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icon  XGL - An Xserver framework based on OpenGL

Posted on (2006-02-25)

XGLNow a days, you see a lot of excitement over XGL - the X server architecture layered on top of OpenGL. What this means is that you can see a flurry of activity on the desktop front, including special effects which would put even the upcoming Microsoft Vista OS to shame. What I find exciting about this project started by David Reveman way back in 2004 is the support and contribution to this project provided by Novell. In fact, Novell has released a few video clips show casing some of the special effects that are possible using XGL which are worth watching. For those of you who are constrained about bandwidth, I have included a few screen shots of the video clips below.

expose
Fig: OSX Expose like functionality built-in

expose
Fig: Transparency of windows

expose
Fig: Special effects while changing virtual desktops

The project is still in the testing phase and so, we the ordinary users, will have to wait with our fingers crossed till a server based on XGL has been integrated with the Linux distributions (I guess, the first one most probably would be SuSE).

Well, I belong to the old school of thought when I say that it is better to have a spartan desktop if you want to do some serious work. In support of my views, try putting a kid in a room full of toys and make him do his home work. In 90 % of the cases, the kid will be distracted. Perhaps you will have to scold him, threaten him with consequences and even punish him and he may eventually complete the work allotted to him. I can see the same happening in the work front too. For many of us the fear of getting chewed up by the boss or an imminent deadline will be the dominant factor which will make us put our mind where the work is. So any day, while I am doing serious work on my computer, I prefer using a desktop without any frills.

That doesn't mean that XGL and related projects are a waste of time. They do play a significant role in furthering the Linux cause. Some of them being:

  • Showcasing the power of OpenGL which will grab the attention of the large number of game developers who then will hopefully consider developing cross platform games using OpenGL instead of the Windows centric games that are developed at present using DirectX.
  • You can show these special effects to your friends and members of your family and I can bet my shirt that they will be asking you to help them in installing Linux on their machine. This means, a lot of effort is reduced in persuading people to embrace Linux over any other proprietary OS.
  • If you are using your Linux machine for entertainment and fun, these special effects will be a good time pass.
  • I strongly feel that it is projects such as these that will be the tipping point in enabling Linux to grab a major sice of the OS market.

So what are the prerequisites for running XGL based X server on your machine ?

Novell claims that your PC specifications need be modest for this to work. But you definitely would need a graphics card preferably one from NVIDIA - which in my opinion has the best support for Linux. This is because OpenGL relies heavily on a graphics card for rendering the effects.

[comment]Posted by (frederic)

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