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  The Mesa 3D Graphics Library
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<h1>Frequently Asked Questions</h1>
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Last updated: 19 September 2018
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<h2>Index</h2>
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<ol>
  <li><a href="#part1">High-level Questions and Answers</a></li>
  <li><a href="#part2">Compilation and Installation Problems</a></li>
  <li><a href="#part3">Runtime / Rendering Problems</a></li>
  <li><a href="#part4">Developer Questions</a></li>
</ol>
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<h2 id="part1">1. High-level Questions and Answers</h2>
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<h3>1.1 What is Mesa?</h3>
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<p>
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Mesa is an open-source implementation of the OpenGL specification.
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OpenGL is a programming library for writing interactive 3D applications.
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See the <a href="https://www.opengl.org/">OpenGL website</a> for more
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information.
</p>
<p>
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Mesa 9.x supports the OpenGL 3.1 specification.
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</p>


<h2>1.2 Does Mesa support/use graphics hardware?</h2>
<p>
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Yes.  Specifically, Mesa serves as the OpenGL core for the open-source DRI
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drivers for X.org.
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</p>
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<ul>
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  <li>See the <a href="https://dri.freedesktop.org/">DRI website</a>
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  for more information.</li>
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  <li>See <a href="https://01.org/linuxgraphics">01.org</a>
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  for more information about Intel drivers.</li>
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  <li>See <a href="https://nouveau.freedesktop.org">nouveau.freedesktop.org</a>
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  for more information about Nouveau drivers.</li>
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  <li>See <a href="https://www.x.org/wiki/RadeonFeature">www.x.org/wiki/RadeonFeature</a>
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  for more information about Radeon drivers.</li>
</ul>
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<h2>1.3 What purpose does Mesa serve today?</h2>
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<p>
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Hardware-accelerated OpenGL implementations are available for most popular
operating systems today.
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Still, Mesa serves at least these purposes:
</p>
<ul>
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<li>Mesa is used as the core of the open-source X.org DRI
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    hardware drivers.
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</li>
<li>Mesa is quite portable and allows OpenGL to be used on systems
    that have no other OpenGL solution.
</li>
<li>Software rendering with Mesa serves as a reference for validating the
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    hardware drivers.
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</li>
<li>A software implementation of OpenGL is useful for experimentation,
    such as testing new rendering techniques.
</li>
<li>Mesa can render images with deep color channels: 16-bit integer
    and 32-bit floating point color channels are supported.
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    This capability is only now appearing in hardware.
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</li>
<li>Mesa's internal limits (max lights, clip planes, texture size, etc) can be
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    changed for special needs (hardware limits are hard to overcome).
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</li>
</ul>
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<h2>1.4 What's the difference between "Stand-Alone" Mesa and the DRI drivers?</h2>
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<p>
<em>Stand-alone Mesa</em> is the original incarnation of Mesa.
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On systems running the X Window System it does all its rendering through
the Xlib API:
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</p>
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<ul>
<li>The GLX API is supported, but it's really just an emulation of the
     real thing.
<li>The GLX wire protocol is not supported and there's no OpenGL extension
    loaded by the X server.
<li>There is no hardware acceleration.
<li>The OpenGL library, libGL.so, contains everything (the programming API,
    the GLX functions and all the rendering code).
</ul>
<p>
Alternately, Mesa acts as the core for a number of OpenGL hardware drivers
within the DRI (Direct Rendering Infrastructure):
<ul>
<li>The libGL.so library provides the GL and GLX API functions, a GLX
    protocol encoder, and a device driver loader.
<li>The device driver modules (such as r200_dri.so) contain a built-in
    copy of the core Mesa code.
<li>The X server loads the GLX module.
    The GLX module decodes incoming GLX protocol and dispatches the commands
    to a rendering module.
    For the DRI, this module is basically a software Mesa renderer.
</ul>



<h2>1.5 How do I upgrade my DRI installation to use a new Mesa release?</h2>
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<p>
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This wasn't easy in the past.
Now, the DRI drivers are included in the Mesa tree and can be compiled
separately from the X server.
Just follow the Mesa <a href="install.html">compilation instructions</a>.
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</p>

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<h2>1.6 Are there other open-source implementations of OpenGL?</h2>
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<p>
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Yes, SGI's <a href="http://oss.sgi.com/projects/ogl-sample/index.html">
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OpenGL Sample Implementation (SI)</a> is available.
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The SI was written during the time that OpenGL was originally designed.
Unfortunately, development of the SI has stagnated.
Mesa is much more up to date with modern features and extensions.
</p>
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<p>
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<a href="https://sourceforge.net/projects/ogl-es/">Vincent</a> is
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an open-source implementation of OpenGL ES for mobile devices.

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<p>
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<a href="http://www.dsbox.com/minigl.html">miniGL</a>
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is a subset of OpenGL for PalmOS devices.
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<p>
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<a href="http://bellard.org/TinyGL/">TinyGL</a>
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is a subset of OpenGL.
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</p>
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<p>
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<a href="https://sourceforge.net/projects/softgl/">SoftGL</a>
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is an OpenGL subset for mobile devices.
</p>

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<p>
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<a href="http://chromium.sourceforge.net/">Chromium</a>
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isn't a conventional OpenGL implementation (it's layered upon OpenGL),
but it does export the OpenGL API.  It allows tiled rendering, sort-last
rendering, etc.
</p>

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<p>
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<a href="http://www.ticalc.org/archives/files/fileinfo/361/36173.html">ClosedGL</a>
is an OpenGL subset library for TI graphing calculators.
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</p>

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<p>
There may be other open OpenGL implementations, but Mesa is the most
popular and feature-complete.
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</p>

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<h2 id="part2">2. Compilation and Installation Problems</h2>
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<h3>2.1 What's the easiest way to install Mesa?</h3>
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<p>
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If you're using a Linux-based system, your distro CD most likely already
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has Mesa packages (like RPM or DEB) which you can easily install.
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</p>
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<h3>2.2 I get undefined symbols such as bgnpolygon, v3f, etc...</h3>
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<p>
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You're application is written in IRIS GL, not OpenGL.
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IRIS GL was the predecessor to OpenGL and is a different thing (almost)
entirely.
Mesa's not the solution.
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</p>
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<h3>2.3 Where is the GLUT library?</h3>
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<p>
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GLUT (OpenGL Utility Toolkit) is no longer in the separate MesaGLUT-x.y.z.tar.gz file.
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If you don't already have GLUT installed, you should grab 
<a href="http://freeglut.sourceforge.net/">freeglut</a>.
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</p>
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<h3>2.4 Where is the GLw library?</h3>
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<p>
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GLw (OpenGL widget library) is now available from a separate <a href="https://cgit.freedesktop.org/mesa/glw/">git repository</a>.  Unless you're using very old Xt/Motif applications with OpenGL, you shouldn't need it.
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</p>
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<h2>2.5 What's the proper place for the libraries and headers?</h2>
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<p>
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On Linux-based systems you'll want to follow the
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<a href="http://oss.sgi.com/projects/ogl-sample/ABI/index.html">Linux ABI</a> standard.
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Basically you'll want the following:
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<dl>
<dt><code>/usr/include/GL/gl.h</code></dt>
<dd>the main OpenGL header</dd>
<dt><code>/usr/include/GL/glu.h</code></dt>
<dd>the OpenGL GLU (utility) header</dd>
<dt><code>/usr/include/GL/glx.h</code></dt>
<dd>the OpenGL GLX header</dd>
<dt><code>/usr/include/GL/glext.h</code></dt>
<dd>the OpenGL extensions header</dd>
<dt><code>/usr/include/GL/glxext.h</code></dt>
<dd>the OpenGL GLX extensions header</dd>
<dt><code>/usr/include/GL/osmesa.h</code></dt>
<dd>the Mesa off-screen rendering header</dd>
<dt><code>/usr/lib/libGL.so</code></dt>
<dd>a symlink to <code>libGL.so.1</code></dd>
<dt><code>/usr/lib/libGL.so.1</code></dt>
<dd>a symlink to <code>libGL.so.1.xyz</code></dd>
<dt><code>/usr/lib/libGL.so.xyz</code></dt>
<dd>the actual OpenGL/Mesa library.  xyz denotes the
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Mesa version number.
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</dd>
</dl>
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<p>
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When configuring Mesa, there are three meson options that affect the install
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location that you should take care with: <code>--prefix</code>,
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<code>--libdir</code>, and <code>-D dri-drivers-path</code>. To install Mesa
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into the system location where it will be available for all programs to use, set
<code>--prefix=/usr</code>. Set <code>--libdir</code> to where your Linux
distribution installs system libraries, usually either <code>/usr/lib</code> or
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<code>/usr/lib64</code>. Set <code>-D dri-drivers-path</code> to the directory
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where your Linux distribution installs DRI drivers. To find your system's DRI
driver directory, try executing <code>find /usr -type d -name dri</code>. For
example, if the <code>find</code> command listed <code>/usr/lib64/dri</code>,
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then set <code>-D dri-drivers-path=/usr/lib64/dri</code>.
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</p>
<p>
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After determining the correct values for the install location, configure Mesa
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with <code>meson configure --prefix=/usr --libdir=xxx -D dri-drivers-path=xxx</code>
and then install with <code>sudo ninja install</code>.
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</p>


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<h2 id="part3">3. Runtime / Rendering Problems</h2>
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<h3>3.1 Rendering is slow / why isn't my graphics hardware being used?</h3>
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<p>
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If Mesa can't use its hardware accelerated drivers it falls back on one of its software renderers.
(eg. classic swrast, softpipe or llvmpipe)
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</p>
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<p>
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You can run the <code>glxinfo</code> program to learn about your OpenGL
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library.
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Look for the <code>OpenGL vendor</code> and <code>OpenGL renderer</code> values.
That will identify who's OpenGL library with which driver you're using and what sort of
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hardware it has detected.
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</p>
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<p>
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If you're using a hardware accelerated driver you want <code>direct rendering: Yes</code>.
</p>
<p>
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If your DRI-based driver isn't working, go to the
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<a href="https://dri.freedesktop.org/">DRI website</a> for trouble-shooting information.
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</p>


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<h3>3.2 I'm seeing errors in depth (Z) buffering.  Why?</h3>
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<p>
Make sure the ratio of the far to near clipping planes isn't too great.
Look
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<a href="https://www.opengl.org/resources/faq/technical/depthbuffer.htm#0040">here</a>
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for details.
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</p>
<p>
Mesa uses a 16-bit depth buffer by default which is smaller and faster
to clear than a 32-bit buffer but not as accurate.
If you need a deeper you can modify the parameters to
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<code>glXChooseVisual</code> in your code.
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</p>


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<h3>3.3 Why Isn't depth buffering working at all?</h3>
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<p>
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Be sure you're requesting a depth buffered-visual.  If you set the
<code>MESA_DEBUG</code> environment variable it will warn you about trying
to enable depth testing when you don't have a depth buffer.
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</p>
<p>Specifically, make sure <code>glutInitDisplayMode</code> is being called
with <code>GLUT_DEPTH</code> or <code>glXChooseVisual</code> is being
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called with a non-zero value for <code>GLX_DEPTH_SIZE</code>.
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</p>
<p>This discussion applies to stencil buffers, accumulation buffers and
alpha channels too.
</p>


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<h3>3.4 Why does <code>glGetString()</code> always return <code>NULL</code>?</h3>
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<p>
Be sure you have an active/current OpenGL rendering context before
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calling <code>glGetString</code>.
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</p>


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<h3>3.5 <code>GL_POINTS</code> and <code>GL_LINES</code> don't touch the
right pixels</h3>
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<p>
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If you're trying to draw a filled region by using <code>GL_POINTS</code> or
<code>GL_LINES</code> and seeing holes or gaps it's because of a float-to-int
rounding problem. But this is not a bug. See Appendix H of the OpenGL
Programming Guide - "OpenGL Correctness Tips". Basically, applying a
translation of (0.375, 0.375, 0.0) to your coordinates will fix the problem.
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</p>


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<h2 id="part4">4. Developer Questions</h2>
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<h3>4.1 How can I contribute?</h3>
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<p>
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First, join the <a href="lists.html">mesa-dev mailing list</a>.
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That's where Mesa development is discussed.
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</p>
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<p>
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The <a href="https://www.opengl.org/documentation">
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OpenGL Specification</a> is the bible for OpenGL implementation work.
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You should read it.
</p>
<p>Most of the Mesa development work involves implementing new OpenGL
extensions, writing hardware drivers (for the DRI), and code optimization.
</p>

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<h3>4.2 How do I write a new device driver?</h3>
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<p>
Unfortunately, writing a device driver isn't easy.
It requires detailed understanding of OpenGL, the Mesa code, and your
target hardware/operating system.
3D graphics are not simple.
</p>
<p>
The best way to get started is to use an existing driver as your starting
point.
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For a classic hardware driver, the i965 driver is a good example.
For a Gallium3D hardware driver, the r300g, r600g and the i915g are good examples.
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</p>
<p>The DRI website has more information about writing hardware drivers.
The process isn't well document because the Mesa driver interface changes
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over time, and we seldom have spare time for writing documentation.
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That being said, many people have managed to figure out the process.
</p>
<p>
Joining the appropriate mailing lists and asking questions (and searching
the archives) is a good way to get information.
</p>


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<h3>4.3 Why isn't <code>GL_EXT_texture_compression_s3tc</code> implemented in
Mesa?</h3>
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<p>
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Oh but it is! Prior to 2nd October 2017, the Mesa project did not include s3tc
support due to intellectual property (IP) and/or patent issues around the s3tc
algorithm.
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</p>
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<p>
As of Mesa 17.3.0, Mesa now officially supports s3tc, as the patent has expired.
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</p>
<p>
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In versions prior to this, a 3rd party <a href="https://dri.freedesktop.org/wiki/S3TC">
plug-in library</a> was required.
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</p>

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