December 2002 Archives

Vacation Time

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That's right, I'm on vacation again! I'll be back on the 30th and will try for a new update around that time.

HotMix CDs


Last week I stopped off at SGI's campus in Mountain View and picked up a few classic HotMix CD-ROMs to give away to site readers. For those unfamiliar with HotMix, they are (were) promotional CDs containing demo and trial versions of commerical software for IRIX.

Here's where I need some assistance; how best should I give these out? I've considered giving them away for tip/article contributions, or perhaps open a guest screenshot gallery where we could have some friendly competition. At any rate, I'm willing to pick up shipping for those located in the US/Canada.

Gaim 0.59.6 for IRIX Released


Note: This has now been formally released as part of the February 2003 Freeware distribution.

SGI has posted a tardist of Gaim v0.59.6 (the current release) in the beta directory of their freeware site. Gaim is a multiprotocol instant messaging client capable of using AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, MSN, IRC, Napster, Zephyr, Gadu-Gadu and Jabber simultaneously. More information on Gaim itself is available from the official site.

Note: Gaim requires the beta gettext tardist for installation: fw_gettext-0.11.5.tardist

Using the Keyboard to Switch Desks


Using 4DWM it's possible to bind custom keys to quickly switch between different desktops; this allows you to assigning desks to different tasks, for example one desktop for web surfing, another for editing, etc.

In this tutorial we'll create a series of four desktops that can be switched between by pressing <ALT-1> through <ALT-4>. More desktops can of course be added as needed.

To start, open Desks Overview by selecting Desktop -> Extra Desks in the Toolchest. By default, Desks Overview will contain two desks, the current desktop labeled 'Desk 1' and the Global desk. Create two more desktops by selecting Menu -> Desk -> New Desk.

Now let's rename the desks to match the tasks we're going to assign. For this example, we'll use 'System', 'Editing' and 'Web', leaving 'Global' alone as it is a special purpose desk (anything placed on Global is mirrored on the other desks). Rename each desk by first selecting it with the mouse, then right click to bring up the contextual menu. Select Desk -> Rename Selected and then type in the new name above each.

Now it's time to configure 4Dwm to use our custom hot keys. First we need to create a ~/.4Dwmrc file by copying /usr/lib/X11/system.4Dwmrc to your home directory as ~/.4Dwmrc:

cp /usr/lib/X11/system.4Dwmrc ~/.4Dwmrc

Open ~/.4Dwmrc with a text editor and find the following section:

!! SGI 4Dwm Key Binding Description
Keys 4DwmKeyBindings
# Same as the standard OSF Key Bindings
Shift<Key>Escape window|icon f.post_wmenu
Alt<Key>space window|icon f.post_wmenu
Alt<Key>Tab root|icon|window f.next_key
Alt Shift<Key>Tab root|icon|window f.prev_key
Alt<Key>Escape root|icon|window f.circle_down
Alt Shift<Key>Escape root|icon|window f.circle_up
Alt Shift Ctrl<Key>exclam root|icon|window f.set_behavior
Alt<Key>F6 window f.next_key transient
Alt Shift<Key>F6 window f.prev_key transient
Shift<Key>F10 icon f.post_wmenu
! Alt Shift<Key>Delete root|icon|window f.restart

# SGI added key bindings
Shift<Key>Escape root 4DwmRootMenu
Alt<Key>space root 4DwmRootMenu

Add the following lines after the # SGI added key bindings section, but before the closing brace:

#change desktops
Alt<Key>1 root|icon|window f.switch_desk "System"
Alt<Key>2 root|icon|window f.switch_desk "Editing"
Alt<Key>3 root|icon|window f.switch_desk "Web"
Alt<Key>4 root|icon|window f.switch_desk "Global"
#Alt<Key>5 root|icon|window f.switch_desk "Desk 5"
#Alt<Key>6 root|icon|window f.switch_desk "Desk 6"
#Alt<Key>7 root|icon|window f.switch_desk "Desk 7"
#Alt<Key>8 root|icon|window f.switch_desk "Desk 8"

Notice that desks 5-8 are commented out; if you need more desktops in the future uncomment these and change the description in the quotes to match your desktop title.

After restarting the X-server (logging out then back in will work) you should now be able to cycle through your desktops using <ALT-1> through <ALT-4>. I find that setting a custom background for each desktop makes it easier to tell them apart.

Wheel Mouse Support Under IRIX


Here's a great tip if you're wanting a little more flexibility with your input devices under IRIX. As of IRIX 6.5.16, support for multi-button mice (including scroll wheel) has been added, though it's not active by default.

Here are the possible systune settings for pcmouse_mode:

0 - Default 3-button mode
1 - 3-button Wheel Mouse (type 3), Wheel generates buttons 4 & 5.
2 - 5-button Wheel Mouse (type 4), Wheel & buttons 4 & 5 generate button events 4 & 5.

Since I am using a Intellimouse Explorer, I chose '2'. The command to activate support in my case would then be (as root):

systune pcmouse_mode 2

After a reboot both the scroll wheel and middle button should be active. On a five button mouse such as the Intellimouse Explorer, the two additional buttons function as scroll up/down. You should also see an entry in /var/adm/SYSLOG like this:

Dec 15 20:19:07 5A:Mika unix: NOTICE: pcmouse: type=4

I've found the scroll wheel works wonderfully with Mozilla, SkipStone and many freeware applications available on If you use aterm as your default terminal it works with that as well.

Racer 0.4.9 for IRIX

Another IRIX game worth mentioning is Racer, currently at version 0.4.9. Racer is a free car simulation project offering real car physics as well as the ability to easily build custom vehicles and tracks. This focus on realism makes Racer more suited to hardcore sim fans than casual arcade gamers.

You can download the IRIX build here and the MacOS X build here. Note that unlike games such as Quake 2 which can utilize software rendering if a system doesn't have texturing in hardware, Racer absolutely requires texture support.

Racer enjoys a very active user community which contributes tons of tracks, cars, and other goodies. The Racer forum at Race Sim Central is a great place to start.

Quake 2 Battleground


Did you know the server-side mod Quake 2 Battleground was available for both IRIX and MacOS X? Well I certainly didn't. Apparently deleet ported and released this back in February, giving us another gem to add to the IRIX game library.

Visit the official Quake 2 Battleground web site for information on the mod itself, and then deleet's Quake 2 Battleground for MacOS X and IRIX to download the packages. If you don't already have Quake 2 you can download the IRIX version from SGI's Game page and the MacOS X version from Fruitz of Dojo.

The Big Move

Nekochan Net may experience some sporadic downtime over the next few days; I'm in the process of moving this website over to the Indigo2. The decision to retire Ryouko came rather abruptly today after a failed attempt to install a Phobos G130 along with a dead TOD battery gave me serious pause as to the viability of the current setup as a server. It's time to move on; the Indigo2 is several orders of magnitude faster anyway. Ryouko will still get occasional use as a Galileo/Cosmo video capture station once I get around to installing a new battery.

ScummVM 0.3.0b for IRIX Available


After a period of inactivity due to some legal wrangling between LucasArts and, a new version of the open source implementation of LucasArt's S.C.U.M.M. (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) interpreter has been released. This package allows you to play classic games such as Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max and many more ... on your SGI.

Marcus Herbert has compiled and packaged a IRIX binary (MIPS3 static). If you have any problems downloading the file let me know and I'll host it here as well. The source code is available at the ScummVM website, along with non-IRIX binaries. Have fun!

Digital Virtual Beauties

As a huge fan of 3D character artwork - particularly of beautiful women - I recently decided to order a huge 576 page monstrosity squarely targeted at my favorite genre: Digital Beauties: 2D & 3D Computer Generated Digital Models, Virtual Idols and Characters, published by and available via mail order from

I was quite surprised at the heft of the book having ordered it online sight unseen. As one might expect, there's quite a number of great images and artists inside, but I found that the quality isn't as consistent as it could have been. A lot of the featured work was obviously created using generic Poser models and looks rather bland. The Japanese artists are really the stand outs in this book with nearly all of my favorite 3D modelers represented, however there are notable contributions from around the world as well (such as Alceu M. Baptistao's work; worth the price alone IMHO - simply wonderful stuff). The artist's bios are also interesting, providing background on the artist, insight into the artwork as well as a summary of tools used. Websites, e-mail and other contact information is also provided for most of the artists.

Overall I'm quite happy with the book for the price; it will make a nice reference for 3D modeling and texturing as well as a source for desktop background images.

Virtual Beauties 2020: The Ultimate 3D Graphic Collection is by far the best book of this genre I've seen yet. It's a large 9-7/8" x 11-3/4" book with 200 pages featuring the work of many of the most popular 3D artists in Japan. Published by and available via mail order from

I'd actually picked this book up first and have to confess I was a bit spoiled by it ... I was really hoping that Taschen's Digital Beauties would be more of the same. It's obvious that the pieces featured in this book were carefully selected; there really isn't anything negative I can say about it. The included work spans Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within to many popular game, virtual idol and pinup characters.

One of the many standouts of this book over Digital Beauties is the inclusion of tutorials demonstrating the techniques used in creating many of the characters, making this more valuable as a reference work for 3D modeling.

I highly recommend this book if you're interested in sort of thing, and if you can only buy one "Beauties" book, this is the one to get.

Custom Video Modes


This might be old news to some, but it's too valuable to not pass along. Tony 'Nicoya' Mantler's SGI Video Mode Page provides instructions for generating two additional video modes on many SGI machines (Indigo2 IMPACT, Octane, Fuel, Onyx IR/VPro and O2): 1408x1024 and 1152x870. (Indy, Indigo and non-IMPACT Indigo2 graphics cannot take advantage of custom modes.)

Although Indigo2 IMPACT can display 1600x1200, I find it's not really usable on a CRT due to the 60Hz refresh limit. The standard 1280x1024 mode has an adequate refresh rate @ 76Hz but it's a bit narrow ... not to mention the need to crop standard 4:3 aspect wallpapers to fit. Nicoya's 1408x1024_72 and 1408x1024_76 modes are quite nice; providing more desktop workspace, a high refresh rate, square pixels and compatibility with all 1280x1024 capable monitors. The thumbnail at the start of this article links to a screenshot of the 1408x1024 mode with a 4:3 wall from Gamespot Japan as the background.

New Screenshots

I added and updated a few IRIX screenshots located in the Gallery. If there are any suggestions or if there's something you'd like to see in there let me know. Comments work fine. Drop some comments on the images themselves too.

You wouldn't believe how many Google hits I receive that just drop straight into that gallery and never even see the front page of this site. It's sort of depressing sometimes.

XnView 1.5 for IRIX Released

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Came across this today and thought it might be of interest; appears to be a useful free utility for viewing and converting graphic files. The website has some screenshots of the application in action under IRIX and offers tardists for both IRIX 5.3 and 6.5. More at

Features include (from the website):

  • Imports about 360 graphic file formats
  • Exports about 40 graphic file formats
  • Multipage TIFF, Animated GIF, Animated ICO support
  • Resize
  • Copy/Cut/Crop
  • Adjust brigthness, contrast...
  • Modify number of colors
  • Apply filters (blur, average, emboss, ...)
  • Apply effects (lens, wave, ...)
  • Fullscreen mode
  • Slide show
  • Picture browser
  • Batch convert
  • Thumbnail create
  • Screen capture
  • Contact Sheet create
  • Multi-page file create (TIFF, DCX, LDF)
  • "New" SGI Gear

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    The past couple of weeks have seen the arrival of quite a bit of interesting SGI related gear at the residence. One of the first arrivals was the ACARD ARS-2000FU Ultra SCSI-IDE bridge I mentioned last month. I have to say the bridge has been everything I hoped for; extremely easy to install and use. It's amazing how much storage capacity this gives you for such little cash and the performance is wonderful. I can't say enough good things about these ... in fact, I'm going to buy a couple more of them very soon (one for the Indigo(1) and another for the second bay in the Indigo2). After setting the SCSI ID on the bridge and connecting everything up it was a simple matter to clone my existing system drive over. I used the "Cloning A Root Disk" section of Ian Mapleson's Disk and File System Administration guide, opting for the xfsdump/xfsrestore method outlined in that document.

    Another item I received this past week: a Maximum IMPACT TRAM upgrade kit I'd "won" on eBay. Installation was a bit more challenging since I'm not familiar with the Maximum IMPACT board layout ... I initially neglected to install a TRAM module on the boardset's middle tier which resulted in missing scan lines in textured surfaces. A quick search on the comp.sys.sgi newsgroups helped to clue me in and my next test was successful. I must mention that it took quite a bit of pressure to fully seat the TRAM module on the middle tier though ... the topmost TRAM was very easy to snap into place in comparison.

    One of the most exciting new bits I received: a cable set for the Galileo Video/Cosmo Compress pair installed in my Indigo(1). I was finally able, at long last, to loop my Cosmo card through the Galileo as well as connect up my ABOB! I've had everything save the cables for about a year now but haven't been able to do anything with them aside from use an IndyCam.

    I tried a few test captures earlier this week and am pleased with the results thus far; I've been sending the captured video over the Indigo's integrated 10Mb ethernet (slow!) to the G4 for playback and/or editing. I'm planning on experimenting with the Galileo/Cosmo some more this weekend, trying out some of the various quality related settings to see how it effects the end result.

    Finally, as a result of having a nice video capture solution operating on the Indigo(1), I chased down a Phobos G130 100Mb ethernet card, brand new in box through B&B Solutions (via eBay, cost was $42 US before shipping). This should make moving captured video over to the G4 much less painful.

    By the way, I have an extra ABOB for Galileo available if anyone is looking for one.

    New IRIX Tardist: MPlayer 0.90pre8


    Note: MPlayer 0.90pre8 has been removed as Timo has created a new tardist of Mplayer v0.90rc3 which makes this version obsolete. Please see his comments here for the new download link.

    I recently came across a tardist of MPlayer 0.90pre8, a popular multimedia player for Linux (in fact, the official site calls it "Movie Player for LINUX"). It's not the most recent version currently available, but seems to work quite well.

    This tardist depends on SDL-1.2.3 from SGI's Freeware site so grab that if haven't already. Until the new IrixDiVX is released this is the best solution for DiVX playback under IRIX. Thanks go out to timo for providing this tardist to the SGI community!

    For OS X users, MPlayer 0.90pre9b5 is now available and sports a completely retooled GUI. You can see what it looks like in my latest OS X desktop screenshot (also linked in the sidebar).

    About this Archive

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

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