Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The meaning of 3D

I know that I am in a minority when it comes to things like eye candy. Over at the other blog I recently wrote a post called "Color Theory", which in truth was probably a better post for this blog. Nothing really very data-center-y about it. But in that one, and other recent posts I have talked about a number of things about Linux and its suitability as a full time desktop OS. Here is a quick levelset:
  1. Linux is ready now
I said I was going to be quick.
There are tons of caveats to that: I don't use computers to play games, so I don't care in any way shape or form how MS talked the folks that write most of the games that run on PC's to use their graphics libraries. The assertion that MS Windows is a better gaming platform has to be followed with the note that it was the fact that the gaming industry was borged by dependency on closed protocol street code. Apple seems to have attracted some attention from the gaming industry very recently, as they continue to make all the right moves with MacBooks and the other laptop brethern, but again, I really don't care all that much. I am a fan of Apple, as I noted last time, but if I was going to buy a gaming platform, I'd get a Wii. My son has one, and the controllers are so cool that the rest of it just doesn't matter to me.
I also noted that all my documents are stored in OASIS formats. This means I can edit them on OS.X or Linux or even MS Windows with equal ease. That was a slight lie. I also use HTML formats quite a bit, especially for blogging, but the point is the same. I can edit everywhere. usually I put that kind of content on Google docs so I can get at from anywhere.
Web browsing: Check: Linux has Firefox and Opera and via ies4linux, even IE should I need it. Not even counting what I can do with Codeweavers.
Offline Blogging: Check. Scribefire wins that prize hands down for cross platform, easy, and actually working offline web logging. if needed I can tweak at Google docs as well. Check and Check.

Whats missing? Well... that I care about

I have speed, platform support, wireless... by any way I can think to measure it, Linux is "Good Enough"(tm)
So, what about 3D? I have not really said much about Vista (even though my 5610 can dual boot to it if needed to test things I am curious about). OS.X's graphical goodness is pretty well known. How does Linux stack up?
If all you want is eye candy, then Linux has arrived. Is zooms and fades and wiggles and rotates and what all with the best of them. Better than Vista because it will do it with a smaller footprint of hardware: My IBM T40 is ancient by laptop standards, but Compiz (Linux version: Mint 3.0) enables and everything looks all pretty and dances their little dances across the screens. A cornucopia of fun and silly things to amuse. I leave it on because it is also fast. If it slowed me down, I have it turned off in two seconds flat.

What does it all mean though?

Another thing I have stated as a first principal is that I like all the eye candy to denote meaning or do some useful thing along the way. And here is where Linux is not quite there yet. it is utterly amazing that all that stuff works, and it is further amazing just how many options there are in Beryl. they go on and on. My favorite useless eye candy setting was the window open (transporter thing called "beam up") and window close (burn). Windows beamed in, and burnt to the ground.
Sure... there is a little meaning someplace in there. I can easily tell the different between an opening window and a closing one.
when I was done playing, I turned that off though. Some weird screen rasterizing was occurring, and I was turning off everything trying to figure out what was causing it. I still don't know: I turned off piles of things, and it went away. There is just so much stuff to tweak that it will take a will to get to which effect was the culperate.
Dead useful is upper right corner / f9. The OS.X effect is called "Expose": I am not sure what Beryl calls it, but I use it all the time, and it makes jumping fron Mac to Linux easy.
I also use a theme that leaves the window edges translucent so I can see behind to what is stacked back there.
The mini-screen when I hover the task bar is also something I use all the time. That level of screen compositing is both technically impressive and makes picking where I am trying to jump next much easier to figure out.
There is so much here that is carries on that fine Linux tradition of scaring folks who have no idea what half this stuff means. And the other fine Linux tradition of introducing a tool that simplifies setting things up (Beryl-settings-simple package on Mint).

Miles and miles

Linux with either Compiz or Beryl is light years ahead of where Win98 ever was. It is better than Windows XP. Is it better than Vista? Hardware sucking sounds aside, I mean.
I am inclined to trust the kernel of Linux more, to be sure. But in the sense of 3D maturity: things being over stated, understated, and stable, with both OS's in their fully GUI enabled finery. Leaving OS.X out of it.
Linux is more fun: clearly he developers were having a blast. but there are niggling little problems like the screen rasterization whackiness that creeps up from time to time. I admit, I have spent a grand total of maybe 4 or 5 hours on Vista, but that has never happened there.
On the other hand, less than six months ago, I played with Beryl and thought it was worthless. in Mint 3.0 it is fun and complex and occasionally weird. six months from now, Vista will look and act exactly the same.
Mint and Linux in general will have moved on down the road....

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Akshun J said...

Great commentary on the state of 3D in linux. Funny we both have the same hardware. I also have a T40 (for my wife), while I use the Acer 5610. I have not found the 3D effects to be particularly useful, though. The cube is cool, and it's super fast on the Acer, but the wobbly windows and effects are seriously useless. I'm waiting for the KDE 4, as the promises include integrating 3D into the desktop as a useful feature. We'll see, I guess...

Steve Carl said...

Thank you for your comments and kind words.
I think that 3d in Linux being useful is inevitable. Everything I have see about KDE 4 seems to indicate that they are on the right track... 4.1 for sure... :)
The Gnome project is working to make Gnome more usable than OS.X (they say).
It will run, it will use less hardware, and it will be stable. There will be themes and tweaks that will sort thru the zillion settings and pick the ones that "Just Work" (tm). And there will be excessive silliness for those just wanting to have fun. It's all good.
Hardware: I really like the T40. I also have a T41 which is even better, but it will not run 3d: the t40 is lower resolution, so the effects work. The T41 is 1400 by 1050 and the video card just can't hack that.
The 5610 is an amazing piece of gear. Much more modern than the T40/T41, but I still like those computers. That IBM keyboard is just so nice to use. The case is angled just right. And they have lasted forever. It will be interesting to see if the Acer 5610 holds up remotely as well.