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Pointless SVG eyecandy

Some time go there was a lot of fuzzyness over the capability of using SVG icons and SVG wallpapers. Luckily, that momentum now passed and we’re on a more concrete basis, but today I really found why all that talking about the universal artworks was vapourware.

First of all, for this matter, is important to say that I have a 2560×1024 setup, with two 17” LCDs (can’t connect three, or next year I would add one more), and I find boring having the same wallpaper cloned on both. For a while I used NASA image gallery but after a while, seeing stars, nebula, planets all day long gets boring.

As I said before, I changed my wallpaper style thanks to Marco (lavish) who suggested me to look at DeviantArt, and now I found enough wallpapers to cycle through every 12 hours, to stretch on the two monitors, giving an interesting effect.

Today, I remembered that there are some SVG backgrounds installed with KDE, one would thing that being SVG, you can adapt them to any resolution without problems, right? Well, it’s not this way.

There was also a lot of talk about SVG icons and the way they adapt to any resolution for the icons at a perfect quality, but most of the icons you use are never pure SVG, and are instead rendered versions of them (even the default KDE style called Crystal SVG). Why SVG icons are not used? The main reason is that they are slow, they need to be rendered multiple times during a single session as they are used multiple times at different sizes; even caching them is not useful after a while, and you end up with a lot of cached icons then. The second reason is less spoken off, as that’s not something that can be fixed with caching, with faster computers or bigger memories, and it’s that for smaller icons you need a different level of details, you might need to organise the elements in the icon itself so that they look quite different from the bigger versions of the same icon, destroying entirely the idea of having one single SVG file per icon.

Similarly happens for wallpapers. Although there’s not really a need for “different level of details”, if the wallpaper is something more complex that the curves Mac OS X users know all too well, you end up with troubles, at least with the KDE’s implementation (but I’m willing to bet on a general trouble rather than a KDE-only one). Most of the SVG wallpapers are supposed to be used with 4:3 monitors, or at the very least 1280×1024; when you move it to an almost 8:3 resolution, like 2560×1024 is, you get all the fixed elements stretched horizontally, resulting in the KDE logo being a rectangle rather than a square and so on…

I’m not sure if SVG allows to specify that some elements stretches, and some remain proportioned, but if it does, probably the fault now is in the wallpapers themselves so I’m barking at the wrong tree, but the result is still the same, SVG artwork is for now just vapourware as it cannot really be used to have resolution independent graphic, it’s still great for deriving stuff, for copying pieces of a drawing to use in other artwork and so on, but support for pure SVG artwork is not an useful feature, IMHO.

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