A New Desktop Environment May Get You Thinking out of the Box PDF Print E-mail
Career - General
Written by 10gen Inc.   
Thursday, 25 September 2008 19:00

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If you have never tried a virtual desktop, you may find it's not only more comfortable to work in, but also adds a little fun and variety to your regular routine.


I like to think of myself as a sort of 3D kind of guy. I believe it was because the first movie I ever saw was a 3D version of The House of Wax, a horror movie starring Vincent Price. At the tender age of seven, I was so scared at the end of it that for the next two years I would fall asleep every night with my eyes glued to my bedroom window, terrified that someone was going to steal into my room upon sundown. After that experience, no regular movie could ever satisfy me.


I'm still waiting for 3D movies to come back, and the technology is currently available to allow it to happen. So what are they waiting for?


I took a few flying lessons once, and if you think driving a car is fun, just try flying a plane. The sensation of having three dimensions to move around in is so much more exciting than pulling up to the corner stop sign and turning left that you'll want to go out and buy your own Cessna.


Even in 2008, people continue to compare today's desktop environments, such as MS Windows, to the older command-line interface, or green-screen, and refer to GUIs as being a wonderful improvement. But unless I need to go back and re-take my high school geometry class, aren't today's GUI desktop environments still two-dimensional? Windows lets you drag and drop items sideways and up and down, but it's still a very flat world. That's fine for keyboarders like me, but if you want to do anything besides input letters and numbers, it's...well...unnecessarily unimaginative.


Windows Vista features Windows Flip 3D that displays all open windows in a three-dimensional view, but it's tame compared to some of the add-ons out there. Fortunately, there are developers who see the world in true three-dimensional perspective and have developed desktop environments that are truly delightful.


Spaces, from Spatial Research, seamlessly integrates into your Windows desktop and juices your graphics card with an injection of steroids. The add-on allows you to manage multiple windows and applications by allowing them to recede into the desktop. Spaces is customizable and lets you operate in a variety of work spaces that display multiple effects. The Spatial Research Rendering Engine is similar to the software components that power 3D games. It allows the software to seamlessly integrate and coexist with the windowing system. It provides not only standard rendering services, but also what the company calls "particle, animation, and physics effects." The software is available for a free evaluation, no registration is required, and no user information is requested. For those who wish to buy it, your grandkid could afford it out of his allowance.


DeskSpace (formerly Yod'm 3D) for Windows provides four virtual desktops, all of them contained on a spinning 3D cube. To cycle between them, just press Crtl-Shift plus an arrow key or a custom key assignment if that one is already taken. A rotation of the cube also can be achieved by using your mouse while you hold down the activation keys. Clicking the Yod'm icon in the System Tray and selecting any open application will allow you to begin using it. Trial software is available for download, and the commercial version is $24.95.


Dexpot V1.4 creates and manages up to 20 preloaded virtual desktops that help some people work more efficiently. I'm sure having a nice 24-inch or larger monitor would help too, but perhaps installing this software will give you an excuse to rob the community piggy bank. While Dexpot doesn't exactly turn your desktop into a 3D platform, it does create a lot of extra flexibility that regular Windows doesn't offer. This is a free program that allows you to move or copy applications to any virtual desktop or run several applications on each. What's more, you can customize desktop titles; set wallpaper, icon size, and screen resolution; and specify password protection for each desktop. Testers report it doesn't slow down your system much considering all that is going on upstairs.


3DNA Desktop creates a 3D house where you can hang your digital photos on the wall. Don't like the house anymore? Download a space station and live there for awhile. Panels on the walls serve as browser windows. You can toggle between your 3D and 2D desktops with a click of the mouse. Teleport to different areas in order to launch applications, open folders, or surf the Web. Let 3DNA scan your system to create a custom set of links to get started. 3DNA is a 21 MB download and puts a bit more stress on your system than Dexpot.


We use Yahoo! Messenger a lot in the office, and I love the Yahoo Widgets. Besides the weather, there is even one that gives you a compilation of local news from a collection of regional newspapers. When you install Transform XP to Vista, you get Yahoo Widgets along with a desktop that has a theme similar to Vista for those of you who want the look but not the compatibility issues. The application doesn't modify system files, but it does modify, and hopefully improve, your desktop's functionality.


We all like variety in our lives, and if you spend a lot of time in front of your computer, you probably get tired of looking at the same old interface every day. For a little spice in your life, try a virtual desktop, perhaps one that's three dimensional, and see if it helps you think--out of the box.

10gen Inc.
About the Author:

10gen is the initiator, contributor and continual sponsor of MongoDB, offering production support, training, consulting and online management services for the database. Thousands of leading Web 2.0 companies, as well as major Fortune 500 enterprises, have adopted MongoDB. 10gen is funded by Flybridge Capital, Sequoia Capital and Union Square Ventures, which will be used to address the growing global demand for MongoDB across enterprises customers. For more information, visit www.10gen.com or www.mongodb.org.



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