Monday, April 2, 2007

What Vista should have been.

IPLv70 and I have been living together for a few months and one of the perks of living together (Oh and there are many perks *evil grin*.) is that we've been able to work really well together in getting our machines reinstalled to their full potentials. See IPLv70 is an expert in user interface design and isn't too fond of dealing with low level software and hardware issues (she can though). I am the compliment to this; I don't know much about UI design, but I am pretty keen on working hardware and low level software. So IPLv70 sets up our themes, window managers, and user apps (and this is awesome since we have the same aesthetic tastes... to a scary extent), while I make sure the kernels, filesystems, volume managers, raid etc. are all set up and running as fast as it can be.

IPLv70 uses a nice custom built workstation, and I use a pair of Toshiba laptops. We both run ArchLinux systems with Beryl window manager interfaces; both of which IPLv70 brought to my attention. We both love ArchLinux as it takes a minimalist approach as a Linux distribution. Neither of us want a distro. that is essentially going the way of windows, i.e. developing into it's own proprietary format and interface *cough* Ubuntu *cough*. Personally, if I want to run in the windows paradigm I'll run windows. Anyway, Arch isn't for everyone; but it is awesome in terms of maximizing the potential of your available hardware.

That's all well and good, but I do like the eye-candy. This is where Beryl comes in. Beryl is a true-3D window manager that just looks incredible; it's still pretty early in it's development, but they do have stable releases. Anyway, to convey my sentiments I'm putting up some screenshots.

Here is a simple shot of my desktop. Notice that it is actually translucent. My workspace consists of five desktops arranged on a pentagonal prism.

Before going on, let me say that I don't own a $5K workstation. This interface runs on a laptop that is about a year old (centrino single core 2Ghz). I have no problem running this interface while doing kernel compiles. Usually I have 2-15 applications open at once and the system is still very responsive. I have yet to see this system break 500 megs in consumed memory (I have 1Gig). Ok, here's another plain desktop shot with two terminals.

Ok, here's a screen of an actual workspace view.

Basically, the workspace sits in a super-enclosure called the skydome, which I've given it's own background image. Beryl has eye-candy that gives your desktop water-like elements, waves, raindrops and whatnot (those are ripples in the image).

One of the really nice things about Beryl+Gnome under Arch, is you have the ability to easily fall back to Metacity. Metacity is a typical 2D window manager that requires less system resources then Beryl. This is good for long compiles or conserving battery.

Anyway, I think it's funny that you can get an interface like this that is truly 3D on a Linux machine given the state of Windows current technology (Vista). I mean, Vista simply would not run on this laptop; not even if I wanted to. Vista still uses some 2D imaging tricks to fake various 3D elements of its interface (like transulcency); that is my current understanding. This isn't to mention 'features' like copy, moving and deleting of files taking up to 100x longer on Vista machines, etc, etc. I have to laugh; I really don't understand how MS is expecting to survive. Anyway, I love Beryl because it is a faster and optimized version of what Vista was meant to be; and it is free... as in not costing literally thousands of dollars just to install. Anyway, enough ranting, I'm closing with a final screenie.

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