Rampant Eye Candy

It’s about time I did something with some of this horsepower on my desk. So this week I fired up a couple toys just to have some fun.

Beryl and Compiz

If you’ve got any inroads into the Linux geek community, you’ve probably heard about the two compositing window management systems, Compiz and Beryl. A compositing window manager marries window actions and motions with a fancy rendering engine, in this case OpenGL. The end result is a stunningly animated desktop that bears loose resemblance to some of the effect on OSX (such as the schwoopy windows, and the minimization to greyed icons of open desktop windows), but with the extra ‘fun’ bits Linux folks are known to toss in.

Last week I enabled the beryl manager on yawl, and played around with it for a while. The first thing that can be said – it’s certainly pretty. The smooth animation, wobbly windows, and the oh so awesome 3d cube rotation, with live windows is pure eye candy. Add to that toys like the rain drops on the desktop, or the ‘floating’ windows that stir the ‘water’ whenever you move them, and you’ve flat out gone into gratuitous.

For all the toyness, the window manager actually functions quite well. I found myself comfortable in the environment for several days, using it as my primary window manager, while still using KDE for desktop operations.

So why did I stop? Beryl is close – and I mean very close – to being usable on a day to day basis. What stopped me were a few basic issues:

  • The alt-tab ‘task switcher’ was cumbersome to work with. I found the flickery desktop activity and the lack of “here’s where you are, here’s where you were, here’s how to get there” distracting. I’m sure this could be tuned very easily, but since I alt-tab between apps at a speed that would make a hyperactive-5yr old sweat, this bit of clunk slowed me down enormously.
  • Beryl does NOT play well with SDL applications. Since I do in fact game on occasion, I frequently found myself unable to even control-alt-f1 to get to a console to kill my X server, and had to actually ssh in from another machine to kill and restart X. Not good.
  • The multidesktop-ness of the Beryl ‘cube’ wasn’t playing well with my desktop manager in KDE. I didn’t have the ‘multiple desktops’ I was used to, I simply had one long desktop that was wrapped around 4 sides of the cube. I could control-alt-left and control-alt-right from one cube face to the other, but I was very used to control-f1 and control-f2 to switch to desktop 1 and 2 respectively. That didn’t work with Beryl.

In reality, these were my only beefs with Beryl. With the going merge between Beryl and Compiz, I believe the future looks particularly bright for this sort of system.


I admit it, I’m a sucker for a FPS shooter. I spent far too much time blasting away in Quake3 Arena for my own good, but I’m completely cured now. *twitch* *twitch*

Doom3 is the latest chapter from ID Software in the Quake / Doom FPS world. It actually came out about 3 years ago, but had such high hardware requirements I wasn’t really prepared to play it. Now with yawl equipped with a mildly powerful video board, and having some extra CPU cycles, it was time to give it a try

ID Software is also, it should be noted, one of the few software companies that actually supports Linux directly, releasing their games and systems for Linux and Windows at the same time. No delay on ports or the like. I often wonder why other developers don’t follow suit – Linux users are some of the most loyal and vocal, and I’m firmly convinced that the deep Linux support ID has always shown is one of the reasons they’re still a leader in the gaming world.

Back to Doom3. After downloading all 485 meg of the ‘demo’, I unpacked it and ran it. It came up perfectly, ran through the intros, but I had a mild sound problem. A quick look at their FAQ for Doom3 pointed out I needed “+set s_alsa_pcm plughw:0” on my command line. Did that, and voila! Success.

This game is dark. And scary. And amazingly detailed. And intense. And scary. Did I mention scary? Oof. I played through the introduction and until things starting getting spooky / nasty, at which point Zach wandered in, so I had to put it off. I’m going to run it again once he’s gone to bed. It’s a game that should be played in the dark at night. The game is smooth, beautifully detailed, and runs PERFECTLY under Linux. Yay multi platform support.

More eye candy on the way, but for now, I have to do some level exploring…


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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3 thoughts on “Rampant Eye Candy

  1. I often wonder why other developers don’t follow suit – Linux users are some of the most loyal and vocal, and I’m firmly convinced that the deep Linux support ID has always shown is one of the reasons they’re still a leader in the gaming world.
    Actually, Carmack has been very vocal on this: id does simultaneous (or close-to) linux releases because he thinks it’s the right thing to do and because he hopes it’ll convince the video card manufacturers to produce working linux drivers — but id lost money on the boxed linux releases when they were doing them, and their own accounting of linux users of the combined releases suggest that it’s a fractional percentage compared to the windows userbase. So, sadly, it’s not exactly surprising that more developers don’t spend the time and money on a linux release.

  2. but id lost money on the boxed linux releases
    Oh of that I don’t doubt. But I wasn’t talking about financial direct returns. I think that much of DOom and Quake’s staying power was the support from the Linux community, both for client use and for server operation. Linux folks drive the LAN parties where quake tournaments happen – at least that’s my experience with local games and convention games.
    I do understand that the ‘market’ for linux gmaing software is almost non existent. But that doesn’t mean keeping Linux users happy doesn’t have other benefits.

  3. ‘Fun’ is that Beryl is default now with Fedora Core 6 and up. However, Beryl and the various offshoots require RandR as a critical component of XServer to work… and RandR and Xinerama completely fail to work together. There’s numerous articles that an attempt to marry the two is in the works… but they’ve been saying that for over a year now I believe. Right now, I’ll stick with my highly configurable multi-head configuration, and leave the graphic wobbly bits out. 🙂

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