will benefit from OpenGL hardware acceleration. As mentioned above, QD-3D (and hence Quesa) is object-oriented although written in C. This is interesting from a design standpoint, and is similar in spirit to Apple's new CoreFoundation API, which gives C-based access to key data types and APIs which originated in Cocoa. You can read more about Quesa's structure on its documentation page.

Quesa Resources

If you are moving into 3D graphics, there are several places you can start in order to get up to speed. If you are interested in the QD-3D/Quesa approach, you'll get a good overview from a series of articles which originally appeared in Apple's develop magazine, and you'll also want to become familiar with Apple's QD-3D documentation, which is available through the QuickTime section of their developer web site. Next, of course, you should take a look at Quesa itself, and download the libraries or source code. There is an active Quesa mailing list, which you'll want to subscribe to, as Quesa is still evolving and there are sure to be discussions of current problems and future directions. You might also want an overview of how QD-3D and OpenGL compare, so that you can make an informed choice about which approach you want to take. You can start by checking out an article "Must-See 3-D Engines" from BYTE Magazine, which compares OpenGL, QD-3D, and Direct3D, and then take a look at the information and resources in a past MacTech Online column from March 1998, written by my predecessor. Both of these are somewhat old and may no longer be accurate in their details, but they'll give you a feel for how the APIs differ in their approaches as well as their consequent strengths and weaknesses. Also, there is an FAQ, as well as several link lists which you can consult to find further information.

OpenGL Resources

OpenGL itself is an open standard, and the hub of information about this library is at the OpenGL home page. Here you'll find an overview for developers, links to tutorials, and information about the large assortment of books available on OpenGL (including the reference standards The OpenGL Programming Guide: The Official Guide to Learning OpenGL and OpenGL Reference Manual). As I mentioned above, OpenGL has a large API with a significant learning curve, but it is probably worth the effort if you plan to do hard-core 3D. To make your job a little easier, read up on GLUT, the OpenGL Utility Toolkit. It's a simplified, window-based API which is geared toward those learning OpenGL or using it to writer smaller programs. (GLUT does ship with Apple's OpenGL implementation, by the way.) You can find links to additional resources at the site of the Mesa project, which is an independent library with an OpenGL-compatible API. If you just want to get a flavor for the OpenGL API, try out a recent article on the O'Reilly Network which describes how to use OpenGL to simulate a black hole (really), and also links to additional introductory articles. Finally, keep an eye on Apple's sample code pages for examples of using OpenGL from Cocoa and Carbon, and download the SDK to get you started.

3D Graphics Foundations

Before you dive into a particular API, you may want to get a feel for the field of 3D graphics in general. If you've never worked with it before, there's quite a bit of conceptual background you'll need, and if you plan to work with it extensively there is also quite a bit of math. The classic text is Computer Graphics : Principles And Practice by Foley, Feiner, and Van Dam (ISBN 0201848406), and it is thorough and dense, covering both 2D and 3D graphics. For some lighter reading try the two book's by Jim Blinn, Jim Blinn's Corner: A Trip Down the Graphics Pipeline (ISBN: 1558603875) and Jim Blinn's Corner: Dirty Pixels (ISBN: 1558604553). They're not a full curriculum but they will give you a feel for some of the interesting and often intricate parts of the field.

3D and Cocoa

Another "interesting" facet of the move to OpenGL for Mac OS X is that we seem to be without a Cocoa-based API for 3D graphics. Certainly, you can use OpenGL from within Cocoa applications—Objective-C was designed to be an extension to ANSI C, so there is no technological barrier to using a C-based API from within a Cocoa application, but it would be more convenient to have a fully object-oriented API to work with, and developers are likely to create their own object-based wrappers for the parts of the API they are using. It would be nice for someone to do this once and for all, and develop a higher-level Cocoa-based library that everyone could use. There is some hope for such an animal as part of the MiscKit project. The MiscKit is a collection of Cocoa-based classes and utilities, assembled under an open-source model before "open source" became a household term. There are all kinds of useful tidbits in the MiscKit, although they are still in the process of being updated for the current Cocoa libraries (as most of the Kit was developed for NEXTStep or OpenStep). Of immediate relevance is something called the 3DKit, which was originally developed by NeXT and later transferred to the MiscKit maintainers (it remains a logically separate project). There appear to be a few licensing issues which may need to be worked out, but with a little luck this could serve as a strong starting point for a high-level 3D framework for Cocoa, or at least as an API model for such a framework.

Moving Forward

With OpenGL as a first-class citizen on the Macintosh platform, developers have a real choice of solutions for 3D graphics. It isn't a direct result of the open-sourcing of the core of Mac OS X as Darwin, but open-source projects are becoming more and more relevant (and more an more important) to the platform, and are signaling a cultural shift in the Macintosh community as well as the programming community at large. The Macintosh platform is becoming less and less proprietary, and Macintosh developers are becoming more aware of valuable resources which originated on other platforms, and of their own ability to take part in the process of moving these technologies to the Macintosh. And although it's easy to overlook at first, this is completely in line with the original motivation for the Macintosh, and for Apple as a company: bringing the power of technology to the individual, and letting him make his own choices. Now, more than ever, this means giving this power and choice to the individual developer, as well as to the end user. It's our responsibility to take advantage of this freedom, and participate in driving the platform forward.

 
AAPL
$99.18
Apple Inc.
-1.57
MSFT
$45.90
Microsoft Corpora
-0.46
GOOG
$568.27
Google Inc.
-9.09

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Cocktail Family License (5 Macs) 7.6.1 -...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Cocktail 8.0 Beta 2 - General maintenanc...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
QuickBooks 2015 16.0.0.1352 R1 - Financi...
QuickBooks 2015 helps you manage your business easily and efficiently. Organize your finances all in one place, track money going in and out of your business, and spot areas where you can save.... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 5.0.1 - Copy, backup,...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
Apple OS X bash Update 1.0 - Fix for sec...
The OS X bash Update fixes a security flaw in the bash UNIX shell on OS X 10.9.5 (also on OS X 10.8 and 10.7 [see Related Links below]). OS X 10.9.5 or later Downloads for OS X 10.8 and OS X 10.7 in... Read more
SyncTwoFolders 2.0.5 - Syncs two user-sp...
SyncTwoFolders simply synchronizes two folders. It supports synchronization across mounted network drives and it is a possibility to run a simulation showing in a log what will be done. Please visit... Read more
FinderPop 2.5.7 - Classic Mac utility, n...
FinderPop is a Universal preference pane that extends OS X's contextual menus using a FinderPop Items folder much as the Apple Menu Items folder used to do for the Apple menu. It has other features... Read more
VueScan 9.4.45 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.2.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
calibre 2.4 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Banner Saga (Games)
Banner Saga 1.0.17 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.17 (iTunes) Description: NOTE: The Banner Saga does NOT run on iPhone 4. iPhone 4S and more modern devices recommended. | Read more »
Beatbuddy HD (Games)
Beatbuddy HD 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: **IMPORTANT** Beatbuddy runs only on iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, 5c, 5s, iPad 4, iPad Mini Retina and iPad Air. | Read more »
Spirits of Spring (Games)
Spirits of Spring 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: From the creators of the award-winning empathy game, Papo & Yo, comes a tale about finding strength. | Read more »
I am a brave knight (Games)
I am a brave knight 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Do you have ten minutes to live a life? | Read more »
iKeywi - Customizable 5-Row Keyboard (U...
iKeywi - Customizable 5-Row Keyboard 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to add an extra row to your iPhone/iPad? One of the most popular keyboard extension in iOS... | Read more »
Manage Your Cloud – Wunderlist Now Suppo...
Manage Your Cloud – Wunderlist Now Supports Dropbox Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Nexticy Review
Nexticy Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: IDEAL FORM CREATIONiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Nexticy allows you to make your own forms for research purposes or to organize your business better. It’s... | Read more »
Tiny Troopers: Alliance Marches onto the...
Tiny Troopers: Alliance Marches onto the App Store Tomorrow Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] Tiny Troopers: Alliance, by Kukouri, is a | Read more »
HeroCraft Introduces Unlimited Sequel to...
HeroCraft Introduces Unlimited Sequel to WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
RGB Express Review
RGB Express Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: DELIGHTFUL PUZZLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Guide trucks along their delivery routes in RGB Express, a testing but charming puzzle game... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

ASUS, Lenovo, and Amazon Slug It Out For Tabl...
According to market intelligence firm ABI Research, Apple and Samsung have led the touchscreen tablet market by a substantial margin since Apple energized the category back in 2010. However, ABI says... Read more
Amazon offers 13-inch MacBook Air for $899, $...
Amazon.com has the 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $100 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air: $899.99 Read more
Apple resting On Its iPhone Laurels? – The ‘B...
Apple calls its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus “The Biggest Advancements in iPhone History,” but does reality live up to the hype? “Seldom have so many waited so breathlessly for so little,” tweeted veteran... Read more
Roundup of Apple Mac and iPad Education disco...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Apple Boycotts German Magazine Computer Bild...
Apple has revoked its PR accreditation of Germany’s Computer Bild, Europe’s best-selling PC magazine, in reaction to Bild’s posting of a “#Bentgate” YouTube video. Axel Telzerow, editor in chief of... Read more
iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus Available in Chi...
Apple has announced that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in China beginning Friday, October 17 from the Apple Online Store (http://www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores, and an expansive... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP, start...
Best Buy has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Prices valid for online orders only, in-... Read more
Apple Releases OS X Mavericks bash Update 1.0...
Apple has released a patch update for OS X Mavericks users to address the recently-detected “Shellshock” security bug in BSD UNIX’s bash shell. Apple says only a few Mac users who had manually... Read more
Pivotal Payments Ready for Apple Pay – FlexPo...
Pivotal Payments, a provider of merchant services and global payment processing solutions, has announced its proprietary FlexPoint platform will support credit and debit transactions through Apple’s... Read more
iStabilizer Announces Tabarm — First Friction...
iStabilizer, a specialist in universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, dollies, mounts, and remotes for smartphones, tablets, and cameras, announced today the iStabilizer tabArm, the first... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.