November 2002 Archives

IRIX Cheat Sheet

Jon Harsem wrote in today with a link to a cool IRIX "cheat sheet" containing loads of commands and tips for working with IRIX, apparently written by SGI engineers. You can check it out here: Helpful Commands in IRIX. There's tons of great info in there; print it out and keep it near your machine!

I also noticed a similar document covering the vi editor which looks to be equally useful: Tricks and Fun With vi.

Links and More Links


Continuing the slow process of fine tuning the website, I've added a few more topical web links to the sidebar ... not only links to great SGI/IRIX sites brimming with information, software and images, but also a few links to some of my favorite background/wallpaper sites to help spiff up your desktop. Hopefully everyone will find these links useful, and if there are any you think I ought to add just leave a comment.

New IRIX Tardist: Buffy GTK

In the spirit of the aterm IRIX mod article, I wanted to mention a very nice IRIX/SGI GTK theme written by Richard Offer - Buffy (shorthand for Buffed Motif, the official name for the IRIX Motif appearance). If you'd like to compile it yourself, the source code for Buffy is available from the official site at I also have a prepackaged tardist archive I put together a while back that will allow you to use the theme without installing a bunch of extra Gnome support packages (from SGI's freeware site), which is useful if you're low on disk space. Grab the tardist here, install using swmgr and copy the gtkrc file into your home directory (~/.gtkrc). You should be set.

For examples of Buffy GTK in action, check out some of the screenshots in the online gallery linked in the sidebar.

aterm IRIX-Look Modification


I've been meaning to post a special aterm modification I received from Frank Everdij for quite some time; the patch gives aterm users the option to replace the default NeXT-style scrollbar with a native IRIX version. Many thanks go to Frank for taking the time to write this patch and then share it with the rest of the community.

Interested? I thought so! To install this patch simply perform the following:

Ensure the prerequisites are in place for aterm as outlined in my Compiling aterm On IRIX article.

Download and unpack the aterm-0.4.2.tar.gz file from

Download the patch: aterm-0.4.2.sgilook.patch

Copy the patchfile into the newly extracted aterm-0.4.2 directory and enter it:

cp aterm-0.4.2.sgilook.patch aterm-0.4.2/
cd aterm-0.4.2
patch -p0 < aterm-0.4.2.sgilook.patch

If all goes well, it's time to compile the newly patched aterm.

For MIPSPro 7.x, optionally set the following environment variables for an optimized build (skip this if using GCC):

setenv CC cc
setenv CFLAGS '-n32 -O3'

Then the configure command (note the new --enable-sgi-scroll option as a result of the patch):

./configure --enable-utmp --enable-wtmp --enable-fading --enable-sgi-scroll --disable-delete-key --disable-backspace-key --enable-menubar --with-xpm-library=/usr/freeware/lib32 --enable-background-image --with-jpeg-library=/usr/freeware/lib32 --with-png-library=/usr/freeware/lib32 --with-terminfo=/usr/share/lib/terminfo --enable-xgetdefault --enable-graphics --with-term=xterm

make clean


make install

aterm should now be installed as /usr/local/bin and ready for use.

To display user and machine name (should be added to .login, .tcshrc or .cshrc):

if ($?TERM) then
if ($TERM == "iris-ansi" || $TERM == "iris-ansi-net") then
if ($?CONSOLE) then
setenv HOST `/usr/bsd/hostname`
alias setitle 'echo -n "\033P1.y"$USER, ${host}:$cwd"\033\\"'
alias cd 'set old=$cwd; chdir \!*;echo $cwd; setitle'
if ($TERM == "aterm" || $TERM == "xterm") then
stty intr ^C
alias setitle 'echo -n "\033P1.y"$USER, ${HOST}:$cwd"\033\\"'

Example .Xdefaults settings for aterm (modify to taste):

Aterm*transparent: True
Aterm*shading: 25
Aterm*tinting: yellow
Aterm*font: -*-screen-medium-r-normal--18-*-*-*-m-90-iso8859-1
Aterm*saveLines: 500
Aterm*termName: aterm
Aterm*background: black
Aterm*foreground: white
Aterm*cursorColor: green
Aterm*geometry: 80x24

New IrixDiVX Coming Soon

This evening Brandon Corey, the author of IrixDiVX, wrote that he's nearing completion on a new version capable of playing a wide range of DiVX codecs. Perhaps even more exciting is the news that IrixDiVX has evolved into a true one-stop multimedia playback solution capable of decoding MPEG1, MPEG2, VCD, SVCD and even DVD.

The update will be available for download from the official IrixDiVX home page once released.

IrixDiVX screenshot courtesy Brandon Corey

Evolving the Site

Over the past several days I've been working at switching this site over to new software which will make it easier for me to maintain. The move is largely complete; pretty much all that remains is adding new content and polishing the look of the site.

The site now allows comments on everything; screenshots, articles, photos, etc. which hopefully some visitors will enjoy. Also, the old Guestbook module is still in place so feel free to use it for more general comments. I don't get enough traffic here to warrant starting a forum so that's the best solution at the moment.

For my IRIX viewers: one of the consequences of the move is that it now relies heavily on CSS and will not function correctly with old Netscape 4.x browsers; try Mozilla or one of the lightweight Gecko-engine derivatives (Galeon or SkipStone for example). You can grab copies of all three of these packaged for IRIX 6.5 from

Reawakening the Indigo2


ars-2000fu.gifI mentioned a while back that I'd begun work on restoring my newly acquired Indigo2 IMPACT R10000 system; way back in April I'd picked up a Maximum IMPACT boardset from Pastech, 3.5" & 5.25" drive sleds and a 32x internal CD-ROM from Used Tech Dot Org (formally Aftermath Technologies), a 195MHz R10000 CPU from Reputable Systems and a 100Mbit 3Com EISA 3c597 card (essentially a Phobos E100) purchased from an individual seller. The system has languished since then; the current system drive is too small to do much with (6GB) and my attempts to locate the TRAM option to fully expand the Maximum IMPACT have met with absolutely no success despite a couple postings to comp.sys.sgi.marketplace pleading for help.

The system will once again be receiving some attention; I've just arranged to purchase a Video for IMPACT boardset (essentially Galileo (ev1) for IMPACT systems) and will be picking up at least one ACARD ARS-2000FU Ultra SCSI-IDE bridge to utilize low cost high capacity IDE drives as I happen to have two 60 GB drives I'm not using for anything else at the moment.

The ARS-2000FU is a small tray like device that attaches to the underside of a 3.5" IDE drive, transforming it into a SCSI unit which will still fit the drive sleds of SCSI based machines like the Indigo2. After searching online, I discovered Microland USA resells these units for $80.00 each.

I should mention that these upgrades have freed up a couple of components if anyone is interested, namely a Solid IMPACT board (SGI PN 030-0786-002; would be great as a second head if you have a 060-0027-xxx power supply) and a 175MHz R10000 CPU module (SGI PN 030-1433-002).

Compiling aterm On IRIX

To start, download the current aterm source tarball from

In addition to the aterm source, you'll need to download and install a few things from

  • gcc (MipsPRO 7.x also works well)
  • libxpm
  • libjpg
  • libpng
  • gmake
  • After installing the above, ensure /usr/freeware/bin is in your search path. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use SGI's fixpath tool. From a terminal, enter the following command:


    I find it much easier to use SGI's precompiled binaries whenever possible; it's a simple matter to use them as building blocks for software not available direct from SGI.

    Extract the aterm tarball, enter the build directory and start the configure script (set to build against the freeware libraries):

    ./configure --enable-utmp --enable-wtmp --enable-fading --disable-delete-key --disable-backspace-key --with-xpm-library=/usr/freeware/lib32 --enable-background-image --with-jpeg-library=/usr/freeware/lib32 --with-png-library=/usr/freeware/lib32 --with-term=xterm --with-terminfo=/usr/share/lib/terminfo --enable-xgetdefault --enable-graphics --enable-menubar

    Then a typical (as root if /usr/local is not user writable):

    gmake gmake install

    It's best to add /usr/local/bin to your search path as well if you haven't done so already. Finally an example of a typical command line I use to start aterm:

    /usr/local/bin/aterm -tr -sh 50 -bg black -fg cyan -sl 1500

    I've built aterm 0.4.2 under IRIX 6.5 with the above settings using both gcc3 and MipsPRO 7.x with no issues.

    Custom Backgrounds On IRIX


    First you must enable 24-bit support on your X server (Run xdpyinfo first to make sure your server supports this visual). This is important even when dealing with 256 color backgrounds as the default IRIX palette is not dynamic. Edit /var/X11/xdm/Xservers to reflect the following (make certain to back up your existing file first in case you need to revert):

    :0 secure /usr/bin/X11/X -bs -nobitscale -c -pseudomap 4sight -solidroot sgilightblue -cursorFG red -cursorBG white -class TrueColor -depth 24

    The key section is the -class TrueColor -depth 24 entry; simply adding this bit to your existing Xservers configuration is sufficient. You'll need to restart your X server to complete the change.

    Next obtain some backgrounds; depending on your display configuration most likely 1280x1024 or 1024x768 8-bit X11 PixMap (XPM) format. You can convert JPEG images to XPM using ImageView, xv, NetPBM or similar, and resizing/cropping to the correct size and aspect can be accomplished with an image editor (such as GIMP or Photoshop).

    Once you have a suitable XPM file you'll need to configure 4Dwm to use it as a background. First, create and edit a .backgrounds file by copying the system.backgrounds file from /usr/lib/X11 to your home directory as .backgrounds:

    cp /usr/lib/X11/system.backgrounds ~/.backgrounds

    Using a text editor, add additional entries for your new backgrounds file like this:

    background "Anime"
    command "-xpm /usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime.xpm"
    default "-xpm /usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime.xpm"
    readok "/usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime.xpm"

    Change the three path entries /usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime.xpm to reflect the full name and path of the background file you are using. Also be sure to change the background name from "Anime" to whatever you'd like to show up in your Background control panel. You can add several entries like the above to easily switch between multiple backgrounds; I have at least twenty myself.

    Once all this has been accomplished you can select your new background(s) from Toolchest -> Desktop -> Customize -> Background. In addition to the increased performance, you'll even get a snippet of the new background in your Desks Overview which is another benefit of using XPM files.


    If you'd rather use 24-bit images for your background, you can do so using either xli or Esetroot. xli is part of the xli.1.16 X11 image loader/viewer package on SGI Freeware:

    Esetroot is part of the Eterm-0.8.10 Enlightenment-aware xterm package on SGI Freeware:

    Example xli entry:

    background "Anime2"
    � � command "-execute /usr/freeware/bin/xli -onroot -fork /usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime2.jpg"
    � � default "-execute /usr/freeware/bin/xli -onroot -fork /usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime2.jpg"
    � � exeok "/usr/freeware/bin/xli"
    � � readok "/usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime2.jpg

    Example Esetroot entry:

    background "Anime3"
    � �command "-execute /usr/freeware/bin/Esetroot /usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime3.jpg"
    � �default "-execute /usr/freeware/bin/Esetroot /usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime3.jpg"
    � �execok "/usr/freeware/bin/Esetroot"
    � �readok "/usr/people/neko/backgrounds/anime3.jpg"

    xli is the easiest of the two to install as it has no additional dependencies. It's rather dated in that it does not support progressive JPEG or PNG so some backgrounds will need to be converted to standard JFIF JPEG before xli can deal with them. xli also does not support pseudo transparency effects with some applications, a good example being X-Chat.

    Esetroot supports progressive JPEG and pseudo transparency in X-Chat and seems a bit faster overall. The downside for those tight on disk space is that it requires 62 additional dependent packages to install.

    There are a couple of caveats to note when using 24-bit images. Desks Overview will not display background previews in the desk panes and you'll find that desktop switching slows down dramatically, though that's less of an issue on newer hardware. If you are not a multi-desktop user these issues may not be important to you, but I recommend trying both xpm and the alternate methods given above to see which works best in your environment.

    The Most Attractive OS


    While monitoring my weblogs the other day I noticed quite a few hits from an ArsTechnica forum thread titled What is the most attractive OS?. Apparently one of the debaters linked some of my screenshots along with a caption trumping IRIX as one of the more attractive OS/UI combos on the market. Of course, this was immediately leapt upon as one might expect, with one poster claiming that the presence of anime backgrounds alone does not a pretty OS make.

    I made my opinion on this matter known in the thread itself, but let me restate it here: my website is not designed to dress up IRIX with anime and try to sell it as something beautiful, it was created to show IRIX in action, performing tasks which hopefully will be of interest to IRIX hobbyists while providing links to useful software. The anime in some of my screenshots is a matter of personal taste; I have anime on all my systems, whether they be Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, etc.; that is the way I am and I'm not changing any time soon.

    On another related note, please don't link my images directly in the future. You may use them elsewhere, but host them yourself. If this continues I'll lock it down. Thanks.

    The Ancient Computer

    NOTE: This entry is already obsolete as I was forced to retire the Indigo after a series of hardware failures left it severely crippled. Ryouko will be missed. My Indigo2 IMPACT, Mika (named after the lead character in the anime Geneshaft), is now running the site.

    It's quite amazing really, running a web site (among other things) on a computer that's now ten years old. That's right, the Silicon Graphics Indigo Elan R4400 powering this website was introduced in early 1992 (then stocked with a 64-bit, 100MHz MIPS R4000 RISC CPU). I suppose you could argue that this particular configuration formally turns a decade old in 2003 (which is when the 150-MHz MIPS R4400 that now powers the mighty Ryouko was released as an upgrade option for the R4000), but either way it's far removed from what we now consider an effective service life.

    The Indigo At Work: A rack of Indigo machines at Fermilab. The Indigo At Work: Rack of Indigos at Fermilab during the 90's.

    I've given serious thought to replacing the machine with something more modern, either a newer IRIX system or perhaps even a Macintosh running OS X, but for some reason I can't bring myself to do it despite having hardware for both options available to me. I derive a sort of obscure pleasure knowing that old, "obsolete" hardware which goes for pennies on the dollar on eBay and increasingly populates dumpsters can still perform serious tasks and perform them well. How many webservers are still out there running on Indigos anyway?

    I am incredibly impressed by SGI's continued support of the Indigo. To this day, the latest and greatest versions of IRIX still run on it, and add on cards like Galileo and Cosmo Compress still receive maintenance updates. I often wonder if there are individuals at SGI that have a fondness for the machine and keep the support alive for nostalgia, or perhaps there are still large customers running Indigos someplace (an intriguing thought!) Especially considering the Crimson lost support as of IRIX 6.2 and contained the same R4400 CPUs, and even further back, the Indigo R3000 lost support as of IRIX 5.3.

    Perhaps more prophetic than intended ...

    Perhaps more prophetic than intended ...

    I now have a more powerful SGI machine, a fully loaded Indigo2 R10000 MaximumImpact which I could press into service if need be. But for now I think I'll keep plugging along with the machine that has served me well in the 20th century and continues to perform equally well in the 21st.

    White Reflection on MPEG2

    Two-Mix has a great DVD out featuring their awesome "White Reflection" track set to very nicely done anime style animation. I'd first encountered this video through an MPEG1 file I downloaded and it was more than enough to hook me; I already loved the song and the anime was just too cool. I immediately purchased the region 2 DVD and set about making a higher quality file for playback on my PowerBook G4 (which lacks an RPC-1 DVD-ROM). Sure I could burn a new copy of the DVD without region encoding, but I was really only interested in this single track.


    Unfortunately I wasn't able to simply rip the VOB for the White Reflection video and play that back through QuickTime as is, even though the filesize wasn't extravagant. PCM 48KHz 2-channel audio was used during the authoring process, and QuickTime refused to play it back with sound. What follows are the steps I went through to get a nice QuickTime compatible MPEG2 file without re-encoding the video.

    Originally I used OSEX 0.0101b to extract the separate .m2v (video) and .pcm (audio) elements with the intention of converting the .pcm to .mpa and then remuxing. I used two approaches to converting the .pcm file into a standard 2-channel audio file (wav/aiff). The first attempt was with an older Mac OS 9 program called PCMtoAIFF. Attempts to run the converter via Classic under Mac OS X failed much to my chagrin. After a reboot into OS 9 (I hate rebooting into OS 9) I was able to utilize the program, which produced an audio file that sounded okay barring an annoying rhythmic clicking noise through the length of the track. Not acceptable. Back to OS X. My second attempt was to compile SoX and run the PCM file through that. Same clicking sound. Obviously OSEX was doing bad things to the PCM track during the demux.


    I then used OSEX to simply extract the VOB and ran that through a52decX which produced a nice clean .aiff file which I subsequently converted to .wav using QuickTime's export function. I then turned to MJPEGTools (compiled via Fink), first converting the .wav to .mpa using mp2enc and finally remuxing the project with mplex. Success; works beautifully under QuickTime with the full glory of the original MPEG2 video!!

    About this Archive

    This page is an archive of entries from November 2002 listed from newest to oldest.

    December 2002 is the next archive.

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