March 16th, 2006
The latest linux buzz is Xgl, a new graphics subsystem which Novell is pushing, with uber-awesome graphical desktop effects. I decided to try out Kororaa, a Gentoo-based live-CD distribution which runs Xgl. Xgl, along with AIGLX will form the Linux response to Quartz extreme and Aero Glass on Mac OS X and Windows Vista respectively.
The eye candy is definitely impressive. Best seen through this video by Novell. Transparency, cube faces as desktops, squiggling motion of moving windows, 3-D rotating effects, its all there. It works, and works very smoothly. If anything, I was really impressed by the performance.
What I was really impressed by, though, was what I call the “natural fall” of the UI. Lets say I’ve dragged the desktop cube to the position in the screenshot above. When I release it, the cube will rotate back to the “nearest” face or desktop. It won’t do that instantly or in at a constant speed though - it accelerates to the nearest desktop, overshoots it slightly and bounces back. Similarly with scale windows (the equivalent of Expose in Mac OS X… all open windows are scaled and tiled to fit on the desktop) - there is a bouncing effect before the scaled windows fall into place.
The other apps on the CD are the usual gnome apps. Its possible to make any window as transparent as you want - but thats hardly the most effective usage of Xgl. Basically, once this is adopted by distros, developers will need to incorporate good UI design keeping the new options in mind.
More screenshots here.