bleu - IGL

about IGL

IGL is an Open Source port of IrisGL library to OpenGL.
Current version is 0.1.8 which incorporates both Win32 and X11 implementations.

IGL history

i. electro-paint

first, there was electro-paint, an SGI Irix screensaver written by David A. Tristram. the screensaver was simple at its base - triangles or squares moving around on the screen - but so effective that the crowd rejoiced.
everyone wanted the sources, but SGI never released them (or did they?). everyone wanted to get to know the algorithms used for polygon movement, but it came down to guessing (polar coordinates etc.).
then, a programmer (me) was enlightened, and the sources were resurrected. electro-paint was posted to newsgroups by David A. Tristram himself, while still working with NASA. it was however disguised as a part of the (in)famous Panel Library and - thanks to Google Groups - the whole package could be downloaded. thanks to David A. Tristram, the Panel Library and Electropaint sources were made a part of IGL distribution (as of version 0.1.7).

ii. first steps

initially, i took the electro-paint sources and "converted" them to OpenGL. but since IrisGL includes window management functions, it didn't make my job any easier. the panel library also includes a concept of connectable and scriptable sliders and yes, electro-paint uses them extensively as well. plus the source code almost didn't include any comments, so there you go.

iii. i will write me a wrapper

yes, it sounds simple. just take an IrisGL function call and convert it to OpenGL. well, IrisGL contains around 500-600 API calls (just my guess) and they include OpenGL, window management + menus, device (mouse, keyboard) queueing etc. plus it adds to OpenGL functionality (editable display lists, callbacks within display lists, concave polygons etc.). it wasn't easy, so some things aren't supported and some will never be.
i created an account on sourceforge, but due to the complex process of releasing/managing projects etc., i think i've given up for now. (can someone explain what the hell happened to CVS? it's supposed to be simple dammit!)

iv. it compiles!

weeks later a functional version was made that could run electro-paint quite well. some known bugs are still present and very likely a lot of unknown ones. also the Panel Library relies quite heavily on IrisGL device queueing and there may be a bug in my code or the library itself (unlikely). i'm still awaiting my SGI machine, so i may closely examine how everything works there.

v. experiments

before i found out about ep sources, the idea of swirling squares got to me, so i wrote a couple of screensavers as an homage to the master. the code can be found in the downloads section, but beware as it contains some bad coding practices and it's a mess in general, since it contains multiple experiments bundled in one source. called GLectric, it features some really primitive math experiments (as i'm not too good in math), interaction with mouse (rotate, move - see the code) and fake motion blur, cleverly disguised as "clear color buffer"(TM).
i also recently developed a WinAMP plugin called "Sonik Maschine" that uses electro-paint algorithm framework (but not the Panel Library) while fueling on juicy muzak (see the 'muzak' section). it's in the alpha stage. for help, press F1.


Panel Library and Electropaint sources are now a part of IGL distribution. David was really kind and allowed me to do this, so i hope everyone appreciates it as much as i do. however, Electropaint is now a trademark, so here's a disclaimer:
Panel Library/Electropaint Copyright (c) 1986 David A. Tristram. Electropaint (TM) is a Registered U.S. Trademark of Tristram Visual. Tristram Visual can be contacted at

  • IGL 0.1.8 (source code, ZIP archive) editable display lists + X11 menus added
  • IGL 0.1.7 (source code, ZIP archive) IGL now contains Panel Library + ep
  • IGL 0.1.6 (source code, ZIP archive) initial release
  • my post on electro-paint sources can be found here.
  • GLectric 0.1 (Win32 source + binary).
  • WinAMP plugin (Win32 binaries)- 'normal' and IRIS_GT version.


first steps electro-paint in action electro-paint IRIS_GT style
first steps electro-paint in action! electro-paint IRIS_GT style
electro-paint on X11 Sonik Maschine - WinAMP plugin GLectric
electro-paint on X11 Sonik Maschine - WinAMP plugin GLectric


actually this section just contains facts.

i. electro-paint

  • original version used triangles, not squares.
  • it comes in two flavours, screensaver and interactive ("ep -c")
  • the algorithm used for movement is both simple and complex.
  • i'm not 100% sure, but it doesn't seem to use polar coordinates.
  • algorithm for movement relies upon a set of sliders which control the whole thing. these include "twist", "zoom", "arm", "wheel" etc. some of the sliders control the general movement, some just the polygon that's being processed.
  • Panel Library provides scripting functionality, meaning that state of the sliders, buttons etc. can be dumped to a file and re-used. without scripting, the screensaver mode of electro-paint would not be a moving.
  • there are a few versions of electro-paint available. to my knowledge, source code is available for early versions only. each Irix version seems to bring something different to it.
  • first version uses colormaps, the next (IRIS_GT) uses lighting, alpha-blending, additional sliders and RGB mode.

ii. IGL

  • this section is no longer needed. documentation is now a part of the distribution.

limitations and bugs

i. limitations

  • IGL has no internal multithreading support (does it need one?)
  • drawmode() isn't implemented yet
  • due to Win32 OpenGL limitations, SetPixelFormat() can only be set once and thus we can't use acplanes()/stenplanes() etc. properly. (it doesn't seem to work even if the window is recreated!)
  • color map support is emulated through RGB
  • font configuration is hardcoded
  • a lot of obscure functions like blink(), cyclemap() etc. are not implemented (and may never be)
  • IGL doesn't emulate IrisGL for different IRIX systems (IRIS_NEWS, IRIS_GT, IRIS_4D), as i don't actually know how they behave
  • IGL eats about 25-40% of my CPU. it most probably shouldn't.
  • see docs/bugs.txt for more information.

ii. bugs

  • Panel Library: windows flicker/aren't properly redrawn (especially IRIS_GT)
  • see docs/bugs.txt for more information.

IGL future

Here's a list of things to expect in future versions (by priority):

  • better font support
  • drawmode () - might be impossible on PC hardware
  • feedback buffer
  • object picking
  • unimplemented API
  • Win32/X11 defaults should be adjusted to IrisGL ones.
  • device queue and QFULL
  • emulating different IRIX systems (not probable)