Friday, January 06, 2006

As Seen On A Linux Box Near You

Hello eye candy lovers! This is an exciting time of year for our sport with all the huge code releases recently so I have been REALLY busy trying to play with everything I can.

I gave up trying to compile the newly released Xgl code- I decided to wait until it hits the CVS. Apparently a lot of cleanups will come with that migration. Plus when it’s in the CVS maybe we can bug Daniel Stone again and get him to package it for Ubuntu.

I HAVE played with the glxcompmgr some….but its hard to get working too. Here is a screenshot of my using xcompmgr in Xgl for those who love screenshots:

But lets talk about some stuff we ALL can use! But first I must admit something to you all. Recently I after some soul searching I realized that most of my ideas for eye candy to play with in Linux were things that tried to copy stunts I use on OSX (my sister has a Powerbook). Since OSX is the top eye candy OS right now its tempting to see them as king of the mountain, but then I would miss some Linux exclusive tricks that even OSX can’t (that I know of) do!

So today’s entry focuses on Linux only eye candy. So basically what I should have been blogging about the whole time!

First up is an application that I have known about for some time: xdesktopwaves. This is a REALLY cool little application that places a pan of virtual water on your desktop.

Here is a description from the author:

" xdesktopwaves is a cellular automata setting the background of your X Windows desktop under water. Windows and mouse are like ships on the sea. Each movement of these ends up in moving water waves. You can even have rain and/or storm stirring up the water."

Sounds neat eh? It is. Here is some screenshots:

It seems to work ok in Gnome AND KDE (but not Enlightenment). If you want this neat trick just go to the home page and install it the old fashioned way:

Or install it with apt-get in Ubuntu/Debian or portage in Gentoo. Here is a guide I made just for the blog:

That explains how to use it and gives a cool script to easily turn it off and on. This eye candy eats up some CPU power (at a quality of 9 it completely pegged one of the two cores in my 3800+ X2) but at a setting of 7 or 8 its not that bad but looks nice.

Best part about it is that it’s stable!!!! Which is rare with eye candy. In fact it plays well with other kinds of eye candy like compositors and such. There is really nothing to lose except some time, so I hope everyone can try it out. It’s a great way to WOW your Windows friends (I know we should be above that but its SOOO fun to do sometimes).

Yet when it comes to wowing Windows users AND OSX users nothing beats this next trick: 3ddesktop. I’m sure many readers of this blog know of it, but I have to mention it because I think it’s the coolest eye candy we have now that does not rely on experimental stuff. It makes use of the thing us Linux users have by default that the other OSes lack- multiple desktops.

Basically this trick presents the multiple desktops in a 3D mode. I have to show a screenshot since explaining is hard:

That page also has a cool video to show off the effect. This little program is a GREAT way to show new Linux users what a virtual desktop actually IS (since it can be confusing if you have never seen it before). Most distros have it in their repositories. Here is a guide to install and use it in Ubuntu:

One problem you will find is that it gives you grey desktops the first time you use it. Follow the advice in this post to get around that problem:

Armed with this knowledge you can now switch desktops like a pro! I have found that this piece of eye candy above all others is the best for making Windows friends jealous (again I know we should not care but if you can’t have fun in life why live?). And unlike most other eye candies its useful.

I find it to be pretty stable by itself and I personally can get it to work with xcompmgr without problems but I hear from others that the two do not work so well together for them. I know it DOES require some form of hardware acceleration so make sure that your computer can do some Opengl before you try. If it does not work for you this is most likely the reason….now that I think of it I have only gotten it to work on ATI and Nvidia cards with the official drivers. But I can’t say that’s all it will work on- try and see.

So there you have it- the best of Linux exclusive candy. I mean…besides that one March Ubuntu Calendar from last year:

I want to finish today with a short story from my vacation. Over my break I was able to convert two users to Ubuntu- my mom and my cousin. In order to get them to switch I had to convince them that Ubuntu was better and so I tried many angles. Funny thing is that the same thing hooked them both.

So what switched them?

The lack of security problems? No, but that might have been a bonus. The free (both kinds) software? No, they didn’t mind paying for software. The famous Ubuntu community? No, they will never get on the forums or on IRC. The ease of use? No, the both just basically needed a Firefox/Thunderbird box and Windows can do that. So what switched them then?

The Gdesklets Starterbar. I am not joking. Both of them upon seeing the little icon jump when you click on it on that bar demanded that they be able to use Ubuntu that instant. Everything else was just a bonus. The freaking gdesklets starterbar (and any of you who know how gimmicky it is are probably laughing right now) was THE killer Linux app:

Yes. THAT starterbar. The one that copies the dock from OSX badly. That is what switched them. This taught me three things.:

1. Eye Candy matters to normal people FAR more than most distro makers will admit (many are still in the “Linux is serious, Linux is for the server” mode).

2. Never hate on an eye candy program (I have been known to rant in the past about how gdesklets is bloatware) because for someone else that might be THE most important application.

2. Maybe the lag behind the desktops of OSX and Vista are not that big of deal. Sure we might not be able to use our 3D cards to render our entire desktop for a few years after these other OSes can do it but that might not matter. What matters is what the user can actually see. Give a new Linux user 3ddesktop and far as they are concerned the Linux Desktop IS 3D. It makes me have more faith in the hacks I often like to use (skippy comes to mind).

Here is a guide for more gdesklets information:

One last small note: with the new Nvidia drivers xcompmgr is stable for me. And in it does not crash unless I do something I new beforehand will make it crash (like moving a playing Xine video under the Gnome Panel). No more random crashes for me and many on the Ubuntu Forums. So if you have been waiting to try it again….now is the time!

Well…that’s it for today. Till next time Linuxland!


Post a Comment

<< Home