In early November I referenced Project Looking Glass as an amazing idea for a 3D Operating System created by Sun. Well, a big milestone (version 1) was just released and I have to admit that I am quite amazed with how it works. Before I get started in covering some of the features I wanted to let you know that I have attached a video demonstration at the bottom of this post. I am not the one who created the video and it is a little old, but it still demonstrates all of the features that you can find in today’s version of Project Looking Glass. The idea of creating my own screencast was appealing to me but the problem was that I couldn’t get this to work on any of my three Windows Vista machines so I had to use my XP machine that only has 256MB of RAM and an integrated video card. The performance wasn’t spectacular but it was still usable.
For starters, Project Looking Glass is available as packages for Linux, but you can also just download the bundles that come with everything that you need to get it up and running. I downloaded the Windows XP Mega Bundle (weighing in at about 53MB) and had it installed within minutes. I got it up and running and my first impression was very good.
The first thing that I noticed was the virtual desktops are really fun. When you bring your mouse to an edge of the screen, just click and it will rotate your panorama desktop background and switch you to another virtual desktop. It gives you the feeling that you are standing right there and rotating around in a circle, which is weird at first but I quickly began to like it.
Next, open up an application and what’s the coolest thing that you can do in a 3D world? Rotate the windows in nearly every direction, duh! Left-click on the Java icon in the upper-right corner (while you have some sort of window open) and hold the left-click while you drag your mouse around. The window flips around in nearly every direction and what happens when you let go? It essentially reverses all of the animation that it just did except it does it sort of hyperspeed (a.k.a. really fast).
You probably want to browse the Web, right? They do have a built-in 3D browser (that I pictured above) except I couldn’t get it to go beyond the default Google Homepage. At the bottom you’ll see the address bar along with what appears to be screenshots for the Back/Forward sites (therefore eliminating the need for Back/Forward buttons). As you can see, while I’m rotating the screen those small thumbnails also have depth to them which is something a lot of the Project Looking Glass applications take advantage of. Unfortunately there is not a normal browser, such as the Mozilla one pictured in the video where you can slap notes on the back of websites. If you want to try out their 3D browser, go to the Menu and click Demos -> Early Prototypes -> 3D Browser. Oh yeah, and the Menu is the scrunched up thing located to the left of the CD icon.
After playing with Project Looking Glass for around an hour in Windows XP, while I liked it, I didn’t feel like I had to go setup a more permanent installation of it on Linux. Doing that I would be able to install common Linux applications like the Mozilla Web Browser, but I look at it as being a proof-of-concept. It shows that 3D Operating Systems are very much possible and can even make you more productive. While this may seem far fetched from actually being implemented, the last post I made quoted the KDE site as saying “2D menu and interface is outdated. We need something new. Like 3D desktop.” Who knows, after the newness of XGL and Compiz/Beryl wears off we may be seeing something similar to Project Desktop being implemented in Linux!
Also, the download site for Project Looking Glass is going pretty slow so I took the liberty of uploading the Windows XP installation file to FileHo. Hopefully they don’t have a problem with me doing that.
Here is a video that demonstrates nearly all of the features of Project Looking Glass (6 minutes and 46 seconds long):
News Source: OS News