There’s good and bad news about the boot sequence in the upcoming Linux Mint 8.
The Ubuntu developers implemented a new splash technology called xsplash which I find much more powerful than the older usplash. There’s a lot of underlying reasons involved in using xsplash but in this blog post I’d like to focus on the graphical part. The visuals produced by xsplash are nice-looking and it’s now easy to produce good-looking animations.
The problem in Ubuntu 9.10 and Linux Mint 8 though is that it is not possible to rely solely on xsplash and so it has to be used in combination with usplash. So when you boot the system you’ll see usplash, then xsplash, then GDM, then xsplash and then finally the desktop. We’ve made our usplash, xsplash and GDM artwork coherent and so did Ubuntu so even though the whole thing could be more integrated, that’s not a big problem for now and it still looks better than in the previous releases of both distributions.
The real problem is for users who like to customize their system. Xsplash isn’t a mature technology yet and it simply doesn’t take any configuration. It’s easy to tweak but it’s not themeable. To modify its looks you’ll have to modify the system files it uses and tell mintUpdate to ignore xsplash related package updates (this is a new feature in mintUpdate coming in Mint 8, so thankfully that’s quite easy to do).
Grub 2 replaces Grub and just as Grub wasn’t complete without its gfx-boot patch, Grub 2 isn’t complete without its new gfxmenu patch. According to some of the Grub developers though the patch is considered for inclusion and likely to be integrated soon. So the decision is for Linux Mint 8 to use Grub 2 and to wait for it to support gfx-menu.
That basically means our Grub menu will look more like this:
Than like this:
I know we got people used to nice boot menus in the previous releases and most of you will probably miss grub-gfxboot, but at this stage it makes more sense to stick to the official Grub branch and to patiently wait for them to support this feature.
GDM also comes with a lot of changes.
In brief, the boot sequence in Mint 8 is going to radically different than in Mint 7, with pros and cons compared to it, but overall with a general feeling of improvement. I hope most of you will appreciate it, if you’ve tried the RC of Ubuntu 9.10 you probably have an idea of what’s coming up. Unlike previous releases of Linux Mint, we’ll use the same technology than Ubuntu this time around and we’ll make our best to produce nice artwork for it.