README for Vrui version 4.2, build 006
Copyright (c) 1998-2016 Oliver Kreylos
Vrui is a C++ software development toolkit for highly interactive
virtual reality applications, with a focus on portability between vastly
different virtual reality environments, from laptop or desktop computers
to CAVEs and other fully immersive systems. More information about Vrui
can be found at http://idav.ucdavis.edu/~okreylos/ResDev/Vrui or
Vrui's development was supported by the University of California, Davis,
by the UC Davis W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth
Sciences (KeckCAVES, http://www.keckcaves.org), the W.M. Keck
Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.
On all operating systems, Vrui is based on the X Window System (X11) and
OpenGL. On Mac OS X, X11 is an optional component and can be installed
from the installation media. To build Vrui from source on Mac OS X, it
is necessary to install the optional X11/Xquartz and xcode components
from the installation media. On Linux, we strongly recommend installing
appropriate vendor-supplied OpenGL drivers (such as those released by
Nvidia or ATI/AMD) for optimal 3D graphics performance.
Vrui uses additional libraries if it detects them on the local system,
such as libpng, libjpeg, and libtiff to read/write images in PNG, JPEG,
and TIFF formats, respectively, and OpenAL to render three-dimensional
sound. On Mac OS X, libpng, libjpeg, and libtiff need to be downloaded
from their respective repositories and built from source. On Linux,
OpenAL might not be installed by default and needs to be installed via
the distribution's package manager.
The full list of libraries used by Vrui on Linux:
* zlib (zlib compression/decompression library)
* GL (OpenGL 3D graphics library)
* GLU (OpenGL utility package)
* libudev (udev event notification library)
* libdbus (Desktop Bus IPC library)
* libusb1 (user-space USB library version 1.x)
* libpng (library to read/write PNG images)
* libjpeg (library to read/write JPEG images)
* libtiff (library to read/write TIFF images)
* alsa-lib (low-level sound library)
* openal-soft (OpenAL 3D audio library)
* libv4l (Video4Linux2, user-space video capture library)
* bluez-libs (user-space bluetooth library to talk to Wiimote
* libdc1394 (FireWire video capture library)
* libXrandr (X11 RANDR extension library to auto-detect display
* libXi (X11 Input2 extension library to support multitouch
* speex (low-latency audio compression library)
* libogg (Ogg audio/video container library)
* libtheora (Theora video compression library)
* xine-lib (Xine multimedia framework, for VR video player)
Quick Installation Guide for the Impatient
(Replace <build> by the current Vrui build number.)
0. (Install required packages, if necessary or desired.)
1. Create src directory in home directory and change into it:
> mkdir ~/src
> cd ~/src
2. Download and unpack the Vrui tarball:
> wget -O - <download path>/Vrui-<version>-<build>.tar.gz | tar xfz -
3. Change into Vrui base directory:
> cd Vrui-<version>-<build>
4. Build Vrui inside the Vrui base directory:
or, for multi-processor machines
> make -j<number of CPUs>
5. Install Vrui into /usr/local
> sudo make install
6. If there are error messages during the build, read below.
Building and Running Vrui Example Applications
1. Change into example application directory:
> cd ~/src/Vrui-<version>-<build>/ExamplePrograms
2. Build example applications:
3. (On MacOS X: Start X11.)
4. Run Earth renderer:
5. Read about Vrui's default user interface in HTML documentation in
Detailed Installation notes
Installation is performed via the central makefile in the
Vrui-<version>-<build> base directory. The makefile attempts to auto-
detect the configuration of the host computer, and manual changes are
typically not required to build Vrui. In general, we recommend to build
Vrui using an unchanged makefile, and only make changes if there are
problems or errors during the build, or if advanced users have very
The one makefile setting that might need to be adjusted is the Vrui
installation path at the very beginning of the makefile. By default,
Vrui installs itself into /usr/local hierarchy. This can be changed
either by editing the makefile, or, better, by passing the desired
nstallation directory on make's command line:
> make INSTALLDIR=<path>
NOTE: It is important *not* to install Vrui into the same directory in
which it is built. A typical installation would download the source
tarball into a special "source" directory, say ~/src, and extract it
from there, resulting in the sources being in
~/src/Vrui-<version>-<build>. Then Vrui can be installed in
/usr/local (the default) without any problems. After installation,
the source tarball and the ~/src/Vrui-<version>-<build> directory can in
principle be deleted.
Here is a diagram of the directory structure described above:
~ (home directory)
+- src (unpack Vrui tarball from in here)
+- Vrui-<version>-<build> (package root directory, run "make" in
+- COPYING, VERSION, HISTORY, README
+- BuildRoot (Vrui's build system)
+- <Vrui component directories>
+- ExamplePrograms (Vrui example program source
+- d (dependency files, created by "make")
+- o (object files, created by "make")
+- lib / lib64 (library files and plug-ins,
| created by "make")
+- bin (executable files, created by "make")
+- include (system include directory)
| +- Vrui-<version> (Vrui development header files, created by
| | "make install")
| +- Misc, Realtime, Threads, ..., Vrui
| +- header files
+- lib / lib64 (system library directory)
| +- pkgconfig (system package configuration directory)
| | |
| | +- Vrui.pc
| +- Vrui-<version> (Vrui library files and plug-ins, created by
| | "make install")
| +- VRTools, VRVislets, VRDevices, VRCalibrators
| | |
| | +- plug-in *.so files
| +- libMisc.*.so*, libRealtime.*.so*, ...
+- bin (system executable directory)
| +- AlignTrackingMarkers, DeviceTest, ...
+- etc (system configuration directory)
| +- Vrui-<version> (Vrui configuration files, created by
| | "make install")
| +- Vrui.cfg, VRDevices.cfg, ...
+- share (system resource directory)
+- Vrui-<version> (Vrui shared files, created by "make install")
| +- Vrui.makeinclude (makefile fragment, deprecated)
| +- make (Whytools build system)
| | |
| | +- SystemDefinitions, BasicMakefile, ...
| | |
| | +- template makefile for Vrui application development
| +- GLFonts, Shaders, Textures
| +- fonts, shader source files, and textures
+- doc (system documentation directory, possibly created by
| "make install")
+- Vrui-<version> (Vrui documentation, created by "make install")
+- index.html, ...
Root Installation Directory
The root installation directory is set by changing the value of
INSTALLDIR at the top of the makefile, or by passing INSTALLDIR=<desired
installation directory> on make's command line. Vrui installs itself in
the usual subdirectories under the root installation directory:
- include: Contains header files for Vrui development
- lib or lib64: Contains shared libraries and Vrui plug-ins
- bin: Contains executables
- etc: Contains configuration files
- share: Contains resource files (texture fonts etc.)
If the root installation directory is set to /usr, Vrui will almost (but
not quite) follow the UNIX installation conventions. Concretely,
configuration files will end up in /usr/etc and not in /etc. If the
latter is desired, the additional SYSTEMINSTALL parameter needs to be
added to make's command line, and INSTALLDIR must be set to the empty
> make SYSTEMINSTALL=1 INSTALLDIR=
Fine-tuning Installation Directories
Normally, Vrui installation is controlled by the INSTALLDIR variable
defining the root installation directory, and the optional SYSTEMINSTALL
flag to create a standard-conformant root level installation. If more
fine-tuning is required to install Vrui in a pre-existing directory
hierarchy, Vrui's component directories can be specified individually:
HEADERINSTALLDIR: root directory for include files. Installation will
create subdirectories Misc, Threads, Plugins, Vrui, ...
LIBINSTALLDIR: directory for shared library files.
EXECUTABLEINSTALLDIR: directory for executable files.
PLUGININSTALLDIR: root directory for tool and vislet plug-ins.
Installation will create subdirectories VRTools, VRVislets, VRDevices
ETCINSTALLDIR: directory for configuration files.
SHAREINSTALLDIR: root directory for non-executable files. Installation
will create subdirectories GLFonts, Shaders, and Textures.
PKGCONFIGINSTALLDIR: directory for Vrui's pkg-config file (Vrui.pc).
DOCINSTALLDIR: directory for Vrui's HTML documentation.
MAKEINSTALLDIR: directory for Vrui's build system.
Preparing Binary Packages
Many operating systems contain package managers to distribute software
as binaries for simplified installation and management. It is
straightforward to build Vrui into such packages, but the details depend
on the particular operating system version.
The one thing all packagers have in common is that the software must be
built in a "fake root" environment. Meaning, while the software is
intended to end up in, say, /etc, /usr/bin, /usr/lib, ..., during
package preparation the software has to be copied into a hierarchy under
some base directory, such as ~/packages/etc, ~/packages/usr/bin, ...
This can be achieved by using the final installation directory during
compilation and linking, and using the "fake root" directory during
installation. For example:
> make INSTALLDIR= SYSTEMINSTALL=1
> make INSTALLDIR=$HOME/packages SYSTEMINSTALL=1 install
will configure the software to be run from /etc, /usr/bin, etc., but
will install the files in the same hierarchy underneath ~/packages.
Path to the C++ Compiler
The compiler is selected in the file BuildRoot/SystemDefinitions. The
compiler suite's base directory is set by changing the GNUC_BASEDIR
variable, or by passing GNUC_BASEDIR=<gcc base directory> on make's
command line. The default C++ compiler is /usr/bin/g++.
Note about g++ version 4.1.0 and greater
Starting with version 4.1.0, g++ no longer injects friend functions
defined inside a class declaration into the surrounding namespace. The
build system (BuildRoot/SystemDefinitions and BuildRoot/BasicMakefile)
contains code to detect the compiler version and add the
-ffriend-injection flag to the compiler's command line if the version
number is greater or equal 4.1.0. However, if compiling the example
programs in ExamplePrograms generates error messages about undeclared
functions, the flag -ffriend-injection needs to be manually added to the
compiler command line when building Vrui and Vrui-based applications.
The best place to add the flag is to the end of CSYSFLAGS at the
beginning of BuildRoot/SystemDefinitions before building. Alternatively,
the flag can be added to CFLAGS inside the example programs' build
directories after Vrui has been built/installed.
Vrui contains support for reading/writing binary files with automatic
endianness conversion, and sending/receiving data over TCP pipes with
automatic network endianness detection and endianness conversion. For
this to work, the OS must offer an include file that sets the #define
macros __LITTLE_ENDIAN, __BIG_ENDIAN, and __BYTE_ORDER. __BYTE_ORDER
must be equal to __LITTLE_ENDIAN on little-endian machines, and equal to
__BIG_ENDIAN on big-endian machines. The Misc/Endianness.h header file
includes the appropriate system header files for Linux and Mac OS X, but
might need to be adapted for other operating systems.
Support for PNG, JPEG, and TIFF
The image handling library that is part of the Vrui toolkit supports
reading and writing image files in PNG, JPEG, and TIFF formats. These
features are based on the libpng, libjpeg, and libtiff libraries,
respectively. If the host computer does not contain either of these
libraries, support for PNG, JPEG, or TIFF images can be disabled
separately in the makefile by setting IMAGES_USE_PNG, IMAGES_USE_JPEG,
or IMAGES_USE_TIFF to 0, respectively. The Vrui makefile now contains
code to automatically detect whether libpng, libjpeg, and/or libtiff are
installed, and sets these three variables accordingly. More precisely,
the makefile looks for png.h, jpeglib.h, and tiffio.h in /usr/include
and /usr/local/include. If either library is installed in a different
directory on the host system, the makefile variables need to be set
manually, and the paths to the libraries need to be adjusted in
Vrui uses the PNG (Portable Network Graphics) image file format to save
screenshots taken from a Vrui application window using the image
handling library. If that library is not configured to support PNG
images (see above), Vrui will automatically fall back to saving
screenshots in binary PPM format.
Support for ALSA and SPEEX
Support for Video4Linux2, DC1394, and Theora
Support for OpenAL
Vrui contains full support for spatial audio using the OpenAL 3D sound
API. Since OpenAL is not yet widely used, this support can be disabled
in the makefile, removing dependency on the OpenAL header files and
libraries. To disable OpenAL support, the value of the
SYSTEM_HAVE_OPENAL variable can be set to 0. The Vrui makefile now
contains code to automatically detect whether OpenAL is installed on the
host system by looking for AL/al.h in /usr/include and
/usr/local/include. If OpenAL is installed elsewhere, the
SYSTEM_HAVE_OPENAL makefile variable needs to be set manually, and the
paths to OpenAL need to be adjusted in BuildRoot/Packages.
Support for shared-memory multi-pipe rendering systems
As of version 1.0-035, Vrui contains a mechanism to optimally run on
shared-memory multi-pipe rendering systems such as SGI Onyx or Prism, or
newer multi-CPU computers with multiple graphics cards. Support for
multithreaded rendering is enabled by setting GLSUPPORT_USE_TLS to 1 in
the makefile. Since this somewhat impacts rendering performance, it is
recommended to only enable multithreaded support if (one of) the target
VR environments requires it.
If the host compiler and run-time environment do not support a __thread
storage class for thread-local storage, SYSTEM_HAVE_TLS in
BuildRoot/SystemDefinitions must be set to 0 to fall back to POSIX
thread-local storage (for an additional performance penalty).
Building and Installing Vrui
The easiest way to install Vrui is to cd to the Vrui-<version>-<build>
root directory, and type make, followed by make install. If the root
installation directory (see above) is a system directory, make install
has to be run as root. In that case, it is safer to first run make
(which will build in the current directory) as a non-root user, and
afterwards become root and run make install.
Vrui contains a few settings that might need to be adapted due to
different operating system or OpenGL versions. The settings that
typically cause trouble can be changed from within the main makefile
(they are listed in a section towards the beginning). If Vrui fails to
build with compiler errors, that is the first place to look. The
makefile lists which sources cause trouble, and how to address them.
Building debug version
The Vrui libraries and executables are by default built without
debugging information and with full optimization (-O3). It is possible
to build Vrui with full debugging information and without optimization
by defining the DEBUG variable in the makefile. The easiest way to
achieve this is to pass DEBUG=1 on the make command line, i.e., to type
"make DEBUG=1" followed by "make DEBUG=1 install". Vrui is set up such
that debug and non-debug versions can coexist in the same installation
To make full use of the debugger, the Vrui application itself needs to
be compiled/linked with debugging information as usual. The easiest way
to achieve this is to use Vrui's included build system, in which case
passing "DEBUG=1" to an application makefile will set everything up
Building Example Vrui Applications
The ExamplePrograms directory in the Vrui-<version>-<build> base
directory contains several small example programs, and two larger
applications in their own directories (MeshEditor and VRMLViewer).
ExamplePrograms contains several very simple Vrui applications to show
the basic development approach, and ShowEarthModel, one "realistic"
application to visualize global earthquake distributions.
MeshEditor contains a prototypical and fairly complex VR surface editing
application, and VRMLViewer contains a stand-alone viewer for simple
VRML files (it does not support VRML's full specification) that mostly
serves as an example of how higher-level scene graph functionality can
be layered on top of the Vrui API.
All applications can be built by running make in their respective
directories. If Vrui was not installed in its default location
(~/Vrui-<version>), the VRUI_MAKEDIR variable at the top of each
makefile needs to be changed to the directory named "make" under Vrui's
root installation directory.
The example application makefiles show how to create debug/release
versions without changing the makefile by respecting the DEBUG make
command line argument ("make DEBUG=1") in the same way as the toolkit
Building Vrui Applications
During installation, Vrui installs its own build system in
$(INSTALLDIR)/share/make. Vrui-based projects can benefit from this
build system by using a makefile following the template makefile
included in the build system directory. The makefiles provided with the
Vrui example applications show how this should be done, and how it
results in simple makefiles that build on any environment with a
properly installed version of Vrui.
For compatibility with previous versions of Vrui, Vrui also creates a
makefile fragment (Vrui.makeinclude or Vrui.makeinclude.debug) in
$(INSTALLDIR)/share/make. The appropriate fragment should be included
by the makefiles of all legacy Vrui-based projects to simplify compiling
Alternatively, Vrui creates a pkg-config metafile during build,
Share/Vrui.pc. This metafile can be copied to a location recognized by
pkg-config, such as /usr/lib(64)/pkgconfig, and can then be used to
retrieve compiler and linker flags required to build Vrui applications,
g++ -o Foo `pkg-config Vrui --cflags` Foo.cpp `pkg-config Vrui --libs`
Running Vrui Applications
Vrui applications are started in the usual fashion, by typing the
executable name from the directory containing the executable, and
providing any required command line parameters. Vrui applications will
configure themselves to the machine on which they are running by reading
an appropriate root section in the Vrui.cfg configuration file in the
installation's etc directory. The root section is determined by the
1. By default, Vrui reads the section that has the same name as the
local machine (as reported by hostname).
2. If an environment variable VRUI_ROOTSECTION exists, Vrui will use its
value as the root section
3. If an application's command line contains the arguments
-rootSection <section name>, Vrui will use <section name> as the root
4. If the root section selected by the above cascade does not exist in
the configuration file, Vrui will fall back to the root section
compiled into the library (defaults to "Desktop").
The HTML pages in $(INSTALLDIR)/share/doc contain additional information
about configuring, running, and using Vrui applications.