On a completely different scale, the VLC developers were at CeBIT showing off some of the lesser know functions of the media player; these included on-the-fly filters which distorted the image, from simple wobbly frames to full psychedelic effects. They also showed VLC's ability to make a running movie into a tile-shuffling puzzle but were keen to emphasise that development of more useful features is ongoing. According to the VLC developer present, Blu-ray playback is now "mostly done" with not just video playback, but also menus and other navigation functions working. The big blocker isn't technical though, but legal, as the developers ponder how it could be possible to distribute Blu-Ray's keys without creating a complex and legally vulnerable system.
What really worried the developers at CeBIT though was VLC's scaling problem. The project has five core developers who never expected it to become as popular as it has; while walking the floor at CeBit, I noticed VLC on numerous machines powering the video presentation playback. While added hands on the coding could be helpful, what is needed more immediately are people to take on the support load which has come from the popularity of the video player. Every question a developer has to answer on the forums, for example, is time spent not coding or designing the next improvement to VLC. What the developers said they wanted was a community effort to support users in the forums, rather than leaving queries to the developers. Anyone can help, say the developers, by answering questions on the forums or on the mailing lists or by filing bugs.
The H's time with VLC was interrupted by an impressed coder from the stand next to VLC's; "You won't
believe this is in Python", said the coder as the developers on the Ragetracks podium showed their 3D sci-fi racing game. The "Rage" in Ragetracks stands for RAndomly GEnerated, with each race's track being created with a new topology each time. The game allows for players to compete around the fresh tracks by use of split screens and joystick controllers. This isn't the first game from these developers, who also showed Somyeol 2D, a prototype platform puzzler. Only available as a binary for Windows (source code for the game available on Launchpad) – they hope to bring it to Android and iPhone systems in the future.
One podium in the projects stand had developers from the Enlightenment project. The project, best known for its almost infinitely skinnable and historically resource greedy Enlightenment window manager, has been in a state of flux.
Development on the window manager itself has, we were told, pretty much stalled, but the toolkit that was developed to create the next version of the window manager, the Enlightenment Foundation Library (EFL), has become the focus of their work.
For some of the developers who work at Samsung, it is a full time job building the skinnable widget set and the underlying infrastructure. The developers at the stand were accompanied by Samsung representatives, but no one was giving away what they were working on. That said, The H understands from other sources, that the Samsung Linux Project (SLP) is an ongoing development effort by the company to create its own Linux platform where it owns large parts of the user interface stack and is aimed at its mobile devices. EFL would fit in with this strategy as the UI, especially as it would allow all applications on a phone to take on a carrier's look and feel.
The most notable feature about Enlightenment today is how little resource it uses producing impressively rendered user interfaces without relying on 3D hardware. Demos of the EFL on laptops at the stand showed a smooth and effective toolkit which remained responsive, even while GCC was compiling code in the background, and even when the processor was under-clocked. The demo was even more impressive when it was pointed out that the laptop was also driving a second display presenting the stands slideshow. A brief demonstration of the toolkit on an un-named Samsung phone with a even-less-named Linux derived operating system showed a touch UI which kept in perfect sync with long swiped finger gestures. So, there's a lot of power in the EFL, but there doesn't appear to be much chance of seeing it as a default window manager in a distribution (unless you run Bodhi Linux) or back on Linux desktops as a primary project.