Saturday, June 10, 2006

XGL and Bare Feet

As you may or may not be aware, I've been running a dual boot WinXP / Linux machine here at home for quite some time. I like both operating systems, each has it's strengths and weaknesses. I was bitten by the Unix bug back around '92 when I used a Unix based Sparc system with OpenWindows to do my masters thesis.

Well I've recently upgraded to Ubuntu 6.06 (DapperDrake) on the Linux side of my box and I'm quite pleased with it. I've always had a bit of a penchant for eye-candy and I got the new XGL-Compiz graphics system working in short order. This system shifts the bulk of the window managment to the graphics processor which allows you to do some pretty neat things like having windows that wobble around when you drag and resize them and it has a nice representation of multiple desktops in the rotating 3D cube. So you can run apps on any or all of the 4 desktops and then switch between them. The benefit being that you can better illustrate the multi-desktop concept to new users with this graphical representation (rather than statically switching from one to the next). The XGL implementation allows things like full motion video to keep playing on the cube - and around the corners of the cube while you're rotating it. Quite neat. And keep in mind that I've got a system that is about 2.5 years old with a simple Intel on-board graphics chip - no graphical speed demon in any sense, but it still runs rather smoothly with all this additional eye-candy. Check out this video to see what it can do.

Now is this a threat to the ever-delayed Vista? Probably not. I like how it works and I like the fact that it's open-source developed. But it still takes some extra commitment to getting it up and running and fixing odds and ends. Like many things in Linux, they sometimes take a little more effort to get running smoothly but usually you are rewarded with something quite nice. But that extra effort is something that 95% of the mainstream PC user population wouldn't be interested in spending. If they can get Dell - or someone else - to start putting Ubuntu as the default OS on a series of PC's you might have something. I do believe that at one time you could order Linux based PC's online from Wal-mart, not sure if that's still true.

No matter. I have a great, stable, open-source OS with very nice eye-candy now and I've also got XP for those few things that Linux doesn't handle yet to my tastes.

Last night, my four year old daughter came and stared at my computer desktop as I was working and after I dragged a window across the desktop she said, "Make that window jiggle again Daddy.." and then seeing the dektop wallpaper she said, "Move that window away... show the bare foot again, that's neat.". Maybe the Gnome/Linux/Ubuntu camp has a future user already. :)