My friend Jo Shields added the missing piece by writing the first theme that fit the basic requirements (uses only legal & free fonts and images with no external dependencies), and now GRUB gets a new face!
This is just one of the ton of possibilities our new graphical menu framework was designed for. If you want to try it out, grub-pc 1.98~experimental.20100111.1-1 has just been uploaded to Debian/experimental. For non-Debian systems, Jo’s blog post provides a standalone tarball which can be used with GRUB Experimental branch in Bazaar.
Many thanks to everyone who made this possible, including Jo, Colin for developing the gfxmenu framework and Vladimir for his extensive work reviewing and polishing it.
Now for the obvious question (before anyone asks): when is this reaching mainstream? Well, there’s lots of code being added, and keep in mind GRUB is a bootloader and it must not compromise on its main feature (being able to boot!), so we need a pack of brave souls to try out the code, find bugs and report them. Once we’re reasonably sure the new code is mature, it’ll find its way to GRUB trunk and eventually GRUB 1.98. So you can help us out! Install it; spread the news; make your desktop a bit nicer and come to us if you find that something went terribly wrong ;-)