A visit from the trolls
Posted Oct 15, 2007 21:35 UTC (Mon) by madscientist
Parent article: A visit from the trolls
I find this very interesting. Consider the FVWM window manager. That WM had two different concepts: virtual desktop and multiple desktops. A "virtual desktop" was the idea that your real desktop was huge, and your physical screen was just a window that looked out onto that desktop. So you'd move your screen around to see different parts of the big virtual desktop behind it. Windows could move freely on the virtual desktop, but in order to move them between desktops you had to do something special (usually a menu option or similar). I think VTWM had a similar structure. In these WMs you didn't have to have your screen "flipping" between discrete screenfuls of virtual real estate (although most of the time you did): you could drag a little viewer around to show any part of the virtual desktop on the screen.
So, does this patent cover this "one large virtual desktop" idea? It doesn't seem to, to me: it's got a completely different terminology and intent. It talks about different workspaces and discrete objects that have a spatial relationship within that particular workspace; in the virtual desktop theory there is only one "workspace" and all objects have spatial relationships to each other in that workspace, and it's the screen that is too small to show the whole thing. But I don't know...
If the "one large virtual desktop" idea is not covered by the patent then one way to work around it (until next December) is to change the existing WMs to adhere more closely to this idea. Really, it's not much more than a change in perspective and user representation, plus one new feature: the ability to show any contiguous area of the "virtual desktop" that is the size of the screen, rather than (or in addition to) flipping between discrete "windows".
Really, some WMs already do something close to this; for example I've been playing with Compiz in the Ubuntu Gutsy release candidate, and if you use Expo for example you can see all your "desktops" in one view, and drag windows between them and even leave windows halfway between them. You still can't look at half of one desktop and half of another (in normal size) but it's part-way there.
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