Compiz, Beryl, and the future of Linux eye-candy

by Jeremy Jones

I'm a little slow again on happenings in tech-land, but about a month ago, the open source project Compiz saw an amicably intentioned fork to the project. The new project is named Beryl. Quinn Storm had been working on and managing a set of patches to Compiz for a while which seemed to become the Ubuntu forums community standard for managing compositing eye candy. Quinn stated reasons for the fork on September 15, 2006. On the 18th, Quinn and others formally annnounced Beryl. Everything that I've read seems fairly friendly from Beryl toward Compiz. I'm not even going to comment on whether this is a well-founded split or not. I really don't know. Solerman Kaplon brought up an interesting question as a follow-up to Quinn's reasons for the fork. Solerman asked if it was not the case that the main Compiz branch was indeed attempting to prepare the code base to easily and properly allow for Quinn's (and other community members') changes.

Like I said, I don't know if this was a "founded" fork or not (whatever that means - all one really needs to have a founded reason to fork an open source project is desire and ability). I do know that I personally hate seeing forks like this. The Compiz folks have apparently put a lot of effort into the project to bring it up to where it is. If Beryl becomes the community choice, I hate to see the Compiz folks' future work and talent not utilized. If the community chooses Compiz, I'd hate to see Quinn's excellent additions discarded.

Regardless of the current "winner" of the compositing market, these projects demonstrate the intense community interest in getting eye-candy on the Linux desktop which has an amazing wow-factor. If you haven't seen a demonstration of Compiz/Beryl, just take a peek at this video. Personally, I find this more appealing than anything I've seen on Vista or Mac. Yes, this is an opinion. Yes, you may think differently. No, I won't argue with you.

So, what does the future hold for eye-candy on the Linux desktop? The momentum behind Compiz/Beryl and Xgl/aiglx are putting Linux on par with visual effects on any other platform. I think we can only expect more. Mac has clearly been driving aesthetic appeal and visual effects on the desktop for a while. Linux can now at least contend. And with the talent that has been emerging in this area in the open source realm, Linux may even begin taking a lead role in what is expected on the desktop (in general) regarding appearance. Microsoft and Apple can ignore the visual effects of the Linux desktop for a while, but it won't be long before the aesthetic appeal of desktop Linux begins to turn the heads of the average end user. I'm interested to see how they answer.

And then there's the issue of the usability of the Linux desktop. And that's a matter for another day.


2006-10-10 12:01:48
I can personally attest to Compiz's head turning appeal. I've been running it on Ubuntu for a while now and my coworkers have come over several times to watch it run. Several have even installed (or attempted to install) Compiz.

I was very unhappy to see the fork. Now I have to choose, but as someone who's not a power-user, I'm hardly in a position to make a choice as to which is a better system. On top of that, when the fork occurred, I stopped getting Compiz updates on Ubuntu. Now I need to dig around and figure out how to get them again :(

Jeremy Jones
2006-10-10 12:28:26
Hi Ovid,

I've done the same thing. At one point, I was able to play a fairly high quality video and wobble it around my screen, alt-tab between windows and have the moving video in the preview pane.

I'm hoping that the community will just sort it out. I'm confident that whichever the community chooses will thrive.

Josh Peters
2006-10-11 11:39:06
Eye candy is great, but it also ought to serve a purpose.

Usability-wise, the OSXish genie effect that is presented in the YouTube video is great: a user can easily see what's happening when a window is minimized, same for the dock launching effects.

I can't say I'm too keen on the effects themselves, tumbling windows and all, but I'm very impressed with the work that has gone into making window managers better and better.

2006-10-11 14:53:49
I was just going to say the same thing as Josh.

I think it'd be real swell if these new GUI developments tried to incorporate some of the layout stuff from like wmii to try and increase usability.

I dunno, eyecandy is awesome and all, but it's awesomest when it's helping me do stuff.

Quinn Storm
2006-10-13 15:18:58
About the wmii thing, I was an ion3 user before I started working with compiz, so don't worry, I won't leave you behind. Also, feel free, anyone who's interested to drop by the forum, #beryl on freenode, or if you want to develop for beryl, #beryl-dev. We are an open project, with a very fuzzy line between "core developers" and everyone else, so...feel free to come by.
2006-10-23 06:35:23
I think what we're going to see are desktop environments integrating support for XGL/AIGLX into their window managers, just as KDE previously added support for composite into KWIN. When KDE 4 is finished, it is expected to have a compiz/beryl-like interface built into it. Whether it will actually be compiz or beryl or their own creation remains to be seen.

What is exciting is the thought of developers being able to integrate these effects into their applications. A presentation, for example, will be much more jaw-dropping if you can switch slides with a 3D cube, as opposed to a 2D dissolve or fade. We've seen this on Mac OS X with Keynote. I think we will see it in the near future on Linux.

Jeff Henager
2006-11-24 14:40:06
I wouldn't say it competes with OSX and Vista. It blows their doors off. I have been using it for a month or so, and at least in the appearance category, there is no equal to Ubuntu running Beryl as a desktop manager.
2006-12-10 04:31:37
"I'm interested to see how they answer"
is the answere. microsoft and novell's developers sharing code.
im quite sure we will be seeing xgl/compiz/beryl effects in the future microsoft releases.