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Etoile Project Releases Mac-Like Environment 311

Posted by kdawson
from the starry-eyed-penguin dept.
pschmied writes "Today the Étoilé Project released v0.2 of its Desktop Environment. Not only does Étoilé share user interface similarities with Mac OS X, Étoilé enjoys some source-level compatibility with Mac OS X as well. Many here undoubtedly remember NeXT, the revolutionary computer / development environment that gave rise to the first Web browser and later became the foundation of Mac OS X. Étoilé uses the FSF's own implementation of the NeXT development environment, GNUstep, making this a close technological relative of OS X. Screenshots and a source tarball are available."
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Etoile Project Releases Mac-Like Environment

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  • Mac OSX? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Daengbo (523424)
    Except for the fact that it has a top panel and a launcher, I don't see the similarity to Mac OSX (Not that I really use either of them -- just seen screenshots). Honestly, it reminds me more of WindowMaker using GnuStep apps. I think GnuStep is a great platform, though, and am glad that someone is finally puuting together a DM for it from the ground up, instead of using WindowMaker or similar. With the ease of development GnuStep gives, I guess the project could develop quickly if enough people get on boar
    • Re:Mac OSX? (Score:4, Informative)

      by marcello_dl (667940) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @09:23PM (#20037091) Homepage Journal
      In fact if I got TFA it has similarities with what the mac could have been if Apple didn't practically kill hypercard and left the newton and opendoc to wither. The monolithic app is what commercial software vendors want, while a document or object centric environment is very exciting from the power user point of view. In fact is kinda translating the unix philosophy of making specialized tools work together for complex tasks in a GUI and OO.

      If it can be done and they also find ways to integrate the now ubiquitous web applications' data, database, and other languages in that environment we could end up, for example, having a set of remote EJBs and Rails's active record objects, a couple local database rows and some emails being processed by a filter written in c that once belonged to openoffice calc, ending up in a nice graph.

      Anyway, Gnome's bonobo, netbeans and probably lots of other projects wanted to achieve something like this as a primary or secondary goal, maybe people don't want such a paradigm shift.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ilgaz (86384) *
      I am saying something for 3-4 years since I switched to OS X as ex Slackware/WindowMaker user.

      If people supported WindowMaker/OpenStep as they really seem to get impressed with OS X Desktop, things could really change in Linux Desktop scene. Especially those guys who spend hard time trying to make OS X work flawless on white box PCs via binary hacks.

      Thanks to Fink project I checked WindowMaker again on OS X and I easily recommend it to Mac only people wanting a "real" fullscreen X11 since it is very close
  • Menus at the top! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kinabrew (1053930) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @08:21PM (#20036533) Journal
    Finally, an open-source desktop environment whose developers understand that menus at the top are infinite targets and always in the same place and therefore are easier to hit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gilesjuk (604902)
      It's a pain when you have dual screens though. With OSX you have to choose which screen gets the menubar.

      There's hacks to work around it of course.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kinabrew (1053930)
        A simple solution to that is to have menu bars appear on both screens if there are applications on both screens.

        Just show the menu bar on both screens with the menus of whatever is the front application on that particular screen.
      • by p0tat03 (985078)

        I wish OS X would put the menu bar on both screens. It's really not too hard to do.

        That said, I think Windows is a worse violator, or maybe it's just the drivers... The task bar only goes on the secondary display. When I hook my laptop up to my big monitor, the task bar simply refuses to budge! But at home, with the big LCD, I only use my laptop screen as a tools palette for apps like Photoshop and 3dsmax. This is very annoying. I can't even get games to run on the big monitor, since the display panel wou

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by kevorkian (142533)
          in regards to the task bar that wont budge .. there is a setting called "lock the taskbar" when unlocked you can move it where ever you want .. even the 'other' display

          Also as for the second monitor that wont play the games. You can simply disable the internal monitor of the laptop. Either via the hardware 'Fn' on a old IBM thinkpad or in the settings screen.

        • If you care, there's a cool mod for XP that'll stretch the bar across both displays called ultramon []
          • by belg4mit (152620)
            Multimon is better, it gives a start button and clock on the supplementary taskbar too
            (although, unfortunately, you cannot right clock this clock for the date)
  • What is the historical basis for claiming that NeXT gave rise to the Web browser? Was NCSA Mosaic developed on a NeXT? Or are you referring to an earlier browser?
  • by bomanbot (980297) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @08:22PM (#20036545)
    Interestingly, the Etoile developers seem to want to avoid the GPL and prefer the BSD License (as seen on their about page here: ex.php?title=EtoileWiki:About/ []), which I find a bit odd...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Microlith (54737)
      It's not odd, it's just not what -you- would have done I imagine.

      Some people feel it's more important to create something that gets used whether in open or closed source form than something be bound by an ideology.
    • by pschmied (5648) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @08:46PM (#20036767) Homepage
      The reasoning is actually pretty good. They are building a services based desktop that also has a lot of components for which they want broad reuse to be possible. The FSF actually releases most of GNUStep under the LGPL. Given the age and status as an FSF project, I wonder if LGPL wasn't in part to address the requirements of GNUStep.
    • Why do you find it odd? The GPL has a fairly viral nature, which they find does not works with their component based system.

      They actually have very strong reasoning.

  • Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JimDaGeek (983925)
    This isn't even close to OS X. Seriously. This is like making some really crappy "OS" and then saying, hey, we are close to MS Windows 95. I looked at this site, screen shots and other stuff. They just don't come close to the current Mac OS X OS.
    • by istewart (463887)
      Look at it this way: of course it'll never be close to OS X in terms of interface design or polish, but if a GNUstep-based desktop solution gains traction, that can only be a good thing for the Mac as well as open-source platforms. More robust open-source Objective-C frameworks mean that Mac developers can potentially deploy their programs on many more computers, and that will in turn attract more developers to the NeXT-derivative frameworks.

      On the other hand, these Étoilé guys seem to be writing
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mr_matticus (928346) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @08:52PM (#20036823)
      Parent is not a troll.

      Ubuntu is more Mac-like than this. This is the perfect example of just plain not getting it. Copying a general layout isn't good enough. Approximations of a user experience defined by close attention to detail and sound design principles are simply bound to failure. Just look at the screenshots. This UI has the exact same deficiencies as nearly every other window manager for Linux--poor typefaces, rendered poorly and positioned poorly. Manipulation elements that lack refinement. You've got flat icons on a flat background shoehorned into a plain rectangular space.

      The "About" screen shows it all. The background image is unbalanced. That's fine. But the shadowbox on top of it is precisely centered. Those are clashing elements. The corners on that shadowbox are too rounded to appear crisp and too confined to appear smooth or blended. The "let your environment grow" text looks goofy and childish, and it doesn't seem related to anything. It should be superimposed on the image, above the gradient bar, or it should be boxed into a separate branding box somewhere. Right now, it's superfluous text, and it's a typical, ugly Linux text experience to boot.

      I don't mean to be an art snob or to demean the people who doubtlessly worked hard on this. I certainly don't mean to imply that Linux's goals should be as heavily slanted toward the aesthetic as, say, OS X. But if you put *yourself* in the big kids' pool, be prepared to take it. This is amateur, uninspired, and completely misses the boat.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pschmied (5648) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @09:01PM (#20036903) Homepage
        I think some times that the Linux community can be too concerned with window dressing and not enough by substance. What make this Mac like isn't a skin deep sort of thing. It's about being able to write a program and have it run on both.

        Now, there is such a thing as not having enough of an eye for Window dressing as well. That's one of the historic complaints about GNUStep. People complain that it looks too much like the Old School NeXT. That's probably a valid complaint. These guys are making progress. I'd rather have the UI look pretty in 0.3 or 0.4 than the development libs suck into perpetuity. On that front, GNUStep is reasonably Cocoa-compatible--to the point of being able to share .Nibs (user interface files) with the Mac.

        • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mr_matticus (928346) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @09:13PM (#20037003)
          But the problem exists on that level as well. I confined my comments to the visual layer because that's what parent started with this thread. But these people seem to writing themselves into a corner and it's pretty easy to see how their frameworks are going to have to be wedged in with electronic equivalents of shims and compatibility layers to come back into the fold. They're writing a lot of their own stuff and making it, just like on the surface layer, an approximation of true interoperability.

          GNUStep is reasonably compatible with NextStep which is reasonably compatible with Cocoa. They branched from a common ancestor and happen to be reasonably similar now. All the extra frameworks tossed in to this project looks to be a third fork more than a bridge between the two.
        • by Improv (2467)
          If it really looked like NeXTStep, there'd be a lot less to complain about. GNUStep generally looks like "NeXTStep-but-ugly" - part of what defined NeXTStep was that the interface was so polished.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by forkazoo (138186) <> on Sunday July 29, 2007 @09:18PM (#20037045) Homepage

        Ubuntu is more Mac-like than this. This is the perfect example of just plain not getting it. Copying a general layout isn't good enough.

        "Mac-Like" in this context refers chiefly to the fact that programming for this is very similar to Cocoa development on Mac OS X. The guts are quite Mac-like compared to writing for Qt/KDE or GTK/Gnome.

        OTOH, I expect that your criticism is quite valid. You may want to consider contributing some art to the project, or submitting patches to make it more aesthetic. Personally, the way it looks doesn't bother me, but don't let my bland tastes stop you from scratching your itch! :)
        • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mr_matticus (928346) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @09:33PM (#20037163)
          Wouldn't it still be more accurate to say that this project is GNUstep-like? Or GNUstep-based?

          Its similarity to OS X is purely by virtue of it using GNUstep, which is Cocoa-like. Credit for "Mac-like" would therefore go to the GNUstep project, at least in my book. I certainly agree with your assessment of the context of the summary, and I think that I simply glossed over the underpinnings. Perhaps my definition of similarity is too strict. I simply assumed that everyone knew GNUstep was Cocoa-like and that these people were making the claim based on their UI. It hadn't occurred to me that they would just take the "Mac-like" title from their GNUstep underpinnings.
      • It's like OpenStep (Score:3, Informative)

        by OrangeTide (124937)
        The GNUStep project has been around for a very long time (been available since around 1991). Internally it is more like MacOS X or OpenStep, and therefor theoretically easier to port applications to this environment (or port GNUStep apps to OSX).

        I think what GNUStep needs is a lot more artists to draw some pretty icons and some people who are concerned with the front-end appearance rather than back-end compatibility and framework APIs.

        You mention "it's a typical, ugly Linux text experience to boot." .. but
      • by theurge14 (820596)
        The didn't even have the decency to not directly copy the volume icon from OS X. Sigh. It's hard to criticize Microsoft for no innovation when much of the open source world does nothing but directly copy other work.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Orange Crush (934731) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:03PM (#20037789)
      It looked more Mac-like before the name change, but Apple threatened to sue if they called it iToil.
  • In Ubuntu Feisty (using 2.6.16 kernel, don't ask)...

    It's not a window manager like my enlightenment or blackbox and I'm not sure where to start it. Seems to have installed fine.

    Can I configure it to be an option in my login or do I need to command line it?
    • by pschmied (5648) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @08:40PM (#20036715) Homepage
      No, it's not a window manager. It's more analogous to something like GNOME or KDE with their associated libraries.

      Here's a rough step-by-step:

      1. Install the dependencies listed here: ntuppc-610.html []

      2. Use the GNUStep "Startup" package (you need a newer version of GNUStep than what is bundled with Ubuntu): []

      3. Compile Etoile per the instructions in the tarball.

      It's a bit different procedure than your average configure, make, make install. My hope is that someone will start packaging current versions for Ubuntu. Maybe I'll get off my duff and start doing that.

      • by pschmied (5648)
        If you are on Intel rather than PPC you may want "libffi-dev" instead of "libffcall-dev"

      • Thanks so much peter, unfortunately I think we miscommunicated. I have installed the tarball, however I don't know how to change my windows manager or desktop environment. I don't know how to get back into the standard.

        As well as not being able to choose my desktop environment I'm having trouble choosing between the "theme" option I've chosen and what's available through gdmsetup.

        Basically there are several desktop configuration menus, and none seem to allow me to choose a desktop environment.
    • It's not a Window Manager, but it does include one. It should work fine under Ubuntu, since that's what our LiveCD uses. If you run the script, then it will install a .desktop file that GDM can use to define a login environment. Please be aware though, that this really is a 0.2 release. We don't expect people to use it as their primary environment yet; it's still mainly for developers.
  • by pschmied (5648) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @08:32PM (#20036639) Homepage
    Etoile may be in its relative infancy, but I believe it has great strategic potential for the FOSS movement. Etoile / GNUStep is building some great infrastructure, uniting the Mac and FOSS communities, and is building on some very interesting ideas.

    If you haven't already done so, I urge you to check out David's Core Object posting. [] There is some exciting stuff there. Smalltalkers will find it particularly interesting.

    Props to the Etoile team! This is even more reason for me to grow my Objective C / Cocoa / GNUStep skills.

    • IF you're following CoreObject, I committed code yesterday that turns the experimental pile of cruft into a framework. Serialising invocations (messages and their arguments, that's method calls to any C++/Java people) and then re-loading them and playing them back now works for my test case. This week I'll tidy up and document the code and then start working on the higher levels. Quentin's already done some work from the top down while I've been working bottom-up, so we should meet in the middle soon, an
  • Close technological relative? Close? Like the bird and the dinosaur?
  • by Craig Ringer (302899) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:05PM (#20037799) Homepage Journal

    The discussion of a replacement for the "file" abstraction seems a bit iffy. We've seen this before, many times, and it hasn't worked:

    1. Files are a low level SHARED abstraction agreed upon by ALL major plaforms in use. Like the use of the C interface to communicate between components in an executable (no matter what language(s) they're written in) it's going to stay dominant unless you can convince everybody to change to your new one.
    2. Because of (1), cross-platform data sharing will be much harder, and apps will have to support a conventional file format too. Especially for a niche platform that lacks the market power to force the new approach down everybody's throats.
    3. It's very much like the Apple Resouce Fork - a quite nice (if imperfectly implemented and historically limited) approach to enhancing files. ResEdit was amazing. Unfortunately, the resource fork is fading from use because it was always a royal PITA for cross platform work, and because portable apps can't rely on it.
    4. This is different to, say, Java's object serialization how?

    In short: it seems they're improving object serialization. Nice, but hardly revolutionary, and likely to introduce fun problems when interoperating with software relying on it.

  • Urgh! (Score:3, Informative)

    by NoMaster (142776) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @11:24PM (#20037911) Homepage Journal
    Urgh! Looks like an ugly version of a Gnome-ified WindowMaker/GNUstep. Granted, with GNUstep the underpinnings should be sufficiently NeXT / OS X like - but the 'G' part of the 'GUI' is fugly as sin and hardly Mac-like (with the exception of the 'taskbar at the top'), which doesn't bode well for the 'UI' part of the equation.

    (Note to developers: you should actually use and think about the UI you're trying to emulate. Even broad concepts, like level of menu depth and placement of functions/actions appropriate to their complexity, can make all the difference in the world. Not that Apple themselves aren't adverse to ignoring their own guidelines on these matters when it suits them...)

    • by antic (29198)
      I'm with you, but wasn't sure if we were meant to be discussing the aesthetics or whether this was only a new project?

      Checked out the screenshots and it looks really ugly. Surely this is what an interface designer comes up with on their first, embarrassing attempt?
  • Wow! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Caspian (99221) on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:46AM (#20038573)
    It's like a Mac, but minus all the cool!

    *dodges Linux fanboys* Aieee!
  • Objective C is 1980's technology: it's a clever and useful extension of C, and its dynamic binding and typing are still convenient, but it's lacking garbage collection and runtime safety. Apple is addressing the garbage collection issue in Leopard, but there is still no runtime safety.

    Why does runtime safety matter? It matters because it makes software more robust and more secure. Without it, an error in a plugin or application can cause not only a crash, but also silent data corruption or data loss. M
    • by tyrione (134248)
      I suppose you don't know jack about Objective-C 2.0. Do yourself a favor and download the docs when OS X 10.5 is released. Or better yet, get a ADC Select license and study it.
      • by oohshiny (998054)
        I suppose you don't know jack about Objective-C 2.0

        Only what has been publicly released, which indicates that Objective C 2.0 includes garbage collection but remains backwards compatible; that would make it an unsafe language.

        If Objective C 2.0 turns out to be a safe language and if someone creates an open source implementation, then it's a reasonable consideration. But if Objective C 2.0 turns out to be a safe language, then Etoile and Cocoa would have to be reengineered from the ground up to take advanta
        • by iluvcapra (782887)

          I find this matter tedious, but I feel compelled to defend the honor of the old girl Objective-C:

          • Objective-C will never be strictly typed, and while this lets people get into trouble at runtime, it allows you to build generics, like containers and arrays, as plain objects and avoids the C++ solution of using templates and macros. You can even load collection objects like arrays with objects of different classes.
          • I have walked past the end of an array/string in C, but never in Objective-C, since arrays an
      • by oohshiny (998054)
        One more thing: Apple has explained what the enhancements for Objective C 2.0 are: modern garbage collection, syntax enhancements, runtime performance improvements, and 64-bit support. There is nothing in there about improving runtime safety. So, it's reasonable to assume that the only improvements to runtime safety that is in Objective C 2.0 are those related to garbage collection.

        If you have more information, maybe instead of name calling, you can share that with the rest of us.
  • I don't get it. Mostly. I do get the one Font manager I'm seeing on one screenshot. Looks like it's using some *Step/*Maker/*Box WM toolkit. Anyone with more details on that? If this is their baby, then they desever big kudos for that alone. Font management still is underrepresented in the Linux world.

    However the rest just looks like an inconsistent WMaker/*Step theme with an XFCE bar at the left. Or is there more to it than meets the eye? Some underlying feature laden super framework that will make this WM
    • by Tony (765)
      A window manager is not a desktop environment; it is but one part of a desktop environment. GNUStep is an implementation of OpenStep, an open API that is based closely on the old NeXTStep environment from the old NeXT computers.

      GNUStep [] is a decent implementation, though it's slow in development. It is based on Objective-C, which is (in MNSHO) a much better OO language than C++, Java, or C#. The foundation libraries are a little primitive by modern standards, but pretty clean and powerful nonetheless.

      The win
    • It's about time! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argent (18001)
      Making something "cool" around GNUstep is something I've been hoping would happen for some time.

      Objective C is not the best OOPL, and NeXTstep is not the best class library, but the competition that's actually got wide use is so appallingly bad that they shine like costume jewelry in a pile of muck. Being able to write code that will compile and run natively on OS X and X11 polishes it up a treat.

      The looks and theme aren't the point. NeXTstep was awfully drab too but it developed a devoted following not bec

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928