Programing experiments

Metro App and Effect

Today I thought it is time I get better with shader language (HLSH)!

One problem I had with shaders so far, it is that most of sample on the web use Effects. Sadly, not only Effects are not part of the DirectX SDK (or Windows SDK where it has been integrated on Windows 8), but they are just not allowed in Metro app, where you can’t use the runtime shader compiler, (allegedly ^^) for security reason.

Thankfully Frank Luna came to the rescue! (Frank Luna is the author of the DirectX I am currently learning from).

He posted a .pdf on how to port an example of his book to Metro here, there is a section on effect towards the bottom.

Just in case Frank Luna move his files around I also download it and attached it below!


Also, in shaders the in / out vertex structure are tagged with semantic names which seem to be part of a well known predetermined lot. A bit of Googling found the list of semantic names, good to know, here is the link on MSDN!


Lastly, in most sample I have seen or read so far (it’s not that many, granted! ^^) Shader writer seems to have something against conditional statements.. :~

They use effect to compile multiple shaders at once, depending on some condition (i.e. one effect = multiple shader!!).

But in WinRT there is no effect, dynamic linkage is not supported either.

I decided I will write shaders with conditional statements!! Will see how it goes! ^^

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Categories: WinRT | DirectX
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D2D Progress

For my DirectX WinRT wrapper (now on CodePlex http://directwinrt.codeplex.com/) I took a break of D3D as I had some problem with it (more on that later) and implemented most of D2D, it was easy! ^^

And I also made the initialization even easier and more flexible.

Screenshot of Sample_D2D

So today I will write a quick how to start (with D2D) and about my latest D3D breakthrough (which is just some  C++/CX – C# technicality)


Initializing DirectX Graphics

To start DirectX graphic (with my API) one just initialize a DXContext and set a target, like so

var ctxt = new DXContext();
ctxt.Target = (IRenderTarget) ...;

There are 3 types of target to choose from (so far):


Target can even be changed while drawing (for example draw first on a Texture2D, which then can be used in the final scene).

DXTargetSwapPanelOrWindow wrap a SwapChainBackgroundPanel in XAML application.
Of interest DXUtils.Scenes.ScenePanel initialize DirectX, create a Target and call render on every frame.

Then one can draw, for each frame, with pseudo code like that

void Draw(DXContext ctxt)
    ctxt.Render = true;

    var g3 = new D3DGraphic(ctxt)

    var g2 = new D2DGraphic(ctxt);

    ctxt.Render = false;



Remark at this stage one can download the source (http://directwinrt.codeplex.com/) and have a look at the D2D sample: Sample2_D2D.


This weekend and week I wrapped most of D2D API. To be precise I wrapped the following:
- geometries, brushes, bitmap, stroke style, text format, text layout, transforms

(Missing, from the top of my head, would be 2d effects, glyph run and lots of DWrite)



When drawing a scene (whether D2D or D3D), for performance reason, one should initialize all items first and just call the draw primitives while rendering.

For example lets create a few geometry and brushes

public MyD2DScene()
    bImage = new BitmapBrush { Bitmap = new Bitmap(), };

    bYRB = new LinearGradientBrush
        StartPoint = new Point(100, 100),
        EndPoint = new Point(800, 800),
        GradientStops = new []
            new GradientStop { position = 0, color = Colors.Yellow },
            new GradientStop { position = 0.4f, color = Colors.Red },
            new GradientStop { position = 1, color = Colors.Blue},

    gPath = new PathGeometry();
    using (var sink = gPath.Open())
        sink.BeginFigure(new Point(), FIGURE_BEGIN.FILLED);
        sink.AddLines(new[] {
            new Point(25, 200),
            new Point(275, 175),
            new Point(50, 30),



In that scene snippet I created an image brush from a resource image, a gradient brush and a simple path geometry.



Now I can just render all my items with just few drawing command, like so (for the geometry):

public void Render(DXContext ctxt)
    var g = new D2DGraphics(ctxt);

    g.Transform = DXMath.translate2d(pSkewedRect);
    g.FillGeometry(gPath, bImage);
    g.DrawGeometry(gPath, bYRB, 12, null);



Now that was easy and I got back to try to solve my dissatisfaction with my current implementation of D3D. Mostly that the C# developer is (currently) limited to the vertex buffer that I hard coded in the API.

And then I had a breakthrough. Let’s create a native pointer wrapper and write some code on the C# side that make it strongly typed.

My first attempt looked like that:

public ref class NativePointer sealed
    uint32 sizeoft, capacity;
    void* data;

    property void* Ptr { void* get(); }

    NativePointer(uint32 sizeOfT);
    virtual ~NativePointer();

    property Platform::IntPtr Data { Platform::IntPtr get(); }
    property uint32 SizeOfT { uint32 get(); }
    property uint32 Capacity;
    void Insert(uint32 offset, uint32 count);
    void Remove(uint32 offset, uint32 count);

That look promising, it even compiled! But then… WTF!!! Platform::IntPtr doesn’t cross ABI!!
Damn you Microsoft!

Then I had a breakthrough, what about… size_t ?!

It’s a perfectly ordinary type, except for the little twist that it projects to int32 when compiling for x86 and int64 when compiling for x64! It worked just fine, sweet!

So this is the change:

property size_t Data { size_t get(); }

On the C# side I was originally hoping to have a generic Pointer<T> class and finally use some unsafe C#.

Well I did use the unsafe C#, but I couldn’t compile code like that

public unsafe static T Get<T>(IntPtr p, int pos)
    T* pp = (T*)p;
    return pp[pos];

The compiler returns the error

Cannot take the address of, get the size of, or declare a pointer to a managed type ('T')

But it did accepts

public unsafe static int GetInt(IntPtr p, int pos)
    int* pp = (int*)p;
    return pp[pos];


In the end I create an abstract BasePointer<T> and a .tt template that generate all the template that I need!

Now I just have to implement a class like XNA’s VertexDeclaration and I will get a (reasonably?) solid base to go on…

And also rewrite all my buffers to use this native pointer class.

That’s it for today!
And remember: http://directwinrt.codeplex.com/

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Categories: .NET | DirectX | WinRT | C#
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DirectX and WinRT continued



Here are my latest developments at writing a clean WinRT component exposing a clean yet complete DirectX D3D (and maybe D2D as well) API to C#.

There would be a (not so) small part about WinRT C++/Cx, generic / template and the rest will be about DirectX::D3D API and my component so far.
I can already tell now that the DirectX initialization and drawing has become yet even simpler than my previous iteration while being more flexible and closer to the native DirectX API!

Finally I want to say my main learning material (apart from Google, the intertube, etc..) is Introduction to 3D Game Programming with DirectX 11 by Frank D. Luna. His source code can be found at D3Dcoder. My samples are loosely inspired by his, I wrote my own math lib for example.


1. Exposing C++ array to C#

In DirectX there are many buffers. Shape’s vertices is a typical one. One want to expose a strongly typed array which can be updated by C# and with unlimited access to the underlying data pointer for the native code as well, of course.

Platform::Collection::Vector<T> wouldn’t do. Maybe it’s just me but I didn’t see how to access the buffer’s pointer. Plus it has no resize() method. Platform::Array<T> is fixed size as far as C# code is concerned.

I decided to roll my own templated class.

1.1. Microsoft templated collections

The first problem is it’s not possible to create generic definition in C++/Cx. One can use template but they can’t be public ref class, i.e. can’t be exposed to non C++ API. But there is a twist. It’s possible to expose concrete implementation of Microsoft’s C++/Cx templated interfaces.
There are a few special templated interface with a particular meaning in WinRT. The namespace Windows::Foundation::Collections contains a list of templates that will automatically be mapped to generic collection type in the .NET runtime.

For instance by defining this template:

template <class T>
ref class DataArray sealed : Windows::Foundation::Collections::IVector<T>
    // implementation of IVector<T>

    std::vector<T> data;

I have a class that I can return in lieu of IVector<T> (which will be wrapped into an IList<T> by the .NET runtime) and I can directly manipulate its internal data, even get a pointer to it (with &data[0])

1.2. Concrete implementation

This is a first step, but I need to provide concrete implementation. Let’s say I want to expose the following templated class

template <class T>
ref class TList
    TList() : data(ref new DataArray<T>()) {}
    property IVector<T> List { IVector<T> get() { return data; }
    public void Resize(UINT n) { data->data.resize(n); }

    DataArray<T>^ data;

I can’t make it public, but I can write a concrete implementation manually as I need it, and simply wrap an underlying template, as in:

public ref class IntList sealed
    IntList() {}
    property IVector<int> List { IVector<int> get() { return list.Data; } }
    public void Resize(UINT n) { list.Resize(n); }

    TList<int> list;

But this is quickly becoming old!
What if I use an old dirty C trick, like… MACRO! I know, I know, but bear with me and behold!

public ref class CLASSNAME sealed\
    CLASSNAME() {}\
    property IVector<TYPE> List { IVector<TYPE> get() { return list.Data; } }\
    public void Resize(UINT n) { list.Resize(n); }\
    TList<TYPE> list;\
TYPED_LIST(Int32List, int)
TYPED_LIST(FloatList, float)

At the end of this snippet I just declared 3 strongly typed “list” items in 3 lines!
All the code is just a no brainer simple wrapper and it will also be easy to debug, as the code will immediately step inside the template implementation!

It’s how I implemented all the strongly typed structure I need for this API. And I can easily add new one as I need them in just a single line, as you can see!! ^^.


2. The DXGraphic class

The BasicScene item in my previous blog post was quickly becoming a point of contention as I was trying extend my samples functionality. In the end I had a breakthrough, I dropped it and created a class called DXGraphic which is really a wrapper around the ID3D11DeviceContext1 and expose drawing primitives, albeit in simpler (yet just as complete) fashion, if I could.

All other class are to be consumed by it while drawing. Here is what the current state of my native API looks like so far:


One just create a DXGraphic and feeds it drawing primitive. For those who are new to DirectX it’s a good time to introduce the the DirectX rendering pipeline as described on MSDN.


The pipeline is run by the video card and process a stream of pixel. Most of the DirectX API is used to setup data for this pipeline: vertex, texture, shader variable (constant buffer), etc.. That must be copied from CPU memory to video card memory. And then they would be processed by the shaders, which are some simple yet massively parellelized program which process each individual vertices and turn them into pixels. In a way they are the real drawing programs, the rest is set-up.

At least 2 of these shaders must be provided by the program: the vertex shader and the pixel shader. The vertex shader will convert all the vertex in the same coordinate system in box of size 1 (using model, view and projection matrices), and the pixel shader will output color for a given pixel.

2.1. The classes in the API (so far)

Shaders (pixel and vertex so far) are loaded by the PixelShader and VertexShader class. I used shaders found in Frank Luna sample so far and haven’t written my own. Here is the MSDN HLSL programming guide, and here is an HLSL tutorials web site.

The PixelShader also takes a VertexLayout class argument. Which describe the C++ structure in the buffer to the shader. I’m only using BasicVertex class so far. In the (strongly typed buffer class) CBBasicVertex, CBBasicVertex.Layout return the layout for BasicVertex.

I have some vanilla state class, RasterizerState can turn on/off wireframe and setup face culling.

BasicTexture can load a picture.

Finally shapes are defined by one (or, optionally) many vertices data buffer and (optionally) an index buffer. I used strongly typed one: VBBasicVertex, IBUint16/32. They can be created manually or I have an helper class, MeshLoader to create some.

One of the sample update the vertex buffer with C# on each rendering frame!

MeshLoader will also returns whether the shape is in right or left handed coordinate system. DirectX use left handed, but some model are right handed. The ModelTransform class takes care of that, as well as scaling, rotation and translation.

To draw, one setup shaders, states. Then enumerate all shapes, set its texture, its shape and call draw.

Also one can pass variable to shaders (i.e. computation parameters) by using strongly typed constant buffer. A few are defined, CBPerFrame (contains lighting info), CBPerObject (contains model, view and projection matrices).

2.2. The context watcher

There is a private class used by almost all class in this API: ContextWatcher.

Most class in this API have buffers or data that are DirectX context bound and need to be reset when the context is destroy, recreated when it is, etc. This class take care of the synchronization. It is important to understand it before hacking this library.


3. Input and Transform

3.1. Input

To handle input I use a couple of method / events from the CoreWindow class which are wrapped in my InputController class.

GetKetStates(params VirtualKeys[]) will use CoreWindow.GetAsyncKeyStates().

GetTrails() will return the latest pointer down events. On Windows 8 mouse, pen, etc.. have been superseded by the more generic concept of “pointer” device as explained on MSDN.

The CameraController will use the InputController to move the camera and/or model around.

HOME key will reset the rotation, LEFT CONTROL will move model. MOUSE WHEEL will move the camera on the Z axis. Mouse Drag will rotate the camera or model (if LEFT CONTROL is on) using the following rotation:


i.e. if M1 (x1,y1,0) is the mouse down point, and M2 (x2,y2,0) is the next drag point and O (x1, y1, –screenSize) is a virtual point above M1.
The camera controller calculate the rotation that transform OM1 into OM2 and apply its opposite to the camera. The opposite because dragging the world right is like moving the camera left.


3.2. Coordinate System

Initially I was keeping the camera and model transforms as matrices (along those line on MSDN). Unfortunately when I introduced mouse handling to drag the model. Continuously multiplying model matrix by mouse transform matrices introduced unsightly numerical errors. Particularly shear transformations.


After much tinkering I settled on representing the model transformation as follow:

ModelTransform = Translation * Rotation (as quaternion) * Scaling

One can multiply quaternion together and there would be some small numerical error but it will remain a rotation!

Quaternion can be created with the DXMath class:

public static quaternion toQuaternion(float x, float y, float z, float degree);

(x,y,z) being the axis of rotation.

About quaternion math (as I didn’t learn it at school :~) I found the following links:

In the end all transformation are nicely wrapped in some class in Utils\DirectX


Camera is the typical DirectX camera.

Model is the typical DirectX model transformed decomposed in Translation, Rotation, Scaling. There is also a LeftHanded property as it should be handled differently whether the model’s coordinate are in left handed or right handed space.

The Transforms class is a utility class to create transform matrix.

CenteredRotationTransform is used to rotate the model around a point, that can be moved.


4. Wrapping it all together

To show what the final code look like here is the slightly simplified code that setup the scene with the column (2nd screen shot).

Even if it’s long it’s much simpler than the C++ version, and just as versatile!

public static Universe CreateUniverse4(DXContext ctxt = null, SharedData data = null)
    ctxt = ctxt ?? new DXContext();
    data = data ?? new SharedData(ctxt);

    var box = new BasicShape(ctxt, MeshLoader.CreateBox(new float3 { x = 1, y = 1, z = 1 }));
    var grid = new BasicShape(ctxt, MeshLoader.CreateGrid(20, 30, 20, 20));
    var gsphere = new BasicShape(ctxt, MeshLoader.CreateGeosphere(1, 2));
    var cylinder = new BasicShape(ctxt, MeshLoader.CreateCylinder(0.5f, 0.3f, 3, 20, 20));

    var floor = data.Floor;
    var bricks = data.Bricks;
    var stone = data.Stone;

    float3 O = new float3 { z = 30 };

    var u = new Universe(ctxt)
        Name = "Temple",
        Background = Colors.DarkBlue,
        Camera =
            EyeLocation = DXMath.vector3(0, 0.0f, 0.0f),
            LookVector = DXMath.vector3(0, 0, 100),
            UpVector = DXMath.vector3(0, 1, 0),
            FarPlane = 200,
        CameraController =
            ModelTransform = { Origin = O },
        PixelShader = data.TexPixelShader,
        VertexShader = data.BasicVertexShader,
        Bodies =
            new SpaceBody
                Location = O,
                Satellites =
                    new SpaceBody
                        Shape = grid,
                        Texture = floor,
                    new SpaceBody
                        Scale = DXMath.vector3(3,1,3),
                        Location = new float3 { y = 0.5f },
                        Shape = box,
                        Texture = stone,
    var root = u.Bodies[0];
    for (int i = 0; i < 5; i++)
        root.Satellites.Add(new SpaceBody
            Location = DXMath.vector3(-5, 4, -10 + i * 5),
            Shape = gsphere,
            Texture = stone,
        root.Satellites.Add(new SpaceBody
            Location = DXMath.vector3(+5, 4, -10 + i * 5),
            Shape = gsphere,
            Texture = stone,
        root.Satellites.Add(new SpaceBody
            Location = DXMath.vector3(-5, 1.5f, -10 + i * 5),
            Shape = cylinder,
            Texture = bricks,
        root.Satellites.Add(new SpaceBody
            Location = DXMath.vector3(+5, 1.5f, -10 + i * 5),
            Shape = cylinder,
            Texture = bricks,

    return u;

And the render method that render all samples so far

public void Render(DXGraphic g)


    g.SetConstantBuffers(0, ShaderType.Pixel | ShaderType.Vertex, cbPerObject, cbPerFrame);

    foreach (var item in GetBodies())
        if (item.Shape == null)

        cbPerObject.Data[0] = new PerObjectData
            projection = CameraController.Camera.Projection,
            view = CameraController.Camera.View,
            model = DXMath.mul(CameraController.ModelTransform.Transform, item.FinalTransform.Transform),
            material = item.Material,

        var p0 = new float3().TransformPoint(item.FinalTransform.Transform);
        var p1 = p0.TransformPoint(CameraController.Camera.View);
        var p2 = p1.TransformPoint(CameraController.Camera.Projection);



        g.SetShape(item.Shape.Topology, item.Shape.Vertices, item.Shape.Indices);


5. Performance remarks

On my machine the app spend about 6 seconds loading textures at the start. However if I target x64 when compiling (my machine is an x64 machine, but the project targets x86 by default) the startup drop to about 0.2 seconds!!!

Also, in 32 bits mode the app will freeze every now and then while catching a C++ exception deep down the .NET runtime-WinRT binding code (apparently something to do with the DirectArray) but on x64 it runs smoothly.

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DirectX made simple

With Windows 8, WinRT, C++/Cx I think the time to write an elegant C# / XAML app using some DirectX rendering in C++ has finally come! Thanks WinRT! :-)

Here I just plan to describe my attempt at learning DirectX and C++ and integrate it nicely in a C# XAML app.

My first exercise was to attempt to create a simple DirectX “Context” as WinRT C++/Cx component that can target multiple DirectX hosts: SwapPanel, CoreWindow, ImageSource and render an independent scene and initialize and use it from C#.

Note this is a metro app. It requires VS2012 and Windows 8.


First the appetizers, here is my simple scene:


And it is created with the code below, mostly one giant C# (5, async inside!) object initializer:

public class Universes
    public async static Task<Universe> CreateUniverse1(DXContext ctxt = null)
        ctxt = ctxt ?? new DXContext();

        var cubetex = await CreateSceneTexture(ctxt);

        var earth = new BasicTexture(ctxt);
        await earth.Load("earth600.jpg");

        var cube = new BasicShape(ctxt);
        var sphere = new BasicShape(ctxt);

        var u = new Universe(ctxt)
            Scene =
                Background = Colors.Aquamarine,
                Camera =
                    EyeLocation = dx.vector3(0, 0.0f, 0.0f),
                    LookDirection = dx.vector3(0, 0, 100),
                    UpDirection = dx.vector3(0, 1, 0),
            Items =
                new SpaceBody(ctxt)
                    FTransform = t => dx.identity().Scale(10, 10, 10).RotationY(36 * t),
                    FLocation = t => dx.vector3(0, 0, 50),
                    SceneItem =
                        Shape = cube,
                        Texture = cubetex,
                new SpaceBody(ctxt)
                    FTransform = t => dx.identity().Scale(8, 6, 8).RotationY(96 * t),
                    FLocation = t => new float3().Translate(15, 0, 0).RotationY(24 * t).Translate(0, 15, 50),
                    SceneItem =
                        Shape = sphere,
                        Texture = earth,
                    Items =
                        new SpaceBody(ctxt)
                            FTransform = t => dx.identity().RotationY(84 * t),
                            FLocation = t => new float3().Translate(12, 0, 0).RotationY(24 * t),
                            SceneItem =
                                Shape = sphere,
                                Texture = earth,
                new SpaceBody(ctxt)
                    FTransform = t => dx.identity().Scale(6, 5, 6).RotationY(48 * t),
                    FLocation = t => new float3().Translate(-15, -15, 55),
                    SceneItem =
                        Shape = sphere,

        return u;

    public async static Task<BasicTexture> CreateSceneTexture(DXContext ctxt)
        var tex = new BasicTexture(ctxt);
        tex.Create(300, 300);

        var scene = new Scene(ctxt);
        scene.Background = Windows.UI.Colors.DarkGoldenrod;
        scene.Add(new DXBase.Scenes.CubeRenderer());
        scene.Add(new DXBase.Scenes.HelloDWrite());
        await scene.LoadAsync().AsTask();
        return tex;

There is much to say about this sample but I won’t go into the detail of DirectX too much (this is a very basic sample as far as DirectX is concerned and the source code is available, at the bottom), instead I will mostly speak about C++/Cx – C# communication.


1. The main DirectX C++/Cx components

1.1. DXContext

First there is the DirectX context, here is an extract of its important methods and properties

  public ref class DXContext sealed :  Windows::UI::Xaml::Data::INotifyPropertyChanged

      // Target the top level CoreWindow
      void SetTarget();
      // Target the argument top level SwapChainBackgroundPanel
      void SetTarget(Windows::UI::Xaml::Controls::SwapChainBackgroundPanel^ swapChainPanel);
      // Target the argument ImageSource
      void SetTarget(Windows::UI::Xaml::Media::Imaging::SurfaceImageSource^ image, int w, int h);
      // Target a texture
      void SetTarget(DXBase::Utils::BasicTexture^ texture);

      property float Dpi;
      property Windows::Foundation::Size Size;
      property Windows::Foundation::Rect Viewport;

      DXBase::Utils::BasicTexture^ Snapshot();

      // internal (shared) DirectX variables
      // device independent resources
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<ID2D1Factory1> m_d2dFactory;
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<IDWriteFactory1> m_dwriteFactory;
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<IWICImagingFactory2> m_wicFactory;

      // device resource
      D3D_FEATURE_LEVEL m_featureLevel;
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<ID3D11Device1> m_d3dDevice;
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<ID3D11DeviceContext1> m_d3dContext;
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<ID2D1Device> m_d2dDevice;
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<ID2D1DeviceContext> m_d2dContext;

      // target and size dependent resources
      DirectX::XMFLOAT4X4 mDisplayOrientation;
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<ID3D11RenderTargetView> m_renderTargetView;
      Microsoft::WRL::ComPtr<ID3D11DepthStencilView> m_depthStencilView;

DXContext is a ‘public ref class’ meaning it’s a shared component (Can be used by C#), it must be sealed (unfortunately… Except those inheriting from DependencyObject, all C++ public ref class must be sealed, as explained here, inheritance section)

All the public members are accessible from C#, the most important are the overloaded “SetTarget()” methods that will set the DirectX Rendering target. Can be changed anytime (although it seems to be an expensive operation, I think rendering on a Texture should probably be done an other way, when I will know better).

Finally it hold all DirectX device information as internal variables. These can’t be public or protected as they are not WinRT component. But, being internal, they can be accessed by other component in the library, it’s how the scene can render. I tried to trim the fat to the minimum number of DirectX variable that such an object should contains.

Note plain C++ doesn’t have the ‘internal’ visibility, this is a C++/Cx extension and it means the same thing as in C#, i.e. members are accessible by all code in the same library.

ComPtr<T> is a shared COM Pointer. Take care of all reference counting for you.

DXContext implements INotifyPropertyChanged and can be observed by XAML component or data binding!
I also created a macro for the INotifyPropertyChanged implementation as it is repetitive and I had to write a long winded implementation due to some mysterious bug in the pure C++ sample.

It has a Snapshot() method to take a screen capture! And BasicTexture have a method to save to file.


1.2 Scene

My first attempt at using this DXContext was to create a Scene object which contains ISceneData object.

An ISceneData can be ripped of, more or less, verbatim from various DirectX sample around the web. And the Scene object will take care of initializing it and rendering it when the time is right. I have 2 ISceneData implementations: CubeRenderer, HelloDWrite.


1.3 BasicScene, BasicShape, BasicTexture

Unfortunately all the sample on the web often have a lot variables, all mixed up and trying to sort out what does what takes some thinking.

So I created a BasicScene which takes a list of shapes with texture and location (transform) and renders it

public ref class BasicSceneItem sealed
    BasicSceneItem(DXContext^ ctxt);
    property DXContext^ Context;
    property DXBase::Utils::BasicShape^ Shape;
    property DXBase::Utils::BasicTexture^ Texture;
    property DXBase::Utils::float4x4 WorldTransform;

public ref class BasicScene sealed
    BasicScene(DXContext^ ctxt);

    property PerformanceTimer^ Timer;
    property Windows::UI::Color Background;
    property DXBase::DXContext^ Context;
    property DXBase::Utils::BasicCamera^ Camera;

    property Windows::Foundation::Collections::IVectorView<BasicSceneItem^>^ Shapes;
    void Add(BasicSceneItem^ item);
    void Remove(BasicSceneItem^ item);
    void RemoveAt(int index);

    property bool IsLoaded;

    void RenderFrame();
    void RenderFrame(SceneRenderArgs^ args);

It also has some Background and a Camera, all WinRT component that can be controlled by C++.

The BasicShape contains point and index buffer for triangles and has various create method that will populate the buffers.

The BasicTexture can load a file or be created directly in memory (and rendered to by using Context.SetTarget(texture)), and contains the texture and textureView used by the rendering process.

Each of these class has very few DirectX specific variables making it relatively easy to understand what’s going on.


2. C++/Cx to C# mapping

When C++/Cx components are called from C#, the .NET runtime does some type mapping for you. There is the obvious, the basic types (int, float, etc..) and value types (struct) are used as is. But there is more, mapping for exception and important interfaces (such as IEnumerable).

It’s worth having a look at this MSDN page which details the various mapping happening.

Also, to refresh my C++ skill I found this interesting web site where most Google query lead to anytime I had a C++ syntax or STL issue!


3. Exception across ABI

You can’t pass custom exception or exception’s message across ABI (C++ / C# / JavaScript boundary). All that can pass is an HRESULT, basically a number. Some special number will pass some special exception as explained on this MSDN page.

If you want to pass some specific exception you have to use some unreserved HRESULT (as described here) and have some helper class to turn the HRESULT in a meaningful number.

Here comes the ExHelper class just for this purpose

// this range is free: 0x0200-0xFFFF
public enum class ErrorCodes;

// You can't throw custom exception with custom message across ABI
// This will help throw custom Exception with known HRESULT value
public ref class ExHelper sealed
    static void Throw(ErrorCodes c);
    static ErrorCodes GetCode(Windows::Foundation::HResult ex);
    static Windows::Foundation::HResult CreateWinRTException(ErrorCodes c);

Note you can’t expose Platform::Exception publicly either (well maybe you can, but it was troublesome). But you can expose an HRESULT. The runtime will automatically turn it into a System.Exception when called from C#.


4. Reference counting and weak pointer

C++/Cx is pure C++. There is no garbage collection happening when writing pure C++ app, even if one use the C++/Cx extension. The hat (^) pointer is a ref counted pointer that can automatically be turned into a C# reference.

That can lead to a problem when 2 C++/Cx components reference each other as in the following (simplified) scenario

public ref class A sealed
    A^ other;
    property A^ Other
        A^ get() { return other; }
        void set(A^ value) { this.other = value; }

    auto a1 = ref new A();
} // a1 is automatically destroyed

    auto a1 = ref new A();
    auto a2 = ref new A();
    a1.Other = a2;
    a2.Other = a1;
} // no automatic destruction takes place!

To solve such problem WinRT comes with a WeakReference. The class A can be modified as follow to not hold strong reference:

public ref class A sealed
    WeakReference other;
    property A^ Other
        A^ get() { return other.Resolve<A>(); }
        void set(A^ value)
            if (value)
                this.other = value;
                this.other = WeakReference();


5. debugging / logging

Sometimes logging is helpful for debugging. For example I log creation and deletion of some items to be sure I don’t have any memory leak. However, printf, cout<<, System::Console::WriteLine won’t work in a metro app.

One has to use OutputDebugString, output will appears in Visual Studio output window.


6. IEnumerable, IList

If you use C# you must love IEnumerable, IEnumerator, IList and LINQ. When writing a C++ component you should make sure it plays nice with all that.

The .NET runtime does some automatic mapping when calling in C++/Cx component, as explained here.

6.1 IEnumerable

In C++ one shall expose Windows::Foundation::Collection::IIterable<T> to be consumed in C# a System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable<T>.

IIterable has a single method First() that return and IIterator. That will be mapped to an IEnumerator.

However there is a a little gotcha. Unlike C# IEnumerator which starts before the first element (one has to call bool MoveNext()) IIterator starts on the first element.

6.2 IList

One can return an Windows::Foundation::Collections::IVector<T> to be mapped to an IList<T>. There is already a class implementing it:


Or one can use vector->GetView() to return a Windows::Foundation::Collections::IVectorView<T> that will be mapped to an IReadonlyList<T>.


7. Function pointers and lambda

C++ 0x (or whatever is called the latest C++ standard) introduced lambda expression to create inline function, much like in C#.

There is a long description of on MSDN.

Basically it has the following syntax

[capture variable](parameters) –> optional return type specification { body }

It’s all quite intuitive except for the capture part. You have to specify which value you want to capture (this, local variable) and you can specify by value or reference (using the ‘&’ prefix), or all local variables and this with equal as in: ‘[=]’


In some instance I had problem assigning lambda to a function pointer, for example the code below didn’t compile for me (maybe I missed something?)

IAsyncOperation<bool>^ (*func)(Platform::Object^) = [] (Object^ ome) -> IAsyncOperation<bool>^ { ... };

Fortunately C++0x introduce “function object” which works fine

#include <functional>
std::function<IAsyncOperation<bool>^(Object^)> func = [] (Object^ ome) -> IAsyncOperation<bool>^ { ... };

Remark the function object will keep reference to the captured variable as long as it exists! Be careful with circular reference and WinRT component (hat pointers ‘^’).


8. Async

With Metro Async programming is an inescapable reality!

Of course in your C++/Cx code you can use the class from System.Threading.Tasks, but there is also some C++ native API just for that: task<T>.

One can create task from .NET IAsyncOperation or a simple C function:

#include <ppltasks.h>
#include <ppl.h>

using namespace concurrency;
using namespace Windows::Foundation;

bool (*func)() = []()->bool { return true; };
task<bool> t1 = create_task(func);

IAsyncOperation<bool>^ loader = ...;
task<bool> t2 = create_task(loader);

Conversely one can create .NET IAsyncOperation from task or C function with create_async, as in:

#include <ppltasks.h>
#include <ppl.h>

using namespace concurrency;
using namespace Windows::Foundation;

bool (*func)() = []()->bool { return true; };
task<bool> t1 = create_task(func);
IAsyncOperation<bool>^ ao1 = create_async([t1] { return t1; });
IAsyncOperation<bool>^ ao2 = create_async(func);

Tasks can be chained with ‘then’ and one can wait on multiple task by adding them with ‘&&’ such as in:

task<void> t1 = ...
task<void> t2 = ...

auto t3 = (t1 && t2).then([] -> void
    OutputDebugString(L"It is done");

Remark tasks are value type and start executing immediately once created (in another thread).


When chaining tasks with ‘then’ you can capture exception from previous task by taking a task<T> argument instead of T. And put a try/catch around task.get(). If you do not catch exception it will eventually brings the program down.

task<bool> theTask = ....
task<void> task = theTask.then([](concurrency::task<bool> t) -> void
        // success...
    catch (Exception^ ex)
        // failure
        auto msg = "Exception: " + ex->ToString() + "\r\n";


9. Conclusion

It proved pleasantly surprisingly easy to have the C++ and C# works together with WinRT. Smooth and painless. C++ 11 was easier to use that my memory of C++ was telling me. And in the end I mixed and matched them all with great fun. To boot my C# app starts real quick (like a plain C++ app)! It’s way better than C++ CLI!

A few frustrating point with C++/Cx still stands out though:

  • Microsoft value types (Windows::Foundation::Size for example) have custom constructors, methods and operator, yours cannot.
  • You can’t create a type hierarchy! (Can be worked around tediously with an interface hierarchy, but still!)


10. Source code

download it from here!




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