I must admit, Xgl is impressive

(March 29, 2006)

Today, I finally took the time to download and test-drive the Kororaa Xgl Live CD. This is a Linux live CD made for the sole purpose of showcasing Xgl. And, what can I say, it does that job great. They even packed the latest nVidia and ATI drivers on the CD, so it works accelerated on commodity hardware without requiring to download and install the drivers first. Only two minutes after booting, I got a nice, clean GNOME 2.12 desktop that didn’t look special in the first place. But clicking a menu or opening a window starts to show the difference …

Kororaa’s default settings are optimized for eye candy, sacrificing some usability aspects. But this live CD isn’t meant to work with anyway – it’s there for that little »wow« effect you have when seeing all that smoothly animated, alpha-blended stuff. And there’s quite a bit of that:

  • windows and menus fade in and out smoothly
  • menus even fade in with some springy effect
  • the springy effect is also used when moving windows – they deform themselves, including a simple simulation of inertia
  • semi-transparent title bars
  • of course, every window can be made transparent
  • window shadows (these could be a little stronger than they are now; the shadows on Mac OS X are much more obvious)
  • virtual desktops are mapped on a virtual cube, including desktop change animations (especially nice if you turn the cube with the mouse in realtime!)
  • an Expose-like window switcher
  • Alt+Tab window switching also includes previews and highlights the currently selected window
  • videos continue to play while switching or dragging desktops or using Expose or Alt+Tab

The thing that impressed me most is the impact on performance: There is none. (Well, almost.) While the Xgl showcase at CeBIT shocked me a bit, it was fine here on my own machine. Everything was snappy and fast, only Totem used a relatively high amount of 16% CPU for playing back a DivX file. But this is nothing to worry about, I could live with that if it was my everyday desktop. I’d just reduce the effects a little bit from the »look, that’s cool!« level to a «everything makes sense, no superficial eye candy» level :)

The only thing that bugged me a bit was the lack of alternate (read: non-English) keyboard layouts on the live CD. I don’t need German locales, but having a keyboard layout other than German really annoys me. (So if you find typos in this posting, indulge me, I’ve written it while running Kororaa :)

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