Friday, December 22, 2006

Beryl Baselines / ATI 9250

The guys at OpenGL and on #beryl-dev were very helpful in increasing my understanding of how Beryl works. There hasn't been a lot of testing done of 3D desktops over remote display, and I volunteered to do what I could to test and improve this type of deployment.

The first step is to build a baseline of how it works now, and then monitor as patches and changes are made. It's my understanding that for a crisp 3D desktop one wants to have around 100 frames per second from the Beryl Benchmark plugin. When you drop below that it works, but feels sluggish.

My baseline is to log into GNOME, start beryl, and have Evolution and one gnome-terminal window open. Based on that benchmark, Beryl runs well for all of the 16 bit color resolutions, and will support 24 bit color in 1024x768. 1024x768 is the standard for 99% of 'Office Workers'. Once you go higher than 1024 in 24 bit color, it begins to slow. The highest I tested was 24 bit color, 1680x1050 which works, but is a bit too slow to deploy. Window movement is not crisp, and applications take a while to render and scroll.

I'll put the Nvidia card back in again after Christmas and perform the same test. Thanks to everyone that is helping me understand how it all works. It's certainly something that could be deployed.

(Benchmarks below, go to my blog if the chart does not appear).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Testing With ATI Radeon 9250

Sometimes things that you think will never work....DO. I have been testing remote displayed 3D presentation from a Fedora Core 6 server, to Fedora Core 6 installed on a thin client. I'm testing the Radeon 9250 card and it seems to be working pretty well. Many thanks for the suggestions and ideas that all of you have sent me. I have already tried Nvidia, and would have liked to have tried an Intel card; but apparently they don't make a PCI based card with that chipset. Contact me if this isn't the case.

A fresh set of Beryl RPMs were just placed under Yum extras and are working pretty well. I was able to compile and install XglSnow for testing and benchmarks. I really thought it would be horribly slow, but it's not running badly at all.

(Shot below, follow link to my Blog if it doesn't display)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thin Clients And Remote 3D

We contacted two of the big Linux operating system companies and requested some minor technical help in attempting to deploy our next generation thin client solution. Neither had the resources to help, so we are moving ahead and doing the engineering and design in-house. I invite anyone with access to Gartner to read study G00140085.

I believe the mistake being made by these vendors is that they are attempting to install Linux on the personal computer, instead of putting Linux on their desktop. The Gartner study shows that there is a 48% reduction in cost on the Microsoft Windows platform by moving it from an unmanaged PC environment to a centralized design with thin clients. 1/2 the cost, and no change in functionality. Imagine then what the savings would be if companies had the option to move to thin clients *and* Linux at the same. A major part of the cost in the white paper is licenses and software products. Imagine going into companies and telling them that they could save 60-70% on computing costs. Really, trying to shake off Microsoft Windows from their personal computers just isn't enough to warrant a change for most people. It doesn't offer the major cost reductions that are found with a complete, and stable re-design. Centralized computing using thin clients really works. There shouldn't be so few of us implementing and being the voice.

With that, I have been able to make significant headway this week on getting our design goals for our scheduled early 2007 rollout of new thin clients. We are deploying HP 5725 devices, and a new 2GB flash device has become available in the last week. I installed this 'disk drive' into the case and this increased capacity made it a LOT easier to load Linux and GNOME. Many thanks to the email messages and blog responses with ideas. We are going to experiment with some other 3D video cards and also are testing AIGLX instead of XGL. I was able to get Fedora Core 6 to install and with a kernel upgrade and a few packages it was working standalone in 3D.

[ In the shot below you can see the opened case. The flash device is circled. Installed Nvidia card into expansion slot. (Go to my blog if you don't see the images) ]

At this point, it was identical as a personal computer. Everything was running on the thin client. But our design goal is to move this to the server and turn these into thin clients. So we loaded Fedora Core 6 on a computer to simulate a server and then logged in remotely with XDMCP. The server recognized the video card and performance with Beryl is mostly, excellent; even over a network! We were really amazed at how well this works, even in prototype form. We hobbled together a quick new cubecap and the shot below shows a prototype of what our users will have early next year. This increase in capability will come in around 40 dollars extra per user for the video cards, with a projected duty cycle of 10 years -- and no support at their desks. The GNOME session and 3D elements are pushed down from one big server which is then upgraded every 3-4 years for hundreds of users.

[ In the shot below, Beryl cube running over the network via remote display, with Evolution, GIMP and GoogleEarth ]

Up next, testing of other video cards for performance and ease of installation.

Beryl guys: Nice job on what is running on Fedora Core 6. Some issues that seem to need work over remote display: wobble windows and initial startup time. I hope to work with you in the near future on testing over remote display.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sometimes It's Just The Bling

Two things in the last few days reminded me about how important desktop bling is to the user community. I tend to focus on the technical and bug issues, and sometimes forget this point.

Last week, I did a 2007 technology preview for about 20 City employees, and showed the 3-D rotating desktop found on newer distributions. They were simply amazed and there was a gasp in the room.

Today I took a few minutes to download some free wallpapers for the Christmas holidays. I also compiled the 'oldie but goodie' Xsnow for those people that are helping me test SLED 10 on thin clients. When I first saw it 10 years ago, it was such a server and network hog that it wasn't something that could be deployed. With the technology of today, it barely even shows up on the process list. For some reason I remembered that it didn't work well with GNOME, but obviously this has been fixed. Snowflakes drop down from the top and stack on the top of windows in your current view. (Shot below, follow link to my blog if it doesn't display)

Ok, back to bug reports now :)