September 29, 2006

Beryl releases version 0.1.0; developer speaks about split with Compiz

Author: Nathan Willis

The Beryl project, a fork of the Compiz compositing window manager, announced its initial development release, version 0.1.0, today. The developers hope the new project, born of the community-maintained compiz-quinnstorm branch after months of diverging development, will allow greater community involvement and produce more flexible code.

Compiz was developed at Novell in conjunction with the Xgl X server and released in January 2006. It is a window manager (replacing, for example, GNOME's Metacity or KDE's KWin) that allows hardware-accelerated OpenGL and visual "special effects" like transparency and animation.

The community branch sprang up over the next three months and soon became known as compiz-quinnstorm after its primary maintainer, Quinn Storm. It quickly gained a following, both of users and of developers writing new effects plugins. Both branches can now run on top of either Xgl or its alternative, AIGLX.

There was talk of a formal fork as early as May on the Compiz mailing list; programmers working on the -quinnstorm branch complained about a reluctance to accept patches and lack of communication on the part of the trunk Compiz maintainers. The split was made official on September 18 with a statement announcing the name change and separate one detailing the reasons for the fork.

Officially, the split is amicable, although on the mailing list both sides accuse the other of uncooperative behavior. Storm insisted, however, that the primary reason for the fork was technical and not personal. "We do indeed have differences in where we want the code to go," she said. "This includes modifications to both plugins and core. In general we hope to be more broadly focused than Compiz."

In accordance with "kernel style" numbering conventions, 0.1.0 is a development/unstable release. Aside from renaming the core and associated utilities, it represents only an incremental change over the last release of compiz-quinnstorm. Thanks to the new name, however, users can have both Beryl and Compiz installed on the same system.

After a code clean-up, Storm hopes to separate the core architecture from the plugins that implement most of the visual effects. "The basic idea is to have the core only contain the most important functionality, while plugins extend that. Really, the line is quite fuzzy, and one of our goals is to make this make more sense."

Beryl also includes a suite of support tools, including a settings manager, a window decoration effects manager, and a graphical theme creator and editor. For those experienced in writing effects plugins for Compiz, Beryl should be easy to adapt to. "Writing a new visual effect will be pretty much the same," Storm said. "In the future, we hope to simplify this process."

Beryl does not yet implement the window manager specification, though Storm says it is among the project's goals. As for which direction the project goes from here, Storm says end users, not programmers, need to provide the motivation.

"I would tell a layperson to look forward to a desktop that can really outshine what both other major players in the field offer, especially once X gets its input redirection code in, but even before that we'll be able to really catch some attention. Also and perhaps more importantly, I would ask them what they wanted to see in Beryl, as we aim to be as community-driven as possible."


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