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Sunday, May 7th 2006, 3:13pm

Giving up the whole 'desktop' analogy - make it my planet

XGL enables us to think about some intriguing new, more 'human' concepts in earnest for the first time...

First, why not get rid of rectangular constraints and turn the desktop into a sphere of variable size?

This would open up totally new possibilities for re-designing the man-machine interface. How would you like switching to a virtual machine - or to the network - by zooming out of the sphere that is your desktop and turning to another sphere...?

Or zooming _into_ the sphere in order to browse the filesystem... Like cities becoming visible when you zoom in a satellite picture the structure of the filesystem could become visible. Zooming in onto your files shows previews that scale smoothly. When you zoom onto one file's preview till it fills the screen the application will already have started up and only the appearing toolbars will tell you that something has changed. The notion that one has to use applications in order to work should disappear as much as possible.

Or, if you zoom in another place, the system configuration or the network-settings could appear out of thin air. (Although I would prefer to get to the system settings by zooming through the 'desktop' into the 'core', perhaps with a nicely surreal effect of the water plugin.)

To make the 'desktop' more accessible for the average human being one should model it after the real world as much as possible. Make it a globe and you'll never have to wonder where you left those quarantined files from the network - they're in Siberia! Want to store your artwork in the Louvre? - why, after all, not? Where do I find my Java tools? Well, naturally... Store your holiday snapshots exactly in the country where they were taken and/or in a representation of the cupboard you actually keep those photo albums! While it's not really important where you put it - the search tool (Beagle?) will find all you need instantly and take you there in a Google-Earth-style flight...

And why not explore whether Google Earth could somehow be integrated into this?

Your 'home'-directory would be where you actually are on the map of course - in your hometown. Your financial data is in the city bank, of course where you also find all apps and bookmarks that might be useful in the context.

The different 'layers' of the desktop that seem to be planned for KDE4 could work as different views on the globe, like night-view, infrared-view etc., each representing a workspace targeted at a different aim, a different user etc..

You could also use different planet topographies for different machines/virtual machines in the network, of course... How about a 'Mars' desktop for your server? Or for a different user? How about a whole Trekkie-universe for your company? :D

Handling of applications could also greatly benefit from XGL. I'd favour a variant of the concept seen in Novell's SLED 10 'application browser' or the xfce-appfinder with a twist. First you click a symbol and the application browser starts up and 3D-representations of program categories 'hover in the air' in front of the globe, a bit like in a media center or in the Looking Glass java desktop. Select one categorie and it unfolds like a blossom, setting free 3D representations of the programs. Or type in a name of a category or a program that you're looking for and its symbol zooms towards you. Either start it or zoom into it and see which files that application opened recently. The 'surface' of the file preview could feature an unobtrusive shiny mirror-effect which could reflect the environment where the file is stored. Like the reflection in a shop-window (or on a monitor screen...). Zoom into the file and you've opened it with the application.

It would even be more coherent desktop behaviour to substitute the whole 'klick to open' operating of the desktop with a 'zoom-in to open' approach everywhere (except for inside menus): Zoom into the application-launcher, zoom into the app-categories, zoom into the application, zoom into a recently opened document or into an empty one. One continuous, fluent motion to get where you want. Left mouse button to zoom in, right mouse-button to zoom out.

Windows won't have to be rectangular in KDE4, so why not make them bubbles of blue (?) liquid with previews and symbols floating inside them? Zoom into a bubble/window and still see the rest of the 'desktop', perhaps through the coloured liquid.

Important dialogues, like system notifications, could be designed to stick out by being the only sharp, rectangular objects in the desktop environment.

Why restrict concepts to 2D if XGL makes so many things possible? Programming a big milestone with KDE4, you might as well think big. :)

There's virtually no limit to what 3D acceleration can do for improving the desktop. (Wellll... It might mean overdoing it to expect Objective Camel projects trotting through a desert but you get the general idea....)

P.S. Yeah... I already know I'm crazy.

This post has been edited 38 times, last edit by "eet" (May 8th 2006, 10:21am)



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Location: France

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Saturday, May 13th 2006, 11:40am

Zoom in, zoom out

Don't worry, you're not crazy... or else we are two of a kind. ;) I also had that idea of zooming in to see or edit the content of a desktop item and that applications are nothing more than toolbars attaching themselves to the documents.

As much as I like the idea, I don't think we're going to see it happen in KDE 4. Not even in 2D. What is required is a total change of philosophy of KDE from application centered to task/document centered. Right now the applications are like factories while they would need to turn into a collection of small tools that you can grab and use on the document you are viewing/editing.

As for XGL, I don't think that it was meant to build a real 3D environment but only to apply 3D effects and a real transparency to the windows. We can expect V*st*-like features but the 3D miracle is still to be expected.

Come back in ten years... ;)
"The soul is in the software." --AI 1.0


Friday, July 21st 2006, 4:06am

The problem is while it make make it easier for your brain to comprehend we're really not getting anywhere since the display method is natively 2D, keyboard shortcuts are more efficient in the long run. Honestly I wouldn't appriciate having to worry about having to balance FPS between texture detial, AA, AF, etc like I do in games haha



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Friday, July 21st 2006, 5:54am

The problem isn't in the implementation of the desktop metaphor (sphere vs. cubes, etc.) but in the very metaphor itself. I believe that the desktop metaphor has outgrown its use. It's probably time to think of a new one. Something still "natural" but flexible enough so that it could still be used in the future. Something probably more general, not too based on "real" tangible objects like a desktop, so that implementation could have a free reign.

I was never a fan of the desktop metaphor. I never found it to be that essential in trying to understand how to use a computer. It actually wasn't that logical, especially in later developments of the GUI (do you have a taskbar sitting on your real life desktop?). The metaphor was probably developed to incorporate office concepts. Unfortunately, it stops there. And the computer is much more than just an office equipment today.

The planet implementation is a bit cool. But like any new thing, it would need a bit of getting used to. But if you really think about it, if you dispose of the desktop metaphor, you can think up of new and innovative ways of implementing such stuff.

Unfortunately, I don't think KDE 4 will be the answer to that. I guess we'll have to wait for KDE 5...
OS: Kubuntu 6.06 LTS (Dapper Drake) | KDE 3.5.3
Computer Specs: AMD Sempron 2200 1.5Ghz | VIA KM266 Pro 8235 chipset | nVidia GeForce MX 4000 128MB DDR-RAM 32-bit AGP 8x