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Opencroquet 380

Posted by michael
from the thwock-thwock dept.
zymano writes "OSnews has some information about Opencroquet, a 3d operating system worked on by Alan Kay, who also is one of the inventors of Smalltalk, one of the fathers of object oriented programming, conceiver of the laptop computer, inventor of much of the modern windowing GUI. The OS is a 3D environment running through the Squeak environment on top of another operating system. It requires a supported 3D accelerator. Squeak is an interpreted language similar to Smalltalk. Could be ssslooooww. Way cool screenshot."
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Opencroquet

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  • by Quill_28 (553921) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:04AM (#5493208) Journal
    Summary

    Croquet had the working name of Tea until recently. You will see many references to Tea in the system, in the code, and even in this document. Just
    assume that when you see Tea, we mean Croquet.

    Croquet was built to answer a simple question. If we were to create a new operating system and user interface knowing what we know today, how far
    could we go. What kinds of decisions would we make that we might have been unable to even consider 20 or 30 years ago, when the current set of
    operating systems were first created.

    The landscape of possibilities has evolved tremendously in the last few years. Without a doubt, we can consider Moore's law and the Internet as the two
    primary forces that are colliding like tectonic plates to create an enormous mountain range of possibilities. Since every existing OS was created when the
    world around it was still quite flat, they were not designed to truly take advantage of the heights that we are now able to scale.

    What is perhaps most remarkable about this particular question is that in answering it, we find that we are revisiting much of the work that was done in
    the early sixties and seventies that ultimately led to the current successful architectures. One could say that that in reality, this question was asked long
    ago, and the strength of the answer has successfully carried us for a quarter century. On the other hand, the current environments are really just the thin
    veneer over what even long ago were seriously outmoded approaches to development and design. Most of the really good fundamental ideas that people
    had were left on the cutting room floor.

    That isn't to say that they thought of everything either. A great deal has happened in the last few decades that allows for some fundamentally new
    approaches that could not have been considered at the time.

    We are making a number of assumptions:

    Hardware is fast - really fast, but other than for booting Windows or playing Quake no one cares - nor can they really use it. We want to take advantage
    of this power curve to enable a richer experience.

    3D Graphics hardware is really, really fast and getting much faster. This is great for games, but we would like to unlock the potential of this technology to
    enhance the entire user experience.

    Late bound languages have experienced a renaissance in both functionality and performance. Extreme late-bound systems like LISP and Smalltalk have
    often been criticized as being too slow for many applications, especially those with stringent real-time demands. This is simply no longer the case, and as
    Croquet demonstrates, world-class performance is quite achievable on these platforms.

    Communication has become a central part of the computing experience, but it is still done through the narrowest of pipes, via email or letting someone
    know that they have just been converted into chunks in Quake. We want to create a true collaboration environment, where the computer is not just a
    world unto itself, but a meeting place for many people where ideas can be expressed, explored, and transferred.

    Code is just another media type, and should be just as portable between systems. Late binding and component architectures allow for a valuable
    encapsulation of behaviors that can be dynamically shared and exchanged.

    The system should act as a virtual machine on top of any platform. We are not creating just another application that runs on top of Windows, or the
    Macintosh - we are creating a Croquet Machine that is highly portable and happens to run bit-identical on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and ultimately on
    its own hardware... anywhere we have a CPU and a graphics processor. Once the virtual machine has been ported, everything else follows; even the
    bugs are the same. Most attempts at true multiplatform systems have turned out to be dangerous approximations (cf. Java) rather than the bit-identical
    "mathematically guaranteed" ports that are required.

    There are no boundaries in the system. We are creating an environment where anything can be created; everything can be modified, all in the 3D world.
    There is no separate development environment, no user environment. It is all be the same thing. We can even change and author the worlds in
    collaboration with others inside them while they are operating .

    The existing operating systems are like the castles that were owned by their respective Lords in the Middle Ages. They were the centers of power, a way
    to control the population and threaten the competition. Sometimes, a particular Lord would become overpowering, and he would get to declare himself as
    King. This was great for the King. And not to bad for the rest of the nobles, but in the end - technology progressed and people started blowing holes in
    the sides of the castles. The castles were abandoned. Technology does this.
  • Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:06AM (#5493219)

    summary.html [mrhostbot.com]

    teapot.jpeg [mrhostbot.com]

    Croquet0.1.pdf [mrhostbot.com]

    I grabbed the summary text and screenshot as well as the Croquet user manual in anticipation of /. effect. Thank MrHOSTBOT [mrhostbot.com] for the free bandwidth.

    Oh, and people seemed to be labeled "karma whore" just because they post useful (mirror) links, so I guess I'll stick to A.C. in order to please the masses.

  • Mom, mom. My game of HalfLife is running at half the speed on this OS.
    That is because the desktop is up with full 3d-acceleration, fog, per pixel lightning, stencil shadows for under the text, realtime ratracer on the taskbar reflecting the desktop at a resolution of 1600x1200.
    Oh, okey! ;-)
  • well (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I guess I'll finally have to upgrade my 486
  • ouch.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Keebler71 (520908) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:07AM (#5493232) Journal
    ...conceiver of the laptop computer

    I hope he had good birthing hips... that sounds uncomfortable.

  • prototype? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Squeak is an interpreted language similar to Smalltalk. Could be ssslooooww.


    Since the article is slashdotted, this comment might come out as a RTFA comment, but anyway:


    Is the 3D desktop meant to be a proof-of-concepts or a real product? If the system i slow due to this Squeak, perhaps it could be translated into somthing that compiles?

    • Re:prototype? (Score:5, Informative)

      by brandonY (575282) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:29AM (#5493399)
      I think not. Compiling would mitigate the whole point. The idea is that it's a perfect virtual machine, with exactly the same code for every system, plus a tiny little bit of specific OS code in C at the very bottom. Squeak's available for so many platforms because it takes this approach. Anybody can knock out a new version in no time, while with something with Java, a new version is a major undertaking and is sure to come with its own unique bugs. Besides, Squeak is actually surprisingly fast for a true OO, VM-based system. It can even handle movie-playing and some 3D stuff with surprisingly good speed. Yay VMs!
    • Re:prototype? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RevAaron (125240) <revaaron AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:46AM (#5493540) Homepage
      A correction to the original post:

      Squeak isn't an interpreted language like Perl or Basic (usually) is. Squeak is compiled, but to bytecode. The bytecode is then JIT-compiled or interpreted. Never is the code itself interpreted.
    • There is a cross-plaform vector-based (3D) network aware GUI project underway, written in C and C++ and using OpenGL called Fresco [fresco.org]. It's still in early development, but it has a couple of demos you can run.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Maybe this is a about 3D _GUI_.
    • by jd142 (129673)
      Why can't an operating system by 3d? There's no reason that the basest part of an operating system has to be a command line. If the operating system makes the assumption that it will have a 3d card to talk to, there's no reason it can't be 3d.

      Of course, for right now all "3d" operating systems, plugins, demos, etc are being displayed on a 2d screen. So they are merely pretending to be 3d. When we get true 3 dimensional displays/holocubes/whatever, then we'll really have a 3d operating system displayed in 3d.

      All of which makes me wonder: did the graphical mac's ever have anything other than a 2d gui interface? Could you put them into a cli mode, sort of what we might think of as a one dimensional os? I remember the old Apple ]['s, I think, that had a cli. I remember playing Oregon Trail on them when I was in elementary school. But I mean the macs that booted right into a gui.
      • by jpsst34 (582349) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @12:33PM (#5494536) Journal
        "There's no reason that the basest part of an operating system has to be a command line"

        Um, the command line is a shell. The shell is not the OS, it is a user interface. You know, the "UI" in "GUI."

        An operating system has no concept of 2d, 3d, whatever. There is no direct interaction between human and OS. The human interacts with the UI, the UI interacts with the OS, the OS interacts with the hardware. The OS is not a visual thing.
  • by defile (1059)

    I hope Smalltalk will not be the only language you can use to write programs. I think it's cool, but there's no reason I shouldn't be able to use other programming languages I know.

    • Re:Nifty! (Score:3, Informative)

      by TulioSerpio (125657)
      Squeak it's an Object ambient, not a programming lenguage alone. That's mean every thing you see is an object (the compiler, the classes, the windows, the number 3, the message "+" send to the object 5, etc. etc.).
      I think the idea is to create an OS from Squeak, and opencroquet being the shell.
      The language itself is used to do things like open files, if you want.
      You can program in assembler, if you can. But you must think in Assembler.
  • I've worked with some ppl from Cincom (shouts to Peter if you're still working there), and they do tons of Small Talk applications.

    This stuff is kind of addicting once you get into it, it is very radically different and just a strange concept when thinking about what we're used to.

    Squeak is like a living organism of an application. It just sort of evolves as you use it, giving it tons of capabilities and flexibility.

    The whole thing is wrapped around really little messages being sent around and everything being just in time / real time.

    Definately look up squeak and give it a try.

    Bob
    (all this praise from a Perl nut even)
  • by nherc (530930) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:16AM (#5493293) Journal
    Way cool screenshot.

    Hmm, the main link was slashdotted, so I tried the OS's website http://www.opencroquet.org [opencroquet.org]. Maybe they should change their main graphic to the "Way Cool screenshot" rather than the Monet looking Croquet game they have going on right now. They might garner a bit more interest.

  • mirror of screenshot (Score:3, Informative)

    by oever (233119) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:16AM (#5493298) Homepage
    Here's the screenshot [fenk.wau.nl]
    It's not too spectacular, if you ask me.
  • Licensing? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by big_gibbon (530793)

    I could well be missing something here - read the site and the article though, so at least I made an effort :)

    What license is this code being developed under? It's called OPENCroquet, so presumably it's some kind of Open Source, but what flavour? Is it, in fact, Open at all?

    I ask cos it looks interesting and I wanna play :)

    P

    • Re:Licensing? (Score:3, Informative)

      by jitterbug (38915)
      This is the current state of the license:

      "... until a better license is written, Croquet is
      covered under the current Squeak license."
      - Team Croquet

      The license allows for modification and redistribution, but has some quirky clauses in it because of it's lineage as proprietary software that owned by Apple.

      It's worth noting, that the Smalltalk community since the beginning has always exposed all of it's source and allowed and encouraged users to modify the code and expand the code base. This goes back long before the open software/free software movements took root.

      ---

      Squeak License
      Apple Computer, Inc. Software License
      PLEASE READ THIS SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT "LICENSE" CAREFULLY BEFORE DOWNLOADING THIS SOFTWARE. BY DOWNLOADING THIS SOFTWARE YOU ARE AGREEING TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS OF THIS LICENSE. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THE TERMS OF THIS LICENSE, DO NOT DOWNLOAD.

      1. License. The software, documentation and any fonts which you will receive by downloading this software (the "Apple Software") are licensed, not sold, to you by Apple Computer, Inc. or its local subsidiary, if any. Apple and/or Apple's licensor(s) retain title to the Apple Software, and the Apple Software and any copies which this License authorizes you to make are subject to this License. This License grants no right or license under any trademarks, service marks, or tradenames of Apple.

      2. Permitted Uses and Restrictions. This License allows you to copy, install and use the Apple Software on an unlimited number of computers under your direct control. You may modify and create derivative works of the Apple Software ("Modified Software"), however, you may not modify or create derivative works of the fonts provided by Apple ("Fonts"). You may distribute and sublicense such Modified Software only under the terms of a valid, binding license that makes no representations or warranties on behalf of Apple, and is no less protective of Apple and Apple's rights than this License. You may distribute and sublicense the Fonts only as a part of and for use with Modified Software, and not as a part of or for use with Modified Software that is distributed or sublicensed for a fee or for other valuable consideration. If the Modified Software contains modifications, overwrites, replacements, deletions, additions, or ports to new platforms of: (1) the methods of existing class objects or their existing relationships, or (2) any part of the virtual machine, then for so long as the Modified Software is distributed or sublicensed to others, such modified, overwritten, replaced, deleted, added and ported portions of the Modified Software must be made publicly available, preferably by means of download from a website, at no charge under the terms set forth in Exhibit A below. You may transfer your rights under this License provided you transfer this License and a copy of the Apple Software to a party who agrees to accept the terms of this License and destroy any other copies of the Apple Software in your possession. Your rights under this License will terminate automatically without notice from Apple if you fail to comply with any term(s) of this License.

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      EXHIBIT A
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  • Wicket. (Score:3, Funny)

    by viper21 (16860) <scott@iqfound r y . com> on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:19AM (#5493320) Homepage
    Insert witty Wicket joke here.

    And what happens if two Croquet machines have packet collisions? Which one gets to make the croquet shot?

    -S
  • by myLobster (528056) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:20AM (#5493322) Homepage

    "Way cool screenshot."
    That sort of link is red rag to a bull...
    Slashdotted already...
  • it's a stretch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LMCBoy (185365) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:20AM (#5493325) Homepage Journal
    The OS is a 3D environment running through the Squeak environment on top of another operating system.

    OK, I didn't RTFA, but...if it runs on top of another OS, it can't really be called an OS itself, can it? I mean, win95 jokes aside, isn't it just a fancy GUI then?
    • Re:it's a stretch (Score:4, Informative)

      by RevAaron (125240) <revaaron AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:43AM (#5493514) Homepage
      Yes and no. Squeak itself is an operating system which is usually hosted on another OS, like Unix or Windows. However, it is possible for it to run on the bare metal, and there has been some work towards that end. You can even write new hardware drivers in Smalltalk. This is x86 only so far- most people are content to run it ontop of another OS for now, so there hasn't been a huge push towards getting rid of the inferior host OSes quite yet.
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @01:31PM (#5495027) Journal
      OK, I didn't RTFA, but...if it runs on top of another OS, it can't really be called an OS itself, can it?

      No, the usual term for a program which runs on top of an OS but still seems to want to implement all the features of an Os is 'emacs'.

  • 3D OS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SirLantos (559182)
    If I am reading this correctly, they have made a 3D OS. Does anybody else here feel that, we (as a community) are putting way to much emphasis on the those two little characters 3 and D?

    Couldn't we be spending our time trying to figure out how to make an easier to use, less complex OS? Something that isn't scary to people who have no idea how to use computers. Perhaps then we would see what a computer revolution would be all about.

    Or maybe we could spend the time figuring out how to make computers more secure, so people wouldn't be afraid to put private info on it. Thus making it so that people are more likely to use them for everyday purposes.

    But, no we decide we want to go 3D.

    Makes you think, does the geek community really want computers to be used by everyone? Or do that want something only they themselves can understand?

    Don't mod me down because you dissagree, if you disagree make a good argument about it.

    Just my humble opinion,
    SirLantos
    • Re:3D OS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kinnell (607819) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:49AM (#5493576)
      I don't think we decided anything. This is a research project. Developing something new is always good (and I get the impression there's more to it than just a 3D window manager). Even if what you develop is rubbish, at least we learn what path not to follow. Hypothetically, focusing everybody's effort on refining one idea to perfection will result in improvement in the short term for that one idea, but it would be a tremendous waste of creativity.
    • Re:3D OS (Score:3, Informative)

      "Or maybe we could spend the time figuring out how to make computers more secure, so people wouldn't be afraid to put private info on it. Thus making it so that people are more likely to use them for everyday purposes."

      That's pretty lame reasoning. We're not playing Master of Orion here. You can't turn up a slider on "Security Research" and have everybody focus on this.

  • in this week we had articles about ultratiny and fast operating systems and GUI, like Contiki [slashdot.org] and now one that goes in the other direction, 3D, object oriented, high hardware requeriments, running on a interpreted environment, etc. Can't be done an average desktop/operating system, that is maybe not as tiny as Contiki, nor as object oriented as Opencrocket, but try to be good enough in each of this categories?
  • by arvindn (542080) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:24AM (#5493355) Homepage Journal
    ... that this guy's ideas are always way ahead of his time?

    Like smalltalk. Early 70s, IIRC. The problem of managing increasing software complexity, which object orientation (partly) solved, became significant only much later.

    I don't think 3d enviromnents are an idea whose time has come. Slowness is only part of the problem. We really don't have the software infrastructure to scale UI complexity to those levels. Maybe for special applications, but not as a general UI design paradigm.

    There are no boundaries in the system. We are creating an environment where anything can be created; everything can be modified, all in the 3D world. There is no separate development environment, no user environment. It is all be the same thing. We can even change and author the worlds in collaboration with others inside them while they are operating .
    Certainly futuristic.
    • Except for the 3D part - and I'm not convinced that it is a good idea - this sounds a lot like the Symbolics LispMachine OS, Genera. Which was really, really cool.

      However, I wonder if the "no boundaries" way of things is still a good idea, given a machine connected to the hostile Internet. I wouldn't want a cracker end up in an "everything can be modified" environment.

    • by ajs (35943) <ajs.ajs@com> on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @11:53AM (#5494174) Homepage Journal
      The real question is, scale UI complexity to *what* levels?

      There are a lot of folks who will arm-wave at the idea of 3D UIs. I've yet to see a 3D UI that a) renders on current 2D screens and b) provides any significant advantage over the 2D concepts of window-stacking, iconification, virtual screens and alpha-channel blending.

      Some of these concepts are still in the "time to market" stage (e.g. alpha-channel blending), but given their application, the idea of tracking UI objects in three dimensions (which increases memory usage) isn't really going to buy you much.

      Take a look at the screen-shots. Squint. Try to convince yourself that you're looking at a rendered background with several overlapping windows. Now ask yourself: do the addition of perspective and a z-axis for window movement improve the situation, or just add complexity?
  • "Hardware is fast - really fast, but other than for booting Windows or playing Quake no one cares - nor can they really use it. We want to take advantage of this power curve to enable a richer experience."

    Does anyone else here read this as 'expanding the software to fill the available space (CPU-cycles & memory bandwidth)'?

    Instead of focusing on enabling 'a richer experience' let us focus first on what is wrong with the current 'solutions' we're using and realize that 'doing more with less' is more than just common sense.

    Don't tell me you really think that an OS like Win2k/XP or *NIX/*BSD is the 'be all, end all' of running software on a computersystem. Heck, over 10 years we'll simply laugh at those archaic things we're using (including countless hardware devices), much like we look back at using punch cards.

    In other words, nothing to see here. Wait until we realize the mistakes we've been making and start from scratch again.
  • by jarober61 (598836) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:28AM (#5493380) Homepage
    It's cool to see Smalltalk getting noticed, but the misconceptions continue to run amok. Smalltalk is not typically interpreted - like Java, it's a JIT'ed language. The major commercial versions all use a JIT, and there's an experimental one for Squeak around - check the Squeak home page at http://www.squeak.org If you are curious about the commercial implementations - all of which have free downloads - check out this site: http://www.whysmalltalk.com
    • In that language performance shootout everyone was looking at a year or so ago, whatever implementation of SmallTalk he was using ended up near the top of the ranks, usually only a couple of times slower than the compiled C version (and, iirc, somewhat faster than whatever JVM was being used).

      Write your speed critical inner loops in C/assm, write the rest in SmallTalk, you'd probably end up with a system with perfectly decent performance, with the advantage of being far more stable and maintainable.
  • Now we can enjoy the thrill of croquet, even on rainy days or in winter. I can't get to the website, because it's slashdotted, but it sounds almost as exciting as Championship Bass Fishing. Will there be a linux version?
  • Real Estate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by devnullkac (223246) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:29AM (#5493392) Homepage
    While I've never used a 3D GUI (other than Quake), the problem I perceive from the outside looking in (so to speak) is that a 15 inch, 19 inch, or even 24 inch computer monitor is an awfully narrow window through which to view the world. My eyes can flit about the physical 3D space of my office quite quickly, but if the virtual 3D space I want to view is larger than my screen, I can't move my eyes beyond the screen edge without using my hands.

    Until this problem is overcome, either with giant screens, head-mounted displays, or some bizarre gesture-controlled scrolling (like head tilts), I can't see 3D GUIs becoming more than a curiosity because they consume too much 2D screen space without giving enough virtual space back.
    • ... and what's more, the pointing device needs to change as well.

      As far as I see it, it's very simple: 2D screen, 2D pointer = 2D interface. That's the best construct as this is hardware-limited.

      Likewise, 3D interface = 3D display + 3D pointer. It's no good doing a 2.5D interface.

      I keep an avid watch on new interface developments, but I note with some alarm these screenshots that pop up. Alan Kay is a genius, safe to say, as is Jef Raskin. However, having a look at a screenshot for Croquet, or worse, THE, is a distinctly underwhelming sensation. THE in particular looks particularly un-humane. I understand all the theory - it just doesn't seem to pan out on first impressions.

      The ideal future interface will be a successful blending of the old-school methods with some radical rethinking. We can't toss things like toolbars just yet, as there is a whole world of commerical apps that will need to be at least a little similar in operation.

  • not slow (Score:5, Informative)

    by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:30AM (#5493403)
    Squeak's byte code engine is better than Perl's or Python's, and there is a JIT available (although it's nowhere near as good as Sun's JIT for Java). And you can translate time-critical stuff into native code using a batch compiler and some manual intervention.

    But raw execution speed isn't all that counts. Because Squeak has everything in one address space (unlike Gnome/KDE) and doesn't need to load anything on the fly (unlike Java), it's actually very responsive and uses comparatively little memory.

    I don't think Squeak or anything based on it is going to replace mainstream desktops now or in the future. But it is an interesting platform for experimentation. It's also historically interesting because you can see the kinds of environments people already had available in 1980 (Smalltalk-80 is contained in Squeak).

    • is too slow (Score:3, Informative)

      by cryptoluddite (658517)
      First poster says Smalltalk is no longer slow and that Java is "dangerous", but fairly recent testing [google.com] showed the truth:

      Math: 20x-300x slower than C or Java.
      Method calls: 5x slower.

      Overall overhead from OO is at least 10x for Smalltalk over C++ (there are a LOT more messages/method calls and almost none are inlined). Also since everything is a 'live' object when people screw up their desktop they have to do the moral equivalent of reinstalling the OS.
    • Perl has no bytecode engine. Based on that, I'm assuming the author of the parent content hasn't really done any reasearch. 'Nuff said.
    • Re:not slow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by karlm (158591) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @12:07PM (#5494308) Homepage
      Squeak's byte code engine is better than Perl's or Python's, and there is a JIT available (although it's nowhere near as good as Sun's JIT for Java).

      Better in what way? I'm not trying to be argumentative. For all I know, the Squeak VM allows a 486 DX2 at 66 MHz to pump out 3 teraflops on .2 watts and has been shown to cure cancer in lab rats.

      "Better" really doesn't say much. You might as well have made up a word or posted in Linear B.

      Are you talking about inherent superiority of the VM spec? Is the design simpler? Is the set of opcodes smaller or more orthogonal without sacrificing speed or functionality? Has it supported non-blocking I/O, continuances, higher order functions, and generics/templates from day 1? (Can you tell I'm a Java programmer that hated not getting java.nio.* until Java 1.4? Now for generics and continuances...) Did Dijkstra, Turing, Ken Thompson, Xavier Leroy, Ross Andersen and Linus spend a year in seclusion atop Mount Araraat inside Noah's Ark designing a VM spec that was pretty-printed by the hand of God Almighty on the one remaining wall of Solomon's temple? Is the set of opcodes inherently faster or does it result in more compact binaries? Is the set of opcodes well chosen to be easily implemented on most architectures? Is the size of an int clearly defined in the spec (as I remember, both Perl and Python say "at least 32 bits", which is a horrible spec if you want your code to run the same across architectures)? Does the set of opcodes lend itself to rapid compilation of efficient bytecode from many source language families? Are the bytecode operations and file formats well suited to JITs? Does the VM design not force a single object model on the code? Does the opcode format offer security benefits such as efficient real-time security checks on untrusted code? Are there other ways in which the design is "cleaner", "leaner", or "more efficient".

      Are you refering to the design of the curent VM implementation rather than the spec itself? Is the current VM better documented in both English and Tamil? How about clean interfaces or easy extensibility of the VM?

      Are you talking about the implementation of the current bytecode engine? Is the source code for the VM well commented in Englsih and Thai? Is the entire VM and libraary set implememted in 5,000 lines of Objective C? Is the current VM available in C, Java, Scheme, Haskel, and Intercal implementations?

      I suspect you mostly meant "the current canonical implementation is very fast". The speed of the current VM is much less important than inherent design limitations. If the current VM is 50% as fast as the fastest Perl VM, but is expected to be 25% faster than the fastest JVM in a year, that's much preferable to a 10% speed lead on Perl right now. If you change your VM spec too much or too often, people start jumping ship, but you could completely gut your VM every 2 years and very few people would take notice. You're stuck with your design.

      I'd love to hear an analysis of the Squeak VM. I hear about so many well designed VMs that get little mind share while the unwashed masses rave about CLR/Mono without giving good details about why the CLR is inherently cross-language and high performance.

  • Where's the beef? (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by timeOday (582209)
    Ah, yes, the old.. "operating systems haven't changed enough recently, so let's change them... somehow... anyhow" routine. "The OS doesn't use enough computing resources. Maybe we can figure out a way to make it less efficient. Surely this will help the user somehow... wouldn't it?"

    Of course the phrase "3d Operating System" is a non-sequitur in the first place. But then again, are they developing an OS at all?

    The system should act as a virtual machine on top of any platform. We are not creating just another application that runs on top of Windows, or the Macintosh - we are creating a Croquet Machine that is highly portable and happens to run bit-identical on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and ultimately on its own hardware... anywhere we have a CPU and a graphics processor.
    OK, so it's not even remotely an OS - just yet another attempt at a useful 3d GUI which could conceivably one day run on specialized hardware.
    There are no boundaries in the system. We are creating an environment where anything can be created; everything can be modified, all in the 3D world. There is no separate development environment, no user environment. It is all be the same thing. We can even change and author the worlds in collaboration with others inside them while they are operating
    Just like a lisp machine (except 3d graphics somehow play into it?) Woohoo! You can hack the OS while you write a letter to grandma!
    There are no boundaries in the system. We are creating an environment where anything can be created; everything can be modified, all in the 3D world.
    No pesky memory protection, no cumbersome file permissions! I'm freeeeee! Hey, stop reading my email!
    • Re:Where's the beef? (Score:4, Informative)

      by fitzell (648897) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @02:28PM (#5495552)
      OK, so it's not even remotely an OS - just yet another attempt at a useful 3d GUI which could conceivably one day run on specialized hardware.
      Sure it is - it just happens to be running on top of another layer at the moment. Nothing prevents that layer from disappearing and letting the system run directly on the hardware. All you need to do is implement the bae set of primitives.
      Just like a lisp machine (except 3d graphics somehow play into it?) Woohoo! You can hack the OS while you write a letter to grandma!
      It's true. It is written in smalltalk after all. This is actually one of the coolest things about developing in Squeak. When the debugger doesn't do something the way you want, you can just subclass it and change it so it does!
      No pesky memory protection, no cumbersome file permissions! I'm freeeeee! Hey, stop reading my email!
      When he says "everything can be modified" - he is speaking theoretically. As I understand it, a lot of work is going into developing a permission system (if memory serves, I think they're playing with a capabilities-based system) and this work certainly needs to be completed before people are going to start opening their worlds up to... well the World :) The Croquet team is well aware of the issues there - it's just not their primary focus yet.
  • I don't get it...

    So you can "shrink" windows by increasing the "distance" to them? But you can resize windows already...

    So you can layer the windows on top of each other? You can do that already -- with transparency too, if that's preferred...

    Why use a 3D OS? Do you actually work faster in it, or what?
  • I wonder what a virus on this would look like...

    A window that constantly moving away from you

    A window that is always behind you

    A spherical window

    Makes all your windows bounce off each other in a low gravity environment

    Actually, these all sound kind of cool.

  • You still get windows behind windows, and windows far in the distance are only useful for images, not text. Then again, I can't read the article until it is available. Must be a 3D web server.
  • Squeak is an interpreted language similar to Smalltalk. Could be ssslooooww.

    Maybe, but bearing in mind we currently have multiple gigahertz computers, most of the 3D graphics is dealt with by hardware, and interpreters are usually at worst only 20x slower (at the very worst), this means that your program will run as slow as machine code did about 4 years ago; but the graphics will go at full speed. I'll think I'll survive.

    Also, Java is "interpreted" (actually it's typically a JIT, but it behaves like an interpreter), and that's currently about half the speed of optimised C or there abouts.

    Also, check out dynamo [umd.edu], which is a machine code interpreter that interprets the same machine code as the machine it runs on somewhat faster than the microprocessor executes it (atleast about half the time anyway). It actually performs run time optimisation like code rearrangement and stuff, it's very clever.

    Anyway, interpreters are not always slow; and they are usually plenty fast enough in practice.

    I think quite a lot of FPS games have interpreters in them anyway to run the game code.

  • When you put a high resolution screenshot on a server named "Minnow" you should expect nothing less
  • Google cached image (Score:2, Informative)

    by vosbert (544192)
    Since the screenshot is slashdotted,the image on the left I presume is the screenshot (although a little small and hard to see) Small google cache of screen shot [google.com]
  • "one of the inventors of Smalltalk, one of the fathers of object oriented programming, conceiver of the laptop computer, inventor of much of the modern windowing GUI."

    Holy shit, he must be the most hated man in the whole of computing! If I was him I'd be laying low.

  • by androse (59759) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @10:54AM (#5493616) Homepage
    This is the kind of stuff that is regularly discussed on Nooface [nooface.com] (a Slash site BTW).

    Ripped straight off the side bar :

    Will 3D user interfaces ever take off? With ever-growing 3D processing capabilities available on standard PC hardware, it seems only natural to pursue UI directions that take advantage of this awesome power. Moreover, the generation of users now emerging has had access to video games for as long as they could remember. As the line between video games and PCs becomes blurrier, the time may have come to think about how to apply 3D visualization techniques for more day-to-day computing tasks.

    Here are links to some of the 3DUIs that are available today:

    - FSN [sgi.com] (pronounced "fusion") produces a cyberspace rendering of a file system. This was the original 3D file system navigator shown in Jurassic Park [monash.edu.au] ("Hey, this is UNIX. I know this!").
    [Screenshot [monash.edu.au]] | [Download [sgi.com]] (IRIX)

    - FSV [sourceforge.net] is modelled after FSN, but runs on Linux. FSV lays out files and directories in 3D, geometrically representing the file system hierarchy to allow visual overview and analysis.
    [Screenshot [sourceforge.net]] | [Download [tucows.com]] (Linux)

    - Xcruise [nooface.com] lets you fly through a filesystem in 3D as if it were interplanetary space. Directories are represented as galaxies, files are represented as planets (whose mass is determined by the file size), and symbolic links are represented as wormholes.
    [Screenshot [titech.ac.jp]] | [Download [unixuser.org]] (Linux)

    - TDFSB [hgb-leipzig.de] is a 3D filesystem browser for Linux. Take a walk through your filesystem!
    [Screenshot [hgb-leipzig.de]] | [Download [hgb-leipzig.de]] (Linux)

    - Visual File System [nooface.com] is a 3D file system visualizer for Windows. The tool scans a drive selected by the user, and then models the contents of the drive in 3D, based on the directories that are selected in a tree browser on the side of the display.
    [Screenshot [manann.tng.de]] | [Download [manann.tng.de]] (Windows)

    - 3Dtop [nooface.com] is an extension for Windows that represents desktop icons in 3D, letting you to fly around your desktop. You can create coloured spotlights, background and floor textures, "paintings" (bitmaps), clocks, and "flags" that represent shortcuts.
    [Screenshot [3dtop.com]] | [Download [3dtop.com]] (Windows)

    - ROOMS [nooface.com] turns a Windows desktop into a 3D world. You can see the world either through a first person perspective or with a map view, and you can populate the world with sounds, animated images, and 3D icons.
    [Screenshot [rooms3d.com]] | [Download [rooms3d.com]] (Windows)

    - CubicEye [2ce.com] organizes windows into a navigable cube. Cubes can be arranged by thematic or functional subject matter, and can be explored either individually or collectively as part of a more comprehensive structure of multiple cubes representing various areas of interest.
    [Screenshot [2ce.com]] | [Download [2ce.com]] (Windows)

    - Vizible WorldViewer [vizible.com] distributes windows across the exterior and interior surfaces of spheres, providing the means to visualize and navigate large numbers of web pages and data sources simultaneously.
    [Screenshot [vizible.com]]

  • Tried it (Score:2, Informative)

    by ItWasThem (458689)
    I tried this when it was announced on nooface.com a few months ago... at that time when I tried to run it the Squeak window came up but the app itself bombed. I tried and tried and couldn't even get the shell to run. I think this project has a long ways to go before it's even at the "experimental" stage. I think 3dwm is farther along at least in try-ability, but good luck to them.
  • Swedish radio sent an interview with Alan Kay today. The interviewer tells him that he could have been Bill Gates and Kay responds with "But Bill Gates doesn't know anything important about computers so who'd want to be him?".

    Link [www.sr.se] to real audio clip (click on "Lyssna" and go to the end of the file). The interview is about what he did at Xerox.
  • Squeak is an interpreted language similar to Smalltalk. Could be ssslooooww

    Good grief, we just don't know what to do with all the cycles we have these days. We really don't. Windows runs at the same speed at 500MHz as it does at 3GHz. The video hardware is doing more work than the processor. Smalltalk being slow is a red herring. There will always be someone, when we have 500GHz processors, saying that all Perl scripts should be rewritten in C to make them faster.
  • In all non-trolling seriousness, this kind of thing puts all the didling "innovation" in desktop environments, and all the bickering between KDE and Gnome, into sharp perspective. Gotta give Mr. Kay credit for being focused on action and not just talking himself up.
  • There are a few things that seem wrong with this system from looking at the acrobat... Perhaps the designers should take some tips from the 3D game worlds that exist today as experiments in navigation / segmentation. First off, STRAFING is much easier than TURNING when in tight situations. I'm very surprised that it isn't the default action for moving the mouse, but the acrobat lists no modifier key for strafing at all. Without strafing, you're steering, not walking. Second, a built-up landscape would allow for both very natural and very memorable placements. Photos could go in an art gallery space, players could spawn on a pedastal, MP3's in the downstairs den, etc. This would also allow for very natural access control metaphors. The Root user very literally could have the key to the power shed. Third, the program is not really 3D yet. The maps displayed are all 2D+, ala Wolfenstein. It would be easier from a human perspective to have multiple "floors" for various purposes, such as a work floor, a relaxation floor, a dusty old storage floor, etc.

    It does appear that some of the above is being worked on. However, the current space metaphor owes a lot more to, well, wolfenstein than Descent (which offered full, true 3D movement).

    One final observation... As the window was built up from the command line, so too is the world space being built up from the window.

    I can't wait until this is good enough for Microsoft to steal.

  • by RevAaron (125240) <revaaron AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @11:18AM (#5493810) Homepage
    A lot of people are extrapolating from the statement about speed sans a 3D accelerator that Squeak itself is slow. Not the case. Squeak isn't interpreted, it's bytecode compiled, and the VM is quite well done. I regularily run Squeak on machines which, by today's standards are pretty slow- 75 MHz MIPS, 206 MHz StrongARM, and a 350 MHz K6-2. To me, these machines are still pretty fast and useful, Squeak making them even more so.

    Squeak has two different GUI systems which you can use- Morphic and MVC. MVC is the "original WIMP," the first ever GUI system. It has deviated a bit from what came out of Xerox almost 30 years ago, but it has the same API and most of the same source code. It has Mac-like window decorations instead of the BeOS-like tabs now a days. MVC is a lot faster than Morphic for a number of reasons. It is what I will use on the slowest of the machines I use for Squeak (75 MHz). A number of GUI APIs have been modeled after MVC over the years, including Swing (MVC is much faster, don't get me wrong!) and Cocoa AppKit.

    Morphic is what most folks use when they are running Squeak. It has a really cool programming model- applications can be built programmatically, with a GUI builder, or by directly manipulating the Morphs (graphical objects). A common example is the Rolodex- you can make on in Squeak without writing a line of code, just drag some Morphs around, make a few menu decisions, and there you go.

    Morphic is slower than MVC, but you get what you pay for (computationally!). It is still quite usably fast on a 350 MHz K6-2 (~300 MHz PII), however.

    I have not tried Croquet yet. There has been a lot of talk on the Squeak list about it, but in all honesty, 3D worlds aren't really my thing. People have been talking about the 90 MB download- most of that is media. A standard Squeak download is around 10-15 MB for the latest version, including a lot of useful classes and applications. Out-of-box memory footprint is 20 MB or so, but if you trim what you don't need, you can easily end up with a 1-3 MB image and a 2-4 MB memory footprint. This ain't Java, folks.

    I am a bit of an oddity, even within the Squeak community. I use Squeak *as* my OS, my computing environment. One could think of it rather like Emacs- a lot of applications [1] are written for it, and it is readily modifiable, so that the environment works like you want it to. Don't like the way Squeak manages windows? Make a couple small changes to a few small methods. I was once a Linux user trying to do just this to my environment, making tweaks to the WM, and it was way more work than it should be. You can imagine how excited I was when I came across Squeak- the entire system is written in Smalltalk, making changes pretty easy, no matter what part of the system they affect.

    [1] There are a number of applications written in Squeak. Most new apps are written for Morphic (rather than the older MVC). These apps include: two different forms of handwriting/gesture recognition, a simple web browser, a pretty good email client (although POP only), a couple IRC clients, a bunch of games, an vt100 terminal for use as an xterm or telnet client, all of the programming tools for writing Smalltalk, and more.
  • I'm not a huge fan of traditional multidesktop environments because they're too geographically distinct -- I have to "switch" between them, and that involves an annoying redraw penalty as well as a mental "reset" to refamiliarize myself with that environment.

    I'm not sure get the 3D UI completely, but what would make sense to me would be putting the user inside of a many-sided polygon container. Each interior face of the sphere would be a typical desktop. The controls for the GUI would enable zooming out to see multiple faces/desktops simultaneously, as well as the ability to pan over desktops, in addition to being able to "lock" onto a desktop. Windows could be moved between desktops all-at-once, or dragged if you were panned over them.

    It would have interesting multimonitor potential, as well -- the monitors could be assigned as geographically adjacent so that they showed adjacent polygonal surfaces/desktops, the polygonal surface could be sized to the combined monitor resolution or the monitors could be 'detatched' so that they showed different views (perhaps one zoomed out, one locked).

    I don't think this would be that hard to implement, either (disclaimer: not a developer), since it wouldn't involve changes in the base GUI, just in the way that desktops as a whole are presented and navigated.
  • A 3D desktop environment could change the paradigm of human-computer interaction, and it is a worthy concept to be researched. However, I would like to see more research put into the actual devices with which I communicate to my computer.

    The mouse is a wonderful device for a simple 2D environment, where all I want to do is select objects and move objects horizontally or vertically. Beyond that, it is crap.

    Voice recognition might one day get to the point where I rarely use my keyboard, except when in a cubicle environment or when programming.

    But I haven't seen the next generation of human interaction devices, and I don't even know exactly what I think they should be. I just know that the mouse will eventually be inadequate. The only truly exciting device I've seen recently was a force-feedback glove that let me select objects (round basket-ball type things) in very, very simple 3D environment.
  • Information Overload (Score:3, Informative)

    by hrieke (126185) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @11:35AM (#5493965) Homepage
    How much information can the human mind handle before the datum become just noise?

    I recall reading or seeing on TV once interviews with fighter jet pilots from the Korean War, and they were complaning to the engineers that there were too many audio alerts that were distracting them from doing their job, and could they put an off switch somewhere for those alerts?

    I can see the same thing with the interface- how much data do we need to bombard ourselves with? The human mind can only subdivid our attention to so many tasks at once (I think the limit is 4 or 5).

    I certainly can see places where moving into the 3rd dimention would help, but I see those as specialized tasks, not writing a letter or reading email.
  • I use Squeak Smalltalk - I dispute the claim that Squeak compiled code is slow.

    I did have one problem with an inefficiency with Squeak dictionary (i.e., hash table) objects, but that is independent of the compiler. (VisualWorks Smalltalk, BTW, does not have this problem with dictionaries.) Anyway, since the source code to all of Squeak is available inside the Squeak programming environment, individual problems can be fixed.

    Squeak is a great open source platform, with a license that lets you use it for just about any purpose. Check out www.squeak.org.

    -Mark

  • Good lord, does this look terrible [mrhostbot.com]. That screenshot makes me want to run and hide.

    Why? Because it slows any kind of navigation to a screeching halt.

    Because it doesn't make sense that you will have to "walk around" or "fly" in some fashion inside a 3d space just because you want to open a web browser, open a spreadsheet, or do basically anything with any sort of timeliness.

    Sure it's got that cool Minority Report feel. But inside a 17" or 15" screen? Sure we have 19"+, but mainstream America is still using 15"-ers by and large. This is a problem with this "solution."

    3D Desktops just are not usable right now. This guy is way ahead of his time. I'll give him that. I respect all of his prior work. And the groundings for this system have to start somewhere.

    But until it gets practical, until our desktop expands away from the flatscreen and the CRT (whether it be a wall-projection or cool goggles, who knows), this will be one of those I'm-Running-This-Because-It's-Cool-But-The-Usabili ty-Sucks thing, just like early Linux distros.

    Remember those early WM's? Take a look at Redhat 5.2 sometime and prepare to cringe.

    That's the exact same effect this will bring in about 5 years.
  • If anyone wants to look at another "3D operating system" (okay, platform) then take a look at Muse [musecorp.com]. Shared virtual, media rich (movies, web, audio) environments coupled with an extensive SDK and developer community [musetribes.com] that allows users to create their own "worlds" and 3D applications. Way cooler :) screen shots here [musecorp.com] and here [musecorp.com].
  • ...one of the inventors of Smalltalk, one of the fathers of object oriented programming, conceiver of the laptop computer, inventor of much of the modern windowing GUI.


    Translation: He's one of the guys who innovates. Not to be confused with one of the mega-corporations that gets rich from his ideas.


    I mean, he may make a good living, but he's certainly not in Bill Gates' territory, financially, and yet he is one of the true innovators. Sad.



  • A 3D navigatable desktop? I thought VRML died for a reason?
  • OSX? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @12:25PM (#5494467) Homepage
    I wonder if Mac OSX could be easily modified to support a 3d GUI (or at least add some useful 3d effects to the GUI)... After all, Quartz Extreme does use OpenGL for most of the rendering of the desktop, which is responsible to the speed of the OSX gui.

    I wonder if we could see usability improvements by using 3d toolbars stacked on top of each other using alpha blending which could be moved by mouse gestures... very cool... Unfortunately, most of the 3d GUIs to date have only decreased usability, and been overly cumbersome.
  • Bah.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Carter Butts (245607) on Wednesday March 12, 2003 @09:23PM (#5499637)
    This 3D-OS concept is overrated. The future is in user interfaces with non-integer dimension! CantorOS, here we come! :-)


    -Carter

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