Introduced last year with Fedora 10 was Plymouth, a project to replace the aging Red Hat Graphical Boot (RHGB) software. From the start, Plymouth leveraged kernel mode-setting to provide a flicker-free boot process and a splash screen that would run at the panel's native resolution. Beyond using KMS, Red Hat designed a nice plug-in architecture for Plymouth to offer different functionality and make it easy to add in new artwork.
However, in a late turn of events, there is now actually a new splash screen for Ubuntu 9.10 and it's not Plymouth. Just in time for the Ubuntu Karmic feature freeze there is Xsplash, which is a splash screen that uses the X Server.
Below is a video we recorded this morning on a Samsung NC10 netbook after installing all of the latest Ubuntu 9.10 packages as of this morning, which includes the xsplash 0.6 package that just made it out last night.
With Xsplash not kicking in until there is an active X Server, Usplash still kicked in on our system for a while during most of the boot process. For Xsplash to be very effective, the X Server will need to start faster, which has been one of the action items anyways for speeding up Ubuntu's boot process. However, if it was similar to Plymouth and took advantage of kernel mode-setting, Xsplash could likely be loaded faster.
One advantage though by using the X Server is that this Ubuntu splash screen is now compatible with all display drivers and just not those that provide KMS support. Plymouth on the other hand will only provide a flicker-free, clean boot process if you are using the open-source ATI or Intel drivers with KMS support (or have the Nouveau KMS support working) and not any of the binary graphics drivers. However, there is currently no integration of Xsplash into the shutdown process, since once the X Server goes bye-bye, there goes any visual eye candy.
Stay tuned as the boot splash screen for Ubuntu 9.10 is likely to receive more refinements before the final release of the Karmic Koala comes in late October.