An OS w/o a Desktop, What would it be?

GimmeSlack12

macrumors 603
Original poster
Apr 29, 2005
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San Francisco
With these OS's (Mac, and Windows) now having been around for over 20 years. You wonder how they can continue improving and making innovative changes. Well, what if you go back to the drawing board completely, for a new "outside the box" OS.

Any ideas on a Desktop-less OS? Something that doesn't use the standard clicking icons and having windows and folders that you store things in?

Now I know the hiearchy (sp?) way of the GUI we use today was based on the directory format of very early OS's (i.e. DOS). How could this directory system be re-interpreted into a GUI?

I would like to see a 3-D workstation that you operate in real space, a laser projection machine if you will. Anyone follow that?

I know I know, this thread's way out there.
 

Jay42

macrumors 65816
Jul 14, 2005
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Quote: (forgot the button) "Any ideas on a Desktop-less OS?"

M$ should shove DOS into a new box and bill it as such. Might actually be an improvement.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Well, there's always the Star Trek casual spoken language interface. :)

Perhaps such a computer could have two OLED touchscreens, sort of like a hyper Nintendo DS.... the top one would primarily be for output, and the bottom one primarily for input, which could morph into things like a trackpad or a keyboard as needed....

P.S. ... if you consider MS-DOS to be "very early" in the development of operating systems.... :rolleyes:
 

MoparShaha

macrumors 68000
May 15, 2003
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While I'm sure new computer interfaces could be developed, like the aforementioned "Star Trek" interface, I think the way we use OS' now is going to stick around. Easier ways to use computers do need to be developed for "normal" people, but for us "advanced" users, we would accept nothing less than full access to the filesystem, etc.

In the end, I think there's no reason to reinvent the wheel.
 

5300cs

macrumors 68000
Nov 24, 2002
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japan
How about using Debian but without X-windows? That will leave you with a console only ;)
 

Starfury

macrumors member
Apr 30, 2005
48
14
South-East UK
This is a very interesting question.

The current paradigm in the area of HCI (Human Computer Interaction) is the desktop metaphor, whereby the underlying operations of the computer are represented by objects from the desktop metaphor (files, folders, trashcan etc).

Other, similar, metaphors do exist. For example, the Amiga OS used a different metaphor, whereby underlying operations were represented by a "Workbench". The Workbench screen, therefore, was the equivalent of the desktop, folders were drawers, and so on and so forth. The functionality (while, in my opinion, more mature and usable than the equivalent Mac OS and Windows implementations) was not dramatically different, and a user could easily find his or her way around the system, as the functionality was WIMP (Windows, Interface, Mouse, Pointer) based, and behaved pretty much the same as desktop metaphors at a fundamental level.

The next major evolution for HCI will be to move away from the Workbench/Desktop concept. To take an example many Mac users will be familar with, the Quicksilver utility is indicative of the way that user interfaces may develop. Abandoning the mouse in favour of few keystrokes and by adopting a logical process-flow (Object/Action/Parameters) could potentially lead to a new way of working (though the Quicksilver implementation is nowhere near mature enough to replace the desktop metaphor, it may give an indication of things to come).

Moreover, as many will have heard, the metadata technology behind Spotlight and other desktop search engines is leading the user away from the need to understand the directory structure of a particular volume, a foundation of the desktop metaphor. As soon as this happens, the current paradigm will begin to lose its hold. Don't expect the desktop to vanish completely, however it will change, evolve and no longer be the key to accessing a computer.

(Just as a quick aside, and to reinforce the point about abandoning the mouse to improve productivity, there is an endeavour underway by the Raskin institute to revolutionise HCI by completely abandoning the desktop and other currently accepted principles of HCI. The project's named Archy (previously The Humane Environment (THE)) more information here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archy
http://rchi.raskincenter.org/aboutrchi/index.php

Pete
 

pubwvj

macrumors 68000
Oct 1, 2004
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Mountains of Vermont
GimmeSlack12 said:
With these OS's (Mac, and Windows) now having been around for over 20 years. You wonder how they can continue improving and making innovative changes. Well, what if you go back to the drawing board completely, for a new "outside the box" OS...I would like to see a 3-D workstation that you operate in real space, a laser projection machine if you will. Anyone follow that?
Way too limiting. Think implants. Direct Access Memory Neuronics (DAMN). Total Recall Objective Language Linguistics (TROLL). Muscular Animation Directories (MAD). :) No need to carry around a hulking machine. Remember, things keep getting smaller...
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
pubwvj said:
Way too limiting. Think implants. Direct Access Memory Neuronics (DAMN). Total Recall Objective Language Linguistics (TROLL). Muscular Animation Directories (MAD). :) No need to carry around a hulking machine. Remember, things keep getting smaller...
DAMN TROLL makes me MAD.... :rolleyes:

:p ;) :D
 

Tahko

macrumors regular
Jun 11, 2005
223
0
Finnland
desktop-less PC's are the bestest, if you are not into high-definition porno or video editing. Every UNIX console "lacks" desktop.

Best possible OS would be based on human mind, thoughm, not on maps on shelves. Folderless OS with as intuitive and fast search engine as possible would be best (with built-in internet). For example if one would like to edit image, he would write like "picture" or "paint" on search. Then it would give listing of pictures as well as applications on computer. If no appropiate application, link to internet would be provided to get such an application.
 

tobio

macrumors regular
Sep 5, 2004
146
0
London
consider OS's that DVD players, mobile phones, games consoles etc use. none of those have what would be described as a desktop, but all of them make use of the input available, (remote control, number pad, control pad) to access and manage whatever functions need to be accessed. taking mobile phones as an example, there is no single standard mobile phone OS, but all the current phones have similar functionality, so most people can pick up any mobile phone and within a few minutes work out the basics of how to look up someone in the address book and make a call.

While these are all examples of "appliances" rather than "computers". The OS comparison is perfectly valid. It comes down to transforming a useless object into a useful tool.
 

CanadaRAM

macrumors G5
Tahko said:
desktop-less PC's are the bestest, if you are not into high-definition porno or video editing. Every UNIX console "lacks" desktop.

Best possible OS would be based on human mind, thoughm, not on maps on shelves. Folderless OS with as intuitive and fast search engine as possible would be best (with built-in internet). For example if one would like to edit image, he would write like "picture" or "paint" on search. Then it would give listing of pictures as well as applications on computer. If no appropiate application, link to internet would be provided to get such an application.
Problem. I ask for picture, I have 100,000 pictures in my machine. Now I have to be searching my folderless OS with very specific key words, OR I have to have memorized the filename. Plus, searching by keyword presupposes that the files had key words generated for them at the time they were saved.

No OS is going to be able to automatically assign relevant keywords -- while image recognition AI might be able to come up with "child, baby", it'll never derive "Cousin Mary Smith's newborn at 8 days old at the old family cottage during the 50th annual Jones family reunion with the blanket that Gram knitted"

A hierarchical filing system has one unbeatable attribute; it operates on recognition, not memory, of the file names. I don't remember what the 2003 operating budget speaking notes draft file was named. All I have to remember is that budget documents are in the budget folder. I can then recognize my way to the specific destination.

Budget: lets see- 2003, right. 2003, and... Speaking notes. Speaking notes: Drafts. Drafts: 2003OBSpeakingNotesFinalDraft.doc Got it.
 

savar

macrumors 68000
Jun 6, 2003
1,954
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District of Columbia
GimmeSlack12 said:
Any ideas on a Desktop-less OS? Something that doesn't use the standard clicking icons and having windows and folders that you store things in?
No desktop...you mean a CLI?

If you literally mean "no desktop", then programs like Commander (IIRC), the file manager for DOS years ago would satisfy that.

Of course you mean *future* operating system interface paradigms. I've been thinking about this too...I think Apple is migrating to a database file system in one of the next few major upgrades. Spotlight is already a step towards this, since spotlight on a fast computer almost makes folders useless. Apple also hired the guy who wrote the BeOS file system, which was a database file system, so all signs point to this.

So files won't be stored in any kind of static hierarchy. Instead, all "folders" or whatever the collections of the future are called will resemble what MacOS X currently calls "Smart Folders"...folders that are simply a view of all files meeting certain criteria. Given that, the metaphor of a folder and desktop is no longer necessary.

What does an operating system really need? A way to find files and a way to launch applications. So to the extent that you can present collections you can build an OS. I think that OSes will start to use more 3-d cues and focus less on the desktop metaphor in the next 5-10 years. A 3-d interface (a la Minority Report) is still at least 10 years away, if not 15-20.
 

redeye be

macrumors 65816
Jan 27, 2005
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CanadaRAM said:
...

No OS is going to be able to automatically assign relevant keywords -- while image recognition AI might be able to come up with "child, baby", it'll never derive "Cousin Mary Smith's newborn at 8 days old at the old family cottage during the 50th annual Jones family reunion with the blanket that Gram knitted"

...
Maybe some day. Just give your AI some more juice ;).

The picture will probably be part of a set, giving the AI the opportunity to group them and add your event title of "50th Jones family reunion". The annual is given, it's in your agenda, right?
these pictures all have creation-dates -> babies age
Based on other, older, pictures and your contact list (and relations to those contacts) the recognition system will be able to give you the names of everybody on the picture. You just go: "oh yeah that's little Mark". computer: "Cousin Mary's 8 day old Marc?". Of course you had already put the birth of Mark in your agenda... Never forget birthdays ! ;)
Why not make it powerful enough to read body language...

A simple search for "picture Mark reunion edit" would do nice i'd say :D.

A big and strong AI will maybe one day do this all. I do believe a hierarchical file structure will always be needed. Although the number of levels might become much smaller (eg root:system, root/apps and root/files).

On the UI:
Minority Report (i think, only saw a few snippets out of that movie) shows a great new pre-bioport computer interface. EDIT: as mentioned above :eek: :) .
These guys are doing a nice job while impressing the ladies.