Explorer FAQ

Rob Harper Rob.Harper at CONVEX.CSC.FI
Mon Apr 13 05:52:00 EST 1992

>Path: funic!fuug!mcsun!uknet!edcastle!dcs.ed.ac.uk!epcc.ed.ac.uk!gordonc
>From: gordonc at epcc.ed.ac.uk (Gordon Cameron)
>Newsgroups: comp.sys.sgi
>Subject: oOo Explorer FAQ oOo
>Message-ID: <31531 at skye.dcs.ed.ac.uk>
>Date: 12 Apr 92 18:54:34 GMT
>Sender: nnews at dcs.ed.ac.uk
>Organization: Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre
>Lines: 746

Regular-ish posting :
          oOo Explorer Frequently Asked Question List oOo
                          Version 0.2

               Last Altered 12th April 1992 - G.C.

           !!!!! Please Redistribute this Article !!!!!!

+ Introduction +

This document contains answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
asked of the Explorer Modular Visualisation Environment (MVE).

The latest update of this can always be obtained by FTP from :
        UK Site : ftp.epcc.ed.ac.uk (
(       US Mirror : swedishchef.lerc.nasa.gov (    )

If you wish to be part of the Explorer mailing list, comment on this
FAQ, add/alter/CORRECT any questions, or have any suggestions, please
        explorer-request at castle.ed.ac.uk, or
        gordonc at epcc.ed.ac.uk

Where relevant and possible, the sources of information are listed after
the answers - many of the questions stem from those on the mailing
list. Direct quotes are indented.

N.B. The compilers of this FAQ are independent of SGI (developers of
Explorer) - this also means that any inaccuracies are most probably our
own faults ! Thanks to the XUG and the X FAQ for ideas.
                - Gordon Cameron (Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre)
                        gordonc at epcc.ed.ac.uk
                - Chris Thornborrow, Matthew White (EPCC)

Key :
        +       :       New since last update
        *       :       Changed since last update
        @       :       Bug question (+ fix)

+ Topics +
 A.1) What is Explorer ?
 A.2) What platforms will Explorer run on/what are the requirements ?
 A.3) How can I get Explorer ?
 A.4) Modules, Maps & Ports - What are they ?
 A.5) What is the Map Editor/Librarian ?
 A.6) What Data Formats can Explorer handle ?
 A.7) What is the Data Scribe ?
 A.8) What is the Module Builder ?
 A.9) What are the MCW and MDW ?
 A.10) What is an MVE ?
 A.11) What other MVEs are there ?
 A.12) Is there any overlap between ImageVision and Explorer ?
 B.1) Why does Explorer crash immediately ? +
 B.2) Can I run Explorer on one machine and display on another ?
 B.3) Can I run modules on different machines ?
 B.4) How can I start Explorer with a prefined map ?
 B.5) Can I run Explorer in batch mode (i.e. without the GUI) ?
 B.6) Will Explorer work with very large data sets ?
 B.7) When does a module fire ?
 B.8) Why does Explorer run slowly on my system ?
 B.9) How can I customize the look of Explorer ?
 C.1) Why does Explorer ignore all my input ? @
 C.2) Why can't I start a GenerateColormap module ?
 C.3) How can I stretch the librarian scrolling list ?
 C.4) How can I slice into an iso-surface ?
 C.5) How can I render translucent solids ?
 C.6) Why can I not get LatFunction to work ? +@
 D.1) Why does the help file not reflect the actual widget ? @
 F.1) How can I wake Explorer on events ?
 F.2) What has happened to the routine cxInputPortStateGet ? @
 G.1) Where can I get PD modules ? +
 H.1) Where can I obtain documentation (e.g. Module Writers' Guide) ? *
 H.2) Is there a mailing list/FTP site ? *
 H.3) Is there a relevant newsgroup ?
 H.4) Why are the electronic PostScript files incomplete ? *
 I.1) How can I add/correct or comment on Q&As on the FAQ ?
 I.2) Where can I find a list of bugs ? +

+ Full Q&As +
A.1) What is Explorer ?

        IRIS Explorer is an application creation system and user
        environment that provides visualisation and analysis
        functionality for computational scientists, engineers, and
        other investigators. It is especially useful for those whose
        needs are not met by commercial software packages. Also, IRIS
        Explorer's Graphical User Interface (GUI) allows users to build
        custom applications without having to write a single line of

                        [from IRIS EXPLORER - Technical Report(SGI)]
A.2) What platforms will Explorer run on/what are the requirements ?

Explorer is included at no cost with each Silicon Graphics
workstation.  Explorer can be ordered for existing workstations at a
nominal media charge. It is also available from Cray Research for Cray
Research computers, and it is hinted that the package will be ported
soon(#:-} to other platforms.

On SGI platforms, requirements are that the machine have a 24 bit plane
(or virtual 24 bit plane) frame buffer i.e. All except Personal Irises
with 8 bit planes. In addition, 16MB is the minimum memory requirement,
although 24 megs is recommended, especially when the data sets to be
visualised are particularly large.

In particular, you must be running version 4.0.1 of the OS, or higher.

                        [Leo Blume(SGI) and Release Notes for Explorer]
A.3) How can I get Explorer ?

Contact your local SGI supplier for details of what Explorer is available
on, and how to obtain it.
A.4) Modules, Maps & Ports - What are they ?

A MODULE is a single software tool for performing a particular task.
Explorer is shipped along with a wide range of modules to perform tasks
such as data input, rendering, image processing and manipulation. Each
module has associated input and output PORTS which control the flow of
data in and out of the module.

Modules are connected together to form pipelines which perform specific
higher level tasks. The collection of such modules and the links between
them are referred to as Explorer MAPS. The function of the map is implicitly
defined by the functions of the modules and their interconnectivity.
A.5) What is the Map Editor/Librarian ?

The Map Editor and Librarian are the two main windows that are used
when you use Explorer.

The MAP EDITOR is a graphical tool for assembling the maps by picking
modules and joining them together in an intuitive manner. The editor
will only allow the connection of input/output port pairs of the same
data type, so Explorer is a `strongly typed system'.  The map editor is
effectively the interactive prototyping environment of Explorer.

The LIBRARIAN is the tool which allows you to browse through existing
modules and maps, to choose those which you wish to use with the map
A.6) What Data Formats can Explorer handle ?

Explorer works on 5 main types of data :
        Parameter : Scalar values such as integers and doubles.
        Lattice : A Generalized multi-dimensional array.
        Pyramid : Combines lattices with connectivity information in
                a hierarchical structure.
        Geometry: A general, hierarchical, geometric description.
        Unknown : An uninterpreted stream of bytes

The first four types will be consistent between modules perhaps
executing on different machine architectures, whereas the last unknown
type does not have this feature (unless the user adds XDR-like data
conversion him/herself).
A.7) What is the Data Scribe ?

The DataScribe is a graphical utility to allow the user to build
templates which can convert data between formats - this is typically
used to convert a customized user data file into a lattice(say) and
vice versa.

These data conversion templates, when completed, constitute modules in
Explorer which can be used in the same fashion as any other module.
A.8) What is the Module Builder ?

The Module Builder is a graphical utility to aid in the creation of
Explorer modules, by helping you define which data types the module has
on its input and output ports, which widgets correspond to which
parameters, and how the module will look when placed in the Map

The Module Builder can also automatically generate one of the extra

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