Monday, February 20, 2006

Compiz Release Reflections: This Changes Everything.

Sorry to blog about the same thing two times in a row, but this is important.

Many of us have been using compiz and XGL now for a decent amount of time. If you are willing to try Dapper then the guide I made for Nvidia is here:

While the guide for ATI is here:

Guide for compiling from CVS here (needed for older Nvidia cards):

Guide for AMD64 here:

Screenshots here (thanks PsyberOneZero):

If you must have stability I might not recommend it, but I can admit that once the shift + backspace bug was squashed then it all got pretty stable for me. Opengl applications work well if you disable the composite extension in your xorg.conf. For some people compiz seems to not work without that extension though, which means yet another problem we have to chalk up on drivers not being ready ready yet.

But today is not a story about what does not work in this brave new world. I could go on and on about how Twinview (maybe Xinerama) is broken or this or that thing. I thought that after it came out I would have a whole blog entry about that. “What will XGL break?” was the question I wanted answered the most.

Whats amazing about this HUGE release is not what is broken, but what is fixed. What problems are gone:

  • The problems with the official ATI drivers (and in some ways the Nvidia driver) had with composite? Gone.
  • The problems of a fragmenting acceleration landscape (renderaccell vs. EXA vs. ATI's nothing)? Suddenly less worrying.
  • The problems of damage issues with certain apps, drop shadows, or other simple things that need composite to be fixed? In the past.
  • Problem with the fact that the years of poured resources into accelerating only two things (Opengl and Directx) by ATI and Nvidia were not getting used to the full potential for Linux eye candy? Fixed.
  • Problem that Gnome with its conservative window manager philosophy might take two releases to use this stuff? Or that something made for Gnome would piss off KDE guys? Fixed in an amazing way- a separate, agnostic window manager. Compiz seems to be made to work with Gnome more (but it works with KDE too). The next KDE release will surely have incorporate the tricks wanted from it. And until Gnome jumps on this its users can be happy with compiz (and maybe even after Gnome jumps on it if they do it conservatively). Its the best of all worlds.
  • Problems with XGL not being a end-product Xserver? Fixed with full screen mode. I don't think anyone (who is not not incredibly nerdy) would sit in front of an XGL box and say “this is just junk running on top of another Xserver.” It's really seamless. Xegl will be nice one day, but we don't have to wait for it.
  • Problem with ATI support for newest eye candy? IF they keep their promise to Novell to support XGL fully this is gone as well. Something finally impressed them.
  • Problems that future development eye candy would lead to greater desktop fragmentation? This is a part of the Xserver that is one of the few common threads on the Linux desktop.
  • The problem that such high end eye candy will exclude those who don't want to use closed drivers like ATI's or Nvidia's? This problem can't show its head for a while- this will probably work well on Intel graphics (with open source drivers) and the old Radeons but no one knows until the drivers are updated. Anyone who would complain will have their hands busy with that problem so that they can know if their argument have any merit in the future.
  • Problems with composite artifacts or hard Xserver crashes because of composite? I have not seen a single artifact and I am picky about these things. It's gone for the most part.
  • Problems of comparisons with Vista or (God Forbid!) OSX about eye candy? Now a little more pleasant.

The only problem that remains lies with those who don't want this because for some reason they want to keep things more primitive. Whether that's because they personally dislike eye candy or they think it's not appropriate, suddenly that faction of Linuxland matters less. Why?

Because the enthusiasm XGL + Compiz has created ensures its success. Its level of quality ensures its success. Its backing by a big power in the Linux world (Novell) ensures its success. The army of enthusiastic desktop users like myself and the over 100,000 people that have peeking into the Dapper Forum in order to try XGL ensures its success.

Also the way it was designed will ensure its success. Right off the bat the first pluggins make it so that compiz almost has every eye candy trick Vista and OSX have/will have. An Expose copy, live Alt + Tab thumbnails, translucent window borders, cube flip, etc. But beyond that the fact remains that compiz is versatile- Firefox proves that extendability is a forte of our community. Before the year ends pluggins that are insane concepts will be made. It seems that the most exciting thing to happen for the rest of this eye candy year (and maybe the next) will be new compiz pluggins. This person (who made the first third party pluggin) says that its pleasant to make them:

“Obviously this is a very simple plugin. But the source code for the others is available for you to look at. Things like switcher show you how to temporarily move and scale windows, while wobbly shows you how to render the window as something other than just a rectangle. The world is your oyster. In theory.”

Here is guide to using that pluggin:

The only questions are related to how quickly the drivers can be fixed and distros can add this. If integration started now then most major Linux's could have this solid in a year or less. Novell seems to plan to. And I bet others will too. This is the future of the Linux desktop.

Its a whole new landscape.

One guy changed it all

Last note this week- it seems that Gnome (and Dapper) are not going to have Cairo themes by default. I might be wrong about this, but I do know that when I upgraded my Clearlooks Cairo went away for me and others. I will have to compile it myself I guess. I was not too disappointed because I was amazed at first when I thought it was going to get in. But hopefully some third party debs will pop up.

Till next time....


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2:44 AM  

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