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Why isn't 3-D functioning?


Today's personal computers are very sophisticated. Part of the PC's success is due to the fact that hundreds of thousands of hardware and software vendors produce millions of products, yet they all function together - due to the PC's open design. Unfortunately, this same open design can produce a variety of complex problems when attempting to interface everything together.

The Video Display Driver

There is a lot going on "under the hood" to make 3-D display in Terrain Navigator Pro a reality. Essentially, the process of creating a 3-D display is divided into three parts. First, TNP combines maps with geo-spatial data to create a 3-Dimensional model of the terrain. Secondly, the video driver renders this image and prepares it for display. Finally, the video display device (or video card) transforms the image prepared by the driver to a RGB signal which is sent to your monitor.

It is during the second step (the use of the video driver), that most display problems occur. In most cases the video card manufacturer creates the video driver. In some cases, a third party, such as the computer manufacturer or Microsoft provides the driver. In any event, it is their responsibility to ensure that the driver supports all of the various functions in the specification for video display in Microsoft Windows. When there is a function in the driver that does not meet these specifications, it is said to have a "bug in the driver."

Although video driver issues can manifest themselves in very interesting and unexpected ways, here are some common examples:
  • 3-D display does not work when "Use hardware acceleration if available" is selected.
  • 3-D display does not work when "Use hardware acceleration if available" is not selected.
  • 3-D glasses view does not work
  • 3-D display is very slow, despite use of an "accelerated" video card.
  • 3-D display is corrupted, or displays unexpected "garbled" images.
  • Copying the 3-D image to the clipboard does not work properly.
  • Printing the 3-D image (via QuickPrint) does not work properly.
Should you experience any of these phenomena on your computer, chances are you've encountered a "bug in the video driver". Fortunately, video card manufactures are constantly revising their drivers, adding new features and correcting these bugs as they are identified. Most vendors provide updated drivers free of charge on their web site.

Getting Information about Your Video Card and its Drivers

For information on your video card’s settings and capabilities, open Terrain Navigator Pro's Help menu and choose 3-D Accelerator Info. This window gives details on your video card's software and/or hardware drivers, and it also tells you which driver your video card is currently using.

There are two types of drivers:
• Software drivers: All video cards have software drivers. Provided by Microsoft, these drivers generally work well but some applications may experience a slow display. The 'Large' 3-D view preference is not available when software drivers are in use.

• Hardware drivers: Some video cards have hardware drivers (in addition to software drivers). Hardware drivers are designed to provide a faster display. A video card’s ability to use hardware drivers is called hardware acceleration.

If your 3-D accelerator information window says "Hardware driver found, but not functioning," this means that although the driver is classified as a hardware driver, it does not have the capabilities necessary to provide hardware acceleration in Terrain Navigator Pro's 3-D view. If an updated driver does not correct this problem, please contact your computer manufacturer for assistance.

Updating Your Video Card Drivers

The speed and performance of 3-D view depends largely on your computer’s video card. The video card is the component of your computer that controls display performance and speed. Video cards are powered by drivers. To ensure that 3-D display performance is maximized, you should maintain updated video drivers. Choose 3-D Accelerator Info from the Help menu to get details on your video card make and model, and the status of its drivers.

Video card manufacturers routinely update these drivers. You can download the latest drivers from your video card manufacturer’s web site. It is a good idea to check every so often to make sure you have the latest drivers available. Many companies release updated drivers on a monthly basis.

For details and instructions, please see this knowledge base article:
Video and Printer Driver Updates: How to apply them to improve Terrain Navigator Pro

Once Your Video Card Drivers Have Been Updated

Once you have downloaded and installed the latest available drivers for your video card, restart your computer and launch Terrain Navigator Pro. You should now be able to properly use the 3-D display.

If Your 3-D Display is Still Not Working

Terrain Navigator Pro's 3-D view performance is limited to the capabilities of your video card. Sometimes, tweaking the settings for your video card will improve the performance and reliability of your 3-D display.

Terrain Navigator Pro's 3-D view mode is pre-set to take advantage of hardware acceleration if possible. Open the File menu, choose Preferences, 3-D and verify the Use 3-D hardware acceleration when available option. If it is checked, TNP will attempt to use the hardware/accelerated drivers. This will usually yield a fast display, but may also have compatibility issues. Unchecking this option will use the software drivers – providing maximum compatibility, but performance may be compromised.

For some video cards, hardware acceleration is only available under certain system configurations. Try changing the display settings: Right-click the Windows 7 desktop and choose Screen Resolution. Adjusting the Resolution, or Advanced Settings (such as the Colors in the Monitor tab) may also improve compatibility or performance. (Contact you video card manufacturer or computer manufacturer for more details.)

An easy way to improve 3-D performance is to display a smaller area of terrain. Open the 3-D Preferences and under 3-D Landscape Area, choose Small.

On certain 3D accelerator cards (when hardware acceleration is enabled), the view of the landscape may appear white. This occurs when the 'Texture Size' available (open the Help menu and choose 3-D Accelerator Info for reference) is less than 1024. A texture size of 1024 (or higher) is required to view "Medium" and "Large" landscapes (see 3-D Preferences). Since texture size is often a function of the video RAM present on your video card, you may be able to contact your video card manufacturer for an upgrade.

If you have followed all of instructions above, you have done everything possible to ensure that Terrain Navigator Pro's 3-D view is operating at the maximum performance level provided by your computer system. Remember, however, to keep an eye out for updated video card drivers, so that you can take advantage of any future driver improvements.

Compatibility Testing

Before its release, we tried Terrain Navigator Pro on a wide variety of machines with video cards and drivers from many different manufactures. In every case, when a problem was found, updating that machine to the latest video drivers corrected it. While this is not an endorsement of the cards we used in our testing, we list all hardware-accelerated cards on which we tested successfully for the sake of completeness: ATI Magnum, Rage, XPERT; Diamond Stealth 2 G640; Intel 810; Jeronimo PCI; Matrox MGA-G200; Nvidia GForce2, TNT M64; Voodoo3 3DFX PCI.

Note: These cards and tests listed here were performed at the time of Terrain Navigator Pro's initial release many years ago. Since then, TNP has been tested on and used successfully with thousands of video cards on an infinite number of computer combinations. With very few exceptions (such as the changes needed for 64 bit versions of Windows) most incompatibility issues with the 3-D display have been traced back to outdated, faulty, or defective video display drivers.

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