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Editorial: Compiz and Beryl Merger

It isn’t official yet, but Compiz and Beryl are merging. For the last few weeks I have been following the mailing list discussions on this topic. A lot of the work has been started. It is sort of unofficially announced, so I feel now is as good a time as any to comment. First some back story:

The war between Compiz and Beryl has been entertaining if counterproductive. Originally I planned to interview Quinn (Beryl’s unofficial leader) about the Beryl project. That turned into an interview with the team that never really got anywhere. I dropped the ball. My feelings at the time were typical of those in the community. Beryl seemed to be this fantastic project that saved Compiz from being boring and a slave to Novell. They launched a beautiful website. It was exciting to see the frequency of their releases. At the time, I decided to check out Compiz to see what it was up to. It was surprising. Their forums were very helpful and positive. The more I read, the more I realized that I had made a mistake. There was more to the story than I was aware.

The communities were getting along a lot worse than I had realized. People in the Beryl camp dismissed David Reveman (creator of Compiz and XGL among other things) as a bad coder. Compiz dismissed Beryl as hacky code. Personal attacks flew around. Through decisions made with (hopefully) good intentions, like the insistence that Beryl code be GPL (thus unable to move upstream to the MIT licensed Compiz core) or the desire on some Beryl developers part to rip apart the Compiz core and ” improve” it, it looked as if the teams were hopelessly split.

Meanwhile, Beryl continued to grow. Resentment grew in the Compiz community. One estimate was that Beryl used 95% Compiz code while taking all the credit. YouTube filled up with tons of spinning transparent cubes and burning windows. Any Digg story mentioning Beryl received a lot of Diggs. Flamewars in comment sections broke out regularly. Things reached a low point when a frustrated Compiz community member hacked the Beryl site.

This state of affairs was a shame. Something that was finally getting the general public excited about Linux, the 3D desktop, was wasting time with duplication of effort and fighting. There were concerns about the long term viability of Beryl. The perception in the community overall was, Compiz = old and stale, Beryl = fresh and exciting. This despite the feeling in the Compiz community that the “real work” was being done by David Reveman and Compiz, and there were exciting things with Compiz core (like input redirection, etc…) on the horizon.

It was a pleasant surprise to see talks of a merge start to show up on the mailing lists. This article by Kristian Hogsberg seemed to kick it off. The talks so far have been bumpy. There are fights about whether to rename the communities. There are heated discussions about what the merger means and where things should go from here. Old wounds have been reopened. There are complaints about the egos of the developers in the forums. At one point, reading a twenty-four page forum discussion, I wondered if the merge was a good idea after all. Little by little things seem to be working out, though. Quinn mentioned in one forum post that the fork was a mistake and regrettable. It takes a big person to make an admission like that.

I have to hand it to both communities. This is a brave and bold step. Not many of us can check our egos, put hurt feelings aside and move forward. The road ahead won’t be easy, but the benefit to the Linux community will be immense. Energy won’t be wasted on fights and duplication of effort. Confusion over what to use will be eliminated. Hopefully more effort can be spent by the distributions on getting the combined product packaged properly (How many times can I install a distro and the 3d desktop only to have no window borders in KDE?). The discussions I read are passionate. It looks like the project will be a meritocracy, which works the best in Free Software. My take is that at this point, it is best for both teams to focus on the code and technical details, trust each other and then make decisions on what to name it down the road. It seems early to deal with emotional things like what to name it. As everyone gets used to working together, tough decisions like that should come easily. Trust and respect will be established and the name calling will cease.

I don’t want to be over dramatic, but this could not have come at a better time. The 3d desktop is the first thing to grab the general public’s imagination and push people into trying out Linux. Compiz and Beryl provide an experience you really can’t get on Windows or Mac. There is an exciting Wild West feel to the projects. As things mature, this will be what brings Linux to the mainstream. The passion everyone involved feels may look like a negative. It is the project’s greatest strength.

April 2nd, 2007 Posted by admin | Editorial, beryl, Compiz | 11 comments

Review: Sabayon Linux

There is a newer distro in town, gaining traction. Sabayon Linux is an installable, Gentoo based live Cd/DVD. It has the stated goal of being 100% Gentoo compatible. A lot of attention has been paid to the Sabayon brand. Theming is consistent and striking. Sabayon is one of the best looking distros I have used. They use a yellow,orange and red theme that is fresh and unlike any other Linux distribution. Beryl is used by default. It is a KDE distro with the option to use Fluxbox as your Desktop Environment. Sabayon gets it’s name from an Italian desert, to quote the website and Wikipedia: “Sabayon is an Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, a sweet  liqueur (usually Marsala wine), and sometimes cream or whole eggs. It is a very light custard, which has been whipped to incorporate a large amount of air.” Sabayon refers to its users as “Hens” which isn’t as off putting as you might think.

Sabayon uses the Anaconda installer, from Red Hat. It is fully themed and consistent with Sabayon’s desktop look. The install goes as painlessly as an Anaconda install should, the difference is that instead of Fedora you have a fully running and configured Gentoo system without the hassle of a Gentoo install. You are left with a metaphysical question, am I using Sabayon or Gentoo? Is Sabayon a flavor of Gentoo? What was your original face before you were born? I can say that I don’t feel as if I am running Gentoo, I feel like I am running Sabayon.

I installed using the Mini Edition X86_64 3.2 as opposed to the full edition. My DVD burner is on the fritz, so it was my only choice. It was easy to add the programs I need and use. I prefer this method, actually. It is nice to build my system from a smartly configured base. 3D effects worked right out of the box. Package selection was intelligent. It contains proprietary and non-OSS software, which you can disable with the “noproprietary” boot flag. The mini edition gave me a fully featured operating system. It includes the Koffice office suite, the Amarok audio player, Codeine for video, K3B for Cd/DVD burning. Post install I emerged Mplayer, OpenOffice and other programs without a problem. Need your Google apps? Google Earth and Picasa install very easily.

Portage is your package manager. A graphical front end, Kuroo, is provided. I found Kuroo a bit confusing, and felt safer working through the command line. Kuroo is nice to see what if available, then emerge from the command line. Since it is Gentoo, expect installing packages to take some time. It isn’t as if your computer is rendered useless while programs compile, so that didn’t bother me. Sabayon uses Portage with a Sabayon overlay. Before installing and upgrading anything with Portage, be sure to read the forums. You need to mask packages, specifically dbus and qt or you may break your KDE, as I did. Be careful updating. Do not do an “emerge –update world” just because you can. You really need to take the time and make sure you understand Portage before doing anything. Sabayon recommends waiting for a new release and updating using the ISO. You can save yourself a lot of trouble following that advice if you are new to Gentoo. You are given the power to completely hose your system. Use it wisely.

I use the 64 bit version, Sabayon installs 32 bit versions of packages that have trouble running in 64 bits or are unavailable. That means you get Adobe’s Flashplayer for your browser. Mplayer uses 64 bit Realplayer for its codecs, so they are truly 64 bit. I have run into no problems or slowdowns. Everything runs seamlessly, whether it is using 64bit or 32bit libs. All of my multimedia needs are met with Sabayon.

As I mentioned, Sabayon uses Beryl by default. I run Compiz on my Arch install, so it was interesting to see what Beryl brings. I am running Beryl 0.2.0 beta 2. It is snappy and running without problems. Kudos to both the Compiz and Beryl teams. 3d effects are moving along very rapidly. I find it hard to work without the cube or transparency (Alt + mouse scroll) now. There seems to be a lot in this Beryl release, more than I have had time to play with. The new Beryl Settings Manager is nice and clean looking. There are still so many options that I end up getting overwhelmed and closing it. I read that “Beryl-settings-simple” exists, but it isn’t part of my install. Sabayon has a partnership with Beryl, so if you are a Beryl addict, this is the distro for you.

In the few weeks I have been using it, Sabayon has become one of my favorite Linux distributions. The developers have done a very nice job, particularly for a newer distribution. It is great for the whole spectrum of Linux users, from a new user to a seasoned vet. It is very simple with the potential to be as complicated as you wish. If you have been curious about Gentoo but put off by the installation, I heartily recommend Sabayon. They have a great and helpful user community that is growing. They have the weight of Gentoo’s documentation behind them. In this age where most new distros seem to be Debian based, Sabayon is a breath of fresh air. It is a great Distribution.

Screenshots:

Sabayon Desktop Sabayon Cube Sabayon showing transparency

LinuxQuestions.org has graciously allowed me to link to thier comprehensive screenshot gallery here. It is appreciated.

February 7th, 2007 Posted by admin | Linux Distributions, beryl, Sabayon | 27 comments

Random Thoughts: FVWM Crystal, Fedora Core 6 and Donate to Beryl

I started running FVWM-Crystal on Ubuntu 6.10. Tired of the KDE/Gnome wars? Looking for something different? FVWM Crystal is absolutely beautiful, lightweight and fast. If it were a quarterback, it would be Micheal Vick to Gnome’s Joey Harrington. I was going to review it, but in my research I found a fantastic review that I cannot beat. It covers it all. Here it is:

Read the review at Polishlinux.org.

Since that review covered everything, eliminating the need for another, I decided to get back to my Fedora Core 6 review. I just couldn’t get excited about it, no fault to Fedora. Does the world really need the 67th review of Fedora 6? I couldn’t convince myself it did. Instead, I will give a micro-review.

  • Installation was painless. It took 20 minutes and went exactly like a modern distro install should.
  • Option to add repositories during install is new and a nice addition.
  • I liked the new graphics. I am tired of the icons. Me and every other reviewer on earth.
  • 55 updates greeted my install. They took forever. This was 2 weeks after the release.
  • The package manager acted flakey. Yumex (an alternative graphical installer) crashed often. Yum on the command line worked well.
  • Post Novell’s announcement, I appreciated the Free as in Freedom stance of Fedora.
  • That said, I installed the Nvidia beta drivers, MP3 codecs, etc… from freshrpms.net. It was as easy as doing it as any other distro. No problems.
  • I found out there is an alternate KDE for Fedora, I installed that. More on that soon, it is a whole article.
  • I still do not care for Fedora’s administrative packages. I couldn’t find them using KDE. It is probably my fault, but it should be easy.
  • Compiz and the 3D desktop did not work well for me at all. For lack of a better term, it seemed half-assed.

Overall, Fedora has done a very nice job. Graphical package management still is flakey after all these years. It is fine from the command line. If you are a new user and looking for an easy distribution, I can easily recommend it. Personally, I just could not get into it. It seems to lack something that I cannot define other than “excitement”. I constantly found myself going back to Ubuntu. When I do figure it out I will give it a short write up.

Finally:

If you use Beryl and are excited with it, I would like to encourage you to donate to the team. They are doing a great job. I am having fun using the eye-candy. I find it hard to work outside of the 3D environment now, something I completely did not expect. Here is a link to the thread that has donation information.

Beryl Donations.

New content is slower to come than I thought. I am focused on reviews and interviews at the moment. I am trying to integrate a forum into the site. I thank all of you that visit this site. If there is anything you would like to see here, drop me a line.

J&R Computer/Music World

November 16th, 2006 Posted by admin | Uncategorized, Fedora, random thoughts, fvwm crystal, beryl | no comments