Rubbing XGL in Windows Vista’s Wounds

Everybody went ga-ga over the video I linked to the other day – showing XGL running on KDE in some random flavor of Linux. Some of you suffered from motion sickness after watching the entire thing, but I don’t think typical usage would require or necessitate that much desktop movement in such a small amount of time.

No matter, I went on a quest to find a live CD distro with XGL pre-infused – just to see how well it would work. Because of GPL violations, most XGL-enabled live CDs have been taken offline. I tried installing XGL on my own, following “simple” instructions I found for various distros online – and wound up remembering why I dislike Linux so much in the first place: it’s not easy, no matter what anybody leads you to believe.

GNOME makes Linux easier to navigate, which is why I think so many people have fallen in love with Ubuntu. If Linux is ever going to win over the hearts and minds of the status quo, the GUI must continue to improve. I think XGL gives power users enough eye candy to give Linux another stab – but I couldn’t come close to recommending Linux over OS X for reasons other than economics at this point.

I scoured the BitTorrent directories for XGL-enabled live CD ISOs. Wow, that was probably the geekiest sentence I think I’ve ever written. Anyway, I discovered an XGL-enabled distribution called Kororaa. You can download, burn, reboot, and run Linux without installing it on your hard drive. Grab the torrent for Kororaa Linux Xgl LiveCD 0.2 before it disappears.

Go ahead, try XGL on your own PC – you’ll be amazed. I ran it on Ponzi’s laptop, which has a lame-ass Intel video card. Every one of the XGL effects I tried ran smoother than I ever would have anticipated.

And yes, I believe GNOME looks and works infinitely better than Vista (especially with XGL enabled) for common, everyday tasks.

58 thoughts on “Rubbing XGL in Windows Vista’s Wounds”

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  8. It has been taken offline due to GPL violation by distributing the ATI and nVidia drivers with the Linux kernel.

    How do I get the live cd now?

  9. Good find Chris. Yes, your video convinced me to give Linux another shot. So far it’s been a nightmare. I went with SuSE 10.1 because I like SuSE (The best distro if you ask me), and the only part of XGL I got working was the rotating cube. Other than that, the desktop was frozen.

    Next I tried Ubuntu. I still haven’t gotten that working. Hopefully this LiveCD will do the trick, cause all I want is to try out the effects.

  10. It sucks about Kororaa 0.2 being (officially) taken offline; it was a real hit at my local LUG while it was available from their website (I see that 0.3 is coming out, but it won’t have the proprietary drivers; I really hope that after AMD merges with ATI that the ATI drivers are open sourced).

    I should have thought to look on a bittorrent site for it when I e-mailed you, but for some reason I usually don’t associate Linux with warez-type sites ;-)

  11. Hello Chris – XGL (started in 2006) and Sun’s “Project Looking Glass” are both interesting efforts.

    Remember however those effects which you find so impressive were already demoed in Longhorn (Vista) way back in 2002/03, obviously these won’t be part of the stock UI because of usability issues but they do demonstrate very well the capabilities of the rendering engine for developer types:


    Also a interesting discussion on these UI effects on Neowin:

  12. SuSE is definitely not a good distro for newbies or for most notebooks. To make things worse, version 10.1 is without question the worst release ever to come from Novell, it’s beta at best. I use it because I am familair with it and can get past most of the annoying points on my desktop.

    Still, if you want “prettyâ€?, consider getting a Mac. They’re great machines. ;o)

    As for Ubuntu, getting this OS to detect hardware is very, very simple – it just does 99% of the time. The only two hardware areas to be aware of are wifi cards and all-in-one printer/scanners.

    First visit:

    And for Easy Ubuntu, please visit:

    Those looking for hardware that works out of the box, consider this happening soon as I have plenty of experience here. Linux “gurus” spend a lot of time making excuses for things not working as we would expect. I on the other hand, am spending my time discovering no B/S solutions.

    In the meantime however, this is what you need to expect to suck with Linux:
    Windows networking-
    Most wifi card detection-
    50/50 on printer/scanner combos-

    Don’t try installing Linux on your daily box-
    (use an extra system until you are more comfortable with it)

    Another thing to remember is that you should NOT be trying to replace Windows with Linux – it’ll never happen with that mindset. Go in with the understanding that you will be exploring what makes Linux unique if it can complement your existing computing experience. Linux is not mature enough yet in the desktop arena for the “average Windows user”. I will have legions of Linux users sending me hate mail for saying this, but it’s true.

    Ubuntu is the closest distro that I have ever seen to actually “getting it�. It detects hardware that I would otherwise have to install drivers for with XP Pro SP2, and installing software is so easy that I actually feel lazy for using their installation utility.

    Here very soon, I’ll show each of you how to get Bluetooth working with zero command line work, wifi going flawlessly, all-in-one printer/scanner support and a whole lot more. The trick is starting off with a clean mindset. Not meaning that you should spend retarded amounts of time playing command line commando. Rather, start off with the right PC setup from scratch.

    Because Ubuntu requires a lot less hardware resources than you might expect, I can show you how do to it from $150-$300 for a complete tower or even less in some cases. Getting your hardware to work right the first time with no hassle is not an unreachable goal.

    I will be doing an article in which I take a spare parts PC and turn it into a 100% Ubuntu compliant machine. I will include such extras as wifi for the desktop PC, navigating through networking nightmares and locating the right hardware when considering a Linux box. All will be coming to Lockergnome’s IT Professionals with hardware options from LINUXMINUTE.COM once it’s launched. With any luck, hopefully this will help those of you interested in expanding your PC world. Don’t give up Windows, expand to LInux in addition to it! You can have both in life and be very happy. ;o)

  13. Disclaimer” and are in no way related, nor do they share any sort of financial interest whatsoever. Just wanted to nip this in the bud ahead of time. ;o)

  14. “And yes, I believe GNOME looks and works infinitely better than Vista (especially with XGL enabled) for common, everyday tasks.”

    So, does your ‘common, everyday task’ computer run GNOME…?

  15. @Matt – Installing SuSE 10.1 on my laptop was the most headache free Linux install I’ve ever done. Everything worked perfectly, even my wireless internet. It’s installing XGL/Compiz that ruined the experience for me.

  16. I tried the Kororaa liveCD a few weeks back after seeing a great video presentation of its features. I was deeply disappointed with the UI. It was pretty nifty dragging windows around and seeing the blorbley jello effect, but that’s where the coolness ended for me. I could hardly figure out how to invoke any of the fancier features. None of my onboard hardware worked, including network and video. GUI interfaces for popular programs had nowhere near the featureset of the commandline equivalent. I’m no noob but I just found myself lost in XGL with no resources to advise me.

    XGL reminded my why I hate linux – because I want my computer to work for me and not vice versa. So far Vista RC1 5600 has saved me all kinds of time with its search and UI additions, and some features, like voice recognition, totally blew my mind. Linux needs to improve its usability from the ground up before shooting for the stars with a cutesypoo 3D-rendered tiara.

  17. Ya know, it IS pretty. But I’m not impressed, to be honest. The semi-transparent windows while moving are VERY nice, as is the tile-without-resizing, but the rest? I’d get really annoyed.

    First off, the bouncy windows are absolutely cool eye candy, but I’d go nuts – several people have already discussed them as making them seasick. As far as the rotating desktop cube, again – it’s cool eye candy, but it’s a support call generator – “I moved my window and I can’t find it!” “Have you tried rotating your desktop cube?” “My what? My computer’s not a cube”.

    And I’ve seen that floating strip across the bottom before… Now where was that, darn it, it looks SO familiar. That zoom effect as you move your mouse over the icons. Who would think of something like that?

    One thing to keep in mind: It’s REALLY easy to make pretty eye candy. Heavens knows I’ve seen enough director demos (and yeah, I know this was real) of very pretty eye candy UI mockups, all of which are extremely pretty but horribly unusable. I’m willing to bet that they’ve never put XGL in front of real users and surveyed them

    And one final thought: A lot of what you get with Aero Glass is fundamentals. They’ve laid the groundwork for building a true 3D rendered UI in Vista, in subsequent releases, there’s a lot of cool stuff they can do beyond that. But first they had to lay the foundation. So for Vista RTM, you’re not going to see the full power of what can be done with the DWM.

  18. After I checked the video here I was also extremely impressed and I also wanted to check it out on my computer. I asked around a bit and searched on Google and some people also suggested I try Mandriva Linux 2007. It looks like it is still in beta (RC1 to be exact) but it does have XGL integrated. All you need to do is install the drivers to enable OpenGL 3D accel and enable 3D effects in control panel and you are ready to go. What can I say, This is what Vista should be all along. We’ll still to have to wait for it for quite some time and we can already get something that looks sooo much better and works a lot smoother. And while playing with XGL I couldn’t stop thinking: is Vista is all that Microsoft can come up after 5 years of development. If this is so, the future of Windows doesn’t looks very interesting and bright. Linux development looks a lot faster and more vibrant.

  19. yes, it’s pretty, but I didn’t actually see you do anything usefull with it. Your mention of it being terribly difficult to install and a pain to configure only prove that since with vista, it will be a switch that you enable in the control panel, or the display properties, and not 4 hours of scouring a newsgroup only to follow a 4 page tutorial to make it run.

    Pretty? Yes. Innovative? Possibly. Usefull? Doubtfull

  20. As far as Compiz/XGL being difficult to install, that situation is quickly being alleviated.

    If you have an Nvidia card (ATi should be working very soon), all you have to do is install Automatix Bleeder (the beta version of Automatix), click “XGL/Compiz”, and click “Ok”.

    No, setting it up is currently not as easy as just double-clicking on an installer icon a la Windows, but it sure as hell ain’t rocket science, either.

    Just wait until it starts being included in more distros. We already have Suse and Kororaa, and Ubuntu has announced a project of their own. Red Hat is working on a different implementation via AIGLX.

  21. Oh, and as to the “I would get sick of wobbly windows” complaint; turning this effect off is as simple as clicking a check box in the configuration utility. The sheer amount of plugins and options and configuration Compiz is capable of is mind-blowing, though it comes configured with what most people would enable right “out of the box”.

    A lot of people think the desktop “cube” might not be practical until they actually USE it. Hell, a lot of my friends said the same thing until they actually sat in front of it. It’s incredibly intuitive; more so than any other virtual/multiple desktop implementation I’ve seen, ESPECIALLY on Windows. I’ve been a life-long Windows guy for a good long while, and I can honestly say that the Windows UI (including Aero in RC1, yes I’ve tried it) just feels incredibly limited and constricting after spending significant time with Compiz.

    Then there’s the “expose”-like functions involving simple mouse gestures like moving the cursor to different corners of the desktop. Those are INCREDIBLY practical. Anyone telling you otherwise has either never tried it or is trying to sell you something.

    Oh, and resource usage is absolutely phenomenal, even while playing back HD video files.

  22. You can tell when people see something pretty and loose sight of the issues and why Microsoft didnt do it…

    People complain that the glass in Aero is too much eye candy for most people, they were afraid that a window behind the glass could confuse a user… and you want to add a 3 dimensional cube workspace and transparent windows, lost windows is just the start of the problem.

    Technical support on something like this would be INSANE! And thats taking into the fact they get the installation of Linux and XGL and the other setup problems all worked out and up to Vista usability.

    Wobbly windows look cool but guess what vista was going to get them in a very very very very preliminary version and their was a HUUUUGGGEEEE outcry against it from pretty much everyone that heard of the concept, they werent wobbly but more… like paper in the wind and people continuously cussed that it would give them seasickness and was useless eyecandy that would just annoy people especially business people.

    Also this isn’t something that microsoft “could do” in 5 years… no this isnt all they could do the issue is probably 2-3 of those years was dedicated to fixing and patching XP… securing XP pretty much consumed everything… microsoft doesn’t just flat out abandon their last OS while they are developing the new one… i’d estimate 2 years of solid time went into security and graphics for vista … and thats emphasized with Microsoft saying that windows releases will be happening much more often in the future.

    People keep thinking that this 3d desktop is the key… IT ISNT the fact is whether its a confusing cube or sphere, or virtual space, or even if its just a flat representation it’s still not going to be optimal… whats optimal, go to the da*n store, plug in an extra LCD or 2 and have a good day you can get them for like 100 bucks each now and a extra cheap video card

    And there again is why vista rocks, simple VERY SIMPLE multi display right out of the box, no configuration text boxes, nothing of the sort…

    You know when Linux will be a success? When you can install setup and operate as well as installing applications while NEVER EVER seeing even 1 CLI window….. something that linux is VERY far from……

    As was said linux and even XGL has this issue of most features missing from the GUI editions and only available via CLI which would scare a regular user to death or be completely ignored.

  23. I tried Kororaa, and I saw my PIII 700MHz do things I didn’t thought it was able to do. I haven’t tried Vista yet, and probably I won’t, ’cause I’m not ready to buy a new computer. Kororaa was the little push I needed to give Linux a new try (well, Kororaa and the post from Mark Pilgrim changing to Ubuntu). I’ve been working with, and giving support to MS Windows OS for 6 years and learning how to use Ubuntu is my little hobby, right now. You have to face the new OS with your mind “clean”, because if you try to do what you do on Windows you’re doomed. And that’s the difficult part: become a “regular” user again, change sides and feel again the sudden terror of a “non-sensical” online help suggesting you to “mount” your disks before you can use them (“who’s taken them out of the box while I was not sitting in front of my computer ;D”-sort of thing.)

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  25. i have xgl running on suse 10.1 on both gnome and kde.
    if you do what they tell you on
    its just a couple of clicks !

    my machine runs an amd sempron 2800+MHz with 1GB of Ram wich isnt a fast machine at all.

    keep in mind that linux is up to 10 times faster then Windows XP (dont ask me why).

    i deeply disagree with chris. he seems to have never seen YAST (SuSE’s setup-tool) or a newer linux-distro.

    now a days linux (especially SuSE) is rock stable, fast and simple to installe, secure and much simpler to use then windows.

    the only real problem is that not many soft- and hardware companies have understood this yet. therfor linuxports of Dreamweaver, Photoshop etc. and some hardwaredrivers are still missing. (try knoppix to test hardware ! )

    neverless XGL is a big gift of novell to the opensource-community and shall be a reason to give linux a shot!

    after two weeks you will never wanna go back to windows !


  26. I’ve recently installed a distro with XGL/Compiz called Sabayon 3.0. It’s a Gentoo based distro that can also be tried out as a LIVE CD. Give it a try the eye candy is great and it’s packed with everything but the kitchen sink. Hint: to get the distro to boot running XGL/Compiz you have to specify the option durring the boot process, [gentoo xgl].

  27. anyone who comes in here and complains about about a free open source project such as xgl not being as good now as what windows will be in the future is a moron. XGL for a version 0.1.1 is far better than anything ive ever seen from microsoft after running every vista beta so far i can say the my preference for the next year will be Ubuntu Edgy Eft + XGL/Beryl to slaughter anything microsoft can throw up. show me a video NOW of vista doing something exciting! If linux is good enough for my 83 year old grandmother its good enough for you!

  28. If you want to try AIGLX + GLX + compiz + Linux on your machine without installing anything, try this Live CD:

    It’s a Gentoo-based Linux Live-CD which ships with GLX + AIGLX + compiz plus all the binary drivers necessary to get the effects working.

    It’s *AMAZING*. Show that to your local Windoze friends and their jaws will drop to the floor !!! :-)

    I showed this stuff in my office with the result that all our IT apprentices are dumping their Windows installations and now are top-motivated for the Linux learning-curve ahead of them. :-)


  29. Old hardware, don’t be scared, give it a try!!! It is as amazing as the video shows. I have an athlon 1100 with 512megs of RAM, an NVidia GeForce2 mx 200 video card with 32 Megs of RAM, and am currently running Suse 10.1. It runs as smooth as butter. It’s more than eye candy, it really does make using the computer more efficient.

  30. Well ya I guess installing Xgl would be hard to install if you didn’t know anything about computers. And I say computers because most think they know alittle about WINDOWS(Microsoft) and all the sudden they are expert computer techs. There is more, way more out there then just windows, and by the way all you need to install Xgl is some drivers and to modify a couple of files with gedit. Took me like 10 mins. Xgl is one of the coolest things I have seen in the computer world in a while. If you want to check out Xgl the check out the openSUSE site. The instructions WERE pretty easy to understand as long granted you can read. This is required to run linux. Anywho I would check out Xgl….is kicks ass.

  31. Yeah, this stuff rocks. Running Beryl with full effects on a smallish workstation’s ATI Xpress 200. I have discovered, though, that you will need a slightly beefier video card if you want super-smooth effects on a huge monitor, like my new 1440×900 one. Keep this in mind if you have an older PC and a big monitor…

  32. [..] and wound up remembering why I dislike Linux so much in the first place: it’s not easy, no matter what anybody leads you to believe. [..]

    At the time you wrote this, XGL was in very early alpha. I’d bet that if you got a very early alpha of pretty much any application, none would be easy to install. *All* distros have a packet manager nowadays, some are even more user-friendly than anything Windows or MacOS has. For example, let’s say you want MPlayer. Click Applications > Add/Remove Applications > Check MPlayer and apply. Installed and configured without even having to visit a webpage. If you want to do more high-tech stuff, you can’t really expect it to be that easy you know. The “hard” things on linux are the ones that aren’t possible in Windows, and they’re not really hard just different.

  33. Blah blah blah with the mac.. Screw MAC, everyone hated MS for trying to dominate the market. What about MAC, jacked a free “FreeBSD” kernel, and modified it enough to ruin it, added some lame browser, and PPL think it’s go great, yet yer only “allowed” to run it on a MAC System, bah I installed leo4all, on my Intel Quad core, and I still hate mac’s, what a waste of time… BTW for those interested in running Leopard on your intel or AMD based PC system check this out … .. I run Vista, XP, Gentoo, openBSD & Ubuntu all much better OS’s than hackentosh.. I personally h8 all apple products, will never own a iANYTHING!
    Anyway :) thats my two cents’ *nix is an awesome OS, find your distro, you’ll be at home..Alot of distro’s now have very good support channels on irc *which now can easily enter on Firefox with the Chatzilla plug in (google it) /// I’ve been computing since DOS/DESQview days, and I think MAC is joke, with that said, have a nice day! :)

  34. Actually wobbly windows, and other effects were available for Windows for a long time – mostly commercially though. However it seems that with flow of time many things change – check free Nimi 0.5 that brings some more hope and proud to current users with it’s latest effect of wobbly, jelly windows.

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