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Old 8th July 2007, 01:57 AM
Hlingler's Avatar
Hlingler Offline
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Connellsville, PA, USA
Posts: 11,307
Software Review: TerraForm

  • My System Specs: See signature below.
  • An overall description of the program and it's purpose: From http://terraform.sourceforge.net/: "Terraform is an open source interactive height field generation and manipulation program, giving you the ability to generate random terrain and transform it. Terraform runs under Linux and other UNIX systems under the X11 Windowing system. It uses the GNOME desktop platform and thus has a (more or less) consistent graphical user interface which doesn't require use of the command line.

    "Terraform allows you to generate random terrain using a number of algorithms and then selectively change the terrain using a variety of transformations. Where possible, the transformations provide a real-time preview, giving you instant feedback on the effect of any parameter changes."
  • Potential gotchas or helpful hints on installation and use: This project appears to be on hiatus/no longer actively developed (last release: 0.90.0, April 26, 2002). However, with a little work, I was able to successfully compile and install it. As mentioned in the project's pages (see link above), you must have GNOME and associated development packages installed. You must also have a working POVRay installed to do rendering. In addition, I had to track down and install the following packages (with attendant dependencies) to compile: libxml-devel.i386, gnome-print-devel-0.37-13.i386.rpm. You may need other prerequisites as well: the list of packages that I "shotgun"-installed in my efforts to compile, is rather long. If anyone is interested, but has problems configuring/compiling, I would be happy to supply the full list of packages that I installed.

    After sorting out all of the prerequisites, the source code compiled with only minor errors (NOTE: I used ./configure --prefix=/usr), and I successfully installed it using "checkinstall" instead of "make install". The resulting RPM package installed successfully. If anyone is interested, I can provide this RPM.

    When using TerraForm to render via POVRay, it is necessary to have POVRay set up with the correct include-paths and permissions, both global and user-specific: povray.ini must include the "Library_Path"s to the TerraForm "include" directories, and the global povray.conf must allow reading (at least) of all these directories. You must also point TerraForm to the working POVRay executable via "Options=>POVRay=>Executable". If the POVRay configuration is not correct, the render will silently fail. Consult the POVRay documentation for detailed info.

    Some of the objects/include files supplied with TerraForm contain minor syntax errors that cause POVRay rendering to fail; these are relatively easy to track down and fix.
  • Assessment on the installation out of 5: Identifying and finding the needed prerequisites was difficult (for me). The source code is several years old. However, after acquiring the necessary prerequisites, configuration, compilation, and installation were a breeze. Score: 3 out of 5.
  • Assessment of the ease of use out of 5: With proper configuration of POVRay, TerraForm is relatively easy to use. I have seen no CLI errors so far. One caution: POVRay rendering can be a CPU hog, especially as more objects are added, and saving the TerraForm/POVRay data can chew up a lot of disk space. Score: 4 out of 5.
  • Assessment of the features out of 5: Even in it's present Beta stage, TerraForm is a serious challenger to TerraGen. I have not yet had time to explore all of the many included features. It is a real shame that this project is no longer in active development. I am seriously considering ways to contact and cajole/beg/entice and/or pay/threaten the developers to continue their work on this project. Score: 4 out of 5.
  • Assessment on the quality of the program out of 5: Based on the fact that this application configured, compiled, and installed with such ease even though the source code is so old, and the quality of the features, and the absence of any run-time errors, I am especially impressed with this program, so impressed that I decided to write this review. Score: 5 out of 5.
  • An overall assessment out of 10 (All 4 marks added up, and divided by 2): 8 out of 10.
Conclusion: I would definitely recommend TerraForm to anyone interested in 3D terrain generation/modeling. It is an excellent *nix alternative to TerraGen.

I have attached a sample TerraForm/POVRay rendering output as an example. The terrain was generated randomly by TerraForm; I selectively added a few objects (trees), and adjusted the camera settings; otherwise, this example is virgin TerraForm/POVRay output.

I hope that this review is appropriate and helpful. Happy rendering!

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