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Programming IT Technology

Interview With Cosmoe's Bill Hayden 130

Posted by timothy
from the smooshing-things-together dept.
Eugenia writes: "Over a month ago it was reported that a developer had forked the Athe(na) operating system and ported its GUI on top of Linux, without the use of XFree86. This combined OS, called Cosmoe, would support Linux, AtheOS, BeOS and even Macintosh's Carbon APIs (without the use of GNUStep - his port of Carbon is wrapped around the Be API). OSNews today features an interview with the architect of the combined OS, Bill Hayden, where a lot of things are explained about his plans for Cosmoe."
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Interview With Cosmoe's Bill Hayden

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  • by g4dget (579145) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @01:15AM (#3515020)
    please understand that the previous sentence does NOT mean that I will be using XFree86 as the engine (shudder), just that Cosmoe will leverage XFree86's existing drivers to drive Cosmoe's graphics engine.

    What is supposed to be wrong with the X11 graphics engine? Why do people keep complaining about it?

    X11 does hardware-accelerated 2D and 3D graphics with transparency, anti-aliased fonts and graphics, ClearType-like rendering, and server-side geometric transforms.

    You can get a good X11 server into less than 1Mbyte with almost no off-screen memory, or you can give it hundreds of megabytes for caching, buffering, fonts, and textures.

    X11 provides a uniform and powerful API for all sorts of input devices.

    It can't be the client/server architecture that people complain about because neither Windows nor OSX do direct graphics I/O for their UI either. Neither can it be the footprint, because if you look at Windows or OSX GUI apps and system resources, they are as big as X11 on similar hardware, or bigger.

    Graphic design can't be the problem either: X11 imposes no constraints on the toolkits, GUIs, or desktops you build on top of it, and X11 toolkits have emulated Windows, OS/2, and MacOS/OSX so closely that it is really hard to tell the difference.

    So, what concretely is supposed to be wrong with X11? Why this visceral dislike? Why do people keep starting projects to replace X11 with unaccelerated display servers?

  • by tftp (111690) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @01:19AM (#3515026) Homepage
    I tend to agree. The Cosmoe web site is devoid of any content whatsoever. Not even a screenshot - despite of author's claim of having a graphic artist's soul.

    Experience of developing BSD and Linux already tells us that a good OS is most definitely not a one-man job. Goals of Cosmoe are highly undefined. Even if the author produces something working, it is likely to be very simple and not up to standard that BSD and Linux set every day.

    IMO, the mistake #1 is to start the project without setting a reachable goal, and establishing means to reach that goal. So many projects fail (in open- and closed-source worlds) because of that. Unrealistic expectations, deadlines that are years off mark, lack of understanding of now complicated some things are (just look at QoS for example!) drive projects into the ground.

    Of course, everyone is free to do whatever he likes with his own free time, but setting up a Web site to sell the OS seems to be a little bit premature.

  • Hmm.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by josh crawley (537561) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @02:03AM (#3515218)
    Is anybody thinking that this might be on the "Top Ten Vapourware of the year"?

    In other news, did I mention that I'm building a program for Linux that can eliminate ALL of those nasty unresolved dependancies!! It works for DEB, Slackware TAR, and RPM's. It automagically scans and can determine what the developer really means when he puts the program names and versions in the RPM's. REALLY! IM SERIOUS!(cough)
  • by Permission Denied (551645) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @03:18AM (#3515569) Journal
    IMHO, the "visceral dislike" comes from several factors, including outdated ideas about what X is and how well it works (the performance claims I see around here sometimes crack me up), insufficient appreciation of the difficulty of what X does, and NIH syndrome.

    Disclaimer: I'm an X11 programmer. I love X. Allows me to install matlab on only one machine but use it from anywhere (instead of buying 30 licenses for the 30 people that would occasionally use it), wrote my own window manager since everyone else's window manager got at least something wrong, and the X11 APIs are extremely clean and elegant - especially if you compare it to say, win32 SDK.

    Here's why I think the kids don't like X nowadays:

    1. Athena toolkit. Occasionally they'll find a scrollbar that they can't figure out how to use (pre-version 21 emacs) or buttons used for popping up menus (like xfontsel or gv), and it's pretty damned ugly.

      I don't know how to solve this problem: XFree86 programs like xfontsel, bitmap or xvidtune shouldn't depend on GTK or QT, but at the same time, we should limit exposure to Athena. At least use Xaw3d instead.

    2. Fonts still suck. XFree86 4.2 doesn't come with any truetype fonts, you have to recompile QT and set an environment variable to even get konqueror to look decent, old apps like netscape won't ever use truetype fonts and even getting netscape to display legible text involves venturing through Dante's ninth level.

      This problem can probably be solved by the Linux distributers - include decent truetype fonts, set up QT correctly, etc. I imagine they're probably doing this at this point, but I don't keep up with them.

    3. Configuration still sucks. Only once - once - did I find that XF86Setup correctly set up a graphics card, and I've worked with a lot of machines. Same deal with "X -configure" on XF86 4.x. I have to fix XF86Config on every machine, and a number of times, I rewrote the thing from scratch as the default template is extremely long and verbose (eg, it has commented-out examples of how to set up multi-monitor systems, something I've never seen in all my years of computing). In addition, the little XF86Config generators still won't set up vital options such as ZAxisMapping, so you end up editing it by hand anyway. They still expect you to know your monitor's sync frequencies, which is absolutely unreasonable.

      Solution to this problem? The config generators must be fixed. This is really a very, very big problem. I shoudn't ever have to choose my graphics card from a drop-down list - the config generator program should figure out what graphics card I have by snarfing its PCI id. "X -configure" does this, but it's none too friendly and still doesn't make for a usable XF86Config - it should be integrated with something like XF86Setup from the 3.x days, which allowed you to also set the various other options. No keyword should be added to XF86Config until the config generators are updated to set up the new option.

      I've never managed to watch a DVD using Linux/XFree86. I'm a unix systems programmer, so I'm not some noob who's afraid to read docs - however, the last time I checked, oms still doesn't do sound sync, so it's completely useless. In XFree86 4.1, the ATI drivers were completely broken and wouldn't correctly do DGA, etc on every ATI card I've seen. It's much better now with XFree86 4.2, but it's extremely dangerous to say that watching DVDs in Linux is feasible at this point. This will only encourage the neophyte to actually try it - they'll have to upgrade and recompile their kernel, upgrade their XFree86, mess with some crap in /proc to enable DMA on their DVD drive, get a CVS checkout of oms as the published tarballs are outdated, search for the correct css plugin, as there are at least three different ones, and then, maybe, perhaps, they can try to see if it will even work. I didn't write down the crap I went through while trying this, so I'm missing a whole bunch of steps here - suffice it to say, this will take a few days. If you try to run quake3 or any other 3D game under Linux, you'll run into the same things.

      Solution to this problem? Cut back on the advocacy. Let's be honest and admit that very few people will be able to watch DVDs or play newer games in Linux at this point.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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