utilities

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I moved to a new system recently and reinstalled a bunch of stuff, as usual. It was a bit hard to remember all the utilities and whatnot that I use, so I decided to make a little list. This is now up at the bottom of the portals page.

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Last month I mentioned gDEBugger being free and the joys of cppcheck. Here are some others that have crossed my path for one reason or another. Please do let me know (and so let us all know) about any worthwhile tools and libraries I haven’t blogged about – part of the reason for putting out this list is in hopes of learning of tools I haven’t heard of yet.

  • There is now a free version of AQTime, a commercial application that finds memory leaks and performance bottlenecks.
  • The Intel Graphics Performance Analyzers are supposed to be good stuff, and free – you just sign up for the Visual Adrenaline Program. I haven’t used them, but know people that have (hey, there’s Dan Baker on Intel’s page – nice).
  • Intel’s Parallel Inspector, despite its name, is particularly strong at finding memory leaks in any programs. Free month trial.
  • NVIDIA’s Parallel Nsight, also despite its name and focus of its advertising, is not just for CUDA and DirectCompute debugging and analysis, it also works on DirectX 10 and 11 shaders – you’ll need two machines networked together, one to run the shader and the other to control it. The Standard version is free, though when you sign up for it you also get a time-limited “we hope you get hooked” Professional license. Due to a currently-goofy pair of machines in my office (on different networks, and one’s a Mac I use purely as a Windows box), I haven’t gotten to try it out yet, but the demos look pretty great.
  • The Windows Performance Analysis Tools are evidently worthwhile for checking coarse-grained performance and bottlenecks for Windows programs. Again, free. I’ve heard that a number of groups have used xperf to good effect.
  • On an entirely different subject, HLSL2GLSL does a good job of translating most DirectX 9 (only) HLSL shaders to – wait for it – GLSL. Open source, and more info here, which discusses related efforts (like Mojoshader) and translation in the other direction.
  • Not really a tool per se, but still cool to see: here’s a way to find out how much free GPU memory is left for your OpenGL application. Anyone know any way to do this sort of thing with DirectX and Vista/Windows 7?
  • Will WebGL take off? Beats me, but it’s nice to see there’s an inspector, similar to gDEBugger and PIX.
  • GLM is a C++ math library particularly well-suited for use with (but not at all dependent on) OpenGL.
  • Humus points out that the old workhorse PIX now has new functionality that lets you assign names to objects, making debugging easier.
  • While I was messing with his binvox and viewvox programs, Patrick Min pointed out there’s a free 3DS file format library out there, lib3ds. I tried it out and it did the job well, taking very little time for me to integrate into my own private copy of binvox.

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Utilities

Three events have got me thinking about utilities: Christer Ericson’s post, getting a Mac laptop, and sending my older son off to college (to Northeastern, in Computer Science – not my doing, he just liked his high school courses in programming). There are tons of useful utilities, from file searchers to spyware detectors to sound editors, and plenty of pages covering these. Many I use, such as FileZilla, Picasa, MWSnap, GIMP. Some I’m undecided on, such as IrfanView vs. XnView for quick image viewing (XnView is currently winning, but what I really want is trivial individual pixel examination built in – just tell me the RGB(A) that the mouse is over and I’ll be happy forever). Update: XnView wins! Going to the View menu, Display Colour Information can be toggled on, doing exactly what I wanted. That said, see the Comments below; now I have another one to try out, ddsview.

However, three stand out as just plain great, that everyone should know about:

  • Beyond Compare 3: compares files, that’s it. I’d been using version 2 for years; 3′s seriously better, and I’m happy to pay for the upgrade. I’ve found that which “diff” program is best is a matter of religious debate among programmers. Most of us have a favorite and can’t understand why anyone would use anything else. Anyway, this is my choice – compare files or folders, copy differences from one to another, easily edit either file, create reports, compare images (though this feature needs more oomph), plus a great try-before-you-buy policy: 30 days of use before it expires, not 30 days from first use.
  • Dropbox: This is my new best friend. For a number of reasons, I found myself often moving files between various machines via a USB flash drive. Slow, and a giant pain. Dropbox makes life easy for this and 58 other tasks. Install it, create an account, and there’s now a folder on your machine. Install it on other machines. Now when you move a file to this folder, the file is automatically uploaded to their server, then downloaded to all your other machines, almost immediately available on them. You can also put files in a Public subfolder and right-click to get an URL for this file, allowing you to serve up files to the web – extremely easy to do, beats manually FTPing, and you get 2 Gigs of storage free. You can also make private folders that can be shared with others of your choosing over the web. My latest use is putting my bookmarks HTML file into dropbox and pointing all my browsers on all my computers to it – update the file in one place and every machine then uses it automatically. Lovely. One caveat: when you move a file to your dropbox folder, by default you’re really moving it, since the folder’s local – delete it from any machine and it’s gone (well, recycled, but only on that machine). I tend to copy files instead, to avoid surprises.
  • Windirstat (Disk Inventory X on the Mac): This free utility does a great job showing you what’s taking up all that disk space. One key bit of info, that’s not obvious from the interface: almost everything in the window can be clicked (and right-clicked) on, giving still more information. Plus, it’s the only utility in its class with Phong shading (I knew I could tie this post to graphics somehow).

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