Thursday, December 09, 2004

Starting with X3D

So, I somehow committed myself to making a simple X3D browser for mobile devices, but it's really hard to figure out where to start. I've been browsing the specification for several days now, and it's just not really sinking in. Usually, the reference implementation (xj3d) would be the normal place to start, but it's really a VRML browser with a thin veneer of X3D on top of it. In any case, most of xj3d seems to be hand-coded, but the specification looks really amenable to automatic generation, which is the route I want to take.

In order to code up a browser, you need a simple 3d engine first. Since X3D defines a scene graph API, it seems like that working on that API would be an ideal place to start (since one can use a scene graph as the base for a 3d engine), but the more I read about the X3D scene graph API, the more I realize that it's inappropriate for doing any sort of rendering from it. Plus, the interface for getting a browser instance seems cumbersome to code up as well. Still, I suppose it's as good a place to start as any.

For the code generator, I was originally thinking of coding something up in Java, but I think I might make an attempt at putting something together in XSLT. I'm not sure if it'll work, but it's always good to use existing standards, so I suppose it's worth a try. Of course, XSLT doesn't support generating multiple output documents from a single input document, so I'll still have to write some sort of coordinator or something.

I guess I'll start with something simple by auto-generating the exception classes. Already, there are some pecularities in the spec, because initially they define a bunch of abstract language-independent exceptions and then later in the spec, they decide that for the Java version, they'll use a different set of exceptions using a completely different naming scheme. This is actually sort of annoying; I think it's a bug in their spec.

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