XGL - An Xserver framework based on OpenGL

February 11, 2006
Now a days, you see a lot of excitement over XGL - the X server architecture layered on top of OpenGL. What this means is that you can see a flurry of activity on the desktop front, including special effects which would put even the upcoming Microsoft Vista OS to shame. What I find exciting about this project started by David Reveman way back in 2004 is the support and contribution to this project provided by Novell. In fact, Novell has released a few video clips show casing some of the special effects that are possible using XGL which are worth watching. For those of you who are constrained about bandwidth, I have included a few screen shots of the video clips below.

Fig: OSX Expose like functionality built-in

Fig: Transparency of windows

Fig: Special effects while changing virtual desktops

The project is still in the testing phase and so, we the ordinary users, will have to wait with our fingers crossed till a server based on XGL has been integrated with the Linux distributions (I guess, the first one most probably would be SuSE).

Well, I belong to the old school of thought when I say that it is better to have a spartan desktop if you want to do some serious work. In support of my views, try putting a kid in a room full of toys and make him do his home work. In 90 % of the cases, the kid will be distracted. Perhaps you will have to scold him, threaten him with consequences and even punish him and he may eventually complete the work allotted to him. I can see the same happening in the work front too. For many of us the fear of getting chewed up by the boss or an imminent deadline will be the dominant factor which will make us put our mind where the work is. So any day, while I am doing serious work on my computer, I prefer using a desktop without any frills.

That doesn't mean that XGL and related projects are a waste of time. They do play a significant role in furthering the Linux cause. Some of them being:
  • Showcasing the power of OpenGL which will grab the attention of the large number of game developers who then will hopefully consider developing cross platform games using OpenGL instead of the Windows centric games that are developed at present using DirectX.
  • You can show these special effects to your friends and members of your family and I can bet my shirt that they will be asking you to help them in installing Linux on their machine. This means, a lot of effort is reduced in persuading people to embrace Linux over any other proprietary OS.
  • If you are using your Linux machine for entertainment and fun, these special effects will be a good time pass.
  • I strongly feel that it is projects such as these that will be the tipping point in enabling Linux to grab a major slice of the OS market.
So what are the prerequisites for running XGL based X server on your machine ?

Novell claims that your PC specifications need be modest for this to work. But you definitely would need a graphics card preferably one from NVIDIA - which in my opinion has the best support for Linux. This is because OpenGL relies heavily on a graphics card for rendering the effects.


  • E@zyVG

    You can find out more on how to install Xgl on SUSE from opensuse.org site. But as u mentioned above, the product is still lil raw and there are probs with current video cards.

  • your claim that people that want to *work* at their PC wont/souhldnt use XGL is wrong becauce the effects that XGL provides isnt to play with. They just provide a better and more natural "feel" of the user experience.

  • Ravi

    I never said that people using Linux at work should not use XGL. I was only pointing out that excess eyecandy is sometimes a distraction from doing ones work.

  • Mmmm... eye candy.


  • eye candy is the minor important thing of this ...everybody knows that X really needs acceleration ....actually x sucks

  • Eye-candy with 3D effects, Stability and Functionality are all very important and equal issues. In the 80's Unix died because X and Motif were so horrible to look at and work with.

    So X has severily sucked a long long time. It's slow, has a monolithic codebase which only experts can understand and compile. It's a complete nightmare ! and programming with Xlib (and Xtoolkit) is like a Taliban'ian lifestyle from year 1600.

    But there's hope now:

    1) The codebase of X has been rewritten amd modularized. The result is a beatiful and modular Xorg.7.

    2) XGL (OpernGL acceleration) is a must.
    Study: http://linux1.no/node/1564
    Just follow the URLs.

    3) XCB will replace the old, lousy, huge, slow and awkward XLib.
    XCB is well coded, quick, beatiful, easy to understand and nice to work with.


    XCB makes X-programming fun.
    The endless struggle with XLib is over.

  • Anjanesh

    This looks real cool !

    Where can I find XGL rpms for Linux distros ?

    I would like to try this on RHEL 4.0

  • I am going to buy a new PC and I was wondering which OS should I use on it. Now I'm convinced !, with this interface I can live with ! Bravo Linux !