OSCON 5.4: Closing Keynote

by Geoff Broadwell

Related link: http://conferences.oreillynet.com/cs/os2005/view/e_sess/7178

Miguel's talk was definitely a good choice for the closing timeslot. He talked about numerous happenings at Novell, from their efforts to move all employees off Windows / MS Office onto Linux / OpenOffice.org, to several new X technologies that impressed the heck out of me.

Novell currently has some 5500 employees, and has already managed to move all of them over to OO.o. They are also 50% finished with moving every PC to single-boot linux, and expect to reach 80% by November. In the mean time, it sounds like many employees still multi-boot.

Eating their own dog food is one thing, but Novell still needs to work on the Linux desktop to increase its mass appeal. To this end, they have considerably hardened the Mono VM (a clone of Microsoft's .NET VM), to the point that it can now withstand weeks of continuous heavy load without erroring or crashing. From this point, they are working in two directions: making all user hardware Just Work, and implementing all missing desktop applications in Mono languages, such as C# and Python (via IronPython). It sounded like they are also putting some effort into convincing Windows ISVs to migrate to Mono.

They've been working on useability issues in Gnome as well; Novell likes to video users with three simultaneous camera angles (face, hands, and monitor), show the videos to the developers, and watch their mental models get massively readjusted to match reality (well, more closely, at least).

Miguel also showed off some individual technologies, like two-way iPod sync, multi-hop directory sync, and so on; some of these were actually ports of old-world Novell technologies to pure Mono code. He bragged that with Beagle they managed to be the first out the door with desktop search, though only by a mere 6 hours.

Nearing the end of his talk, Miguel showed off some of the amazing changes happening to X these days. The Cairo compositing / rendering model (similar to the PDF rendering model) is now available for X, and can be accelerated in OpenGL using Glitz and XRENDER. Ugly hacks for window transparency and other such effects are no more.

X itself can run on top of OpenGL using the Xgl server, which is nearly complete. Xgl comes with a Composition Manager, which allows all sorts of composeable eye candy and special effects; Miguel showed off some silly-but-cool wobbling window effects based on this.

Finally, since Xgl has the full power of OpenGL behind it, all of the virtual desktops are wrapped around a cube that is just dragged to show the desired desktop. It's even possible to start a movie playing, drag the window halfway across the boundary between desktops, rotate the desktop cube through 45 degrees, and then watch the movie, now split across the border and in correct perspective across each face -- without any visible rendering issues.

All in all, a very cool talk, and a great way to close out this year's OSCON.