Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Metisse is not a 3D desktop

I guess most people know now what my dream was : 3D can be more than just fancy.

For some time now, I've been working with members of In Situ team to integrate their Metisse software in Mandriva Linux and it is really exciting. Mandriva will announce very soon (today or tomorrow) Metisse will be part of Mandriva Spring 2007 and is also available as a Live CD based on Mandriva 2007.0 and GNOME (yay) right now so everybody can try Metisse right now and report bugs.
If you want to see what Metisse can do for you, I suggest you download some screencasts I did using Metisse. They are available either using low quality flash on dailymotion (not recommended) or high quality either by bittorrent (preferred) or http. Check for all options (there is a small error on this page, there are 4 different videos but one has the wrong thumbnail for now, it will be fixed tomorrow).
I tried to answer a lot of questions regarding Metisse on our FAQ , I just hope I have covered enough of them ;)

Oh, and before I forget, even it is written on the FAQ, I remind everybody Metisse is experimental software, with a high focus on research in UI interaction and less in esthetic effects (we had some nice .... discussions with Metisse people about this ;), so don't juge metisse only on its appearance. If you can, try it (after a quick look at documentation, otherwise, you might miss many features which are not always discoverable immediatly).

Enjoy everybody.


  1. Comment from Luis:

    Well, uh, holy crap. That bird's eye desktop and folding/copy/paste seem more useful than anything I've seen out of the other desktop demos. Very cool. Congrats.

    It would be nice if the FAQ explained a little more who in situ is.

  2. For In Situ, it is probably best to go to their website (which is quite small, unfortunately).

    In Situ is a team of researchers from three Computer Science laboratories (INRIA, CNRS and LRI/Université Paris-Sud), working on interactions techniques and tools for those techniques.

    Metisse is used by In Situ for some of their experiments (for instance, to share a application between two people, each person have a copy of the application and can use it transparently). Another interesting point regarding Metisse is that this technology has been developped before 3D desktop became available on Linux distributions. But unfortunately, it was somehow unnoticed, mostly because Metisse authors were more focused on their own research than promoting Metisse outside their research community (I'm not blaming them, it is just an observation).

  3. Comment from Stoffe:

    Well those demos made me really happy. Been trying the compiz and beryl stuff off and on and always turned it off, and said "I'll wait until they make somethig useful with it", not really having any hopes for it, since the people developing (and using) them seem to be all about making it move as much as possible.

    This however looks awesome. Mad props to the guys making this.

    Sadly, I'm noa Madriva user, nor do I intend to be, but hopefully this will make it into other distros (or at least prod the other guys to make something as useful).

    Again, awesome work!

  4. Comment from atralyx:

    This will only be useful IMHO if it does not replace compiz or beryl and can be ran beside it, if not i will be sure to avoid mandriva , after all there is pclinuxos , the better mandriva than mandriva

  5. Most features from metisse can't be done in beryl/compiz (in fact, in AIGLX/Xgl), because these technologies don't allow to interact with mouse with transformed windows (either rotated, scaled or duplicated). Even Mac OS X doesn't allow that : you can't work on windows in Expose mode but you can in Metisse Pager mode..

    PS : if you could try to avoid Mandriva "trolls" in future comments, it would be nice too..

  6. Comment from esfa:

    I've tested the LiveCD (downloaded from Club via BitTorrent). But I'm a bit surprised, I didn't see an "Install To Disk" icon on the deskop as it is available for thes other OneLiveCDs. Does it mean it is really impossible to install this distro on the hard disk?

  7. Comment from Jeff:

    It's a gadget...

  8. Comment from gnumdk:

    >since the people developing (and using) them seem to be all about making it move as much as possible.

    It's false, David Raveman want compiz to work the right way. He don't want eye candy, He don't want good features(but you can send him patchs), he want the best OpenGL composite manager (no hack, optimisations, ...)

  9. Comment from -:

    Fred Says January 25th, 2007 at 7:16:
    > Most features from metisse can’t be done in beryl/compiz
    > (in fact, in AIGLX/Xgl), because these technologies don’t
    > allow to interact with mouse with transformed windows
    > (either rotated, scaled or duplicated).

    I read from somewhere about a month ago (probably the Beryl blog/planet) that someone from is working on making this possible in Beryl and/or Compiz. Unfortunately I'm not able to find the post right now, but I guess it should be possible to interact with transformed windows in Beryl/Compiz at some point.

  10. Esfa : sorry about that, when we added the "Find more about Metisse" icon on desktop, we broke the "Live Install" icon by default.

    Just run /usr/sbin/draklive-install manually to install LiveCD.

  11. Comment from mysurface:

    Cool! How is the performance? Is it uses a lots of CPU resources? I am not mandriva users too, would like to try if that is possible to install on Ubuntu.

  12. Comment from thejart:

    this really looks cool, but i'm not sure i get the point of the "mirror" technique. could someone explain the use(s)?

  13. Performance : it requires less high-end 3D cards than Xgl/AIGLX. I've been able to test it on PIII 450Mhz with TNT2 card. It was very slow but it started. So, with something more powerfull, it can work fine. And you don't have to install LiveCD to test, just download and boot it.

    Mirror technique can be used in a table-top environment where people are around a table and access the same application simultaneously.

    The Mirror video was a easy way to show windows can be rotated on different axis but still be usable.

  14. Comment from Anon Coward:

    I get a general sense of... "3D effects are a wasteful distraction" or "we're better because we're functional / NOT a 3D desktop" or "don't confuse us with those special effects desktops" or "we're underdogs" here.

    Compiz / Beryl may be a lot of eye candy at this point, but there is far more going on technically beneath the surface than that.

    Even pretty aesthetic wastes of clock cycles serve a purpose, even if only on a human level. With Beryl, I enjoy the kinesthetic sense that I am actually moving things around when I interact with items on the desktop. I enjoy that level of interaction. I think that the animations can help new users to better mentally internalize what they are doing on the desktop and to enjoy the experience more. (Minimize and maximize act like a genie it its lamp. Closing a window on my system will consume it in flames. So on.)

    More importantly, it generates excitement for the Linux desktop that may not have been there before. (Oh, and it beat Vista in getting released.)

    Beneath the surface is a tighter integration of OpenGL with the X-Windows server architecture. AIGXL appears to be a solid improvement upon XGL, and there are many more improvements yet to come - as I understand it.

    This will be beneficial for all developers for years to come. It opens doors. Open doors generate additional excitement.

    Metisse appears to offer a number of nice features to make the desktop experience a more pleasant one as well. It seems as if it is doing more to reveal as much information on the desktop as possible.

    I like this. Metisse is also a bit of eye candy as well. Metisse opens doors into usability and functionality. The combination of usability and eye candy will help to generate excitement for the Linux desktop as well.

    That's probably the most important thing to take away from all of these recent developments. Each one of them has the potential to generate genuine excitement for the Linux desktop. Sometimes it takes a pretty face to get to know one's inner beauty - to see that there is more to the Linux desktop and its functionality than just the desktop paradigms.

    I sincerely hope "that someone from is working on making this possible in Beryl and/or Compiz." I'd love to see Metisse concepts applied to "flat" desktops for older / non-compatible hardware and "3D" desktops using XGL-based OpenGL X-Windows integration as well.

    Like most power-users, I want it all.

    [btw I am currently using Beryl on a dual 400 Mhz system with a lowly GeForce3. It responds reasonably well.]

  15. Comment from ari-free:

    yes this is not a 3d desktop.
    in a real 3d desktop, you'd navigate your system like a FPS game. You might have a 'house' and you'd have stuff in each room. You'd have 'real' wallpaper and hang pictures on the walls.

    You could rotate the icons and see different shadows and reflections from the background.

    or 3d wallpaper. imagine that XP field wallpaper is really 3d and you move around it for another view.

  16. Comment from Mitch 74:

    I'd say it sucks, considering I'm a Beryl user. far from it.
    I'm getting frustrated by what is taking place in the 3D desktop world: the windows still move, still update while we twist them and stuff, but there is no way you can currently interact with them when they get distorted; the best one can do is take a distance from the window. Even window resize is slow and cumbersome!
    I think Metisse has some stuff to show off, be it shake a folder view to drop files it contains on a lower level folder, or whatever; but please, don't start reinventing the wheel!

    As a side note, I successfully managed to run XGL/Compiz 0.0.13 on a Tnt1. AIGLX and Beryl actually require less GPU horsepower than that. Thus I don't think Metisse can tout lower system requirements. It is an innovative approach though.

  17. Comment from bob:

    that copy-paste thing is way cool... i'm gonna get it now.
    i seem to remember something from mirc on windows, about automatically copying everything to the clipboard whenever it was selected

  18. Comment from christophe:

    Do you know how the screencasts have been made ? They are pretty cool, specially the copy-paste :)

  19. Screencasts and screenshots have been made with Metisse itself, which is able to capture either screenshot or entire live sequences.

  20. Comment from christophe:

    Wow :-)
    Thank you.

  21. Comment from Judland:

    I'm not a big Gnome fan. But, Mandriva's release of Metisse just may be enough to make Gnome worth my while.

    I'm liking Metisse very much. Much more useful than the AIGLX/Xgl cube. Great job to all of those involved!

  22. Comment from Henry S.:

    The only thing I liked was the copy & paste thing. I guess I agree that the mirror thing could be
    usefull when people are gathered around a table-top screen (or flattened laptop)....but how often
    is that?

    I really do think compiz/beryl are more usefull than the haters think. It is well known
    that you can pretty much turn off any feature. I don't use wobbly or anything strange. The smoothness
    of scrolling and moving windows alone is worth running on top of OpenGL for me (I was always annoyed by
    the artifacts when moving windows, particularly firefox and java applications). However, my favorite
    uses of compiz/beryl are Negative Windows (when doing lots of reading), Put, Annotate, and Group. None
    of these involve 3D or special effects. I did modify all of my keyboard shortcuts to use the Windows key I don't have to memorize what combination of ctrl, alt, and shift to is always the
    Windows key. For the items I listed above I use the following shortcuts: Windows+N, Windows+Num Pad,
    Windows+Mouse, and Windows+ G.

    One last thing. I use "Input Enabled Zoom"...and you can in fact interact with windows. I'm not sure
    if it this is a hack that only works for zoom. However, even if something is currently preventing
    interacting with rotated windows, I'm sure they'll eventually find a way to make it work. X has
    come a long ways and shown that it can do pretty much anything. I've been very impressed considering
    how old it is.

  23. Comment from Seriouslycgi:

    This makes me want to go to school, get a cerificate in something, get a desk job, become the boss, create a desk made from a monster lcd screen and huge touchscreen, just so i can install this and show it off.

  24. Comment from Uno Engborg:

    The folding cut/copy/paste looks very good. I hope other window managers will follow. Apart from the Expose like thing in compiz this is the first use of the 3D desktop that really improves usability.

    Forget the Vista like tilted and mirrored windows though, they don't add anything, they just make it harder to read and identify the contents of the window.

  25. Comment from RockinJack:

    Whilst I find most of the functionalities interesting as well as usefull, I didn't get the mirrored window thing, when would one use that?

    Besides that, nice work.

  26. RockinJack: How about reading all the comments ? I already explained how mirror can be useful here ;)

  27. Comment from Blog of Roy Chan » Blog Archive » 再談Metisse : 不是3D的三維桌面:

    [...] Fred’s blog » Blog Archive » Metisse is not a 3D desktop [...]

  28. Comment from Kitty:

    > RockinJack: How about reading all the comments ? I already explained how mirror can be useful here

    Except that it can't work... because if you mirror a window you're changing its parity and no amount of rotation will restore it. In other words in your example if you are on the other side of the table and look at the vertically-mirrored window, you'll see an horizontally mirrored one ( ie inverted right-to-left).
    It seems to me that mirroring only makes sense as a desktop-wide option, not on a per-window basis, in case you have to deal with weird projecting apparati, and that's probably a job for xrandr.

  29. When I did the screencast, I used a X-rotation because it was more visible, but I agree it isn't a real mirror. But with Z rotation, you get a "real" mirror effect.

    And metisse can do desktop-wide rotation, or even split screen with top part being rotated and bottom part, being normal..

  30. Comment from Graham:

    I get this.

    This is more about features of 3d desktop extensions which are useful.

    Metisse was started before Compiz so the re-inventing the wheel thing -that was Novell with XGL/Compiz.

    I do think there is an argument for merging the technologies for 3d collaborative enviroments (one of which I'm working on right now.)

    They use different approaches to the same problem.
    XGL/Compiz directly uses the texture buffer as a "fake" X server, whereas Metisse uses a modified version of VNC to render to the texture buffer and relay mouse events to the applications.

    I think the Metisse approach is more versatile, but the XGL or AIGLX approach will be more responsive.

    It is perfectly possible to relay mouse events using the XGL approach but Metisse use the VNC vehicle to bypass this complexity at the minor cost of responsiveness.

    Interesting projects.