Cutting-edge ‘transparent desktop’ implemented in Mac OS X, PC version delayed until ‘Longhorn’ rele

“Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have designed a new system that cleverly blends a video-conference feed with a transparent image of a computer desktop into one full-screen window,” Leander Kahney reports for Wired News.

“Called Facetop, the system simultaneously transmits a video feed of users along with a shared, transparent image of the desktop. It allows two colleagues to work on the same document, Web page or graphic, while communicating face to face,” Kahney reports. “Developed by David Stotts, an associate professor of computer science, and graduate student Jason Smith, Facetop was conceived for collaborative tasks like programming or editing text. But the researchers say it has obvious uses in other areas such as medical imaging or remote teaching.”

“The system is implemented in Mac OS X and is made possible largely by the system’s Quartz rendering engine, which can make any part of the interface transparent. Thanks to Quartz, a quick prototype was whipped up in about 45 minutes, Smith said,” Kahney reports. “A PC version will likely be delayed until the release of Longhorn, the next major version of Windows, due in 2006, which will include a similar graphics subsystem.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If Longhorn comes out in 2006, by some miracle, it will have a “similar graphics subsystem” to Mac OS X’s Quartz which debuted with the Mac OS X Public Beta which shipped in September 2000. More proof, as if we needed any, that Apple leads by a wide margin (in this particular case, by some six or more years) and Wintel follows as usual. Still, Microsoft’s billions mightt be working some magic; it took them over 11 years to poorly copy the original Mac OS with the debut of Windows 95, so 6+ would be a nice improvement. Too bad they can’t seem to improve the quality of their copies – everything that comes out of Redmond seems to be upside down and backwards.


  1. I am a regular Mac user and will never go back to Windows, but it’s a little misleading to say that “everything” that comes out of Redmond is bad. Windows XP may not have been perfect, but it had some nice features. I absolutely loved the filmstrip and thumbnail interface when viewing images through Windows Explorer (My Computer, I guess…not 100% familiar with names). XP did feature fast user switching before it appeared in Panther, and it took Apple to make it a little more pretty by adding in the neat flipping graphic. And despite the critiisms, the Start Menu is not a horrific idea: I love having a nice hierarchical menu for accessing all my programs that is easy to access. And although I know you can get third party software to build that into OS X, I’ve found that built in OS functions work much better than things you have to add.

    So while I wholeheartedly agree that in most cases, Apple is way ahead of the curve, be aware that there is still some other things that Apple does need to look into at some point. At least, that’s just my humble opinion…

  2. to –,

    Spend a little time learning osx built-in stuff and you might be surprised at what you can do without 3rd party add-ons. For instance, you talked about the start menu. Well, in osx, you can put the applications folder icon in your dock (or any other folder for that matter), then, click and hold the icon in the dock. What do you see, a start menu with everything in that folder and all sub-folders. To me, this is much more useful than the wintel solution because you can do this for any folder.

  3. yes the start menu was a brilliant idea.. putting all that great stuff on the bottom left..

    whereas on the mac you have something called the APPLE MENU which is.. on the top … left.. which.. oh my head hurts

    Great for MS.. fast user switching.. too bad, when you sell $400 computers, you don’t have one computer for every 17 people.

    Seriously though.. the way we saw Transparent Windows (can you say redundant?) in the Longhorn movies.. it is irritating.. kudos to the scientists for actually finding a practical use for the damn things.. rather than just “cool, they’re transparent.. now how do i shut these off. Oh here’s the Curse MS Wizard..”

  4. “I love having a nice hierarchical menu for accessing all my programs that is easy to access.”

    So do I. That’s why with Mac OS X I drag my hard drive(s) to the right side of the dock and leave them there all the time. That way, when you click and hold on them, you get a perfect hierarchical menu of your entire system. Not some half-baked piece of shit like the Windows Start Menu. Of course, this requires nothing “extra” for Mac OS X. Mac OS X does this right out of the box. I thought everybody knew this already. Guess Apple should ship OS X with the drive in the Dock by default and help everybody out.

  5. On fast user switching…XP does not allow you to switch between two password protected accounts and keep any applications or documents open, OSX can no problem.

  6. The Start Menu?

    Just drag your HD icon to your dock(to the right end of the dock)and you get exactly the same thing. Just want your apps and not all your home folder stuff? Just drag your Application folder to the dock. With either, just click and hold the icon in the dock and you get the same thing as the Start menu…. only better…. ’cause it’s not Windows.

  7. “On fast user switching…XP does not allow you to switch between two password protected accounts and keep any applications or documents open”

    I suppose this may be true of XP /Home/, but it’s certainly /not/ true of XP /Professional/, where I can have my whole family on the machine, w/ passwords, and applications open and running, all at once.

    By the way, I have yet to get my Mac, so I can more fully play with Mac OS X (aside from my past experience with NeXT, and Mac OS X 1.x) so I don’t know: When a user’s screen is locked (via the screen saver, or specifically locking the screen) is Fast User Switching directly available, or does the user have to unlock the screen in order to access it? On XP Professional, at least, when a users screen is locked, Fast User Switching is directly available, so even if someone who is not presently logged in can log in while the previous user’s screen is locked. Very handy!

    (Incidentally, the machine on which I have installed XP Professional is “multibooted” with Linux. About the only use XP gets is with my young son, when he wants to play games.* All the rest of us use Linux on the box. I just wish I could “Fast User Switch” between Linux and XP. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” /> )

    * I curse Microsoft whenever my son gets a Microsoft game: I can’t believe that the maker of this multi-user OS doesn’t seem to “get it” when it comes to multi-user, protected systems! They still insist upon having the game write into its installed directory, even when run by an unprivileged user!!!!! >:-( This is to say nothing of the fact that the best way for my son to reboot the system (since I don’t allow unprivileged users to shut down or reboot the system) is to repeatedly log in and log off! It doesn’t take long for the system to crash and reboot!

  8. Ahhhh. Yes, it definitely doesn’t work in XP home, but I never get to use Pro, so I wouldn’t know.

    Yes, OSX allows fastuser switching from a locked screen.

  9. “Ahhhh. Yes, it definitely doesn’t work in XP home, but I never get to use Pro, so I wouldn’t know”

    No wonder you think XP sucks, your on home..Here’s a tip, Get Pro.

  10. “And despite the critiisms, the Start Menu is not a horrific idea: I love having a nice hierarchical menu for accessing all my programs that is easy to access.”

    Fred Mertz and Jeffrey T both offer excellent advice about putting your HD in the Dock. Today’s MDN piece about the Dock also suggests doing the same.

  11. BTW:
    Transperent Windows Were NOT first on the mac…Actually they where 1st on Windows 2000 running Smoothvision….

    “it took them(M$) over 11 years to poorly copy the original Mac OS”

    To copy what? the crappy interface that apple stole from Xerox?

    Come On…Who gives a shit..besides the typical mac user?

    Here is one…Instead of wasting your time with apple’s iLife..
    Get a real Life..Step away slowly…

  12. NoMacForYou:

    I was using a control panel on Mac OS8&9 that allowed transparent windows when you dragged them. I can’t think of the name now however.

    This pre-dates Windows 2000 & Mac OSX by a long way.

    Your a Windows user, this is a Mac-site, why are you here if only to point-score on ‘whose got a particular feature first’?

    Instead of wasting your time with point scoring on Mac-users, go and get a life yourself.

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