Monday, February 13, 2006

Linux Graphics Revolution

While we await the general release of Vista, with its much-anticipated advances in graphics technology, Linux is quietly making similar advances.  While it is likely that the full set of features won't be available in Linux for many months, we can be fairly sure that these features will not require as much computing power as Vista will demand.  That means that Linux users should be able to make use of some of these features on older hardware.

Perhaps the first distro to come out with a fully-functioning version of the new graphics architecture will be OpenSUSE, according to this news item at Distrowatch.  The features are already available in 10.1 beta 3, but Novell states that the new technology, Xgl, is not yet ready for the masses:
Xgl is highly experimental code, it has been tested on only a few hardware platforms, and depending on driver state it may even crash your computer. This code is not for the faint of heart. Said that, it works remarkably well on several platforms.
It is not enabled by default.  The user has to go in an manually edit the configuration files in order to get it to work, maybe.  They provide some videos to show the potential of Xgl here.  Perhaps the most interesting video is this one (Spinning Cube .mpg (16MB) | .ogg (7.1MB) | streaming flash), which shows the desktop rendered onto a rotatable 3D cube.  This essentially quadruples the size of the user's desktop.  

While Linux already offers users the choice of multiple desktops, the implementation of the spinning cube visual device makes the use of multiple desktops much easier, and more intuitive.

Technical background for all of this is contained in the Wikipedia article about Xgl.

I will be curious to see how this plays out.  If Vista turns out to require many users to upgrade their hardware just to be able to run their expensive new software, it might encourage a few more people to stop paying for software altogether.