"You sunk my battleship grey!"
By alanc on Oct 27, 2004
I sometimes wonder how many people will really see the effects of work I do in Solaris. Some fixes I know only a handful of people will ever notice since they're in such corner cases. In this month's Solaris Express/Solaris 10 Beta 7 build though, I know a change I made will be seen by every Solaris desktop user as soon as they finish installing, and it may be the most visible change I've ever made to Solaris. (That's almost a bit scary...)
Alan DuBoff already wrote about the new splash screens in this release, but didn't quite capture the entire depth of the change - it's more than just updating the splash screens as we've done with every previous Solaris release - the whole login screen got a makeover as well. The original directive that kicked off this project was a missive from above to "Get rid of the battleship grey, and make it look modern, not like a holdover from the 80's." (Not an exact quote I'm sure, since it filtered through a few people before it got to me, and my memory is far from perfect.) The image to a right is just a clip - click on it for a full screenshot to see its full glory. That's still the same CDE dtlogin program we've shipped in Solaris for almost a decade now, just with some changes to the X resources to change the appearance - you can still see hints of the old login screen in things like the buttons. Sun's Software Experience Design team did the hard part - coming up with the new design and graphics - I just had to do a little work in dtlogin to implement their design.
Under the hood, the only code changes were to stop hardcoding some of the resources and allow the Xresources file to override them. The X resources file was then modified to include a new file called styleModern - since it's run through the C pre-processor first, this was simply adding a #include line for it and setting the include path to search. The first attempt discovered that Motif does not handle well XPM files with thousands of colors - my Ultra 10 test machine took 30 seconds to load the login screen. Fortunately our graphics designers were able to reduce the number of colors used without making the graphics ugly, and it now takes no more time than the original login screen did to come up.
So far, most of the feedback I've seen from our internal testers has been very positive of the new look, and with the imminent release of Solaris 10 Beta 7 and the Solaris Express 10/04 release, we'll be putting out for everyone to see. Of course, some people don't like change - they may have customized the look of the old login screen to be just the way they want, and for them, the old screen is easy to restore - since it's created by loading the new X resource values in the styleModern file, removing the include from the Xresources file will restore the old look, as will simply making it find an empty styleModern in the include path ahead of the real one (such as by running "mkdir -p /etc/dt/config/C ; touch /etc/dt/config/C/styleModern")
Unfortunately, most locales have their own versions of this file in order to translate all the buttons and menus, and they were not all updated in time for this month's beta/express release, so you may have to choose 'C' or another English locale to see the new look - the localization teams are working on getting the other locales in sync for the final release of Solaris 10. Also, this was only done to dtlogin, which is still the default login screen in Solaris 10 - gdm2 is also available now that the Java Desktop System is included, but it already has it's own modern look-and-feel.
Oh, and don't get too attached to this particular set of colors & graphics - they're a placeholder to get the integration with dtlogin done and tested in the beta release - the final Solaris 10 graphics are still to come...