## What’s what with the Aqsis Ray-Tracer, and Qt4 project development under Linux.

One of the subjects I once wrote about was, that I had a GUI installed on a Debian 8 / Jessie computer, which was called ‘Ayam’, and that it was mainly a front-end for 3D / Perspective graphics development, using the Aqsis Ray-Tracer (v1.8). And a question which some of my readers might have by now, could be, why this feature seems to have slipped out of the hands of the Linux software repositories, and therefore, out of the hands of users, of up-to-date Linux systems. Progress is supposed to go forwards and not backwards.

In order to answer that question, I feel that I must provide information, which starts completely from the opposite end. There exists a ‘GUI Library’, i.e., a library of function-calls that can be used by application programmers, to give their applications a GUI, but without having to do much of the coding, that actually generates the GUI itself. The GUI Library in question is called “Qt”. It’s a nice library, but, as with so many other versions of software, there are noticeably the Major Qt versions 4, 5 and 6 by now. While in the world at large, Qt4 is considered to be deprecated, and Qt6 is the bleeding edge under development, Linux software development has largely still been based on Qt4 and Qt5. So, what, you may ask?

Firstly, while it is still possible to develop applications using Qt4 on a Debian 8 or Debian 9 system, switching to using it is not as easy under Linux, as it is under Windows. When using the ‘Qt SDK’ under Windows, one installs whichever ‘Kit’ one wants, and then compiles their Qt project with that Kit. There could be a Qt4, a Qt5 and a Qt6 Kit, and they’d all work. In fact, there is more than one of each…

Under Linux, if one wants to switch to compiling code that was still written with Qt4, one actually needs to switch the configuration of one entire computer to Qt4 development, by installing the package ‘qt4-default‘. This will replace the package ‘qt5-default‘ and set everything up for (backwards-oriented) Qt4 development. Yet, Qt4 code can still be written and compiled.

And So, my reader might ask, what does this have to do with Aqsis, and potentially not being able to use it anymore?

Well, there is another resource known as ‘Boost’, which is a collection of Libraries that do many sophisticated things with data, that do not necessarily involve any sort of GUI. Aqsis happens to depend on Boost. But, there was one component of Aqsis, which was the program ‘piqslr‘, the sole purpose of which was, to provide a quick preview of a small part of a 3D Scene, so that an artist could make small adjustments to this scene, without having to re-render the whole scene every time. Such features might seem minor at first glance, but in fact they’re major, just as it’s major, to have a GUI to gestalt the scene, which in turn controls a ray-tracing program in the background, which may not have a GUI.

Well, ‘piqslr‘ was one program, that requires both Boost and Qt4. And, Qt4 is no longer receiving any sort of development time. Qt4’s present version is final. And, all versions of Qt need to feed their C++ source code through what they call a “Meta-Object Compiler” (its ‘MOC’). And ‘piqslr‘ needed to have both the header files for Boost included in its source code, as well as being programmed in Qt4.

Qt4’s MOC was still able to parse the header files of Boost v1.55 (which was standard with Debian 8) without getting lost in them. But if source code includes the corresponding header files, for Boost v1.62 (which became the standard with Debian 9), the Qt4 MOC just spits out a tangled snarl of error messages. I suppose that that is what one gets, when one wanted to modify the basic way C++ behaves, even in such a minor way.

And so, what modern versions of Aqsis, which are included in the repositories, offer, are the programs that do the actual ray-tracing, but no longer, that previewer, that had the program-name ‘piqslr‘. I suppose this development next invites the question, of who is supposed to do something about it. And the embarrassing answer to that question is, that in the world of Open-Source Software, it’s not the Debian – or any other, Linux – developers who should be patching that problem, but rather, the developers of Aqsis itself. They could, if they had the time and money, just rewrite ‘piqslr‘ to use Qt5, which can handle up-to-date Boost headers just fine. But instead, the Aqsis developers have been showing the world a Web-page for the past 5 years, that simply makes the vague statement, that a completely new version is around the corner, which will then also not be compatible with the old version anymore.

(Updated 5/21/2021, 19h15… )

## Pursuing the question of, whether a Linux subsystem, that runs under Android, due to the UserLAnd app, can be used for Web development.

It was a subject which I wrote about several months, or years ago, that I had installed the “UserLAnd” app on my Google Pixel C Tablet, so that I could install Debian Linux on it. And a question which one reader had asked me was, whether such an arrangement could be used, to carry out Web development. In fact, some question existed, as to whether proprietary software could be made to run, and my answer was, that it would be preferred to run only Free, Open-Source Software.

In the meantime, I’ve uninstalled Linux from the Pixel C, and installed it on my Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, which has 256GB of internal storage, so that this question can be examined more seriously.

The answer I’d give to this question is, that Web-development can be done in this way, as long as the developer accepts some severe restrictions.

• Successful development of any kind will depend on whether the user has a real keyboard to type on.
• The Open-Source application “Bluefish” runs out-of-the box, which is more than I can say for any sort of Python IDE.
• Because there is little possibility to run a Web-server on the tablet, the features which Bluefish would normally have, to edit PHP Scripts as well, will simply need to be ignored. The ability to preview the Web-pages written, depends on the Guest System’s Firefox browser following the ‘prooted’ Guest System’s Filename-Paths, so that, when Bluefish opens Firefox, the HTML File will essentially be opened as if from the hard drive. And the feature works…

The main reason I would say, not to invest in paid-for software on this platform, is, because its full potential will not be realized.

The HTML and CSS Files created in this way will next need to be transferred to an actual Web-server, and some of the ways in which Bluefish would be set up on a real Linux box, would make this easier.

(Updated 10/03/2020, 4h00: )

## On to the Future of 3D Web Content: Blend4Web

One of the subjects in Computing which continue to fascinate me, is CGI and so-called 3D Models as well as Scenes, that can be rendered to a 2D perspective View. At the same time, for the more trendy readers who like VR Goggles, those scenes can be rendered to 2 2D Views, just so that there will be parallax between them, and the scene seen with stereoscopic vision.

One of the facts which has been made known is that, sometime in 2020, Adobe plans to retire Flash. On one of my home pages, I actually have a 3D animation which used to run under Flash 11, when compiled with Stage3D support. What I find is that the latest Flash Firefox plugin will not display it for Linux, but Google Chrome still plays it. It’s an animation that should be fixed, but, since I neither have the software anymore which I once used to author it, nor the ability to expect browsers to support Flash in the future, I have just skipped fixing that animation.

What I may do at some point in the future, however, is to create some other sort of 3D content, that can be published as part of Web-pages. And, through the use of HTML5 and WebGL, this is quite feasible. The only question which struck me next was, What sort of platform could I use, eventually, that is Free and Open-Source? And the answer that presents itself, is Blend4Web – Community Edition!

Because this platform, which I’ve tested partially, is fully open-source, the licensing requires that I publish any and all source code used to create my future content, including source code belonging to Blend4Web-CE itself. Thus, to avoid procrastinating on that front, I have made the Open-Source version of that code available Here.

This way, whenever I want to create some 3D content, I will not need to worry much about the licensing requirement. Yet, if my readers want to, they may go to the company’s Web-site, linked to above, and purchase the paid-for version of the software instead, differently from the Open-Source version, which I really prefer and use. (:1)

I want to caution my readers however. This software tree comprises 1.4GB, and if the readers wish to download it, I’d strongly urge them to do so from the company’s Web-site, not mine, because the company has a Content Delivery Network – a CDN – that will enable many downloads, while I do not.

Note: Differently from what some readers have already inferred, Yes, the company Web-site also offers free downloads, of the Open-Source version, which is referred to as the ‘Community Edition’.

(Updated 01/05/2020, 11h40 … )

## Widening Our 3D Graphics Capabilities under FOSS

Just so that I can say that my 3D Graphics / Model Editing capabilities are not strictly limited to “Blender”, I have just installed the following Model Editors on the Linux computer I name ‘Klystron’, that are not available through my package-manager:

I felt that it might help others for me to note the URLs above, since correct and useful URLs can be hard to find.

In addition, I installed the following Ray-Tracing Software-Rendering Engines, which do not come with their own Model Editors:

Finally, the following was always available through my package manager:

• Blender
• K-3D
• MeshLab
• Wings3D

• PovRay

In order to get ‘Ayam’ to run properly – i.e., be able to load its plugins and therefore load ‘Aqsis’ shaders, I needed to create a number of symlinks like so:

( Last Updated on 10/31/2017, 7h55 )