Monthly Archives: June 2007

Moonlight Desklets – Mono desktop widgets

The Mono project team created a desktop widgets environment similar to SuperKaramba or gDesklets. While in early development the C# based project has interesting features like running separate or combined sandboxes.

The Moonlight Desklets project is a product of Novell’s Hack Week where Novell’s hackers were free to spend time on personal FLOSS ideas. Technically, Moonlight Desklets are based on the free Silverlight implementation Moonlight and therefore also based on the free .Net implementation Mono.

And the first results do look pretty nice:

Moonlight Desklet screenshot

The widgets can be created in C# and it is planned to add support for all Mono supported scripting languages like Boo, IronPython and Javascript.

But most interesting is the sandbox model: with the help of a simple start parameter you can choose if you like to start a widget in the same virtual machine as another widget or if you prefer a new virtual machine. This makes especially sense for unstable (=development) widgets where you don’t want a crashing widget to take with it all the other widgets. I do wonder actually how KDE’s Plasma will handle this kind of things.

Anyway, this is definitely a project to keep an eye on, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Gnome community would quickly adopt this new technology.

aKademy 2007

This year’s Akademy, the annual meeting of the KDE community, has started.

And I’m not there. Sad somehow, because I really would like to attend to almost all of the talks. But personal reasons aka real life made attending impossible.

Anyhow, the dot announcement of the first Akademy day indicates that we might get video coverage of some talks. Remember that last year almost all talks were available as videos in the end. Also, most of the presentations slides were available afterwards, and I hope that we see a similar coverage this year again. I’m especially interested in the talk about unit tests because that touches my current university project at least a little bit, and it could become my entry point to contribute a bit to KDE in the near future…

In the meantime I just hope that at least some developers will keep on blogging about the aKademy meeting so that the people who had to stay at home can get a feeling about how it is. Best regards towards Glasgow from me :)

Google Desktop Search available for Linux

Google has just released the Google Desktop Search for Linux.

Google has released the Desktop Search for Linux. Packages are available in native formats (rpm and deb) for various distributions and there are even native package repositories available.

Here are two screenshots you might be interested in. The first one shows the fast search which pops up when you hit ctrl two times, the second one simply shows the system tray icon:

Google search field pop up

Google Desktop Search system tray icon

The feature list is nice, but could be better. For example, I’m missing Windows file formats as well as KMail mails or Akregator news. But I guess such things will be implemented over time.
What I miss however is an information if inotify is supported – the main advantage would be that after the first complete indexing Google would not need to update regularly but could rely on internal messaging services to discover if a file has been changed.

This release is an interesting move – I admit that I would have preferred Google Talk because we need free software there more than in the desktop search field were there are already plenty of tools available. Still, it is nice to see that Google really tries to push the Linux desktop by providing the Windows applications for Linux also.

As a side note I think the provided repositories also deserve attention: it looks like Linux starts providing the applications in native binaries instead of *.bin-files like Google Earth. I estimate that rpm files for Google earth can expected in the future as well, making it much easier installing these applications.
On the other hand I hope Google will now push standards which deal with easy installation of additional repositories. That is something the Linux desktop also really needs!

Mesa 7.0 released

On June 22nd Mesa 7.0 was released, featuring OpenGL 2.0 and 2.1 support.

As promised Mesa 7.0 was released. Besides a set of bugfixes the most notable new features are support for OpenGL 2.0 and OpenGL 2.1. This means that, finally after 3 yeas of waiting, the free X.Org graphics drivers can now support newer graphics technology. For more background information about OpenGL and Linux see this post.

Here is an overview about the status of the OpenGL implementation of the free X drivers:

OpenGL support in X drivers
Driver Status
DRI drivers varies with the driver
XMesa/GLX (on Xlib) implements OpenGL 2.1
OSMesa (off-screen) implements OpenGL 2.1
Windows/Win32 implements OpenGL 2.1
Glide (3dfx Voodoo1/2) implements OpenGL 1.3
SVGA unsupported
Wind River UGL unsupported
DJGPP unsupported
GGI unsupported
BeOS unsupported
Allegro unsupported
D3D unsupported

This release is quite important for me since I really would like to play Secret Mayro, but that requires OpenGL 1.4 at least to work properly. Also, the free drivers now finally reach the proprietary drivers in terms of OpenGL support since the proprietary Linux drivers from AMD and Nvidia feature OpenGL 2.0 support for quite some time.

The question is now only how fast the distributions will pick up this new release. Especially in case of Fedora I wonder if we will see Fedora 7 packages sometime soon, or if I have to wait for Fedora 8/recompile myself.

Late night thought: Leopard to have a new OpenGL?

I recently reviewed the state of OpenGL and related topics on Linux. However, I did not think about Apple that time. Now it came to my mind that Leopard might ship with the newest OpenGL support – OpenGL 3.

Before I start: I have no idea about Apple’s development, structure or marketing. I’m a Linux guy with experiences as a Windows help desk, and for me the interesting part of Apple is the WebKit project (because it is related to KDE) and the BSD core. Unfortunately I never even had time to play with an Apple machine for more than some minutes – to play with a machine means for me to spend some days until it crashes and than re-install it to get used to all system details.
Also, I’m writing this post in the middle of the night – so it might be that I mix some stuff up because I’m too tired already.

So, now about the OpenGL part: currently OpenGL features version 2.1. This version is already a year old, the 2.x branch is 3 years old. Currently, OpenGL does not feature all the fancy things newest 3D hardware offers. That means even if you buy a very new graphics card with DirectX 10 technology it will be pretty useless on an Apple computer because OpenGL can’t handle these new cool things.
For more information read the post Short Overview: Current State of Mesa and OpenGL on Linux.

But today I saw a video on youtube with John Carmack showing the newest graphic engine of id Software, id Tech 5 on Apple’s developers conference. Somewhere in the video (around 2:00) he mentioned that there will be a “Mac related announcement” in August, and I wondered what that could be.

And here comes OpenGL into play: OpenGL “Longs Peak” which belongs to the 2.x branch will be released at some time this summer – it will be a first major cleaning of the code for several years. Later in this year OpenGL “Mount Evans” (first 3.x branch release) will be released with numerous new features – like DirectX 10 hardware support.

Now imagine that there would be an announcement that id Tech 5 will feature OpenGL 3.0 support – making it possible to use newest graphics hardware in Apple computers once OpenGL 3.0 is released.
Of course that would mean that the Mac OS X graphics system would have to ship with preliminary OpenGL 3.0 support but with the WLAN-n draft hardware available these days such a thing does not look that unrealistic. Also Apple could simply push related updates if anything changes in the last minute.

So it would be a major announcement and setting Mac OS X Leopard into a shiny light for all graphics related people. Leopard could even be called to feature the most advanced 3D technology available: OpenGL 3.0 will at least be on level with DirectX 10 and is released later than DirectX 10 – that’s all a marketing group needs to call something superior ;)
And since Linux has trouble to integrate proper OpenGL support into it’s free drivers Leopard would even be the first operating system integrating this new technology.

But as I wrote at the beginning, this is just a late night guess – maybe I’m right, maybe not, maybe partially in the form that OpenGL 2.2 (Longs Peak) will be announced. We will see eventually. For now I’m just pretty tired.

Smolt passes the 50k mark and enters OpenSuse support

Lat week Fedora’s hardware database hit another psychological mark: more than 50k system are now registered with the database.

Smolt, Fedora’s tool of choice to collect information about uses hardware, showed once again that it has a healthy growth: in the night from Thursday to Friday last week the 50k-users line was crossed.

Unfortunately the devices page is unavailable at the moment so it is impossible to get more detailed statistics about specific hardware parts. Still, the main statistics page still offers some basic information: the main system language is English (no surprise there, this is still Fedora), second is Japanese, third is German (which is a bit more surprising – I thought Open Source is not that popular in Japan?).
And the stats shows – once again – that more than a third of all Fedora users do have two processors or more. So many dual core systems out there…

But besides the raw statistics Smolt itself entered a new level these days: rpms for OpenSuse are now provided. This means that also OpenSuse users can now use Smolt to submit their user data to a central place.
This is interesting because in the beginning Smolt was introduced as a strictly “Fedora only” program, while the supposedly bigger LHCP should create a central place for all distributions. But the last code commit to LHCP was in February and there is not even a rpm for Fedora available.
So with OpenSuse now another distribution is at least covered. I wonder what the plans behind this are – but I would certainly welcome packages for Ubuntu as well!

Imagine Smolt becoming a central place for all hardware information submitted by all Linux distributions. It could help understanding the user. And of course I would like to see Smolt integrating the ability to send information about installed packages, just like Debian’s Popcon.

Wubi, an Ubuntu Windows installer

Wubi offers the possibility to install Ubuntu from within a running Windows session and boot it instead of Windows without changing the partition table or the boot loader.

At first Wubi, the Windows based Ubuntu installer, is nothing more than a tool to help users installing Ubuntu in parallel to Windows. Note: this does not involve any kind of virtual machine, the Ubuntu you end up with using Wubi boots instead of Windows.

However, there are many interesting technical details behind Wubi which make it special.
First of all: the boot loader which will be used will not be a Linux boot loader like Grub, but Windows’ native boot menu.
Second: instead of the usual need of an own partition for the Linux installation Wubi creates a single file on the Windows hard disk and embeds the Linux distribution inside. This avoids any hard disk partition table changes which can be quite difficult sometimes.
From the FAQ:

Wubi adds an entry to the Windows boot menu which allows you to run Linux. Ubuntu is installed within a file in the windows file system (c:\wubi\disks\system.virtual.disk), this file is seen by Linux as a real hard disk.

And of course, since this is Windows, everything comes with a nice GUI. It is a simple point-and-click procedure, much more easier than other ways.

Of course in these days were the available computing power allows you to easily run a virtual machine dual boot is not as attractive as it was some years ago. Also, if a user would now decide to ditch Windows he would be faced with a re-install. But still, since it is that easy it makes it one step easier for users to test and experiment with Linux.

There is also a Linux version of this tool available: Lubi. It looks like it does not feature a GUI yet, however it makes testing other distributions also much easier.