the sphere
April 16, 2004 8:04 AM   Subscribe

the sphereXP is a 3D desktop replacement for Microsoft Windows XP. Taking the known concept of three-dimensional desktops to its own level. It offers a new way to organize objects on the desktop such a icons and applications.
posted by crunchland (33 comments total)
be warned, it's still in development, so it might be buggy. Also, it's a huge memory hog. Still, worth a look, though. I ran Spybot Search & Destroy after installing it, and it came up clean.
posted by crunchland at 8:07 AM on April 16, 2004

Given the consistently anti-scrollbar reactions I've seen in one user focus group and study after another (see, for example Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2002) I can't see this catching on widely. Among the geeks, the "'Matrix' is real" crowd, maybe...
posted by Stoatfarm at 8:23 AM on April 16, 2004

Stoatfarm: No disagreement that this thing looks like a usability nightmare, but, um, anti-scrollbar?

Anti-horizontal scrolling sure, but anti-scrollbar? Also, although I agree with him sometimes, Jakob Nielsen is a crank, I still remember him insisting links had to be blue for the longest time.
posted by malphigian at 8:36 AM on April 16, 2004

Well, my initial impression is that I can get a similar multi-window effect with multiple monitors, only that my windows are legible.
posted by Sangre Azul at 8:40 AM on April 16, 2004

but, um, anti-scrollbar?

True enough. I guess a better way to put it is, if users hate horizontal scrolling, imagine how much people will love scrolling through 3 dimensions instead of just 2!

Jakob Nielsen is a crank

Yeah, pretty much, but he's a good antidote to the "every website should be made with at least 3 plug-ins and have an interface that reminds you of the last time you were at a rave" crowd.
posted by Stoatfarm at 8:44 AM on April 16, 2004

So basically what you're saying is that you're an idiot, who will parrot what a crank says just for the sake of parroting him?
posted by crunchland at 9:08 AM on April 16, 2004

posted by moonbird at 9:17 AM on April 16, 2004

uh, why would I want a 3d desktop? Is there any advantage to this over 2d? All the windows are 2d and the 3rd dimension is already in convential window management in that windows can overlap each other.

This really strikes me as a version of OSX's expose that sucks. Sorry. I use my computer to work on about a dozen things at a time and I can't see this kind of windowmanagement as helping in any way. And in the immortal paraphreaase of mamet: "Computers are here to HELP us, not to fuck us up."
posted by n9 at 9:24 AM on April 16, 2004

So basically what you're saying is that you're an idiot, who will parrot what a crank says just for the sake of parroting him?

No, that's not what was said at all, not even "basically". However, if that's all one can glean from the statement that was made, the idiot quickly becomes obvious...
posted by LowDog at 9:38 AM on April 16, 2004

I get the feeling that this sphere thing is trying to solve problems that are better solved by using multiple workspaces--a concept that has been popular on Unix/Linux for years, but hasn't caught on so much in the Windows world. Dedicating different workspaces/desktops to different tasks gets rid of window clutter problems pretty quickly.

Also, what's with the Jakob Nielson hate? Call him a crank if you will, but I for one agree with every one of the points outlined in Stoatfarm's link. I could have written that list myself.
posted by Galvatron at 9:57 AM on April 16, 2004

So basically what you're saying is that you're an idiot, who will parrot what a crank says just for the sake of parroting him?

I think what he was actually saying was developers, left unchecked, would go off in a thousand directions that weren't necessarily user-friendly. But maybe I misread it and he was trying to say he's an idiot.
posted by yerfatma at 9:59 AM on April 16, 2004

multi workspaces are great and I've used them tons, but expose + something like Launchbar or Quicksilver is, in my mind, way way way better.

A revolution in computing usability/efficiency. The only downside is that I am now able to work so much more quickly that I find my computer to be slow.

This thing doesn't strike me as making things faster.
posted by n9 at 10:00 AM on April 16, 2004

Threads like this bother me, so sorry, but to N9: Not every idea you don't like sucks.

I think it's a great idea (which doesn't mean it doesn't suck). For the way I work and think, it would be very useful to have a huge desktop, a virtual space where I can keep everything open, but out of immediate reach and eyesight.
posted by o2b at 10:14 AM on April 16, 2004

Image this thing if your mouse had a thinkpadish mouse-nub above the scroll wheel in the center. Scrolling the desktop around with that would be awesome if they dealt with the legibility issues.
posted by Leonard at 10:17 AM on April 16, 2004

I don't want a 3D workspace so much as I'd like all my desktop objects rendered as 3D objects, especially icons. Doesn't OS X do this?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:28 AM on April 16, 2004

You're right, yerfatma. I was hasty, and ticked off a bit by the dismissivness. I figured it was obvious that Stoatfarm hadn't even installed the program, and just assumed it was crap. The fact that he agreed that Neilsen is a crank, but echoed his tenets for the sake of being further dismissive just annoyed me.
posted by crunchland at 10:31 AM on April 16, 2004

Why am I not surprised to see this? It looks an awful lot like Sun's Java desktop I saw at last year's Borland Conference.

I like the idea of a 3d desktop though, it might make it easier to keep materials handy but not in the way. And maybe we'll all be wearing those goofy looking glasses soon too!
posted by fenriq at 10:47 AM on April 16, 2004

I think it's potentially interesting. Though it's a clear violation of Fitt's Law, I can imagine it being a useful desktop-management metaphor--but it should have some kind of landscape. Not a rendered 3D landscape, just a flat image-map, but if you could half-consciously remember "oh yeah, I left that window somewhere in the Ozark Mountains," navigating through the space could actually be quite intuitive.

Plus, you could play at being the Man in the Planet.

OS X does not render its desktop elements in 3D--it just has really pretty icons.
posted by adamrice at 10:59 AM on April 16, 2004

who said everything i don't like sucks? what a dumb comment. people who wrote a whole comment just to comment on another comment are dumb and I don't like them and they suck. :)

But really, I'm a usability junkie. I used a heavily customized blackbox/fluxbox WM environment in linux for years and it ruled over all. Only recently has Quicksilver and launchbar brought me past that point of efficiency. That was the news.

If you lke things swirling in a confusing way through 3d space, that's your biz.
posted by n9 at 12:06 PM on April 16, 2004

Wow it's great to hear what all the techno-pundits have to say. Adversion to any new experiences is being considered a pseudo psycho-physical disorder in psych circles -- Hmm.

Considering this is version 0.0.0 of software, I'm sure there's a little leeway for bugs it may contain. For a valiant effort using a fairly new framework .Net and the immediate expansion of much needed desktop space, I commend the creator for this effort. Even flat unoperatable images of open windows in this view is a utility my team and I could definitely find use for.

And all the "usability experts" here: Usability is only defined in the current scope of human interaction interfaces. It is plainly obvious that any new treatment or method is away from existing practice and will take some "getting used to". The scrollbar was developed as a "fix" to overflowing information. It is based in a 2D world that users have become way too accustomed to. Proof? Try coding on 8x6 15" with multiple panels, windows, IDEs and consoles open. The only usability nightmare is one in which the interface forces the user to follow a linear path when switching between views. Scrolling for ages to find your information only to have it disappear when you click off. OS X lightly touches on improving the situation.

Anti-scrollbar?!? Finally!
posted by omidius at 12:32 PM on April 16, 2004

Well, I'd say part of the usability problem is the difficulty of porting mouse movements from 2D to 3D. It's possible, I know, but awkward. Getting better degrees of freedom in the input device would go a long way to making any 3D interface viable. Here is a take (from 1997) on the subject.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:51 PM on April 16, 2004

Whoops, forgot some links. Also check out these other attempts at creating input devices that are designed for 3D space. This is also where we start seeing more pratical applications of gesture interfaces. (Sorry these are old links, but it seems 97/98 is when 3D became the hot new toy.)
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:02 PM on April 16, 2004

just annoyed me

<might_be_sarcasm>How can I add someone to my ignore list? Oh, this isn't alt.flame on USENET? My mistake.</might_be_sarcasm>
posted by Stoatfarm at 2:45 PM on April 16, 2004

This is not slow on my system, im using a 2400 Athlon with 512DDR 33 RAM and an ATI 9600 Pro.

Give this program another years worth of tweaking and design and it will feel 200 percent better. Great link.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:23 PM on April 16, 2004

Yes, I use 33Mhz ram, by the way. Look, I don't have a lot of money.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:33 PM on April 16, 2004

That's ok Keyser Soze, AMD uses Marketing Speak too. I bet that 2400 means 240 Mhz.
posted by shepd at 6:46 PM on April 16, 2004

I dunno; it's pretty but I'm waiting for something like Tom Cruise used in Minority Report, except spherical and you stand inside it.

Oh, and it's gotta vibrate, too.
posted by alumshubby at 6:58 PM on April 16, 2004

I bet that 2400 means 240 Mhz.

IIRC 2400MHz (2.4GHz) is the clock speed of the Pentium that AMD would like you to compare this chip (Athlon 2400) against.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:04 PM on April 17, 2004

"This is UNIX! I know UNIX!"
posted by Hackworth at 4:45 PM on April 17, 2004

It's not as pretty as the sphere, but for accessing applications, files, folders, and web sites, I've gotten addicted to ActiveWords.
posted by muckster at 9:31 PM on April 17, 2004

activewords is almost identical in functionality to Quicksilver on the mac. Really amazing, essential stuff.
posted by n9 at 5:34 AM on April 18, 2004

Having myself fourteen windows open simultenously at the moment and this being a not at all unusual desktop setup for me, I could easily see where having more space is a good thing. Linux commonly offers "Virtual Desktops" which are heapin-good for keeping track of apps by use, but navigating between them is a real pain in the ass.

Having, say, all your surfing "behind" you while all your real work in front of you would be a nice thing, I'd imagine. I envisioned a file/bookmark navigation scheme once that would do something like adamrice described -- "I left the pr0n behind the tree by the watering hole" -- something like that.

Part of the problem with adopting stuff like this (other than the hey-uge processing overhead) is that people are just plain stuck in this currently gross interface. All the UI pundits above -- what is it about a single-pane/single-plane interface that you love so much? I find myself staring at my work world for eight+ hours a day through a 19" interface -- I could hardly think of any other craftsman outside of solitary confinement who would think this is some sort of "view", and don't even get me started about the joys of heirarchical organization.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2004

Two more additions: the Brain is a handy app that lets you organize files, sites, and documents in non-hierarchical fashion. Also: a second monitor. I just recently started spreading my desktop over an additional monitor, and love love love it. Makes me feel like the geek Elvis.
posted by muckster at 12:29 PM on April 21, 2004

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