Apple developing active desktop feature for Mac OS X

Posted:
in macOS edited January 2014
An enhancement to the Mac OS X operating system under development by Apple looks to pave the way for active desktop pictures, or desktop backgrounds that can include motion graphics and alter themselves based on user actions or the time of the day.



In a patent filing detailing the development, Apple notes that desktop pictures have traditionally been drawn using an image stored in a static picture file that consumes considerable resources in RAM and VRAM (video RAM). In addition, the Mac maker also notes that because desktop pictures are static, transitions between the login screen and the desktop picture are generally abrupt and nonorganic.



Instead of loading a file that contains the desktop image, Apple's design looks to provide for a system and method for opening and retaining a procedural "recipe" and a small set of instructions that can be executed to compute a desktop picture over time. The technique is said to reduce requirements for both VRAM and RAM, hence taking less memory away from the system.



"Because the desktop picture is computed using a procedural recipe, the storage for the desktop picture can be eliminated," Apple wrote. "This includes both main memory (e.g., RAM) and video memory (e.g., VRAM) copies of the picture. Advantageously, using a procedural recipe to compute a desktop picture (or a portion thereof) allows the unused VRAM and RAM to be used for other operations."



The Cupertino-based systems builder goes on to say in the filing that seamless integration between login, the desktop picture, and log out also provides a visual hook that can further distinguish products.



"Since the desktop picture can be computed very quickly using a GPU, it may be made to move on demand," the company explained. "This includes movement, for example, when logging in, logging out, and transitioning to and from a screen saver, providing a seamless experience. It can also include slow movement, such as seen when a soft tree shadow is cast, with the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze, or slow movement over time, or concerted movement to mark the passing of time (e.g., a noticeable change to pattern or color every hour)."



Apple also hinted at an editing tool that could allow desktop picture designers to edit and specify the user experience. "In certain embodiments of the present invention, a single frame may be computed," the company said. "In other embodiments of the present invention, multiple frames may be computed. Furthermore, transitions between frames effectively provide movement of desktop pictures on demand."



A seamless transition from one desktop picture to another may be used to simulate motion or animation, according to the filing, where several gradations may be computed over time. "For example, the color gradation may be computed based on the time of day to mimic the changes in the colors of the sky," Apple wrote.



Aside from the time of the day, a variety of other types of events may be used to effect a change to the desktop picture. "For example," Apple continued. "the desktop picture may change upon a user event, such as launching a predetermined application. For instance, a particular desktop picture may be computed when the application iTunes.RTM. is launched; a different desktop picture may be computed when the application QuickTime.RTM. Player is launched."



Additionally, desktop pictures may change upon exiting a predetermined application, where upon exiting a particular application, the desktop picture may revert to the pervious desktop picture that was displayed just prior to the launching of that application.



As yet another example, Apple said the desktop picture may change after the computer is idle for a particular period of time or when the computer comes out of an idle state. It could similarly change when transitioning to or from a screen saver.



"As will be appreciated by those of skill in the art, the foregoing examples are provided as just a few examples of the many types of events that may be used to trigger a change in the desktop picture, and are not intended to be an exhaustive list," Apple wrote. "It will be appreciated that various other types of events may be used to trigger a change in the desktop picture and are within the scope of the present invention."



The October 14, 2005 filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is titled "System and method for computing a desktop picture." It was published for the first time on Thursday with credits to Apple employees Ralph Brunner, Imran Chaudhri, and Mark Zimmer.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 69
    glossgloss Posts: 506member
    This is something I've always noticed with any OS (re: the 'inorganic' transition from login to desktop). It'll be great if they can do something about it.
  • Reply 2 of 69
    boogabooga Posts: 1,081member
    This is a good idea. Essentially, use pixel shaders to compute an abstract background image instead of a static huge picture. For a gigantic display or a very high DPI display, an image is going to use up huge resources.



    Of course, this is the kind of good idea that once everyone hears about it, retroactively assumes was "obvious". I'm sure SlashDot is going to have a field day crying foul about this patent.
  • Reply 3 of 69
    jupiteronejupiterone Posts: 1,564member
  • Reply 4 of 69
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    A static desktop image uses a lot of resources? I have trouble believing this; can someone point me to some info?







    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Booga View Post


    This is a good idea. Essentially, use pixel shaders to compute an abstract background image instead of a static huge picture. For a gigantic display or a very high DPI display, an image is going to use up huge resources.



    Of course, this is the kind of good idea that once everyone hears about it, retroactively assumes was "obvious". I'm sure SlashDot is going to have a field day crying foul about this patent.



    And Diggers will point out that MS has had "Active Desktop" for years.
  • Reply 5 of 69
    Most pics I see as desktop backgrounds are only a few MBs. With system memories being 1GB+ now this is a silly argument.



    What it really sounds like is that they are off loading much of the windowing environment off of the CPU and turning it in to calculations that are efficient for the GPU and directly to the display.
  • Reply 6 of 69
    Isn't this feature already in Vista or something? Maybe I am misunderstanding the whole concept...
  • Reply 7 of 69
    wircwirc Posts: 302member
    Well I'm glad I didn't vote for Atmosphere. But could that program interfere with the patent?
  • Reply 8 of 69
    louzerlouzer Posts: 1,054member
    How exciting! I guess leave it to me to be one who has to ask the obvious. Do people actually see their desktop that much to care? To me, any desktop I see is space that could be used for some actual purpose (you know, sort of like how having 'free' memory in a computer is a complete waste, since it just sits there, while even if it just stores programs that have been quit, it can at least help speed opening it again).
  • Reply 9 of 69
    Waste of Apple's resources! How does this help me administer hundreds of Macs in a corporate environment? Let Apple focus on making the Active Directory plug-in and other business-related tools work flawlessly before they waste time on eye candy. And hey, how about that Leopard release date?
  • Reply 10 of 69
    "The Cupertino-based systems builder."



    Getting creative, are we?



    -Clive
  • Reply 11 of 69
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by syklee26 View Post


    Isn't this feature already in Vista or something? Maybe I am misunderstanding the whole concept...



    Vista may have this , but the patent was filed in 2005... long before Vista was released. I think we were still calling it "Longhorn" then...



    As for the whole concept, I think this is probably part of a much broader environment beyond desktop backgrounds. The particular feature is unremarkable, but if combined with other UI elements, this could be the workings of a new OS-platform altogether. I mean it'll still be Mac... but perhaps something for OS "XI" - a reinvention of the GUI.



    Then again, it could be another one of those patents for Apple to cover their ass.



    -Clive
  • Reply 12 of 69
    glossgloss Posts: 506member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JupiterOne View Post


    In other news, Microsoft patents an idea for tiling icons. Imagine!



    That's pretty shameless.
  • Reply 13 of 69
    smqtsmqt Posts: 28member
    The way I read the patent, it is broader than just generating and rotating Desktop pics. Seems like they plan to use the Desktop as part of the interface of applications.

    I'm imagining something along the lines of the Time Machine interface, where the whole environment changes, instead of an application just being a window.

    That would be cool IMO.



    The not so cool part is that this opens up space for advertisers, right on your Desktop: If you open an application all of a sudden your desktop displays ads.
  • Reply 14 of 69
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pgb0517 View Post


    Waste of Apple's resources! How does this help me administer hundreds of Macs in a corporate environment? Let Apple focus on making the Active Directory plug-in and other business-related tools work flawlessly before they waste time on eye candy. And hey, how about that Leopard release date?



    Seeing as how this was a 2005 patent filing, I would highly doubt that it has been instrumental in delaying Leopard. It seems like a rather trivial feature on its own, but (like I said above) it could be paired with other UI elements for a future Apple reinvention of the GUI.



    But speaking of resources, this seems to me like this feature would use more resources than it would save - especially GPU resources...



    -Clive
  • Reply 15 of 69
    gee4orcegee4orce Posts: 165member
    You can do this now, with QuartzComposer and one of the several programs that let you run a screensaver (or Quartz composition) as your desktop picture.
  • Reply 16 of 69
    eaieai Posts: 417member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Clive At Five View Post


    "The Cupertino-based systems builder."



    Getting creative, are we?



    -Clive



    We had "the Calfornia system builder" yesterday too! http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...ite_vista.html
  • Reply 17 of 69
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pgb0517 View Post


    Waste of Apple's resources! How does this help me administer hundreds of Macs in a corporate environment? Let Apple focus on making the Active Directory plug-in and other business-related tools work flawlessly before they waste time on eye candy. And hey, how about that Leopard release date?



    I've got a great idea! Let's do all the things you want to do!
  • Reply 18 of 69
    desarcdesarc Posts: 642member
    how is a picture more resource intensive than an active, moving image that reacts to multiple triggers?



    i can see this being used not for a "background", but to use the entire desktop as the "window" for the current application - no more windows one on top of another as we know them now. i hardly ever just click on a background application - almost always use apple-tab.



    i could care less about a smooth transition from log-in to desktop, or saving .001% of my ram/vram
  • Reply 19 of 69
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    A static desktop image uses a lot of resources? I have trouble believing this; can someone point me to some info?



    And Diggers will point out that MS has had "Active Desktop" for years.



    A desktop image uses a chunk of VRAM, which some systems have to spare. Some don't. (Assuming it's rendered in OpenGL like everything else, I imagine it might be even worse if GPUs must round up to the nearest power of 2, and if they store the texture uncompressed. A 1600x1050 20" wallpaper would then have to be an uncompressed 24-bit 2048x2048 texture.)



    As for Active Desktop (which Microsoft removed from Vista), that's something entirely different--HTML pages as wallpapers.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Clive At Five View Post


    But speaking of resources, this seems to me like this feature would use more resources than it would save - especially GPU resources...



    It describes saving VRAM, not GPU processing time. Except when gaming, GPUs often have processing time to spare... and during hardcore 3D gaming the desktop isn't visible anyway.



    But saving VRAM is just a side benefit--you could use a solid black if that's all you wanted. The point of this is that it animates and responds to things.



    A neat if minor feature. But it sounds to me like yet another cool patent that Apple probably won't ever do anything with--a patent "just in case" they ever need it.



    (AI's headline that Apple is "developing" this seems to be an overstatement.)
  • Reply 20 of 69
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Clive At Five View Post


    Vista may have this , but the patent was filed in 2005... long before Vista was released. I think we were still calling it "Longhorn" then...



    As for the whole concept, I think this is probably part of a much broader environment beyond desktop backgrounds. The particular feature is unremarkable, but if combined with other UI elements, this could be the workings of a new OS-platform altogether. I mean it'll still be Mac... but perhaps something for OS "XI" - a reinvention of the GUI.



    Then again, it could be another one of those patents for Apple to cover their ass.



    -Clive



    procedural desktops + resolution independent UI + Spaces



    This should make the whole UI a lot more "snappy".
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