Home > OS News > Athene Desktop Edition 4.0 Released Athene Desktop Edition 4.0 Released Eugenia Loli 2004-07-28 OS News 42 Comments Athene is a Windows/Linux desktop system. On v4, VESA graphics drivers were added, and the security model for direct graphics access was improved. The File Manager has been enhanced, and there have been a number of bugfixes. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 42 Comments 2004-07-28 6:20 pm I love their fonts, they look like in Windows, very sharp. Maybe they will release their low-level graphics under GPL so more distros could take advantage over the slow X. 2004-07-28 6:26 pm I thought VESA was only available in real mode and not protected mode which I assume Athene is running in.. granted, some functionality is available, but not all.. 2004-07-28 6:35 pm Those fonts look no better then X11 with freetype2 and the bytecode interperter turned on. I would not be suprised if they were using freetype2… 2004-07-28 6:50 pm Syllable and Athene are not alike at all. athene is great though. i jsut wish it wasnt using the linux kernel, not that i have anything against linux but its nice to see stuff that is completely diferent. 2004-07-28 6:52 pm I thought VESA was only available in real mode and not protected mode… You thought wrong. 2004-07-28 7:18 pm Does Athene use a new graphics server? 2004-07-28 7:20 pm Yes, it has its own system under Linux, it doesn’t use X11. Under Windows is using the Windows subsystem (not sure if it’s plain GDI or DX). 2004-07-28 7:20 pm @Tudy: X is not slow. @Anonymous: They are using Freetype2. 2004-07-28 7:29 pm The main thing they are missing is a real, heavy-weight application to show how their technology functions. Perhaps a Gecko-based web-browser running with native Athene widgets. Right now, it seems more like a technology demo than a usable OS — especially since you have to start X11 applications to do any real work anyway. 2004-07-28 7:39 pm here’s what they do include per their website: # Included software: * Konqueror & Firefox Web Browsers * GIMP, MPlayer, CDR Tools * GAIM, GFTP, XChat * KDE 3.3.3 with KDE Application Suite * KDE Office 1.3 * Open Office 1.1 * Games: Barrage, Exodus, LBreakout 2, LTris, Patience, Mahjongg and more. * CUPS Printer Support * The GCC 3.3.3 compiler, plus tools and applications for developers. I’m still not sure how different this is to regular desktop linux… I guess I’ll have to give it a test drive 🙂 foo 2004-07-28 7:55 pm This is interesting news from Athene. I’ve been following their progress since version 1.3 and have downloaded and installed most of the Windows version released since then. I thought Athene had some real potential to be something unique and interesting – an entirely new operating system that could install within Windows or Linux resulting in original cross-platform software. Now it appears they’re becoming just another Linux distro with the same apps available from Mandrake, RedHat, and a thousand others. It’s not entirely bad, just not what I was expecting or hoping for. -Bob 2004-07-28 9:14 pm I don’t think they have the money to reinvent the wheel. I mean for instance you have OS’s like SkyOS which is nice but guess what? Just like the BSD’s no one is going to use it or them for the desktop unless they have apps. And guess where you get those from?? Linux. Or like BSD make a Linux runtime emviorment. If it wasn’t for Linux there would be almost NO good applications for other OS’s besides Windows and Apple. Yes there were a few but things went into over drive with Linux. 2004-07-28 9:29 pm boottime to load the whole OS or to load the graphic system? If last is true, then they just lie and I don’t try it, never ever think about to give this company a cent! 2004-07-28 9:31 pm X is not as fast as other operating system windowing graphics. How can you debate this ? Kernel messaging is fast versus X client server network messaging. This model while being more reliable also ads overhead . I don’t know why people are confused by this. Security versus speed. Modular versus unified. Am i wrong ? Explain then. By the way , I read the article on osnews about improving x. It was good. But i still have doubts about opendesktop’s roadmap. Also the athene uses SNAP graphics by http://www.scitechsoft.com/ 2004-07-28 10:07 pm Are there any detailed benchmarks which support your theory? Or more in-depth theories on this? “opendesktop’s” It’s called Freedesktop.org aka FD.o 2004-07-28 10:21 pm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X11 read common criticisms of x. 2004-07-28 11:02 pm X may not be the fastest, but it is still pretty damn fast. Nothing wong with it, speed wise. Also don’t forget that Aqua(Quartz) and Avalon will be much slower. Even the new X (with composite, etc. see kdrive) will be slower. 2004-07-28 11:07 pm Quartz extreme and Avalon will offload the processing to the video card. So if you have a good video card, there is a good chance that those enviorments will seem to be faster than X running on the same computer. 2004-07-28 11:07 pm X is not as fast as other operating system windowing graphics. Read the Athene 2004 features page. They say that they benchmarked Athene to be 25% faster than X11, and 17% faster than Windows’ GDI. If you do the math, that means that the GDI is a monumental 7% faster than X11. Whoop-de-do. Even the 25% that Athene offers with SNAP is nothing to loose sleep over. Also, if you dig back many noths, you’ll see the benchmarks I posted comparing the SNAP NVIDIA driver to the X11 proprietory NVIDIA driver, showing how the later is significantly faster in many cases. In all, the “X is slow” thing is a myth, perpetuated by poorly-optimized X applications. How can you debate this ? Kernel messaging is fast versus X client server network messaging. Yes, kernel-calls are faster than sockets, but since X batches drawing calls, it’s not a big win. Also, remember that two of the OSs that have the fastest GUIs you can get on a PC (QNX and BeOS), use a client/server messaging-passing architecture. 2004-07-28 11:15 pm This is my personal opinion. I believe you are all missing the point. By the looks, what it looks like Athene is doing is similar to what MS did with Windows. Looks like they are trying to create a brand new OS based on the linux kernel however, the way the things are done in the OS such as software installaion for Athene, (not X11) will be controlled by the Athene crew. Just like Windows has got Win32 APIs that dictates how Windows apps should run, that’s how I believe Athene would dictate how Athene based apps will run. However, providing support for X11 apps is normal since there aren’t too mant Athene apps avaialble and this does not make it yet another Linux distro. Don’t forget, they are using their own windowing system and they have their own rules for Athene based apps just like Win32s. This looks like more Windows 95 on top of DOS. Same idea. 2004-07-28 11:19 pm “Yes, kernel-calls are faster than sockets, but since X batches drawing calls, it’s not a big win.” By “batching,” I presume you mean X hordes several drawing calls before committing them in order to reduce the impact of the slower socket mechanism. This would mean that drawing calls aren’t serviced as quickly as they could be (since X waits until several calls have accumulated before actually doing anything), which translates into increased latency. Correct me if I’m mistaken? 2004-07-28 11:47 pm if you remember, BeOS was booting in graphical mode in 5 seconds or less, (counting once the hardware itself has booted). and that was on my Celeron P333, back in 2000. so if they do the smart thing (which is to delay launching or even not use any Gnome or KDE application and dozens of bloated librairies), I’m sure they can acheive that kind of results too. 2004-07-29 12:33 am It is right that Avalon will offload a great deal of the processing to the videocard, just like QE does now. But QE is still pretty slow, compared to X11 and GDI. I don’t think that will ever change. It’s just that hardware will get better, and new GUI’s will be able to take advantage of that. However, I doubt that Avalon will run faster than 2000 on todays systems. Anyways, I’m not even sure what point I’m trying to make… It’s also kinda off-topic. 2004-07-29 12:56 am I love their fonts, they look like in Windows, very sharp. Maybe they will release their low-level graphics under GPL so more distros could take advantage over the slow X. Whats wrong with making a LIVING and FEEDING your children with the code you write? Must software developers give away everything for free? You guys are really scaring me now…. 2004-07-29 12:58 am Hi people, Yep, it really boots in 4 seconds (on good hardware). The worst measured case is 8 seconds (at 400 Mhz) and that’s still faster than everything else . The exact time will vary depending on the hardware and software installed on the machine, what kernel modules are being loaded etc. Athene is faster than X for many reasons, but the major factor here is that the graphics client/server model has been eliminated. Each client has direct access to the graphics card, so the only bottleneck is how fast they can push graphics through to the video card. Under X, clients have to contact the server whenever they want to do something with the graphics card. Having to post messages and context-switch to another task just to do a graphics operation is a big disadvantage for X11. Athene also has a great graphics buffering system for fast redraws. End result: Athene apps are roughly 25% faster than X apps for copying graphics and for certain operations they are even faster than this. That’s huge too – put into context, that can be the difference between 40FPS and 50FPS for game players (i.e. jittery vs smooth updates). Not having to switch between the client/server all the time, plus the buffering system gives you better responsiveness as well. On the subject of apps, I’m eager to get a native port of Firefox underway soon and getting it to run as fast as possible . Expect plenty to look forward to over the coming months. 2004-07-29 2:07 am Yes, the batching means that latency is higher. However, graphics isn’t a terribly latency-sensitive operation. As long as it get’s done within about 100ms (ages in computer time), the user doesn’t notice. In any case, it’s not even desirable for, for example, a line to show up the exact microsecond it’s drawn. That causes visual artifacts. The overwhelming trend these days is to double-buffer updates, so the first line doesn’t get shown anyway until the whole scene has finished drawing. Lastly, I have to point out that OpenGL (which was designed to be network-transparent from day one), uses a drawing mechanism not unlike X. The userspace library batches drawing calls into a memory buffer. When this buffer is full, a kernel call is made and the buffer is DMA’ed to the graphics hardware. In this way, the GPU acts much like the X server, and has the same basic engineering constraint of the client -> server link (the socket or the AGP bus), being relatively slow and high-latency. So if that architecture is good enough for Doom III, it’s good enough for your web-browser! 2004-07-29 2:31 am Please keep up. They are using Freetype2. 2004-07-29 3:04 am I know comments like this regularly get modded down, but I think it is worth pointing out that Athene is non-free. This is a problem for most Linux users (including corporate users, if corporate preference for Gnome over KDE is anything to go by) so I see limited appeal. Also, at least one of their graphics (the “File Manager” house icon) comes from a Gnome theme. I wonder if they’re obeying the license correctly? Linspire got burned a few months ago for unauthorized use of Creative Commons-licensed graphics. The XML-based interface sounds interesting. I wonder if this just means XML config files, or if the graphical desktop is part of an “everything is a (XML) file” scheme like in Plan 9, where every window has its own file just like every Unix process. The non-X11 bit is a big drawback to me, since the Linux setups I make use of make extensive use of X remoting. But above all, I won’t use it because it’s non-free. 2004-07-29 3:55 am I just tried it on my Linux OS it and it looks nice indeed. The speed is stunning – perfectly smooth window resizing, absolutely no lagging & redrawing artifacts, when you move windows around on top of each other, instant application startup… It is stunning to see something like this in Linux – a GUI that feels even faster than MS Windows. I wish one day the X-based GUIs would offer something at least a bit comparable in terms of speed. 2004-07-29 4:12 am Please keep up. They are using Freetype2. I am refering to the underlying display engine. 2004-07-29 4:41 am Whats wrong with making a LIVING and FEEDING your children with the code you write? Must software developers give away everything for free? You guys are really scaring me now…. —————- whats GPL got to do with living. many people live writing gpl’ed code. the whole of redhat is based on free and open source software. millions in ibm, novell and sun from gpl’ed code. so stop that living thing. it doesnt make sense anymore. you can pay for gpl’ed code. redhat enterprise linux is an example 2004-07-29 4:53 am Athene’s display engine is in the Pandora Engine SDK, which is freely available to OSS developers. The Pandora Engine now includes the VESA drivers too, so developers can build their own full-screen applications and games with the same efficiency that’s in Athene. You just need to install the Pandora binaries, the SDK and you’re away. 2004-07-29 4:56 am Whats wrong with making a LIVING and FEEDING your children with the code you write? Absolutely nothing. Which is why it’s a good idea to avoid an area like desktop systems, where the market is already saturated with established proprietary and free competitors. Gnome and KDE wouldn’t exist if there was still money to be made in the field by anyone but MS and Apple. Must software developers give away everything for free? In an area like Linux desktop environments, where the competition already is giving it away for free, that would be advisable. 2004-07-29 5:38 am Why does it have to be free? – I take it all of you work for Oxfam then? Suse, Mandrake, Red hat etc all charge a great deal more simply for adding there own theme & a couple of utils to open source software. If you people should took a closer look at the documentation you would realise how much work has gone into this. Just about everything you could find to complain about in other OS’s has been tackled here. I don’t generally pay for software either but I payed for this back when it was pretty much useless simply because I loved the concepts & wanted to see it prosper. @Eugenia Following the article you did a couple of yrs age it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on Athene. http://www.osnews.com/story.php?news_id=2084 Interesting that Athene was copyrighted around the same time as you wrote the article 2004-07-29 8:15 am Now that Athene is starting to stabilize, who knows it might outpace KDE and GNOME soon. 2004-07-29 8:35 am The BSDs don’t have apps? Are you super clueless or what? All BSDs can run the same software that GNU/LNUX people use. KDE/Gnome/XFCE, OpenOffice, Mozilla. You name it. Please, try to inform yourself before writing such nonsense. 2004-07-29 8:16 pm “In an area like Linux desktop environments, where the competition already is giving it away for free, that would be advisable.” Debatable. 1) Many people currently indirect pay for a DE like KDE/GNOME (“Free as in speech, not beer”) via their distributor. Sure, many free (beer) distributors give it away, but those aren’t the most popular ones. 2) Many people don’t care for Free as in speech or free as in beer. 3) If the quality of this software is worth the price, people who know this are likely to buy this. Followed by: is it which one cannot answer for others but we can generalize and try to give it an objective view. Personally, i’d like to know what they see as their market. That makes this a lot easier to tinker on. As i see it, i think Athene has problems on marketing levels though: KDE and GNOME are far more popular. Even alternatives for KDE and GNOME suffer from the popularity of the the 2 Beasts. How are they able to market their product while they don’t get free (beer) developers on their product? Tough to compete i think. @ Paul Manias Rayiner Hashem calculated it is only 7% faster than X. While i think 25 – 17 = 8 thus 8%, i don’t think that nears your 25%. Please explain this? 2004-07-29 8:24 pm “Rayiner Hashem calculated it is only 7% faster than X. While i think 25 – 17 = 8 thus 8%, i don’t think that nears your 25%. Please explain this?” No, it is 25% faster than X and 17% faster than GDI. Not 7 (or 8)% faster than X. Which also means that X is slower than Windows’ GDI. 2004-07-29 8:50 pm Yes, converting to a point system, Athene would be 125, GDI would be ~107, and X would be 100. That does make X slower than the GDI, but 7%, while not quite noise, is not far above it. 2004-07-29 8:54 pm 1) Many people currently indirect pay for a DE like KDE/GNOME (“Free as in speech, not beer”) via their distributor. Sure, many free (beer) distributors give it away, but those aren’t the most popular ones. When you pay for Red Hat, SuSE, etc., you pay for quality control (i.e. do all the packages play nice together). When you install a non-supported desktop environment, you threaten to throw off that quality control you’ve paid for. 2) Many people don’t care for Free as in speech or free as in beer. Maybe true in a narrow sense, but in a general sense a lot of buyers do care about licensing a great deal. Hence LGPL’ed Gnome is far more popular than dual-licensed KDE among US corporate Linux types, Besides, the Linux market has shown itself to be highly resistant to proprietary desktop products: e.g. Motif, Applixware, WordPerfect for Linux, etc. 3) If the quality of this software is worth the price, people who know this are likely to buy this. Not always. I’ve seen an awful lot of good products fail because of “exterior” factors like price and restrictive licensing. 2004-07-30 3:10 am Geez, you are lazy, people: a=1.25x a=1.17w 1.25x=1.17w <=> w=1.25/1.17x <=> w~1.0683760683760683760683760683761x. Hence, ~7% taking significative digits into account. (and not 8 by taking 17 from 25!) 2004-08-01 6:38 am Not to sound like a neo-classical economist, but a few rejoinders to some opinions voice here grounded in the notion of market competition: Roberto wrote: “Just like Windows has got Win32 APIs that dictates how Windows apps should run, that’s how I believe Athene would dictate how Athene based apps will run. However, providing support for X11 apps is normal since there aren’t too mant Athene apps avaialble and this does not make it yet another Linux distro.” The underlying worry of closed software platforms is, I think, intuitive enough: The tax to developers and users should a monopoly develop. But the context of other software platforms that you allude to means that things are not in that necessarily shaping up towards that end: Athene has to offer backward compatibility in order to provide enough apps to entice endusers… but this preserves that platform as a site of competition (in this case, X11). Athene must either (1) pay the price of not having apps developed for its platform natively, i.e., port everything from an exegenous development community or (2) provide incentives that nuture a native (endegenous) development community (like making enough infrastructure open-source – and using infrastructure that can be kept distinct from the “secret sauce”*). But neither of these is “lock the door and throw away the key, thereby holding users and developers hostage.” Hurray for compatibility (in this case with X11) – compatibility means competition rather than monopoly! (*But I concede that keeping the secret sauce distinct from the infrastructure might be a real conceptual-cum-logistical problem: After all, Athene’s big advantage is that it throws out the X11 infrastructure in favor of secret sauce… but this is also the very point at which it had to establish backward compatibility! From here, wash, rinse and repeat the argument of the above paragraph – compatibility is equivalent to preserving a locus of competition.) On a related topic, Starchild wrote: “Athene is non-free. This is a problem for most Linux users (including corporate users, if corporate preference for Gnome over KDE is anything to go by) so I see limited appeal.” Perhaps you’re right. We’ll see what the market will bear. But to be fair to Athene’s developer (Rocklyte), it’s never too late to open up your code… but getting one’s genie back in the bottle is quite a trick! If Rocklyte has a homegrown genie, let it run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. If it fails, the odds are that we all stand to benefit by hook (as in Netscape becomes Mozilla) or by crook (as in Wine and OpenBeOS). Since I can’t think of any metaphors to mix, I’ll begin moving towards the big ideological finale: Starchild also wrote that: “Absolutely nothing [wrong with charging for writing code]. Which is why it’s a good idea to avoid an area like desktop systems, where the market is already saturated with established proprietary and free competitors. Gnome and KDE wouldn’t exist if there was still money to be made in the field by anyone but MS and Apple.” Again, we’ll see what the market will bear. I disagree that Gnome and KDE prove that the desktop market is satured; rather, they prove that different folks need different things. Some people need their freedom and have the capacity to handle it; KDE and Gnome were developed by those that wanted the ability to get at the code so they can make things just the way they want them. The rest of us, to quote Devo, “say [we] want freedom of choice, but really want freedom from choice.” But at another level, KDE and Gnome, and Linux, and open source software in general, provide freedom of choice, not an end to markets. To keep picking on Starchild (nothing personal): “In an area like Linux desktop environments, where the competition already is giving it away for free, [doing the same] would be advisable.” KDE and Gnome do not mean that it’s impossible to charge for a desktop… it just means that you have to charge something reasonable relative to your competition. If your competition is Windows, you have to charge less because of the relative paucity of software offerings to entice endusers and relative paucity of userbase to entice developers. If your competition is KDE and Gnome you have to offer some features *actually worth charging for* and price them relative to how these features compare with what’s freely available. (Isn’t the gripe against Microsoft that they really had nothing worth charging for, but were rather the onyl game in town?) These represent the bookends of the desktop OS market: OSes have to sell for more than nothing and less than Windows. But this – i.e., market competition – is what “free as in choice” is all about: The need to offer some incentives for patronage and price yourself competitively relative to the *other choices available*. What free and open source software ensure is that there will always be competition (because you can’t drive out of business what’s not driven by the need to make money). Of course, this is all to second dpi’s thoughts.