Category Archives: I hope I haven’t done this horribly wrong

A tale of two vectors (normal reconstruction and driver differences)

If you’re playing around with deferred rendering or post-process techniques, you’ve probably come across the concept that you can recover camera-space surface normals from camera space position like so:

vec3 reconstructCameraSpaceFaceNormal(vec3 CameraSpacePosition) {
    vec3 res = normalize(cross(dFdy(CameraSpacePosition), dFdx(CameraSpacePosition)));
    return res;

where C is the camera-space position.

What you might not realise is that you’re accidentally setting yourself up for confusion depending on your graphics driver. For the longest time, I was using this technique to try to implement SSAO without having to bother with storing screen space normals. After fiddling about a bit I noticed that on my desktop with an NVIDIA GTX680 everything looked OK, while on my laptop with intel HD integrated graphics everything looked inverted. I then tried reversing the normal I was getting out of this function. Success! The laptop is now displaying correctly. Failure! The desktop is now screwed up.

Continue reading A tale of two vectors (normal reconstruction and driver differences)

Simple billboard orientation in world space

I had a great deal of difficulty in working out how to do billboards properly, simply because I don’t have the mental agility to handle the descriptions usually given in 3D programming tutorials. The method I’ve managed to figure out is related to gluLookAt: and uses a similar method to work out the rotation matrix needed to map one vector to another.

Here’s how the process works:
Continue reading Simple billboard orientation in world space

Dealing with .csv files in Cocoa – writing an importer

Mac users who need to deal with large amounts of data might justifiably feel like they got the short end of the stick as far as Microsoft Office is concerned. The Mac version of Excel doesn’t support Visual Basic and isn’t multithreaded, meaning that:

a) as soon as you get above a couple of tens of thousands of rows, any formula more complicated than summing a column freezes the UI for a couple of minutes while it crunches the numbers, and

b) any data analysis you want to do which involves iteration results in formulae consisting of ten lines of densely nested brackets, which are nearly impossible to read or debug.

Like any bad programmer, I implicitly believe that my language of choice is the perfect tool for any job, and hence when recently confronted with a very large stack of data I needed to analyse I decided it would be easiest to Object Oriented the hell out of it with a small custom C application.

Continue reading Dealing with .csv files in Cocoa – writing an importer

NSDocument saving quirks

Let’s say you have a document-based application which worked fine under Leopard/Snow Leopard.  Each document is backed by an XML store, and hence the saving method works by exporting the contents of a number of NSTextViews into one string of XML, which is saved to disk.  You’ve been happily overriding

- (BOOL)saveToURL:(NSURL *)url ofType:(NSString *)typeName forSaveOperation:(NSSaveOperationType)saveOperation error:(NSError **)outError

as being a sensible point to insert your custom document-saving code – in my case, I send the NSString which holds all of the document’s data to a basic XML exporter, which does clever stuff like removing all of the illegal characters, etc.  You then use NSString’s writeToURL: atomically:encoding:error method to do the actual write.  This works fine pre-Lion.

Everything goes swimmingly until you upgrade to Lion/Mountain Lion and try to save the document in place (i.e. save rather than save as:).  Your application pops up a warning sheet saying “This document’s file has been changed by another application since you opened or saved it.

Every.  Single.  Time.

Workaround: give your application a file wrapper so that you can add some metadata, and you can trick your application into realising that the file hasn’t been altered after all. You can do this by overriding NSDocument’s fileWrapperOfType: method rather than saveToURL. This is from an application for writing questions and answers to an XML file which is then used as the data source for a quiz application, hence the funny QuestionExporter/setQuizDocument object and setter:

- (NSFileWrapper *)fileWrapperOfType:(NSString *)typeName error:(NSError *__autoreleasing *)outError {
    QuestionExporter *exporter = [[QuestionExporter alloc]init];
    [exporter setQuizDocument:self];
    NSString *xmlString = [exporter exportQuestionsToString];
    NSFileWrapper *wrapper = [[NSFileWrapper alloc]initRegularFileWithContents:[xmlString dataUsingEncoding:NSUTF8StringEncoding]];
    return wrapper;