Home > Oracle and SUN > Looking Glass: An Insight Look with Hideya Kawahara Looking Glass: An Insight Look with Hideya Kawahara Submitted by Sanjaya Sugiarto 2004-07-08 Oracle and SUN 33 Comments An interview with Hideya Kawahara, the lead developer of Project Looking Glass, about one of Sun’s hottest projects, recently open sourced. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 33 Comments 2004-07-08 6:28 am Lets try it. 2004-07-08 7:54 am is still one the first examples gives for the use of extra 3d functionality on the desktop. But isn’t it obvious there’s no need for such a feature. I think it says a lot that th developer still uses this as the prime example. Let’s hope open-sourcing the project brings more original and desirable features. Look at the latest Longhorn builds. MS is good at taking the best parts of rival products and improving on it. They have a nice alt-tab replacement in 3d, now that is a logical and good use of 3d, but I doubt I’ll be taking notes on the back of my browser. In fact, who takes notes on the back of anything? 2004-07-08 8:16 am >In fact, who takes notes on the back of anything? Ever been in a pub and met a girl? 2004-07-08 8:37 am HOTTEST Sun’s product?? My goodness… One may start to wonder what their other products are like. 2004-07-08 8:46 am yep, that’s what this 3D desktop hype is. a solution without a problem. 2004-07-08 9:30 am I disagree, there are thousands of interesting applications of this technology. Writing notes is a quick thrown idea by Sun, but you could as well put the preferences behind windows and instead of having to browse the menus looking for the preferences of each application you could just flip the window and get the right setup working. Or you could just put all your webcam’s windows in a 3d circle and the software would zoom the windows of people who are currently talking etc. Just because all these ideas aren’t so obvious today doesn’t mean they are not interesting. When 2D interface was first invented, some people said : “So what, you want us to run may terminal emulators in many windows ?, that doesn’t make sense !” But who could deny today that a well-thought 2D interface is an order of magnitude easier to use than a shell ? It’s all about thinking in an innovative way (I trust Apple will one more time help everybody with this). 2004-07-08 9:33 am Just installed and tried it. The mouse reaction speed is a bit sluggy but performance is ok. its nothing more than a demo right now as I can see. You can always ask why to do something (like notes behind a window) but sometimes great ideas come through opportunities. 2004-07-08 10:22 am …the looking blass project is mentioned here people start bi**hing about the use for this. Can’t you people see that this is eyecandy for the sake of eyecandy? If you don’t like it – fine, but why do you waist your time making the same comments every time? 2004-07-08 12:28 pm Taking notes on the back of a program may be useful to some. But i think a better implementation of this technology in linux would be to have the terminal of the program on the back of the program. This way if you want to catch any of those messages that only appear on the terminal of the program all we have to do is turn the application window around in 3d space. 2004-07-08 12:31 pm Looking Glass has the problem of being the first example of a “new” technology that is widely accessible for the first time. The technology is nifty. The potential for innovation and improvement is there, but currently people are clueless on how to use it to their advantage. Think of it as a white empty canvas. The canvas could possibly become anything, from a butt ugly abomination to an eye soothing masterpiece, but till now noone has painted on it. Looking Glass is that empty white canvas, as such it is has powerful potential, but practically speaking in it’s current form it is useless and undesirable. Instead of wondering if it ever will be useful, people had better start using Looking Glass, give it a hammering, chew it, kicking at it to see what can be made of it. Instead of comming up with reasons not to use it, I think we should be comming up with ideas how we could use it. Hey, it’s a wellmeant freebie from Sun, we might as well appreciate it and see if it’s a nice new toy we want to keep. 2004-07-08 12:31 pm What I suggest is that for the naysayers to have a look at the slides and the direction where it will be heading in. The fact is, they have a good path listed out, and its not just about making a “cool interface”, its also about making an API available for desktop software developers that will be able to compete with WinFX. People here have to face that fact, Mono isn’t mature enough, and the only alternative there is to the winfx hegimony that is on the horizon is for the OSS community to stop moaning and start workng WITH SUN to get this project in top gear. Having had a look what they have proposed, if it does get off the ground, it would be great to see Java become the THE defacto API for cross platform software development, and one thing people can feel rest assured is the fact that SUN won’t screw their customers or developers. Just look at their history, they develop, encourage then make it an open standard; NFS anyone? ABI anyone? there are numerous things SUN has created, and are now being used by all and sundry. As for the chap commenting regarding writing on the back of Windows, whats wrong with that? about the only down side I think is that it would be best to use something like tablet that would allow one to write things, which is more natural. 2004-07-08 1:00 pm The Madhatter through the Looking Glass 2004-07-08 1:10 pm this is exactly the sort of thing that will help linux stand out as a real alternative OS instead of just looking like a free Windows clone. Indeed it’s more innovative than MacOSX 2004-07-08 1:54 pm “this is exactly the sort of thing that will help linux stand out as a real alternative OS instead of just looking like a free Windows clone. Indeed it’s more innovative than MacOSX” This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The only real diffrence between OSX and any Linux distro is the attention to detail. OSX is adored by most, and anyone who thinks that the eye candy isn’t responcible for 70% of that love is in denial. Now, along comes Sun with some eye candy that could attract the same kind of following to Linux and a few clowns want to talk about usability. Looking Glass is the future because you get your 2D world and your 3D extensions.If the LG technology was incorporated natively into the KDE or GNOME projects, I don’t think we’d be having this talk of usability. However, I hope that it isnt built into those projects. I love them both, but Linux needs a Light weight memory efficiant desktop that can rival OSX in performance, with enough eye candy to get people to say, ‘Why buy a new computer (Apple), when I can switch to Linux and get the same cool features (LG desktop).” Linux, as much as I love it, currently is viewed as an alternative. If you want to be adopted by the masses, you cant be the runner up! Looking Glass can give Linux the public interest that OSX and XP now hold. 2004-07-08 2:18 pm see subject line And just to explain my comment – hasn’t SUN been working on this for around 3-4 years now and they still haven’t shipped a product? 2004-07-08 2:49 pm Yes attention to detail is the major difference, but if you think that eye candy and attention to detail are synonymous you are sorely confused. 2004-07-08 3:17 pm Prefs and terminals on the back of an app aren’t a bad idea… call me when you have one of those gloves set up like in Jurassic Park. Until then there’s still nothing naturally 3D about that, because you still have to access it through a 2D interface. BTW, I’m not complaining. Whoever complained about all the same comments going up every news item is doing the exact same thing his/herself… 2004-07-08 4:21 pm Interesting interview. Hopefully, this might rekindle SUN’s interest in Java-Gnome, a project that has been overlooked and under-hyped at least when compared to Mono, or should I say GTK#? I still don’t understand why SUN isn’t heavily advertising (and funding?) Java-Gnome/Java-GTK+ to Linux/GNOME/Java Desktop developers considering their immense interest and investment in GNOME, GTK+ and Java. One would have thought SUN, like Novell is doing with Mono, would at least be significantly responsible for the promotion and partial maintainance of the project. Anyway, I am more than happy to see Project Looking Glass open sourced, I can assure you that 5 to 7 years from now, the two major open source desktops, GNOME and KDE, would have incorporated subtle and dynamic 3D applications and touches into their environment. SUN needs to promote Project looking Glass heavily and extensively, especially to open source developers and platforms, who more likely to experiment and have better propensities to take risks than their counterparts. 2004-07-08 4:35 pm So assuming java gets open sourced soon which Java should i use? RedHat Java,Novell Java, SUN Java or Gentoo Java? I still can’t figure out why i need a 3D desktop let alone one based on Java running on top of the OS like Windows 3.1.1 on DOS. 2004-07-08 4:39 pm This 3d desktop thing has to rank among one of the most useless things. It’s such an idiotic concept. Or perhaps I’m just a genius that can navigate comfortably with Alt-Tab and the task bar. Why, I can even use menus to set my preferences! What a load of over-hyped CPU waste. (Hm… Java came from Sun too. I guess they just want to make i386 as slow as their over-priced machines.) 2004-07-08 4:46 pm I have to agree. From the screenshots I’ve seen, this concept completely eludes me. Can someone endevor to ascertain why this is desirable? 2004-07-08 5:20 pm First, re-read the post by r_a_trip on the first page then concider the following: For almost 20 years people in the computer science/software developemnt community drooled and salivated at the mention of features of ObJECT-ORIENTED PROGRAMMING such as polymorphism and inheritence. The “tool abilities” were thrown about as actual solutions. Some fanatics even went on to decry languages such as Visual Basic as not being pure OO because it lacked polymorphism and thus labelled it Object-based. Now 20 years later we find that the true power of OO is not the abilities of the tool rather what you can do with it. In other words, DESIGN PATTERNS. Its kind of like we have gone from worshipping the tool and its abilities to finally putting it good, well thought out use. So, reiterating what r_a_trip said, this technology is blank canvas. Lets not waste another 20 claiming that it eludes us or is undesirable – at least investigate why before before denouncing it. Also realise that at the stage this technology is the primary tools needed in order to do something useful with it are creativity and imagination. If you are one of those developers who are good at following instructions (“make me an XML parser” and such…) vs. the guy that actually comes up with ideas of what new product to develop; what new solution to solve; creates “problems” where none previously existed thus now warranting a solution; concieves the next permutation on an existing solution, etc, etc – if you do not have this mindset then you should just ignore this technology for now. This is not to say you are not an expert, rather that you do not leverage that side of the brain just as much as, possibly, the more creative developer is not an expert at optimizing code and minimizing cpu and/or usage. Basically, the architect vs. engineer argument – and please lets not start the whole “they are the same” or “what’s the difference” debates… thank you. 2004-07-08 5:20 pm First, re-read the post by r_a_trip on the first page then concider the following: For almost 20 years people in the computer science/software developemnt community drooled and salivated at the mention of features of ObJECT-ORIENTED PROGRAMMING such as polymorphism and inheritence. The “tool abilities” were thrown about as actual solutions. Some fanatics even went on to decry languages such as Visual Basic as not being pure OO because it lacked polymorphism and thus labelled it Object-based. Now 20 years later we find that the true power of OO is not the abilities of the tool rather what you can do with it. In other words, DESIGN PATTERNS. Its kind of like we have gone from worshipping the tool and its abilities to finally putting it good, well thought out use. So, reiterating what r_a_trip said, this technology is blank canvas. Lets not waste another 20 claiming that it eludes us or is undesirable – at least investigate why before before denouncing it. Also realise that at the stage this technology is the primary tools needed in order to do something useful with it are creativity and imagination. If you are one of those developers who are good at following instructions (“make me an XML parser” and such…) vs. the guy that actually comes up with ideas of what new product to develop; what new solution to solve; creates “problems” where none previously existed thus now warranting a solution; concieves the next permutation on an existing solution, etc, etc – if you do not have this mindset then you should just ignore this technology for now. This is not to say you are not an expert, rather that you do not leverage that side of the brain just as much as, possibly, the more creative developer is not an expert at optimizing code and minimizing cpu and/or usage. Basically, the architect vs. engineer argument – and please lets not start the whole “they are the same” or “what’s the difference” debates… thank you. 2004-07-08 5:29 pm well said… I agree… LG provided us a possible glimpse of the future of WIMP metaphor. I do hope it’ll be architected/engineered as a viable add-on (or be integrated) on top X.org. Cheers 2004-07-08 5:41 pm This appears to have stepped over a lot of people’s eye-candy limit. Think of it this way: For everyone on here complaining that this is a waste of CPU, there’s someone saying KDE/GNome are too heavy, use xfce. For everyone one of those, there’s someone saying xfce is too heavy, use windowmaker. Then twm, then command-line, then dos since it’s faster than linux. Right now, KDE/Gnome is most people’s limit. Back in 99, KDE was way too heavy. It’s like everything else in the world, it may not suit you, but there’s a scale involved and that you’re just a point on. So stop complaining and discuss the *technology*. And now, for something on-topic: There’s nothing this technology can do that *can’t* be done with a 2D desktop (that I can figure). It’s eye candy. But so are AA fonts, anything over 65535 colors, and window managers more complicated than twm. Eye candy is a good thing, since computers are much faster than they need to be for the vast majority of uses. 2004-07-08 6:18 pm Thank you for posting your reply twice. That makes your point *really* clear. It shouldn’t be hard to realize that some technologies are dead from the start. Who cares whether it is a “blank canvas” or not. The snail’s mind is a “blank canvas” and snails aren’t really getting much done. This thing about rotating windows in 3d fashion and what-not is so obviously wrong it’s not even funny. It’s eye candy for the sake of eye candy. Somebody from Sun had this stupid idea and said, just like lots of people, “let’s see what we can do with it.” More intelligent folks would have discarded the idea from the start and focused their energy on something that matters and makes computer use easier/friendly/whatever *in actual use*. Come on, years in development and all you can come up with is “write notes on the back of the window?” Amateurs I say! What’s next, pac-man between the windows? Let the blind follow the blind. They will end up in a hole anyway. 2004-07-08 6:36 pm …why is everybody complaining about this?? If you think it’s such a lame idea(Godforbid you should use some of those idle CPU ticks of yours) just don’t use it! It think it’s cool. It might not be to useable as of yet – but I like this kind of innovation. But I guess I’m just one of thos blind idiots that are destined for that hole… 2004-07-08 6:41 pm Actually, my point was simpler than that. I asked people to tell me why it is desirable. r_a_trip beckons people to, instead of saying it’s useless, find out how it can be useful. I however, can still not see a use for it, thus my request for someone to ascertain what use it has. Your reply however, did not address my point at all, but rather digressed on how new technology is not properly accepted at first. Usually, someone finds a problem, then solves it, however, if everyone has followed r_a_trip’s spirit, it seems that someone is trying to find a problem to solve with it (see andre’s post “solution without a problem”). IMO, it’s no use to spend efforts on something that may have no problem to solve, and I have to agree with ‘Sick of CPU waste’ that people should focus their energy on something that matters (and I say matters until you come up with an example to prove me otherwise). 2004-07-08 10:13 pm Firefox on the back (work related subject) and firefox on the front (pron . Boss comes? Simply type the word “flip” and bam, pron begone. Now, tell me again how this is of little use? 2004-07-08 10:58 pm I love the way people always find a way to rag something new! 2004-07-09 3:52 am I mean, in the year or so I have been hearing about this, it has made its way from: Secret Demo that Sun has only released a couple of video clips of to Public Demo that Sun have released. I mean, my god – after a year from it being released as a demo, it’s still only a Demo??? They get paid 2 billion dollars by Micrsosoft, and instead of putting in serious effort to get these things out the door, they do.. nothing? By the time Looking Glass gets from ‘Demo’ to ‘Alpha’ stage, the world will have long since moved on. Sun seem to have a desperate desire to bring development on their desktop technologies to a glacial crawl (NeWS, OpenSTEP, CDE, Java Swing, Java Applets, GNOME). The same will happen for Looking Glass. I mean, the guys who wrote XFce have surpassed CDE in every respect, and it is Sun’s flagship desktop operating system! Finally Java 1.5 is here, which has some chance of providing decent performance, but instead of having Java OpenOffice and a complete Java desktop in the wings waiting for that day – the only thing they have is…. a demo which only runs on an OS which their CEO claims they have no strategy around. I’d love to see another excellent *NIX GUI come to fruition, but I have zero confidence in Sun being able to make that happen. 2004-07-09 5:16 am … about the double post, the browser did not respond the first 20 seconds so i clicked stop and submit again. onto the subject, my previous post was more of a generic idea of what i think is the right thing to do when something new comes along. allowing some concession and coming back down to reality, i do not think the best application/implementation will come from Sun (as much as i love them) and there are several things backing this opinion: 1.) its not in their DNA. sun people are alpha geeks – i mean just look at their website and dont’t be surprised if a phrase like “white paper reloaded” pops into your head. screenshots and usage of artistic/visual elements is at a minimum – kinda reminds me of that short phase in high school when i actually read the dictionary – talk about self (visual) deprevation. i enjoyed it at the time though 😉 2.) its not in their DNA, PART II: in 2000 when “Maestra RDF” (Steve Jobs) proclaimed the 3rd age of the desktop everyone was claiming otherwise, that the desktop was dead to be laid to rest by laptops and various mobile devices. one of the most vocal was sun. they (together w/oracle) have never really gotten out of the mainframe age. they thought fat clients were dead soon to be replaced by “intelligent” thin clients. now they have a fat client – JDS. noone forsaw the next evolution of the desktop where previously it was just a shell but is now emerging as the whole stack (IM, P2P, Music, DVD/CD creation/modification/burning, Photos/Pictures, Rendevous-like sharing, DB-FS & metadata driven abilities [see Apple Spotlight and lookup WinFS and Storage], Mail/Newsgroups, etc.) now out of all the above can you point out any that sun has done well? i could give them OO/StarOffice but it still is not visually appealing to the eyes – icons and such. like i said, i love these guys but unless they buy a company that has engineers that think with the other side of the brain (MM, Adobe, Roxio, etc.) JDS, and thus Looking glass, will continue to lag behind the Windows, OS X and more recently KDE/GNome (we still have some work here guys but you are progressing well) desktops in implementation of UI concepts. 3.) looking glass is not a planned technology (more importantly – it was not a planned technology direction). a sun developer did this in his own time, it looked good and hype worthy – not to mention that MS had just previously demonstrated similar abilities in Avalon. so they jumped on it for its PR worth – so they do not look like they are standing idly by in the face of Avalon and OS X Quartz. and guess what – i do not blame them, they are company after all, also taking into account sun’s network-centric, thinclient mindset you cannot but imagine how much a change in mentality was necesitated to do this. it also happened to be convenient – timing-wise – coz its around the time when linux desktop viability was seriously being concidered and discussed vs. previous lukewarm, discussion 4.) it is almost a given that both MS and Apple have and are experimenting with 3D UI elements. however, unlike sun which is just lumping the whole thing i think these companies are taking a conservative approach e.g. apple fast user switching. there are two reasons for this. there benefits to 2d that cannot be beat (as of now at least) by any 3d equivalents. the reasons being both practical and theoretical. the more simple argument could be summarized as “disruptive”. mental disruption from the way we do things now to the “new” will not go smoothly nor easily. this “transition” – in my opinion – would dwarf any OS version upgrade or platform change. thats why the conservative approach – where you have increasingly more and more gui widgets adopt 3d behaviour in a subtle way its is or almost unnoticeable – would be the way to go rather than introducing a complete UI/Desktop like looking glass seems to do. 2004-07-09 8:32 am It does what you could do with a p266 and a Voodoo2 card 5 years ago, only it needs a 2GHz CPU and 512MB or mem. Go Java!