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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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  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:48AM (#8644024) Journal
    If you look at the XDirectFB [directfb.org] screenshots you can see what it looks like using the DirectFB X-server :-) The server has the ability to make windows transparent/opaque by degree as focus is lost/gained or hidden/shown. Very nice :-)

    If this gets the go-ahead (and if it's open source), it'll be even nicer. The DirectFB X-server is still a standard 2-D environment, with all that entails. I can't see much use for attaching sticky notes to the "backs" of windows, but I'm sure someone will come up with one :-)

    Simon
  • Sounds interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plazman30 (531348) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:48AM (#8644025) Homepage
    This would be very nice to see. But I wonder if this is something that may leave the average home user confused.

    I believe the ultimate goal of Linux desktops should be to make the computer as easy to use as a Mac.

    Andy
  • by JohnGrahamCumming (684871) * <slashdotNO@SPAMjgc.org> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:52AM (#8644050) Homepage Journal
    Great, now we're going to get UI innovations from Sun? That's the last thing Linux needs: Sun has no history of doing _anything_ at all interesting in terms of UI work.

    And secondly who wants to flip through CDs like in real life looking for the one you want? Aargh. Hey, let's emulate a frustration of the real world ("Where's my All Saints' CD?") on the desktop. Hey, let's ignore any metadata we might have about the CD (artist, title, genre, ...). Hey, let's not do a search engine, let's do a linear search using fancy graphics. Woopee!

    Linux does not need some fancy graphics on the desktop to make an impact.

    John.
  • Video Drivers? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WARM3CH (662028) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:53AM (#8644060)
    3D graphics on the accelerated cards without video drivers? Anyone? I mean, at least for the most interesting news would be to hear about opensource, fully functional video drivers for major cards. By itselt, 3D desktops are not original ideas, lots of people have good ideas about them but only if Sun or anyone else could push nVidia or ATI to provide what we really need (and miss) in Linux, then I'd be impressed.
  • by haggar (72771) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:57AM (#8644095) Homepage Journal
    I saw a demo of Looking Glass. It rocked. And yes, I do see potential uses for this technology, not least for some serious storage management. Or complex document management. Or large EDA tool integration. The possibilities are fascinating, and don't tell me you "don't see them".

    But, this demo was so long ago, by now I thought every nerd on earth knew about it. I am surprised Slashdot psoted it as news.
  • WindowBlinds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pcraven (191172) <paul@cPARISravenfamily.com minus city> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:57AM (#8644096) Homepage
    StarDock's [stardock.com] WindowBlinds and its related FX software can 'shrink' a window to the desktop. You are supposed to soon be able to hold a shift key and shrink the window while keeping the content interactive.

    Unfortunately I can't find a link describing that part of the software right now. It hasn't been put out as a full release yet.

    I find that more useful than turning a window on its side. But not useful enough I actually use it.
  • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:06AM (#8644171) Homepage Journal

    For everyone else there is Mplayer, the universial media player!

    I was under the impression that video apps like Mplayer (and xine, and ...) are universal loaders-of-open-and-proprietary-DLLs-and-.so's, in conjunction with a universally bloated skin managers.

    I think the grandparent post is right: there are Open formats and there are Closed formats, and Sun's not going to win over idea-sharers by providing media that's encumbered by idea-hoarding technologies.

  • by Eastree (719351) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:13AM (#8644232) Homepage
    Yesterday I read a comment that Linux isn't doing much in the way of innovation -- and today, people want to compare something that hasn't yet been succesfully done with Microsoft. But who can really say, that if Looking Glass is functional in the "2.5 D" perspective, whether it will take off or not? It seems that it would be a good thing if Sun is successful. Not only would the iplimentation of such a desktop environment be completely unique among 2D offerings, it would also be a success in a way that other large name groups have not met much success.
  • If you're interested in experimenting with new desktop concepts and want something that works now you might like to checkout FreeMind http://freemind.sourceforge.net/

    While at heart it's a [really nice] open source mind map tool, you can get it to launch apps, mailers, URLs etc.

    When I'm managing a lot of complex related tasks and information, I've found it indespensible and it's accreting great features fast.
  • by MyHair (589485) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:17AM (#8644260) Journal
    they might start by posting the video in non-proprietary format!

    That was my first thought, but then I realized they more or less have to assume a number of important site visitors aren't running Windows. Do QT and RP come with MPEG decoders on other platforms? I know about mplayer, but I don't think you can assume everyone can view an MPEG or XVID video stream. Is there a codec that's save to assume any web viewer on any platform can view?

    (I hate both the QT and RP programs. Stay outta my task bar and don't do things without my specifically telling you to first! And quit asking me about upgrades. Yeah, yeah, free beer, mplayer libre, yada yada yada. I run into RP and QT at work.)
  • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:24AM (#8644312)
    Linux does not need some fancy graphics on the desktop to make an impact.

    I would disagree. Fancy graphics, eye candy, etc, appeals to the masses. The masses spend massive amounts of money on additional software. Massive amounts of money tends to attract the kind of attention Linux needs to make a lasting impact. (Note: it's already made a real impact:)

    So, even if this is utter crap for you and me and we might never use it, having it as an option would be good for Linux. After all, look at the functionally crappy but pretty Windows UI, and how many people "like" it. Then listen to new Mac panther users. They LOVE their new OS - "everything's so easy" is what I hear from the converted. Matter of fact, I'd say that OSX has done more to promote Unix to the common person's desktop than anyone.

  • by Dan Ost (415913) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:25AM (#8644320)
    I constantly make notes on paper about what I'm doing in each window
    so that I can quickly pick up where I left off should I get interupted
    by a meeting or phone call. Being able to attach a virtual "Post-id" note
    to a window seems like an awesome idea to me.

    Might not be a useful feature to everyone, but for people like me, it
    would definately be nice to have.
  • by DrWhizBang (5333) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:30AM (#8644365) Homepage Journal
    Although this may not be what linux needs right now, it certainly will be.

    All of the desktop stuff that you refer to is being worked on. I currently have a linux desktop at home, and my wife and kids use it with no problem. The linux desktop will soon be as good as the Windows or Mac desktop. ... then what do we do?

    Someone has to be working on The Next Big Thing (TM). Maybe it's not this, but we won't know unless someone works on proof of concept designs.

    Microsoft has said repeatedly that they believe that open source is not capable of innovation - only cloning. Well, that is certainly inaccurate, given apache, X, and the whole bloody internet. But it does set a bar higher, to make sure that linux can be more advanced than Windows, and to do that requires experimentation, and if a company like Sun is will ing to pay people to work on that, then so be it - even if their stuff is not open source, at least it is not Microsoft.
  • by niiler (716140) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:30AM (#8644366) Journal
    I have RealPlayer 8 for Linux and this showed the video just fine.

    In fact, I was impressed because when I clicked on the link it opened RP and fed it the correct URL. I didn't have to go searching through the source javascript to find how to construct it like I have to on so many different sites. This made me think: "Wow, these people are constructing Linux-friendly web pages!" Most designers embed RM clips inside the page which is fine if you are running IE.

    On the other hand, I do see what you're saying about putting things in non-proprietary format. I just think that they also may be shooting for the windows crowd as well. My suspicion is that they hope the eye-candy is cool enough that people will want to switch from MS. Only time will tell.

  • by OmniVector (569062) <see my homepage> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:41AM (#8644486) Homepage
    I actually talked with some of the Sun reps at LinuxWorld this year, and they said the reason the named it Java DS is because they did a market survey, and more people had heard of Java than Sun. Pretty sad huh?

    What i find remarkable is that in light of the fact that the desktop system has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with java, and the fact that the people in their customer base who would actually hear of such a product and really care all think naming a desktop system after a language is completely retarded, they go and name it Java DS anyways. They need to rethink their market.
  • by Atzanteol (99067) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:05AM (#8644770) Homepage
    Although cool 3d interfaces are nice and do create a more intuitive user interface

    Maybe to you, but I've always found such designs awkward. They're stuck trying to mimic 'real-world' objects, with the inherent limitations that go with them.
  • by Agent Orange (34692) <christhom.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:17AM (#8644894)
    Yep, I know exactly what you mean, but I would call this by a different name - abstraction! People are quite abstract in the way they think and the reason "slashdot mums" can use windows is because it's a good abstraction for the hardware. They don't care about kernel and stuff. They think about "sending an email" as a single, abstract object, not a system of protocols and programmes and layers etc etc. Windows-based systems, for all their clumsiness and inefficiency, are good at allowing users to do this sort of abstraction.

    I can imagine a desktop system in a year or two where everything is at the level of allowing a mother to use it (probably not mine though. she has determinedly avoided all my (frustrated) bashing with a clue-stick :-), including setting up hardware bits etc.

    Humans are amazing for their ability to think in abstract terms. It's really what makes us special....

    $AUS0.02
  • by anonicon (215837) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:29AM (#8645025)
    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.


    Call me silly, but you just contradicted yourself. If the average home user wants to it to imitate a Mac or W2K or Fisher-Price Speak and Spell, I agree that Linux shoud let them.

    I don't think the goal of Linux desktops should be to take away all the things I like about them.

    Problem is, ask 1,000 people what they like about the Linux desktop and you'll get little agreement. Besides, an experienced hacker will have a lot fewer problems re-configuring their desktop from a basic setup than the average user will trying to configure their desktop from a hacker setup.

    the average home user can use a stripped-down KDE set to emulate Windows or Mac if he/she wants to.

    This is a really good idea. I'd *love* to see a vanilla Linux standard that all programmers could program to without worrying about which of 97 flavors of Linux were installed on the PC. The CLI Commandos and UberL33ts could keep their CLIs and RTFM MAN pages while the general public benefited from having an inexpensive, realistic escape path from MS.
  • by ldamerow (708805) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:48AM (#8645211)

    I have to agree with you. I cringed when they brought up the example of the CD stack--immediately, I thought, "but I have 800 CDs!" Pretty much all of the UI usability experts warn against making interfaces that imitate real-world devices, and this is probably one of the best (worst?) examples of that rule's violation.

    So far, nobody I've talked to about Looking Glass can give me a genuinely good reason that turning everything into a 3D object is a useful thing to do. Can anyone here convince me?

  • by El_Ge_Ex (218107) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:49AM (#8645231) Journal
    Is it? Is it bullshit when the vast majority of computer users have Windows? When Windows apps are easier to install than Linux apps (though not as easy to remove :) )? In Windows most people still don't have to worry about user permissions (though luckily it's there).

    Now quit your damn whining, get off your ivory tower. and make Xwindows more usable if you think its sooooooo... good!

  • by Tin Foil Hat (705308) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#8645292)
    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.

    This is both true and false. Although Linux was originally developed as a open-source UNIX-like OS primarily for computer professionals, some people have since decided to turn into something suitable for mass consumption. Other people like having a free hard core OS for gurus. The beauty of Linux is that it can be, and is, both and much more.

    So it is not a case of conflicting goals, but of multiple goals. Since there is a nearly unlimited number of opportunities to pursue each goal, and a large number of people to do so, there is nothing wrong with such a division of resources. The pursuit of each different goal, in this case, has the unique benifit of strengthening all the others. This cooperation in competition is, in my opinion, Linux's single greatest strength and is what is driving the exponential growth in adoption and development that it currently enjoys.

  • by Jeff Archambeault (41488) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @12:42PM (#8645853) Homepage
    Sure, the eye candy helps, but it can't be just about that.

    It has to be more than a windows manager or a file manager, it must also do programming. Imagine 'frames/windows/whatevers' with sides, as well as backs. Want the translation of a foreign website? Just put that on a different side, as well as the stickynotes 'side', and sides for covering "pipes" and environment variables. Every object has it's own 'control panel' site, where the # of sides are defined. It's probably where 'relative faces' would be defined, where an axis of a web browser's object can be defined to return each search result on a 'face' of the given axis. No need to resort to cubism when free-form objects can be defined.

    Select a group of objects, and rotate the selected group to see their "pipes". "Pass-thru" programs that don't need any visual rendering space could just show up as a line, if viewed from one side, but have another side akin to a shell script. Directional flow lines between objects used for STDIO only show up in programming view.

    Any 'frame/window/view' should be able to become the 'primary/foreground', and each view can contain any number of other objects or views, allowing for far more than "3d". With enough memory, you could store the whole stack as it changed through time.

    Well, that's what such a beast would mean to me. It's more about walking through my filespace in a graphical MU*-like environment, it's more like picking up a strange shiney object in a room of such an environment...think of that Escher print of him drawing his reflection in the mirror/glass/metal(?)sphere...but if zoomed in on, will reveal that you're looking at is a view of the opposite of what you were looking at - MU* environment in a 'window' surrounded by desktop.

    I'll put the pipe down now ;)

    (These ideas are copyleft by the implementor)

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