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SVG And The Free Desktop(s) 337

Posted by timothy
from the lines-and-rules dept.
unmadindu writes "Christian Schaller has written an interesting article on SVG's current and possible uses on the GNU/Linux desktop. Though the article concentrates mostly on GNOME, it does mention the excellent work the KDE developers have been doing with KSVG, and refers to the upcoming SVG support in Mozilla too."
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SVG And The Free Desktop(s)

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  • SGI (Score:4, Informative)

    by panthro (552708) <mavrinac@gmaGIRA ... minus herbivore> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:13PM (#8657653) Homepage
    I remember SGI's 4DWM [inp.nsk.su] having completely vector based graphics back in 1992 (and probably before that). Has anyone else done it in the interim?
    • by james b (31361)
      So, the graphics aren't completely vector based, but the icons are - in that screenshot, the icons in the Icon Catalog and the one at top left are vector-based. The three icons at top-right are bitmaps though (they're minimised applications, which always seem to get bitmap icons).

      One interesting thing is that 4DWM recently got antialiasing on the SVG icons, which looks pretty sweet.

    • Around 1994 or so I had an updated version of this working. It was a major revision, so it was called SVGA.

      :-)

      /yes, it's a joke
    • by enjo13 (444114)
      The windows metafile format (think powerpoint, word art, etc..) is most definitely a vector format.
    • With the vectrex video game system [atarimagazines.com]
      I wonder... could those games be made to run under SVG... with frame buffering....
  • stupid acronyms (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:13PM (#8657658)
    Would it have killed you to say Scalable Vector Graphics once in the article?
  • Here's hoping we get an all-SVG desktop years before MS, and leave windows biting the dust of the now-too-small-to-see icons by way of better and better monitors.

    At least until longhorn...

    • Re:Yay SVG! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pNutz (45478)
      Indeed. Longhorn's vector graphics break the SVG standard, "because SVG did not integrate well with Avalon"--even though SVG is XML, like Avalon. You'd think with 400 developers working on Avalon, they would find a way to integrate it...

      I'm sure they'll go out of their way to make it difficult to convert between their screwy system and the W3 standard. Hopefully someone will hack out a converter. And this IS important, for companies that don't want to rewrite all their vector graphics to port something t
  • The article mentions several ongoing SVG projects. Worth mentioning is Mozilla's efforts [mozilla.org] in this arena.
    • And the article felt that it was worth mentioning as well:
      The Mozilla SVG [croczilla.com] project started as part of the Crocodile Mathematics project, although its checkin to Mozilla CVS didn't happen until December 2001
      Granted, you provide a more direct link, but the mention was there.
    • SVG is very useful on its own, but having an open alternative to Flash would be even better. SMIL [w3.org], a W3C Recommended standard for adding timing and animation to things like SVG and XHTML, is that alternative.

      The Mozilla team has (wrongly, IMO) decided [mozilla.org] to leave full SMIL implementation to plugins. However, the W3C has designated a subset of the SMIL 2.0 modules [w3.org] as being suitable for integration with XHTML, which is obviously functionality that belongs in the browser and is already available in IE6.

      To kee

  • JAADEA (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:18PM (#8657719)
    Just another article that doesn't explain the acronym.
  • by Dysan2k (126022) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:19PM (#8657734) Homepage
    Maybe it's just me, but I'm wondering when SVG will become Flash. Or am I comparing apples and oranges here?
    • by tepples (727027) <tepples@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:31PM (#8657923) Homepage Journal

      SVG replaces PDF (Acrobat format). SVG plus SMIL replaces SWF (Flash format), as replacing SWF for use in animated presentations such as this [rmitz.org] or this [badgerbadgerbadger.com] needs audio and animation.

      • by pldms (136522) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:41PM (#8658045)
        SVG replaces PDF (Acrobat format). SVG plus SMIL replaces SWF..

        That's a pretty fair summary, although SVG can be animated [w3.org] without SMIL, using the animation elements. If you add javascript and DOM into the mix you can get interactive applications, like FOAFNaut [foafnaut.org].
      • by leandrod (17766) <l@@@dutras...org> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:38PM (#8658769) Homepage Journal
        >
        SVG replaces PDF

        Now why would PDF need replacement?

        I bet any PDF page will have a smaller file size and better performance than the SVG equivalent.

        Not to mention EPS.

      • by k98sven (324383) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:52PM (#8658940) Journal
        SVG replaces PDF (Acrobat format)

        No, it doesn't.

        PDF (Portable Document Format) replaced PostScript as a page description language. Basically describing a printed page. PDF (and PS) both support vector graphics.

        Whereas SVG is only a vector graphics format, it does not handle page layout and the other things required for printed page description.

        If anything SVG replaces EPS (Encapsulated PostScript), which is the postscript language applied to an independent graphics object, as opposed to an actual printed page.

  • by Sexual Ass Gerbil (728400) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:19PM (#8657738) Homepage Journal
    They're great for displaying technical drawings. I'd like to see more architectual diagrams on the web, both software architecture and the physical type. With bitmapped graphics, web designers are pretty much limited to small low resolution images, dumbing down detail to a marketroid white sheet level. Vector graphics scale very well for diagrams and cad drawings.
    • I'm really, really hoping Mapquest will start sending out maps in SVG format. Being able to put on all the street names (when you print it on a 300DPI printer instead of a 75DPI screen) will make it a lot easier to find places than the dead reckoning system you currently have to use. The location maps are nearly useless.
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:22PM (#8657782) Journal
    I recently dabbled in SVG for a website. I learned with that and a dash of javascript I could completely replace a java applet with a few kilobytes of code.

    SVG is finding its way into everything, browsers, icons, etc. I forsee a world where SVG is dominant and regular pixel based images are seen as WAV files as in comparison to MIDI.

    As a matter of fact that is a good analogy: MIDI vs WAV. One is intrections on how to draw the other is the final outcome.

    Imagine how many songs you could fit on a CD if it were midi, with human voice parameters. Ignoring the vocals, you'd get thousands of songs on a CD.

    SVG also fixes the pixelation issue, whenyou try to stretch and compress the image. As a matter of fact, do that once with a regualr image and you're working with crap. You can shrink SVG blow it up, and rotate without any kind of distortion.

    It is kind of suprising it took us this long to get a cross-platform standard on how to specify how to draw shapes! But it is a good thing.

    I don't think computers will ever be the same once SVG takes off.
    • This is a decent comparison, except that it leaves out a very important fact. Most sounds are not generated through a midi-type process. On the other hand many images are produced by drawing vectors.

      MIDI cannot rival the quality of sampled sound unless the sound being sampled was produced by a MIDI-like process.

      SVG is good for many image applications because the sampled forms are produced through an SVG-like process.
    • by scorp1us (235526) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:50PM (#8658176) Journal
      Some of you have remarked that MIDI has lost. Well, ear interpretations are not analogous to visual interpretations.

      I was more referring about the costs to a computer of using them.

      However if you do compare SVG icons to Bit-map icons, visually, the SVG icon will not only be simpler, and usually just as apealing.

      Look at the SVG icon sets referenced and the background of Slax (Slackware's LiveCD) The #1 comment is "aww he's so cute". Clearly, the visual accptance is much higher to the human eye than MIDI's acceptance to the human ear.

      MIDI could be re-invented to include wavelets which are a base representation of a voice (instrument or human) then define the mathmatical operations. You'd get a 99% facimilie that would probably pass as good as a low-quality MP3 at 1/0th the size.

      Example (as SVG):

      Now human voices are harder, but once downloaded you could just download the contents of the tree.

      You could also hear brittney sing "Opps.." in her original voice or her aged voice, which would be interesting. Or even make Christina Agulera sing Spear's songs.

      If you're seeing the potential of re-defining MIDI like that, surely you can see hwo awesome SVG is...
    • Midi. On the web. I understand your enthusiasm more then I sympathize with your analogy. Have you been to a Geocities [geocities.com] site with midi on it recently? ;-)

      Somethings are just better left alone.
    • Let me clarify some things. I'm trying to compare it to MIDI, though most of you are taking it too literally.

      Music notes have a pitch and duration. Instruments have 'tombre' which is the squigglies on a regular wave form that make a violin sound like a violin and a piano sounds like a piano.

      If you could encode the tombre, then it is a small mathmatical transform away from any pitch.

      Then it is only a matter of assembling "tombre" files (aka voices) Then specifying their use.

      Traditional MIDI was designed
    • No, if you want an analogy in the audio domain, SVG is closer to MPEG4-SA (Structured Audio). It contains both instructions on how to make the sounds, and on when to make them. SAOL is the most well-formed implementation of MPEG4-SA so far.
  • by pacsman (629749) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:22PM (#8657785)
    This could make for some really interesting desktops, if this is what I think it is. Make some interesting graphical effects within icons or as the desktop without dragging the system down. I can see a new type of desktop where the start menu is replaced by an interactive desktop background. Personally, I hate the damn start menu (including the Linux implementations) as an incredibly ineffieicient way to organize menus. But, that's just my opinion- obviously someone has to like it.
    • The nice thing about the start menu is that it is always on top (at least for me). I don't think I've seen my desktop in years. A better start menu would be awesome, but making me go to the desktop would be an archeology project.
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:25PM (#8658643) Homepage Journal
      ``Personally, I hate the damn start menu (including the Linux implementations) as an incredibly ineffieicient way to organize menus. But, that's just my opinion- obviously someone has to like it.''

      You have a very interesting point there. I think having one menu with all programs in it is a Good Thing, but I strongly believe GNOME and KDE have it because Windows has it. I guess the idea is to make the system accessible to switchers by cloning the behavior, but I do not see that as the right approach. I believe in making a better system for those who choose to use it.

      I don't care how many people use an open source OS and whether or not Fred Foobar would switch if we do or don't have the same buttons on our windows in the same places. If you do care about market share, you should realize that you can't beat MicroSoft by cloning them - they will always stay ahead of you. Even if you have higher quality and stability and useful features, people are going to complain that the VBScript in some webpage doesn't work or they can't open their Excel database; you just can't convert them all.

      Meanwhile, I think we should innovate. Let's take advantage of Reiser4 and develop a set of utilities to make the most of extended attributes. Let's work on ZeroConf and IPv6, making our systems ready for painless networking. Let's integrate the shell and the programming language, so we can use functions from shared libraries in the shell and have sudo-like access control for function calls (no more running the whole program as r00t because it needs to do one priviliged thing). Or anything else you come up with.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        If you do care about market share, you should realize that you can't beat MicroSoft by cloning them - they will always stay ahead of you.

        Sure as hell you can beat Microsoft by cloning their interface. People aren't leaving Windows because KDE or Gnome are so pretty [IMHO, they have gone from a depressing barebone ugliness to a godawful all-colorful all-curvy kindergarten look, but that's just me] but because the computer becomes more stable, they feel they have control over the system, security improves
        • ``Sure as hell you can beat Microsoft by cloning their interface. People aren't leaving Windows because KDE or Gnome are so pretty [IMHO, they have gone from a depressing barebone ugliness to a godawful all-colorful all-curvy kindergarten look, but that's just me] but because the computer becomes more stable, they feel they have control over the system, security improves, and -- most importantly -- it's cheaper.''

          That's exactly what I meant: people switch from Windows not because they want a partial implem
    • by DrSkwid (118965)
      ls /bin

  • by tblease (721199) <<ude.usgb.tengb> <ta> <esaelbt>> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:28PM (#8657877) Homepage
    With the way things are moving towards more of these open standards, it's too bad that people are still relying so heavily on propriatary (sp?) formats like those found in MS Office and some of the Adobe products.

    I work at the Center for Teaching, Learning Technology at the university I am enrolled at. I am currently putting together a web-based document management system that is built around XML, and after seeing how much more powerful these open standards can be (especially, when you start looking at all the wonderful concepts that augment XML -- XSL, XPATH, XSL:FO, and the like).

    We used to put together all of our documentation for workshops and whatnot using MS Word, and then later switched to InDesign for the sake of having more control over the layout. The new web-based system means we lost some control over the layout of these documents, but the amount of time we've saved and the flexibility we've gained from using it is worth more than its weight in gold (all 2mb worth -- if that, even)

    What's frightening, however, is to see these products like MS Word and others potentially offering the option to export to a more open format, like XML. Ever tried reading through MS Word generated HTML? It's almost a fun task, and I hate to think of the possibilty of having to read through MS Word generated XML... eep!

  • This is great. I will be able to play Tempest and Qix in my workstation desktop background.
    Nice work!

    Umm... and I can... um...
    I can play asteroids! Yeah! That's great too!

  • Need SVG help? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phrogz (43803) <!@phrogz.net> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:29PM (#8657893) Homepage
    If *you* need SVG support (with creating it) now that your desktop supports it, I highly recommend the fine folks in #svg on the Freenode IRC network.
  • SVG looks fun (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gnuzip (670049) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:32PM (#8657925) Journal
    I'd like to see SVG used more frequently for all sorts of things. I'm not a big fan of XML, but it seems like it'd be quite appropriate in many situations where bitmap formats are ordinarily used. Not only would such images be scalable, but it seems like they would be much easier to manipulate (how about typing or tweaking your images with a text editor?). Drawing languages are more interesting than bitmap formats, since you can actually do things with objects instead of pixels. I would be more interested in using SVG if a more 'flattened' wrapper format could be used to contain equivalent data ("rect 0 0 50 50 blue 5") making it easier to type by hand, and avoiding bloated XML data.
    • Re:SVG looks fun (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rahga (13479) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:00PM (#8658307) Homepage Journal
      SVG does what you want, and XML makes it managable...

      Full disclosure, I did a SVG tileset for GNOME Mahjongg [rahga.com]... To make a rectangle that fits your description, just add <rect x="0" y="0" width="50" height="50" fill="#0000FF" stroke-width="5"> ... Too bloated? Try a path: I think <path fill="#0000FF" strike-width="5" d="M0 0H50V50H0Z"> would work...

      As far as XML goes, I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful xmllint is in what I do with SVG, how nice it is to be able to automate the creation of certain SVGs with perl scripts, and the aid provided by typical tools such as sed. Most of us have not yet even started to exploit CSS. Anyway, doing the same in a non-xml format, to me, would be a nightmare.
      • I should have also mentioned that all of the fill and stroke specifications could be easily avoided with CSS and simply specifying a style for that path instead.
  • So far, the best SVG authoring app is Xstudio6. It has easy to use dialogs for just about every single aspect for the SVG 1.1(I think) spec.

    Downside is it costs ~$400. A bit pricey for me to goof off with. Thankfully there's
    Inkscape/sodipodi, but there's no animation support. It's mainly for static images.

    SVG is quite powerful and I can't wait until the day someone goes overboard and makes a FPS out of it(which would be an interesting test of Adobe's SVG plugin). C'mon widespread adoption go go go.
    • Inkscape & Animation (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mughi (32874)

      Downside is it costs ~$400. A bit pricey for me to goof off with. Thankfully there's Inkscape/sodipodi, but there's no animation support. It's mainly for static images.

      Well... for Inkscape [inkscape.org] I know that it's high up on the lists for some of the developers, and several of them are actually investigating various factors now.

      Animation and scripting support are two things that may go in hand-in-hand, but definitely are being worked on. Of course, since it's open source, there's no hard timeline for supporti

      • by MenTaLguY (5483)
        Animation is certainly part of our charter. At the moment our architectural changes aren't directed at animation specifically, though they should make animation easier to implement.

        I'm not expecting to see any serious movement on animation for another few quarters yet (there's still some serious design work to do in that area), but OTOH my colleagues keep surprising me, so you never know... ^_^
  • Now, SVG would make a lot of sense on a
    vector display. However, where could you
    get a modern vector display nowadays?

    They used to sell arcade machines (battlezone)
    and game consoles (vectrix) with these
    displays.
    • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:29PM (#8658679)
      where could you get a modern vector display nowadays

      A few posts have commented that vector-displays would be good to use with SVG-based desktops. They're probably all joking, because there is no such thing as a modern vector-graphics display, and if it did exist, it would be inapplicable.

      Vector displays can only draw the actual vectors, which are just straight lines. Vector graphics consist of more than just vectors, and actually includes a full set of primitives whose positions are merely defined by vectors.

      Even a simple filled triangle (surely one of the most common elements of existing SVG files) is beyond the capability of a vector display, unless it emulated a raster display to draw the shape as a series of scanlines.
  • by theendlessnow (516149) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:43PM (#8658079)
    ... so I can finally use my 8 way Opteron with 16GB to its fullest potential!!
    • by dominator (61418) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @03:35PM (#8659441) Homepage
      I posted this on OSNews, but I'll post it again here...

      I'm not sure why so many people think that SVG is slow. It doesn't have to be, even without hardware acceleration. I've done tests of librsvg vs. libpng:

      Given a SVG image $s. Transform it into a PNG image $p using librsvg, Batik, or something similar. Run "gdk_pixbuf_new_from_file()" on both $p and $s. This will turn $s and $p into identical RGBA images. Time this operation. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Generally, it is no slower (if not faster!) to render $s than $p. This surprised me and quieted many "Vector graphics are too slow for the desktop" pundits.

      Of course, once you start using some of the more advanced features (like certain filters), the rendering time is likely to go up. It all depends on what features you use and how you use them.
  • Cairo (Score:4, Informative)

    by po8 (187055) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:47PM (#8658142)

    What makes SVG even cooler is that we have the perfect rendering technology for it: Cairo [cairographics.org]. Cairo renders perfectly stroked and antialiased SVG for a variety of backends including bitmaps, PostScript, and X11.

    Hopefully the SVG projects will either adopt the existing Cairo SVG code or use the Cairo rendering code as a backend for their SVG libraries.

  • by ratfynk (456467) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:48PM (#8658149) Journal
    Given an interface that uses advanced graphics. A really skookum java based music notation interface might be addressed as graphical elements. One of the most annoying aspects of current music notation software is the reliance on fonts and the lack of printer friendly vector drawing interfaces. MusicXML from Recordaire.com is a start, but alot more can be done.

  • Anyone remember vector monitors? Those things would be great to resurrect, supposing that SVG really kicks in on the desktop, and also supposing that we get some svg version of asteroids shipping with those new o/s installs... nice!
  • by mst76 (629405) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:05PM (#8658380)
    It is only a natural evolution from character based displays to bitmaps to vector graphics. The main advantage of vector graphics is resolution independence. Imagine installing a very high resolution screen, and instead of everything getting smaller everything gets sharper. Want to display more information on the screen? Just seemlessly zoom in and out of your desktop. Currently, most windows systems are bitmap based, although there are some kludgy ways of adapting to different resolutions without changing the size of your text and windows and icons.

    The big problem is that our current screens are just not good enough. Monitors rarely get over 150dpi, whereas even very old laser printers get 300dpi. On most screens, you can still see the individual dots. This is why zooming in and out like I described above wouldn't work on current hardware: too much detail is lost when the zoomed out desktop is rasterized to the screen. It would be only good for previewing the windows (like Apple's Expose), not for actually working with them. Note that in the area where these issues matters the most, text and font display, there has been a great amount of research and clever solutions to work around this. If (when?) display technology finally catches up, the entire windows system will be arbitrarily scaled with good quality, not just the fonts. Let's hope that when the hardware get's good enough, the software to utilize it will already be in place.
    • It is only a natural evolution from character based displays to bitmaps to vector graphics.

      Except that vector terminals pre-date character terminals (many of the first video games like "Asteroids" used nothing but vector graphics). We've simply closed the loop.

      -JS

    • by iabervon (1971) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @12:57AM (#8664415) Homepage Journal
      On the monitor I'm sitting at, at
      1280x1024 (~96 dpi), I can't see individual pixels as dinguished from diagonally adjacent pixels unless I'm at half my normal viewing distance for the monitor. For printed text, you generally hold the book closer to your face, so you want better resolution.

      I think that the relation will actually go the other direction; when you can size windows to fit what you're doing, there will be more call for being able to resolve details in small windows, and therefore call for better monitors. As it is, increasing a monitor's resolution, as you said, makes everything smaller and harder to see, so people wouldn't run their monitors at higher resolutions even if they were available.
  • About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StormyMonday (163372) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:09PM (#8658445) Homepage
    It's time for pixels to go away. With displays running from cellphones to graphic arts workstations, the concept just isn't useful any more above the renering level. I look forward to replacing as many as possible of the old pixel-based graphics format with something I can see at more than one display resolution.

    Now if we can just get the Xwindows folks on board! When I say "12-point type", I mean a height of 6 lines per inch, not 12 pixels (enormous on the cellphone; invisible on the workstation).
  • by pkphilip (6861) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:17PM (#8658555)
    SVG - or more specifically, the Adobe Plugin for SVG, has some interesting features that makes the use of SVG even more interesting..

    The Adobe SVG provides the user a getURL() (or similar named) method which allows the browser to read information from the server or any other arbitary url on the web without any form submits of page refreshes.

    This is useful, for instance, to have a stock exchange ticker which continuosly reads data from a stock exchange server and renders a graph of the values on the screen - without requiring the browser to refresh.

    Another interesting aspect of SVG is that it can be compressed using gzip and so a fairly complex svg image could still be in a very small file. The data that is passed into the SVG could also be compressed.
  • Does anyone know where to find the rsvg Mozilla plugin by Dom Lachowicz?
  • So, one bummer about SVG is that you can't have it enabled in Mozilla and, say, Gnome at the same time.

    Mozilla uses a hacked-up libsvg that interferes with other programs. So, SVG is turned off in Debian Mozilla packages, for instance [debian.org].

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