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Novell's Desktop Advances - page 2

The Better Desktop Initiative

  • June 16, 2006
  • By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Innovations added to Novell's offerings that the company feels will help Windows users include the Beagle desktop search tool for quickly searching through files and their contents, the Tango Desktop Project's environment-neutral icon theme for both GNOME and KDE, better Plug'N'Play support for USB, multimedia, Bluetooth, Firewire, laptops, printers, and scanners, and enhanced 3D accelerated graphics.

The most talked-about feature among this collection has to be "the cube demo" otherwise known as XGL. XGL is one of the new X Window System server options that allows not just accelerated 3D graphics, but accelerated 2D graphics as well. This technology uses OpenGL, a cross-platform graphics-rendering standard for both 2D and 3D objects equivalent to Microsoft's Direct3D, to accelerate everything from rendering antialiased fonts to games.

XGL involved the creation of a new X server that is not part of the main X development stream. In conjunction with this server, using XGL also requires an OpenGL-aware composite/window manager--a composite manager is used for combining smaller elements into larger images, and a window manager directs how the various windows on your screen behave. The Compiz combination window/composite manager was created specifically to work with XGL, and can be installed for both GNOME and KDE. It is Compiz that offers the Cube plug-in for placing your virtual desktops on four different faces of a virtual cube. Instructions for setting up this feature in Gconf, the GNOME configuration system, are included on the Compiz page.

XGL is one of three technologies that aim to bring OpenGL-accelerated content and the third dimension onto the Linux desktop. The original was arguably Sun's Project Looking Glass, which focuses on the 3D side of the equation using Java. Another semi-competing technology is AIGLX, which is a joint project between the X.Org Foundation--the group charged with managing the development of the X Window System--and Fedora Core. Rather than replacing the X server entirely, AIGLX consists of modular packages for X that can be turned on or off as desired. It is anticipated that AIGLX may become integrated into XGL and that both projects will work with one another to share code.

Both XGL and AIGLX are both listed, among many other projects, on FreeDesktop.org.

There is much more new to the SuSE 10.1 desktop. Now that both the free and commercial versions area available, you can go check it out for yourself.

Dee-Ann LeBlancis a technology journalist and computer book author who focuses on Linux and open source. Her latest book is Linux for Dummies, 7th Edition.

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