Linked by Eugenia Loli on Tue 11th Mar 2003 19:00 UTC, submitted by Mike Janger
OSNews, Generic OSes Mike Janger writes: "What is Open Croquet? Alan Kay (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, etc.) is working on it. But what IS it? Have you guys looked into it?" I downloaded its 90 MB late last night. It's an 'academic' project featuring a futuristic OS 3D environment running through the Squeak environment on Windows or Mac. It requires a supported 3D accelerator (however, it didn't work with my Voodoo5 in hardware mode so it was painfully slow).
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by Anonymous on Tue 11th Mar 2003 19:06 UTC

Any chance of a screen shot?

RE: Erm..
by Eugenia on Tue 11th Mar 2003 19:09 UTC

Download the PDF they have in their "download" section. It includes screenshots there.

New peripherals
by Nik on Tue 11th Mar 2003 19:21 UTC

Wow pretty cool. The main thing to focus on future desktops in my opnion is getting a new way to interface with the environment. Because a mouse just wont cut it for the novice user. I say something like what tom cruise used in M report.

by [SQ]werl on Tue 11th Mar 2003 19:49 UTC

While I think this is cool, how easy would it be to use it? I mean if it acts and responds anything like the software that slightly resemble this (sorry i can't think of any right now, it was from adobe), the way to move around. It would be quite frustrating. Because you would end up getting something different than you intended, just because your "movement" was off a little ways. But that is just speculation on my part, it very well may be as easy as pie to navigate through. ;)

MS Task Gallery
by dk29 on Tue 11th Mar 2003 19:59 UTC

Maybe with some much needed work I would be more excited. But I'm afraid I thought the Microsoft task gallery had more potential that this.

this project sucks!
by Anonymous on Tue 11th Mar 2003 20:02 UTC

Because people behind it have no idea about user interface and complete disregard for standards - that's what i see from their website, so i have no desire to download their 90Mb blah.

...even though
by dk29 on Tue 11th Mar 2003 20:02 UTC

The task gallery focuses on (obviously) creating a 3D shell for tasks and Croquet seems to take a stab at an Operating system... "computer software architecture".

2D and 3D
by Elver Loho on Tue 11th Mar 2003 20:21 UTC

2D is the only way to go on a 2D surface (your monitor) whilst if you really want a 3D "environment" then it very probably wont look like a 1996 "3D Adventure Game" like many projects, including this one, try to make it look.

Think a holographic (or whatever it'll end up being) environment around the user. Maybe achieved with VR glasses that mix the picture in front of them with pictures of windows and things "floating" in mid-air. Kinda like is trying to achieve but with these workspaces flying "around" you and being constantly updated. Like virtual monitors.

First step towards the future desktop would be standard VR glasses with desktops being projected as 3D monitors around the user. Keyboard would become the main input device. This will probably not go into mainstream.

Second step would be to make these things wrap around reality in the sense that if you tilt your head, they would tilt the opposite way to seem as if you were sitting in a virtual office of some sort. Still no mainstream.

Third step for true 3D desktops would be, as mentioned above, mixing the reality with things floating mid-air. Maybe the whole "screen" could be a "virtual bubble" around the user on where the windows are projected. Also a part of this step would be detecting hand/limb movement to interact with these virtual desktops. Still, the cost of this setup and the VR glasses would keep most people out of this business. So no mainstream.

Step four: true neural linkup through neurocannulaes. Anything, anywhere, any way you wish. Rendered right in your mind. (Does anyone watch the anime series Hack Sign ;-)

Oh and yes, this is quite a crazy look at the future. I'm probably not very sane ;)

Just my .02 euros.

by Diego Gomez Deck on Tue 11th Mar 2003 20:39 UTC

You can find screenshot in the Squeak's (1) Swiki (2) at

Exactly at:

Enjoy it (as I did!!)

(1) Squeak is a modern implementation of Smalltalk/80
(2) Swiki = Squeak WIKI

Keep in mind...
by WattsM on Tue 11th Mar 2003 20:43 UTC

...that it is an "academic project," as Eugenia wrote. This is going to be a testbed of ideas, not something people are likely to be using on a day-to-day basis. Think of it as the operating environment equivalent of the W3C's Amaya browser: Amaya always implements standards first, often before they're actually standards, and does really amazing things in theory, but in practice using it sucks teabags. It's a reference browser, but not a particularly usable one.

When you're looking at Croquet, look at some of the concepts they're working on, which are quite intriguing. When you look at it and think "Hey, this would drive me absolutely nuts if I was trying to use it for something as simple as organizing my Excel documents," even though you'd be absolutely correct you'd also be missing the point.

by Gary on Tue 11th Mar 2003 20:58 UTC

I just downloaded it, it's cool!

by Robert Renling on Tue 11th Mar 2003 21:38 UTC

I don't think it'll go this way, look at jaron lanniers work and you'll see it clearer.

And microsoft has it the right way (at least more so than this) but this is an interesting reiteration.

A 3D GUI...
by Luposian on Wed 12th Mar 2003 01:05 UTC

Not having seen anything of Open Croquet, I'm going to assume that what I say hasn't already been implemented...

If you wanted a 3D environment, you have to look at everything like it is in life. If something is in front of you on your desk, you reach forward for it. This would be done by pushing the mouse forward (up). Left and right would be similar. You just change your mind's interpretation of what a mouse does. Indead of everything being flat 2D (up, down, left, and right) you make it 3D (forward, backward, left, and right). You make the mouse pointer into a 3D hand and you grab/touch something to open or run it.

Seems easy enough. But would it make a difference how we interact with a computer? Does it really matter how we look at the files/folders of our computer? When it all comes down to it, the programs we run on the computer are going to look the same, aren't they?

I mean, is MS Word 200x going to put words in a 3D format? Are games going to look more 3D than they do now? Are we going to do spreadsheets/databases in a 3D view?

A computer computes data. That's all. It's how we choose to portray that data (our own preference) that determines how different it is than another format of data.

... but it's still data...

Very confusing...
by Luposian on Wed 12th Mar 2003 01:30 UTC

After browsing the documentation .pdf file, OC looks interesting (exciting, actually), but I'm still confused... how to you run an application, like that 3D game? Do you click on the X? Do you walk into the picture and it runs automagically? Do you click on the portion of the picture you can see?

What are those pictures of people? Users? Image files? Portals to another person's computer?

And what's with that penguin?!? I am *NOT* going to be portrayed as a penguin! No, I haven't got anything against penguins, per se, but if I'm gonna be visually portrayed as *any* animal, it's going to be a WOLF! No if's, and's, or but's about it!


Oh, so THAT'S how it's done!
by Luposian on Wed 12th Mar 2003 05:16 UTC

I've spend some amazing time (about an hour) "navigating" OC. And, apart from the fact some images (pictures (and portals that I can't go into-through?) are a tad confusing, as well as the fact I can't figure out how to global quit (quit OC anywhere, in any portal/realm/whatever), I am amazed by the vastness of it all. Walking into another scene/area and that becomes your "world". Very Myst-like.

I especially like the underwater and temple "realms". The Mars realm is also neat.

User control is a bit difficult to get a grasp on, especially after stopping. If you see a window you want to go over to, you move the pointer and try to go there, but... forgetting the "proximity to the crosshairs" movement rule, you spin around real fast instead!

I think a two-handed approach would be best. Use the mouse to change your view (up, down, left, and right) and the arrow keys to actually move in the forward, reverse, left, and right directions.

However, I think it would be best if both sides of a portal showed the same image (eve if mirror-flipped). Seeing the white backside of a portal doesn't tell you what portal it is and having to walk around to the front of it is tedious at best.

This "OS concept" is like playing a 3D game! Quite fun, but I quickly found out that it only runs right in 640x480. Anything higher (like 1024x768) and the "full view" window takes up about only 1/4th of the screen!

I have Zone Alarm and "ZA" brings up a notice about OC wanting to connect to the Internet. Why? Is it really showing me other "user realms" or is it pulling view data off a server elsewhere? If I decline the request, OC won't run at all!

Open Croquet... the 3D GAME OS! about it...was not impressed
by Grusic on Wed 12th Mar 2003 05:45 UTC

I agree with what someone said eariler.

For OC to work and work well, a full blown VR setup is really the only way to go.

Anything else to me just comes off as someone trying to pass off a FPS as an OS interface.

If you're confused
by eman ruoy on Wed 12th Mar 2003 08:19 UTC

I don't blame you if you're confused.

I'll say a few things to make this croquet thing clearer to those of you who still care.

#1 Croquet is not just Croquet.
#2 Croquet is a 3D extension/framework for Squeak.
#3 Squeak is very, very weird. Really. I'm not kidding.

I've been dabbling in Squeak for the past couple months and this is what I can tell you about it. I'm going to be overly and incorrectly simple, but it's easier to describe Squeak this way:

Squeak is an object-oriented (the only TRUE object oriented) programming/operating environment/language.

There aren't any "applications" as you know them. There are simply classes. These classes can be bunched up to form something similar to what you call "applications" but they really aren't. These "applications" don't have their own memory addresses. These classes simply work on Squeak's big fat greek pool of objects.

Squeak is 100% open. It is open source, it is open-architecture. That means that if you don't like the way 2+2 works, you can change it without a recompile (because Squeak is also semi-interpreted ala Java).

This means that it doesn't matter how the Croquet people have set up their controls with the mouse. You could hack it to where you control the viewport using your microphone, if you wanted to (or brave enough). So the user interface objections are a moot point.

The best way to clear up Croquet for people who have gotten this far without their heads exploding is this:

Imagine you boot up into CroquetOS. You don't wait very long, because your entire memorybank state was preserved from last time. You are in a QuakeIIIArena sort of 3D game world. It's nighttime in a rocky desert. The moon is hanging low in between two rock spires. The moon is flashing on and off. You look directly at the moon with your mouse. It explodes. The pieces of the exploded moon coalesce into words. They say: "email from: subject: ok, ok, you win."

You dismiss the moon, and it comes back together and shines again.

You look at one of the funny-looking rock formations. It breaks free from the ground, rushes at you at top speed, stops within inches of your head, and breaks in two.. revealing a 3D chatroom (set in Vegas) on one piece, and yesterday's song you wrote (since you're a musician) in the other. You "walk" into the 3D chatroom. You are now in Vegas. Behind you is the doorway back to your rock canyon.

You bring up your web browser, Scamper. You type in the address You see a story posted about something called Croquet.

You think I'm making this up? You think this is impossible? Everything I've described is doable _right now_ with this Croquet thing. All it takes is some creativity and motivation to learn the Smalltalk language. And Smalltalk ain't hard. Kids grasp it.

People usually come across Squeak and come to two conclusions. One: "Good lord, this is the holy grail of computing! I can't believe nobody told me about this!" You then are sucked into Squeak and are never heard from again.

Two: "What in God's name is this? No applications? No compiling? Everything is open? I can't make sense of it all! I'll ignore it and maybe my brain won't melt."

That's the conclusion I came to when I first found Squeak. That's the conclusion I came to the second time I found Squeak. The third time I found Squeak, I grokked. I finally grokked.

Yes, Squeak is weird. But keep in mind that for somethig to be extraordinarily better, it's going to be extraordinarily different.

by Don Cox on Wed 12th Mar 2003 11:50 UTC

"Two: "What in God's name is this? No applications? No compiling? Everything is open? I can't make sense of it all! I'll ignore it and maybe my brain won't melt.""

Any OS or program is a set of functions, whether they are simple traditional ones or "classes". The question is how to access and run them.

If you want to design a magazine, you need all the functions/classes for that task. Functions for typographical control, for importing image files from other computers, for writing out an on-screen layout in Postscript, for saving the project at various stages, etc.

IMO the big problem with the concept of having a general pool of functions (which is the same as having a lot of libraries) and no "application programs" is that nobody owns the set needed to perform a task such as DTP or MIDI sequencing or payroll.

The result is that nobody writes the boring functions. There are lots of versions of the fun stuff, like implementations of popular image-processing algorithms, but no professional-quality routines for handling tabbing in a printed document, or doing freehand painting.

The point of the traditional program with a name (like Quark XPress) is that someone is responsible for it, and if an essential function like tabbing is missing, they have to code it.

by Don Cox on Wed 12th Mar 2003 11:53 UTC

"Wow pretty cool. The main thing to focus on future desktops in my opnion is getting a new way to interface with the environment. Because a mouse just wont cut it for the novice user. I say something like what tom cruise used in M report."

I agree. I think the authors of these concepts should be concentrating on the design of the hardware interface. Of course this needs some capital for manufacturing, for making prototypes, and testing. AFAIK nobody has made a satisfactory 3D controller, to replace the mouse (which is 2D).

The software is the easy part.

for what?
by smoerk on Wed 12th Mar 2003 12:02 UTC

why do i need 3d GUI (windows manager) on a 2d screen? there are applications which have to visualize things in (pseudo) 3d, but why do i need a 3d desktop? navigation in a pseudo 3d space is much more difficult than in 2d.

please think about good concepts for 2d GUIs, there is still lots of potential. and if you develop 3d desktops go real 3d.

by Jecel on Wed 12th Mar 2003 14:37 UTC

The creators of Croquet have generously made an alpha version available for download but have promised the first usable beta for mid 2003. So it is premature to talk about its flaws right now.

Why 3D? Easy: you can access far more stuff (even if each is just 2D) then on a 2D desktop. Each "application" can be placed at just the right distance for what you are doing right now (like in 2D zoomable GUIs but without the limitation of having the whole world zoom in/out at the same time).

Re: If you're confused
by RevAaron on Wed 12th Mar 2003 15:23 UTC

t means that if you don't like the way 2+2 works, you can change it without a recompile (because Squeak is also semi-interpreted ala Java).

Not quite. Let's say you wanted to change the way that the #+ method worked on Integer (and changing the result of 2 + 2 by extension). When you save the method (with Cmd-S), Smalltalk compiles the method righth then and there. In other words, a recopile is needed. But Smalltalk, unlike Java, C, or C++, Smalltalk is incrementally compiled, meaning methods are compiled as you create and save them. You wouldn't know it, a Smalltalk method compile takes a fraction of a second. You know when the code pane in a browser flashes when you save a method? That is the system doing the compile.

But because you can change the compiled version of just one method (rather than a monolithic compile system), you can make the change to + go into effect immediately after the save. Quite slick.

Wizz factor
by Pierre on Wed 12th Mar 2003 15:25 UTC

While many wizz and blow-your-mind scenarios outlined by enthusiasts may sound cool, the problem with 3D evironment is much like the problem in 3D adventures. Once you've run a few times between locations, you begin to notice the amazing time wasted due to the need of moving around.

Those 3D environments all have the same problem: they throw away years of UI research on usability. The reason the mouse is so great compared to a keyboard is that it can move around all the desktop rapidly. The reason tree-views are so popular is that they can show a lot of info in a small area and allow growing and collapsing part of the information. The reason why we have alt-tab, taskbars and the Dock is to know what applications are out there and switch rapidly between them. And so on.

The Crocket portals are cool, but utterly impratical for foundamental reasons, not just because of implementations details. Moving in a world were you have a god-like overview (2D) will always be simpler and faster than a world where you have only a small partial view (3D).

I will be impressed when someone comes up with a good usability idea and then translates it using the best technology. Croquet goes the other way round: it takes technology (CPU, 3D cards) and tries to artificially come up with ideas made possible by the technologies.

by eman ruoy on Wed 12th Mar 2003 18:06 UTC

I use Squeak, as I've mentioned, and I love it. But I have to concede that while I think Croquet is pretty cool, I question it's usefulness.

What can I do in Croquet that I can't do in Squeak? Nothing, really. Not yet, anyway.

But really, if one wanted to, one could run Croquet, open a Squeak project, and just pretend you were in Squeak. It's pretty cool in that respect. I would ASSUME, but I don't know for sure, that things would run faster depending on how good your 2d card was vs your 3d card's 2d functions.

Croquet is going to be great when a lot of people are using it, and everyone's got a little 3D 'homeworld' that I can go visit. I'd love to go chat with my friends (and play games, if you wanted) on a beach, in the mountains, on the Enterprise, inside a computer, etc.

Of course, Croquet's vision is of 3D collaboration, I believe; the idea that a team of professionals can get together in 3D space and interact. I'm not so sure I get it. Wikis, CVS, etc seem to be fine for that. I don't see what 3d collaboration has over them.

I think chatting and games would be cooler, honestly.

The Master says:
by The Master on Wed 12th Mar 2003 18:41 UTC

It's whack.

ah yes, there it is again
by Robert Renling on Wed 12th Mar 2003 20:30 UTC

"Wow pretty cool. The main thing to focus on future desktops in my opnion is getting a new way to interface with the environment. Because a mouse just wont cut it for the novice user. I say something like what tom cruise used in M report."

yup and who was the designer and consultant on the ui used in minority report... jaron "boy-wonder" lannier

Not an OS
by Darrel Johnston on Thu 13th Mar 2003 02:52 UTC

I installed the distro to a plain-Jane Win98 partition. Unzipped and ran the Windows executable. I got the first (Squeak) screen shown in the PDF doc. After highlighting the "full screen" command in the workspace and pressing ALT-D, the whole thing just locked up. Repeatedly. My hardware is nothing exotic. AMD XP1800+ and Nvidia GeForce GTS. Should work, but doesn't.

os x??
by illitrate on Fri 14th Mar 2003 08:32 UTC

anyone got it running on os x ??