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   |  Comments


FOSS.IN (India's largest Free & Open Source Software event) was held last week at the Bangalore Palace over a period of four days (Nov 29 - Dec 2). This conference, formerly known as Linux Bangalore, has expanded its scope this time to include other FOSS topics in addition to Linux.

On the first day I reached the venue at 8.30 A.M. But the registration process which was supposed to have started at 8 A.M. got delayed & I ended up waiting in the queue till 9.15 A.M. to get my entry pass & delegate kit. As a result of this delay, all talks were delayed by nearly an hour. The inauguration finally happened at 10 A.M. followed by Alan Cox's general talk on participating in open source projects. I followed this up by attending a bunch of tech talks - investigation of Kernel Mode Linux, performance measurement of Linux 2.6.10 kernel (last 10 minutes) and an egregiously bad talk on the pitfalls of Loadable Kernel Modules (the grating accents of the two 'professionals' who delivered this and the set of unprofessionally done slides which they used made the whole discourse all the more repulsive). But Andrew Cowie's talk on equivalence, which I attended next, made up for the insipid morning. Andrew is an amazing speaker - eloquent, brimming with energy, almost hopping with excitement on the stage. Following this I attended a talk on Sun's Project GlassFish & another one on the Apache Software Foundation's Geronimo project. But the highlight of the day was our drive back from the venue which lasted all of 2 hours as we managed to take every wrong turn we could have taken along the way. Despite my repeated assurances to Chandan that we were headed up the wrong 'alley', he chose to ignore my advice resulting in temporal losses for both of us.

On the second day, I attended the post lunch set of talks - Interaction of GPL & non-GPL code in Linux kernel - a very informative one and shared subtree concept & implementation in the Linux kernel. After this I proceeded to roam around the various stalls set up by numerous open source companies. Sun profited the most from this event as their OpenSolaris demos at their stall went down very well with the delegates.

The third day began with a talk by Andrew Cowie aimed at "motivating participation in FOSS from people who may not have yet found a way to do so". The best part was when he strongly derided the dogmatic stance adopted by Richard M Stallman regarding the usage of the word "free" by citing one instance where RMS left a bad impression on the attendees at some conference when he started yelling at a translator who translated 'free' to imply 'at no cost' rather than 'without restrictions'. To substantiate his point further, Andrew also commented on the usage of the term GNU/Linux instead of just Linux to describe what RMS calls 'the GNU operating system which uses the Linux kernel'. These observations drew a huge round of applause from the audience. But the rest of the talks which I attended left much to be desired for. I returned back to work after lunch.

On the whole, the broadened scope of the event benefitted some sections, notable among them being Sun. But I feel this expansion has somehow diluted the event. According to the organisers of the event, "...it was a glorious success. 2733 delegates, 140+ speakers, 180+ talks, workshops, tutorials and BoFs. It was fantastic." Yeah, but that is just the statistical analysis & statistics can lie. Quality isn't assured by numbers. Honestly, very few speakers were convincing enough in their arguments. But my opinion in this matter may have been clouded by my attendance at only a few talks. Moreover even the ones I attended were mostly technical in nature - so I might be partly wrong here. Based on my experiences as a delegate at Linux Bangalore 2003 and FOSS.IN 2005, I can confidently dole out this piece of advice - as is the case with open source development, self reliance is the best policy when attending such conferences; always try to get an introduction to a topic rather than trying to get in depth information about it (you can always Google for the details anyway :-)).

Tags : Blogger Days, Linux, The Binary Files

Posted by Rajat @ 8:58 PM   |  Comments