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Beryl: Eye Candy For the Linux Desktop

Ever wanted to take the window open on your desktop and set it on fire? If you happen to be running Linux, you're in luck.

Jaw-dropping 3D desktop effects first came to the Linux desktop by way of the Novell sponsored Compiz effort which got started over a year ago.

An open source community fork of that effort called Beryl is now moving beyond its base, taking Linux desktop effects to the next level. Beryl, already included in at least one Linux distribution, may end up being a key part of an upcoming release of Ubuntu Linux.

Both Beryl and Compiz include a window manager that takes advantage of OpenGL to produce graphic effects on the Linux desktop. The projects are overlays on top of existing Linux desktop environments like GNOME or KDE.

The 0.2.0 release of Beryl is labeled by developers as being a complete overhaul of Beryl with even more eye candy than its predecessors.

For at least one Beryl project member, though, the additional effects aren't necessarily the most important aspect of the new release.

"The most important thing is the stability," Nicholas Thomas Beryl project team member told internetnews.com. "0.1.x releases were all fairly unpolished, but 0.2 is a really good release. Lots of bug fixes etc."

Thomas also commented that from his point of view Beryl isn't about the effects but rather is about making the desktop more efficient.

That said, there is some new eye-candy that Thomas did take note off, namely the new group plug-in, which lets users arrange windows into groups.

As Beryl continues to mature it also may be moving further and further away from its Compiz roots. Thomas noted that there is a clear distinction between what Beryl wants to be, and what Compiz core wants.

Compiz, he said, wants to develop a desktop environment-agnostic window manager that can be integrated into any environment and shipped with any Linux distribution.

The Beryl project, meanwhile aims to be the complete package, compositing equivalents of applications like panels, docks and menus.

"The big question for Beryl right now is whether we stick with maintaining our own core, or use the Compiz core instead," Thomas added.

Another question for Beryl is who is actually using it. Currently, Beryl is included by default with the Gentoo Linux-based Sabayon Linux distribution.

Thomas said a part of the 0.2.0 roadmap is to get Beryl included into Ubuntu Linux by default because it represents the future.

Though even without Beryl being available by default, the software isn't too difficult to set up as an extra on nearly any Linux distribution. Thomas explained that they there is now a tool available that will do most of the set up for users.

Considering that Beryl is only at its 0.2 release there is still much to be done in upcoming versions.

"The most exciting part of 0.3 will be the development of applications that work around the composite manager," Thomas said.

One Beryl developer is working on a retained drawing interface that will let applications that aren't Beryl plug-ins send drawing requests to Beryl and possibly other compositing window managers.