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Xgl on SUSE 10.1

What do you think of the image below? How do you think I generated it? Photoshop? GIMP? Some 3D image manipulation software?

Screenshot of my rotating desktop
Rotating Desktop

Nope, none of those. That is just a screenshot of my Linux desktop being rotated (taken using KSnapshot).

Yeah, you read that right. Desktop being rotated, courtesy Xgl.

I have SUSE Linux 10.1 on my home PC which is powered by an Intel Pentium IV 1.8 GHz processor on an Intel 845GL Chipset with onboard graphics card. I had tried to enable Xgl manually before by editing some configuration files using the instructions given here. That hadn't worked. But today I followed the method given on the openSUSE website and it worked like a charm (In retrospect, I realise that I had forgotten to enable 3D aceleration on my card :-)). I had also tried this on my test machine in office - a Dell machine with an ATI card. But no such luck there :-(.

The Xgl page says that my graphics card is totally unsupported (it is not even there in the hardware list). Yet it works. Of course, the display is a wee bit slower & Compiz doesn't support the theme I use on KDE. Also scrolling is slow and if I am playing music at the same time then the music gets jittery.

There are other cool things that you can do with Xgl enabled - check out the Xgl page for more details. The screenshot below shows one of them where pressing the Pause key gives you a thumbnail view of all open windows. Click on any window & that window becomes the active window while the other windows get back to their original state. This is similar to Exposé on Mac OS X.

Exposé-like effect
Exposé-like effect

Now if you are thinking that all this is just eye candy and has no practical use, you are wrong. Some of these effects are useful in making the desktop more accessible to visually impaired users. The cube view is useful in explaining the multiple desktop metaphor to users. The best part is the chance it gives you to show off to others (As you can see your opportunistic host has already grabbed this chance ;-)).

Red Hat has something similar to Xgl in Fedora Core 5 called AIGLX. I do have FC 5 installed but I haven't checked this out yet. I am not even sure whether the necessary packages are installed. I found the installation process for FC 5 very unfriendly. I had been a Red Hat loyalist in my college days. But after comparing FC 5 and SUSE 10.1, I am hooked to openSUSE.

Tags : Linux, The Binary Files, Usability

Posted by Rajat @ 11:05 PM

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