Monday, April 24, 2006

Compiz Update

Just spotted that customizable window shadows has just been added to compiz. :)

Also, a few updates ago, they added the "Novell" logo to the top of the cube as the default slide, if you don't set any up.
(If you didn't know, in XGL/Compiz, you can switch desktops in 3D as they're mapped onto the 4 outer sides of a cube. On the top of the cube, Compiz can display SVG images. The Novell logo on the top is now the default... Beats having just a white box if you're lazy like me.) :)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Quake3 in XGL

I've finally figured out how Novell ran Quake 3 in that demonstration video. All you need to do is launch Quake 3 (or any Quake 3 engine based game) like:

quake3 +set r_GLdriver "/usr/lib/nvidia/"

(The key is telling the engine specifically to use NVIDIA's libGL.)

While this fixes the missing texture problem, it still suffers from the performance loss that's incurred from running XGL. (We're still waiting for new NVIDIA/ATI drivers that feature complete hardware acceleration for XGL.)

Note: This was based off these UT instructions.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Get Excited for SMART

I've removed this article due to inaccuracies in it.
(Apparently I didn't research SMART enough... Thanks to my readers for pointing it out!)

I'd like to apologize for this mistake and any misinformation I may have spread. I'll do my best to triple check my facts in the future. ;)

If you're still curious, here's some links to the software's site:

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dapper + 1 is the "Edgy Eft"

Mark Shuttleworth (Ubuntu project leader) has just announced that the next version of Ubuntu will be codenamed "Edgy Eft".

Why should you be excited?

So dream a little about Xen for virtualisation, Xgl/AIGLX and other wonderful wobbly window bits, the goodness of Network Manager, a first flirt with multiarch support for true mixed 32-bit and 64-bit computing on AMD64, the interesting possibilities of the SMART package manager... and other pieces of infrastructure which have appeared tantalisingly
on the horizon.

Read the rest of the announcement here.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

XGL and Compiz: Where we're at

If you've been following the latest developments in the Linux world, you'll undoubtably have heard of XGL and Compiz. If you haven't, XGL is a new X server written by David Reveman (at Novell) that uses OpenGL to accelerate all sorts of graphics rendering. Compiz is a window manager that features "compositing", allowing for things like window shadows, but also cool 2D/3D effects that use OpenGL. In non-technical terms, XGL uses your graphics card to make things snappier, and Compiz uses your graphics card to create very slick graphics for your desktop.
The key idea here is that it all uses your graphics card, which means it's not very taxing on your CPU (and in some cases can be faster than a non-accelerated X server.)

Why is this all such a big deal?
See for yourself.
(There's a bunch of XGL/Compiz videos out there, but this video is a good outline of the major features/bling.)

You want XGL/Compiz now, you say? There are several routes to go:

Alternatively, you could install AIGLX and Compiz on Fedora Core 5, but that only supports some odd Radeon cards and some Intel video chipsets. (read: no Nvidia)
(Editor's note: I'm using Dapper with the latest XGL/Compiz from the QuinnStorm repositories, with an Nvidia card.)

Playing a video across two desktops

Another shot of rotating the cube

The scale plugin in action (like Apple's "expose")

Anyway you choose to go, the one thing that'll probably hit you is how active and involved the Linux community is with these two pieces of software. As soon as XGL was released, HOWTOs started popping up all over the web and forums were flooded with posts relating to XGL and Compiz. After a while, repositories were set up and much more polish was added, as well as many bugfixes. To me, this was one of the Open Source community's finest moments. It wasn't the developers doing all this documentation and finding workarounds for bugs - it was the incredibly welcoming community that made XGL/Compiz easy to install and usable. Thanks guys!

The final big hurdle for XGL lay with the hardware manufacturers. While XGL already uses your videocard's horsepower, there are many ways that it can be made to take better advantage of that horsepower. Unfortunately, this requires videocard manufacturers (eg. Nvidia, ATI) to release drivers that support the necessary "GLX extension(s)". However, once this happens (it's looking like 1 or 2 driver releases away for Nvidia, unkown for ATI), XGL will be even faster. I'm not 100% certain, but I assume it's safe to say that this would drastically improve OpenGL game performance under XGL as well. (OpenGL application performance is one of the few areas of difficulty with XGL right now.)

Over the next few months, I think we can expect community contributions to continue to be steady as there's still a large amount of enthusiasm. Personally, I'm hoping we'll see Compiz themes and more cool plugins in the coming months. (Hint: Pixel shaders are a Compiz plugin goldmine waiting to happen.)

Lastly, if you want to stay up to date on the latest and greatest happenings in the XGL/Compiz world, here's some links you'll find useful:

Saturday, April 15, 2006

2 Things I'd like to see in Dapper

  1. Live chat support - This just sounds like a pretty good idea to me. It'll let new users get the answers they want quickly, and it'll be another way for the Ubuntu community to support itself.
  2. MP3 Codec Auto-detect/Installer - You can spot this about half way down the page in the link. It's a plugin for Rhythmbox that automatically alerts you that you don't have the MP3 codec installed (or rather, the proper gstreamer plugin) when you try to play an MP3. It then gives you an option to install it straight from the repository. Now why didn't anyone think of this before? (The number of posts on the Ubuntu Forums relating to MP3 playback is a hint...)

In other news, I've finally got NetworkManager behaving now. For some reason though, when I connect to a wireless network, I have to do it twice in order to get an IP, and after that I'm not sure it's working properly. One step at a time....
(Also, Beagle's starting to feel a bit better, although it causes Deskbar to hang a lot... did I mention I love Deskbar?)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Dapper Ramblings

I've been using Dapper Drake for a couple of weeks now, and she's actually doing OK for an operating system that's still in development.

Here's some thoughts that have crossed my mind in the past few weeks:

  • Woohoo! The eject button on my DVD-Rom works now! Wait a second - it only works on ONE of my drives... doh!
  • XGL hotness is... uhh... hot. The repositories host packages of the latest development version of XGL and Compiz (instructions). It's a treat to get a Compiz update every week. (There's always new features... sometimes stuff breaks, but very good progress is being made)
  • Gnumeric does many different types of regressions now! (ie. it can do other fancy fits to data points other than line of best fit.... Yes, it takes a special type of person to appreciate this.) ;)
  • There's a lot more menu entries (ie. ".desktop" files) for applications you can install via synpatic or the slick "Add/Remove [Applications]" app. Some of the menu entries have smarter labels now too. (QJackctl was renamed to just "Jack Control"... much more effective.)
  • I actually can't live without Deskbar anymore. (hmm, maybe that deserves its own post?)
  • I can't live without Tremulous anymore either.
  • If you like playing with any of your network settings by hand via the terminal, NetworkManager is your worst enemy. First off, my nm-applet (the little graphical interface to NetworkManager) doesn't work at all for me. It just doesn't appear. Secondly, NetworkManager does some funky stuff if you try to connect to a wireless network by hand with "iwconfig". I'll connect to a network, and then after about a minute NetworkManager will silently do something to kill my wifi connection (it just looks like the link quality dies)... Moral of the story: Make sure you kill "nm-applet" and "NetworkManagerDispatcher", otherwise you'll have some headaches. (... and if you don't use nm-applet at all like me, just uninstall NetworkManager.)
No screenshots you say? Well, to be honest, Dapper looks pretty much like Breezy... There's some fancy notifications here and there, but nothing spectacular. I've been pretty busy over the past two weeks, but I'll try to post some screenshots if I can scrounge up enough time. :)