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Sun Microsystems GUI Linux Business Software

Sun Wants to Make Linux 3D 545

Posted by Hemos
from the frantically-building-a-future dept.
gruenz writes "Linux Planet writes in this article about a project inside Sun developing "an experimental 3D successor to Java Desktop that they believe will change the way we interact with computers." A demo is available from Sun. 'In the demonstration, Jonathan Schwartz, vice president of Sun's software group, increases the transparency of a window so that you can see through it, turns a window on its side so that it sits at the edge of a screen like a book on a book shelf, turns a window completely around and leaves a note on the back, and takes a database of CDs presented as physical CDs, that you flip through, reading the labels, just as you would with real CDs, until you locate the one you want.'" It's called Looking Glass, in case you've heard that name before.
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Sun Wants to Make Linux 3D

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  • Tux, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dupper (470576) * <adamlouis@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:50AM (#8644037) Journal
    meet Bob. Bob, Tux.

    Seriously, isn't this what MS tried to do (the literal objects representing files and environment, not the 3D part)? They're probably trying to beat Apple to the punch (this is a plausible, and, by many, expected course for their 'ease-of-use' direction; maybe a new WM for iMacs, only?), but how quickly we forget Microsoft's little "innovation", ten years earlier.

  • by InterruptDescriptorT (531083) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:53AM (#8644059) Homepage
    I think this is a very cool development. Don't get me wrong. But this is not what Linux needs right now.

    There is a huge push to make Linux a true desktop OS that non-tech-savvy people can use. I take the example of the typical Slashdot mom--she can probably open Outlook or IE and perform all of her e-mailing and Web surfing tasks just fine. Present her with KDE or Gnome, though, and it's scary and unfamiliar. And all of this fails to break Microsoft's strangehold on the desktop which is as much a product of Linux's unwillingness to adopt a unified GUI standard as it is Microsoft's anticompetitive practices.

    How about developers concentrate on two things--firstly, agreeing on a cohesive Linux desktop experience and forget about the Gnome/KDE fragmentation/flamewars that plague the Linux community, and secondly, writing the next generation of desktop apps for Linux, getting those perfected and at a level of usability and stability to rival Microsoft's offerings.

    It's not a 3D desktop that going to get Linux on desktops. It's going to be a solid, stable, easy-to-use standarized GUI experience with mature, full-featured apps that surpass the functionality that Microsoft's and other vendor's Win32 apps bring to the table.
  • Killer App (Score:1, Insightful)

    by moberry (756963) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:53AM (#8644062)
    I'm sure everyone is familiar with the "killer app" theory, if your not then it goes like this. Every operating system must have an application that will make users buy the computer just to use it. For apple it was Visicalc, for DOS it was Lotus. If this 3D desktop works, then it could very well be the definative "killer app" for linux.
  • Re:Hey! Asses! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aliens (90441) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:53AM (#8644063) Homepage Journal
    Agreed, unless they come up with a way to increase productivity, which this doesn't seem todo, why are they wasting time on it?

    Let's see, 3d graphics of CD's or a simple text field where I type in 'Bandname' and hit enter.

    Add to that the fact that 3d seems best navigated with a mouse and suddenly you realize that you're moving away from a keyboard interface which works better than a pointing device.

  • This again!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dnoyeb (547705) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:54AM (#8644070) Homepage Journal
    I can't believe this. Sun has resorted to this old pipe dream!?!

    If Sun wants to know about 3d user interfaces, look in 3d games. They have 3d engines readily available but they still use 2d interfaces? KISS

    Put the resources towards someting that can actually do the company some good. I don't know what that is, but it couldn't be this.

    I wonder what Sun's shareholders are thinking right about now.
  • Here we go again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by martingunnarsson (590268) * <martin&snarl-up,com> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:54AM (#8644071) Homepage
    I really think this interface looks great and runs smoothly, but I've heard the phrase "[...] change the way we interact with computers" way too many times by now. Apple's OS X is the most "modern" user interface I've used, and it's still just a bunch of windows and a pointer. How much can you change in the GUI without confusing Joe Sixpack too much?
  • Re:Hey! Asses! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pratfall (626113) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:55AM (#8644082)
    "A 3D window manager is a dumb idea. Stop wasting money on it!"

    How is trying to replicate the natural interface that we use every day a dumb idea? Do you stick every piece of paper that is on your desk to your face? I think it's much more natural to reach for something you want than to maximise/minimize it.
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:56AM (#8644085) Journal
    As long as you can navigate faster and easier with it (after some adjustment period of course), I'm all for it!

    However, 3D desktops usually fall because of usability problems. Not really surprising, as most people (I know there are peculiar non-standard devices that deviate) are still using a 2D device (mouse) to visualize information on a 2D surface (monitor) to navigate in a 3D environment. Guess where the obstacle / incompatiblity with the I/O devices usually lies... :-P
  • by Adolph_Hitler (713286) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:57AM (#8644094)

    This is the kind of thing which has to be done, yet no one wanted to do it because it wasnt profitable.

    Linux needs a facelift if its to be successful on the Desktop. Let's thank Sun for wasting their money becase now Linux can take on and beat Longhorn.

    This is less of a waste of money than mono
  • by shamir_k (222154) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:57AM (#8644097) Homepage
    The Java desktop system is really nothing but a branding strategy by Sun. Its basically a linux box with Java and Staroffice. The "Java" tag is an attempt to benefit from the hype around Java.

    But if Sun is going to use this as a platform to innovate, it could help Linux a lot. Sun has the marketing dollars to push the adoption of this platform, especially in emerging markets where Windows isn't entrenched already. We could see a whole new generation of users who are more familiar with Linux via JDS, than with Windows.

  • by squaretorus (459130) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:57AM (#8644099) Homepage Journal
    Linux does not need some fancy graphics on the desktop to make an impact.


    It does need them to make some very specific 'impacts' however. Take your average user - give them something that works, is pretty, and is genuinely useful and they will jump for joy.

    Even simple things like plugging a digital camera into my laptop (XP) and having it come up with the 'would you like to save these?' option - Yes - Then pick a slideshow from Explorer - it all worked so smoothly and quickly that my better half almoost pooped her pants with 'computers are getting good' excitement.

    XP looks shit - but its easy to understand shit with landscape wallpaper and nice fonts. Linux looks shit and its kinda scary shit with penguins or nekkid chicks for wallpaper and white fonts on black... scary!
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:58AM (#8644103) Journal
    I believe the ultimate goal of Linux desktops should be to make the computer as easy to use as a Mac.

    Why not easier? :-)
  • dupe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by manWorkSucks (745760) <{don.c.smith} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:58AM (#8644109) Homepage
    why do i seem to remember reading this same story and watching that same video a few months ago?
  • by selderrr (523988) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:59AM (#8644113) Journal
    And additionally, there are a few windoze crappies of that kind : google [google.com]


    The example of flippin CD cases is the exact proof why this tech sucks : I'm moving away from pgysical cases towards a hierarchical, multi-layered view of my mp3s with iTunes.

    Sun, read my lips : I don't want to handle physical objects on a computer screen
    here's [google.com] another google for ya.


  • Re:Complicated (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoonFog (586818) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:02AM (#8644147)
    Have you even seen the video ? Does it look confusing at all ?
    It's basically a regular desktop with 3D features. I seriously don't see why you would lable it complex. The coding behind it is complex yes, but that doesn't mean the desktop is complex or difficult to use.
  • Re:Killer App (Score:3, Insightful)

    by palad1 (571416) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:03AM (#8644150)
    If this 3D desktop works, then it could very well be the definative "killer app" for linux.

    And what exactly would you do with this 3d desktop? In terms of productivity? Does reordering translucent windows on your virtual bookshelf all day long count as productivity?
    I think not.

    In your post you mention Visicalc for apple and Lotus for Dos, and I agree they did drive these oses, but this is just another window manager , and has nothing to do with an application.

    Now, if this environment exposed an API that allowed a given developper to use 3D Widgets in order to move out of the 2d windowpane concept, maybe we could be on to something. Especially for Data Analysis tools, but right now, as a standalone WM on top of 2d Widgets, this is completely useless.

  • Re:Killer App (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dave420 (699308) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:04AM (#8644163)
    It's an interface, not an app. What would you use this "killer app" for, anyway? Opening up your not-quite-microsoft-office-compatible Office suite?

    Nice idea, but a killer app has to be an application. This, at best, could be a killer interface. But, to be a real success, it has to have something to interface with, ie good software.

    If Linux wants to get into more homes, the fragmentation needs to be reduced. Microsoft has a unified cohesive view of their operating system. In the OS world, it can vary completely between two colleagues, let alone communities. Until that's sorted, this is just expensive pissing in the wind.

  • Re:Hey! Asses! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zocalo (252965) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:05AM (#8644165) Homepage
    I dunno. I think this kind of thing is like the stuff you see on the catwalks; it's a vastly over the top representation of what you'll actually see on the street.

    Some of the stuff they are describing actually sounds somewhat similar to what we have now, for example "turns a window on its side so that it sits at the edge of a screen like a book on a book shelf". This is really little more than rolling a window up to its title bar and rotating it 90deg to save space on the desktop accompanied by some whizzy 3D effects. It's really just a logical progression of the simulated 3D effects GUIs obtained with the advent of 2D acceleration that utilises the latest 3D hardware to do it for "real".

    True, it's not necessary, particularly resource friendly and the potential to seriously screw up the human-computer interface is greater. Even so, I won't be at all suprised to see features from this "Catwalk" on the street in Gome 3, KDE 4, Longhorn, and MacOS XI.

  • Lame idea. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by macpell (726325) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:06AM (#8644176)
    The reason I keep all of my music on my computer is because it's NOT like flipping through my CD collection.
  • by WTFmonkey (652603) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:06AM (#8644178)
    Yeah, it seems like it'd have a very high Coolness Factor, which usually bears an inverse relationship to the Usefulness Factor.

    The first example that comes to mind is the CD thing mentioned in the blurb. Why the hell would I want to flip through CDs? That's the EXACT REASON I ripped them to my computer to start with, was so I could see a nice, flat list rather than hundreds of individual CDs.

    Flipping a window around to put a note on the back seems like the kind of dumbass thing I'd do with my homework, and then I'd forget I wrote the note and totally ignore it anyways. Come on, on the back??

    Like I said, sounds very cool, if not all that useful. I'd rather put that extra 3D rendering power into some badass games, personally. Offtopic, but I was playing through Freespace again last night (for about the fourth time). What a great game! I love the "spaceships fly like airplanes" genre and there just haven't been enough recently. That's what we need... not "easy as a Mac," but "as fun as a PC."

  • by cozziewozzie (344246) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:09AM (#8644196)
    The ultimate goal of Linux desktops should be the ability to set it up to work exactly the way you want it to, not to imitate the Mac.

    I don't give a shit about the average home user. I like focus-follows mouse, magic desktop borders and transparent thingies. I don't think the goal of Linux desktops should be to take away all the things I like about them. If this new-fangled interface is good, people will use it, the average home user can use a stripped-down KDE set to emulate Windows or Mac if he/she wants to.
  • by mccalli (323026) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:10AM (#8644206) Homepage
    Rubbish, the lot of it. Point by point:

    • increases the transparency of a window so that you can see through it
      Marvellous. Just as users of current operating systems have ben doing for years anyway.
    • turns a window on its side so that it sits at the edge of a screen like a book on a book shelf
      Hmm. Potentially interesting as a way to pick between open windows, but doesn't Expose perform this task in a better manner?
    • turns a window completely around and leaves a note on the back
      Ah, how terribly useful. Hidden, non-obvious information in a GUI. Superb.
    • and takes a database of CDs presented as physical CDs, that you flip through, reading the labels, just as you would with real CDs, until you locate the one you want.
      Except that in the real world I can never find the bloody CDs, because I can't remember where I've put them. I can navigate a media player interface far faster than I can hunt for CDs, and I can use more search criteria too (album, artist etc.)
    Nope - stunningly unimpressed. A computer GUI is an abstraction of the real world, not the real world itself. Applying the same clutter you find in the real world would make the interface worse, not better.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • by Noryungi (70322) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:11AM (#8644214) Homepage Journal
    Present her with KDE or Gnome, though, and it's scary and unfamiliar.

    Short answer: No.

    Long answer: Modern versions of KDE and Gnome are now so advanced that they are just as easy to use for a normal Mom to use.

    Example: A few months ago, I showed KDE 3.1.x, running on my Slackware laptop, to my wife (who is also a mom, by the way). She is not a power user, but she is smart and she knows Windows and Microsoft Office pretty well.

    Within 5 minutes, with only minimal explanations from me, she had opened KWrite, KMail and Konqueror and was happily checking her email and writing a small document, all the while surfing on the web.

    She even went as far as saying: "What's so special about Linux? It's almost the same as Windows!"... *sigh*

    So, please, let us stop this nonsense about Linux not being ready for the desktop, and not having quality apps. It's simply untrue. And more and more people, corporations and governments are realizing this and switching to Linux.

    This being said, I agree that a lot of average users would be very challenged by a Linux installation and configuration... But that's how people like me make money after all!

    It's not a 3D desktop that going to get Linux on desktops.

    Now, that , I can agree on. 3D desktop is a waste of time.
  • Re:Hey! Asses! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:11AM (#8644216)
    How is trying to replicate the natural interface that we use every day a dumb idea?

    Because they're not replicating the natural interface. You still only interact with this with a 2 dimensional pointing device. You can't reach in and touch these objects, you have to translate your intended 3D action into a 2D representation of that action and then the software then has to try and translate that back into a 3D action.

    The interface is exactly why these 3D desktops are a dumb idea.
  • by vrai (521708) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:15AM (#8644248)
    I believe the ultimate goal of Linux desktops should be to make the computer as easy to use as a Mac.

    Why? There's already a computer that is as easy to use as a Mac - it's called the Mac. Why should Linux attempt to solve a problem that already has a pretty optimal solution? I always thought the goal of Linux was to provide a free, open source Unix-like operating system. Which is does very well indeed.

    OSX is an operating system aimed at the home and education markets. Linux is an operating system written by hackers for their own use. Two very different goals - hence the two very different approaches that have been taken.

  • by maitas (98290) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:16AM (#8644255) Homepage

    Just give it some though... For someone that never worked with computers before, it is more intuitive to think every object displayed is 3D (like "real" world) than a 2D representation...

    Perhaps Looking Glass is not the best implementation, but a 3D desktop IS more intuitive than XP for a 100% computer newbie. I believe that computer users are far less than 50% of total world population....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:17AM (#8644256)
    "Linux does not need some fancy graphics on the desktop to make an impact."

    that's just a typical smug unix user attitude.

    learn from microsoft, bill gates said that 90% of an application is the interface.

    would the average user bother with man pages or would they give up.

    for linux/unix to become mainstream it needs two things: an *intuitive* gui, and less arrogant users.

    the days of ones and naughts are over! let it go.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:20AM (#8644275)
    Parent: Translate this for me please (Score:0, Troll)

    This is TYPICAL slashdot herdthink. The guy has a point. He's trying to show how much bullshit the Sun guy is talking and you mod him down as a troll.

  • Re:Killer App (Score:3, Insightful)

    by n-baxley (103975) * <nate@@@baxleys...org> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:21AM (#8644291) Homepage Journal
    This is no killer app. This is a toy. It may let people organize their desktop better, and it's cool to look at, but you are not going to get businesses to pony up for the switch to Linux so their employees can make their windows transparent. A "killer app" must have real and recognizable benefits to influence a shift of this magnitude.
  • by Rinikusu (28164) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:22AM (#8644300)
    The problem is, right now Linux on the Desktop is facing a monumental task in trying to take market/mindshare away from Windows. For the past how many years has Linux struggled to keep pace or achieve parity with 6 year old MS (or even Apple) offerings? LoTD is possible, but maybe its time for someone to look at the entire paradigm of computing and come up with something NEW. You know, innovation, that very thing most people accuse Linux of lacking. Here is an opportunity to Sun to create something that may (or may not) fail miserably, but at the same time, they are in a position to control it: To enforce interface guidelines, to achieve application compliance, etc, something also a problem between the GNOME/KDE/other WM camps. Linux will never succeed on the home desktop until someone does something to deal with the disparity and inherent "unfriendliness" of the various desktop environments. Maybe it's time to do a "BeOS", so to speak, and throw out the desktop as we know it and create something new.

    Then again, it might just crash and burn and burn and burn.
  • Oh, come on... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by warrax_666 (144623) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:27AM (#8644332)
    How is trying to replicate the natural interface that we use every day a dumb idea?

    Oh, I don't know... because a computer can store and retrieve information much more efficiently than you ever could in the Real World? Look, it's very simple: In almost all cases Real World metaphors do not work in the Computer World (for lack of a better term).

    Just to give one example which is cited in the submission text: Flipping through CDs looking for the right one. That is such a blindingly stupid idea that I don't know where to begin. "Oh, but it's intuitive!". That may be, but it's nowhere as efficient as me pressing a "Search" key and typing the name of the artist/album title a be instantly shown the relevant results. If I have two CDs, it might be faster to flip through them, but not if I have more than ten CDs.

    There's one important lesson here: Intuitive != Efficient.

    Don't you think people have tried to apply Real World metaphors to the Computer World before? There's a reason that nobody does to any great extent anymore...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:28AM (#8644343)
    3D desktops will fail as long as we are using 2D display and input devices. Last I checked my mouse doesn't do anything when I lift it up. The scroll mouse can simulate it as it does in games but that isn't very intuitive.

    In reality there is no reason to go 3D. Data is not anymore 3D than it is 2D. Adding a 3rd dimension would only create confusion without anything more than a superficial benefit. Anybody the slightest bit familiar with HCI knows this.
  • Re:Complicated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Durandal64 (658649) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:29AM (#8644352)
    Current desktops are confusing for quite a few users. Now consider that this new interface doesn't really change the way things are done (there are still windows, menus, et cetera), just adds stuff. Granted, it's really damn cool stuff (stuff that I can see Apple using Quartz Extreme to do sometime down the road), but it will confuse the shit out of computer novices.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:37AM (#8644436)
    Although cool 3d interfaces are nice and do create a more intuitive user interface, the reasons that ease-of-use is so low (even on the Mac) is the problems of system configuration and the mismatch between command-oriented input systems (both GUI and CLI) versus goal-oriented users.

    Better help systems (not wizards) and more explanatory error messages would go a long way to improving ease-of-use. If computers could explain WHY they can't perform some operation (rather than THAT they can't perform some operation), it would make them les frustrating to use.

    It may not be glamorous, but translating all the system setups, command sets, and controls into something goal-oriented rather than technology oriented would be a major step toward ease-of-use (the average usuer should never need to know an acronym to configure their computer). This would mean contextual help that explains what to do in terms that reflect the goals of the user, not the minutae of the underlying technologies.

    More eye-candy will not make the machines easier to use. Better user-centric documentation, configuration, and diagnostic messages will.
  • by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:37AM (#8644438)
    Great, now we're going to get UI innovations from Sun?

    Yep, Sun are terrible at usability.

    It's like with Java on the desktop. Did you ever try to install Sun's Java on a Windows machine so that web applets work? Until very recently, the process completely sucked. If you came across a web page that required a Java applet, and went to Sun to download it, it would be "Choose which you require; Java SR1.4 (dev. rel. 3), Java XYZ 2.0 developers kit, or Java standalone ABC 2 (abridged edition)" or some crap like that and a normal Joe wouldn't have a clue which to download to get Java working in the web browser. It was almost as if they wanted it to fail.
  • by El_Ge_Ex (218107) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:52AM (#8644618) Journal
    5 minutes is not 2 years...

    Did you ask her to install a program? How about install an external device? or even GIMP?

    You have to look past the initial reaction of a linux desktop to find where it's flaws are. At first glance it _does_ look like windows.

    -B
  • by JohnnyCannuk (19863) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:52AM (#8644630)
    Well, we can stop working on GNOME and KDE and Aqua because you are "moving away from physical cases towards a hierarchical, multi-layered view of my mp3s with iTunes."

    Has it occurred to you that, perhaps, the vast majority of ordinary, mostly-computer-illiterate people do want to handle real objects on thier computer screen? Do you look up from your IDE or commandline long enough to notice that most people don't use or want to use the computer the same way you do?

    Try reading this article [java.net] about programming. It's a bit silly in places, but it makes some good point about programming in general and programming the UI in particular - make it a pleasure for a user to use, make it easy for the user to do work, not the programmer.

    I have seen this "desktop" demonstrated and it's quite cool. Not because I would nescesarily want to use it (although some of the stuff looks interesting) but because I can see my mother or my wife or my brother the mechanic or my cousin the biochemist finding using a computer 1000 times easier to use with this kind of metaphor - they concentrate on doing their job instead of mine. I think part of my job in creating software for humans to interact with is to make it easy to use, seamless and invisible in their environment - like answering a phone, doing up a zipper or reading a watch...you don't think about it, you just do it.

    Anyway, that's how I see it and that's why I think Looking Glass is actually a step away from the "desktop" metaphor to something different. Perhaps a baby step at first, but a far greater step than XP or Aqua...

    And of course we all have choice. If you don't want to use it - don't.

  • A good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by twem2 (598638) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:53AM (#8644638) Journal
    This is research. It may make its way onto the desktop (and it could be useful).
    Transparecy can be annoying, but here they seem to be making windows translucent when not in focus. When you're using a window it is not transparent.
    Swinging windows out of the way could be really cool, as could the notes on the backs of windows.
    The jukebox is just an idea for a 3D application, I wouldn't use it, but give it to non-techies and they'll probably lap it up.
    If this comes to fruition, it will give insight into how useable 3D interfaces are, and the existence of a useable 3D UI may lead to the development of 3D displays.

    The GUI hasn't changed much since it was first suggested, active research into how to improve it can only be a good thing, even if the conclusion is that the methods researched are not (yet?) viable.

    I think people should stop griping and be a bit more positive...
  • by Lussarn (105276) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:00AM (#8644720)
    Yes, the nvidia drivers are good, but they are not open source. Today this doesn't matter too much because they give some "added value". They are not important for a fully functional desktop. If a 3D desktop would become the standard and 3D drivers are needed to run it at all Linux would need 3D drivers to be open source.

    For Linux success it's important to have a fully functional open source base to build upon.
  • by dave420 (699308) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:01AM (#8644727)
    And when your wifey comes to update her software, or something breaks? That's where the real difference is. Getting an OS to be usable is one thing, but to get is user-resistant is another, which Linux hasn't addressed quite nearly enough. RPM anyone?
  • by Cereal Box (4286) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:06AM (#8644781)
    Contrary to popular belief, an impeachment is not a conviction, it's an indictment. So, you're wrong, Clinton was impeached, but not convicted.
  • by mOdQuArK! (87332) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:17AM (#8644890)
    Did you ask her to install a program? How about install an external device? or even GIMP?

    Have you tried to do this with a super-non-techie under Windows (except for the GIMP thing, of course)? You get the same results, whether you're using Windows or not.

    Especially if your relatives are like mine & figure that if the installation program gives them the option to change the "destination directory" name, whatever that is, then they should use the same name for all of their "programs" so they'll be able to find it easier later on...

  • by SmackCrackandPot (641205) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:18AM (#8644913)
    I'm assisting my "slightly older" relatives learn to use computers (retired nurses who are used to working with medical equipment). For them, the newest Windows applications are too difficult to use. They were happy when Windows 98 came out, because then everything had a standard uniform interface (Wasn't that Microsoft's marketing strategy?).

    But now that every single application nearly always comes it own set of skins, this has completely thrown them off. And trying to make an application use the standard interface requires delving deep into a multitude of menus and preferences (I still haven't figured out how to make Realplayer adopt the standard Windows look). So, this isn't likely to make the average home user even more confused than they are now.
  • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:23AM (#8644969) Journal
    I like focus-follows mouse, magic desktop borders and transparent thingies.

    I like most fvwm-ish things (and zero resistance edge flipping!), but focus-follows-mouse always confused me.

    It seems like this focusing system always tends to result in your mouse cursor winding up covering up what you're trying to work with. Usually, I'd prefer to have my mouse cursor elsewhere.
  • by SoTuA (683507) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:31AM (#8645048)
    This is bullshit. That's not a linux issue. That's a non-computer savvy person issue. My mom can't install anything on the computer, not when we had windows, not now after the switch to OsX.
  • by WampagingWabbits (627551) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:35AM (#8645094)
    It annoys me hearing all the negative comments about this project.

    Projects like this should be supported and encouraged, because Linux should build a reputation as a platform that allows innovation, and features cutting-edge software. Doing something like this in Windows would be a much less certain venture, due to the ultimate lack of control of the operating system environment.

    Sure, 3D interfaces are difficult to write well, and it will probably take a while to improve user experience, but so long as this is open source, what's the harm in trying. Instead of developers trying to standardise and emulate the characteristics of Windows, spending time diversifying and creating new trends in Linux plays more to its strengths.

    Marketing and competition is all about playing to your strengths, rather than going up against your competitors strengths where you are weak. If linux becomes "the platform where you can experiment with new things", it is already making important inroads among technical audiences.
  • Re:Hey! Asses! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sven Tuerpe (265795) <sven&gaos,org> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:38AM (#8645115) Homepage
    How is trying to replicate the natural interface that we use every day a dumb idea?

    Nice idea. Unfortunately, natural interfaces do not exist, so any attempt to replicate them inevitably leads to an interface that replicates arbitrary features of arbitrary physical artifacts while failing to support the user's tasks.

    What exactly is the point of replicating, say, a typewriter on screen in 3D? Would it make text processing any easier because it's more "natural"? Of course not.

  • by Mr.Oreo (149017) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:39AM (#8645126)
    A 3D GUI only becomes as useable as a 2D one when you use a comfortable 3D input device to work it. Until a mainstream 3D input devices comes around, and possibly stereoscopic displays, you won't be able to navigate in a 3D desktop as easily.

    It should be noted here that there is a difference between a true 3D desktop, and a desktop that uses cheezy 3D graphics to have windows slide around and crap..
  • Exactly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beldraen (94534) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <risialptnom.dahc>> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:44AM (#8645179)
    I've been writing software for sometime now and I have gotten a lot of complements on the software I write. I follow three predominant rules when designing an interface. First, simplicity. People are used to a single data representation, like a sheet of paper. Place all related information on a single page. If editing needs to occur, allow the page to be edited. Do NOT have separate pages display and edit or multiple representations of the same information in different locations. While logically minded people can accept multiple views of the same data, most users do not have the spatial orientation abilities to be comfortable in navigating such a system. Users generally put up with it because they have no choice. Second, if a fault condition can be prevented before a user can commit the error, set the interface so that the fault cannot be committed in the first place. It is very annoying to hit a connect button only to be told that there are no connection settings. Either prevent the button from being used or pop up the method to connect. Either way, do not waste user time with things that don't work. Present the user things that do work or prevent the user from doing things that do not work. This places the burden on programmers to take responsibility of policing bad behavior; however, programmers loathe to do the work because being experts in the system they naturally avoid faults and it means more work for them that they do not perceive as a benefit. Users are not experts and should not need to be experts. They just want to get work done and rightfully expect the system to make intelligent guiding decisions since they've paid for the system to make them more productive. Finally, if a fault condition requires a modal intervention (which is very rare if you follow the previous rules), then all other fault conditions that can be possibly checked are also evaluated and tacked on to the error list. There is nothing worse than submitting something, getting an error, fixing it, submitting again, getting another error, fixing that, submitting again, getting another error...

    These three rules have served me well.
  • by El_Ge_Ex (218107) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:45AM (#8645190) Journal
    You made too many assumptions. 90% of the public uses Windows. Installing an app in Windows is easier than Linux. Deal with it.

    -B
  • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @12:32PM (#8645735)
    I sit down at my office mate's Mac. I see the transparency, the shadows, I minimize and maximize to trigger the special effects. I mouse-over some icons to make them inflate. I switch between users a few times for no particular reason to watch the desktop spin around on a cube. I say "cool, maybe they could play a 'whooshing' noise when it does that."

    Then I go back to my unobtrusive, perfectly tailored fvwm2 desktop to get back to business.

  • Re:Hey! Asses! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @12:34PM (#8645768) Journal
    How is trying to replicate the natural interface that we use every day a dumb idea?

    Items in the real world take up a physical space. Which makes a TON of items (i.e. computer files) take a TON of space. Imagine if you could visualize your entire 160 GB hard drive as real world documents and books. That would take ages to keep organized and be horrible to look up! Instead we're using icons we can click on and navigate to in maybe 1-10 seconds. Computers use much more efficient and flexible metaphors than actual real world items. A 2D desktop is in my opinion often *more* advanced than a 3D desktop. We remove a redundant dimension to reach the information faster.
  • by NJP (731088) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @12:37PM (#8645797)
    ... was to provide new and flexable way of manipulating data, for example scrolling through a alphabetical list to find which song you want to listen to, but the only thing i have seen from every '3D' desktop program, or mock-up, is a passion to create something which confroms to real-life!

    I think the point is being missed here...if we are going to make the jump from 2d to 3d, then it has to be something extremly new and has to give us ways of manipulating data in ways that we haven't thought of before, like the jump from CLI to GUI.

    I, for one, don't want to have to "flick through" my cd collection to find a cd in real life, its time-consuming and boring (esp. when you have alot of cd's which dont always stay where they are supposed to!), let alone trying to do it on my computer!

    (P.S. don't get me started on the notes behind the website!)

  • by peter_gzowski (465076) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @01:14PM (#8646317) Homepage
    Anecdotal evidence is not not necessarily proof. Here's a counter-anecdote: My wife's been using Linux for the past few weeks. KDE still does not have a nice way of copying to/from a CD. You either have to open two Konqueror windows or open one Konq window to root, and drag and drop from /home/username to /mnt/cdrom. And once she does get the files off of her cdrom, they're all read-only. Try explaining to a former Windows user why she has to highlight a bunch of files, right-click, go to permissions, and select the "Write" check box every time she copies documents from cdrom.

    Installation is one of the things that I think Linux has a leg up on. I think the average user can make it through a Mandrake or RedHat install. Configuration is still a problem, though, you're right.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @02:54PM (#8647614)
    But I hate when programs and machines refer to themselves as I, as if they were all self-aware and stuff. It's rude and presumtuous to those of us who are.
  • by nathanh (1214) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:54PM (#8652212) Homepage
    I always thought the goal of Linux was to provide a free, open source Unix-like operating system.

    Nope. That's the goal of the GNU project.

    Linux was started because Linus wanted to learn more about 386 protected mode. You could say that the original goal of Linux was to give Linus something fun to do.

    Some people soon realised they could finish GNU by integrating it with Linux. At that time you might say that there were some people with the goal of using Linux to make a free UNIX.

    Afterwards, when GNU/Linux had proven itself worthy, other people introduced their own goals. One goal was cheap terminals to access the Real UNIX(tm) boxes. So XFree86 was ported.

    Some users then realised that Linux would be pretty good as a desktop for geeky developers. They started the KDE project. This led to major improvements in audio, video and input.

    Some forward-thinking companies realised that Linux was small enough to be used in embedded systems. They tweaked it a little and stated the goal of Linux as an embedded operating system.

    Then some companies noticed and they thought Linux was pretty close to being usable as a corporate desktop. Sun bought OpenOffice for us, Ximian gave us Evolution, Netscape gave us a browser, and now one stated goal of Linux (by at least some companies) is to provide extremely cheap corporate desktops.

    And there is always the crazy crowd whose goal with Linux is to destroy Microsoft. Hopefully we can all learn to ignore these people because they won't do us the favour of shutting up.

    My point is that there is no single goal. We have millions of users, each with their own goals, with Linux being pulled and teased in all directions at once. I think there might have been a time when the dominant goal was to provide a free open-source UNIX-like operating system. But I don't think that's been the dominant goal for many years. I think the current dominant goal is Linux as a corporate desktop (probably half the work I'm observing is towards that goal). There's representation of all the other goals, though.

    PS: I think the lack of a single goal is one of Linux's greatest strengths.

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