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Apple Files Patent for Translucent Windows 845

jpkunst writes "John Kheit at Mac Observer reports on US Patent Application No. 20040090467, published on May 13, 2004, in which Apple filed a patent application for 'Graduated visual and manipulative translucency for windows.'" Begin the hunt for prior art! It's a challenge to find a non-Apple translucent window that isn't just a snippet of desktop wallpaper pasted in the background.
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Apple Files Patent for Translucent Windows

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  • Prior art? Easy... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:28AM (#9160851)

    E-term, several years ago.

  • by Y! ( 109179 ) * on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:28AM (#9160853) ase_id=142811

    Trillian also has it, but I don't know when they added it. I thought win2k also had it built in when it came out.
  • Uh... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:29AM (#9160858)
  • Hell... (Score:2, Informative)

    by dark404 ( 714846 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:31AM (#9160879)
    even EverQuest uses those in their current UI.
  • by Cytlid ( 95255 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:31AM (#9160881) trite/

    Vitrite allows you to do this with any Win32 Window (on 2k, XP, etc).
  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:32AM (#9160887)
    Look, for example at MSDN: Layered windows []

    Well, this patent clearly has LOTS of prior art.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:33AM (#9160893)
    See MacSlash [] for more of them
  • by LaserLyte ( 725803 ) * on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:36AM (#9160932)
    I only briefly skimmed the article, but it seems to me that this isn't as broad as it initially seems.

    The translucency can be graduated so that, over time, if the window's contents remain unchanged, the window becomes more translucent. In addition to visual translucency, windows according to the present invention also have a manipulative translucent quality. Upon reaching a certain level of visual translucency, user input in the region of the window is interpreted as an operation on the underlying objects rather than the contents of the overlaying window.

    So, the windows fade with time (if they are not used much), and the windows below are phased above the fading window... Rather than just plain old tinted windows.

    I personally have never experienced anything like this, it sounds like it could be useful... or maybe I'm just behind the times :)
  • 1998 (Score:3, Informative)

    by ink ( 4325 ) * on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:38AM (#9160946) Homepage
    Here's a screen shot I have from 1998: .jpg
  • RTFA !!! (Score:2, Informative)

    by emmavl ( 202243 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:38AM (#9160953)
    It's not a patent for visual translucency, but 'manipulative' translucency :

    If the contents of a window don't change for a preset amount of time the window becomes visualy translucent, but also all user input goes to the underlying (and now visible !) window ...
  • by Monx ( 742514 ) <MonxSlashNO@SPAM ...> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:39AM (#9160963) Journal
    Hey everybody, this is NOT a patent on translucent windows. It is a patent on fading windows. That's right, it covers windows that fade over time as their content remains static. Once their translucency reaches a certain point, they no longer receive focus from user input, instead it passes to the underlying UI elements.

    Imagine if your console log was set to full screen, but behaved in this manner. As long as nothing is logged the window gradually fades out and you can use your other windows. As soon as something is logged it becomes more opaque and accepts user input again.

    I suppose more people click on patent articles if they sound ridiculously easy to find prior art for or otherwise abusive, but this one actually sounds innovative.
  • by pohl ( 872 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:39AM (#9160966) Homepage
    Everybody RTFP so that you know what you're actually hunting for. Finding a translucent window isn't quite enough...

    Methods and systems for providing graphical user interfaces are described. overlaid, Information-bearing windows whose contents remain unchanged for a predetermined period of time become translucent. The translucency can be graduated so that, over time, if the window's contents remain unchanged, the window becomes more translucent. In addition to visual translucency, windows according to the present invention also have a manipulative translucent quality. Upon reaching a certain level of visual translucency, user input in the region of the window is interpreted as an operation on the underlying objects rather than the contents of the overlaying window.

    Yes, software patents are lets do the right thing and not claim that every transparent xterm hack qualifies as 'prior art'.

  • Re:1998 (Score:2, Informative)

    by ink ( 4325 ) * on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:40AM (#9160973) Homepage
    Of course, Slashdot had to put a space in the URL; here's an actual link: Hand of God Shot []. This was old-hat by 1998 as well; people had been running translucent windows for years prior to then.
  • Win 2K (Score:2, Informative)

    by milsim ( 739431 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:46AM (#9161012)
    That's right, Win2K had it at least since 1999, and I'm absolutely sure there are much earlier examples.
  • by boaworm ( 180781 ) <> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:46AM (#9161013) Homepage Journal
    Well atleast it updates when completely moved.

    Perhaps (just guessing) Eterm doesnt qualify because of the way the "transparancy" was accieved. Afaik, every Eterm had in memory a copy of the background image, and just painted the approperiate part as it's (Eterms) backgroud. So it did NOT "read" the actual background imaging, it just painted the background picture.

    As a result, if you had multiple windows on top of each other, all showed the background, while on "" (OS X), the transparancy shows underlying windows, apps, graphics et al.

  • This isn't just regular transparency. I know people don't read the freaking article, but this is it in a nutshell:


    It's the time dependency which is the invention they're patenting here.
  • by mindstormpt ( 728974 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:49AM (#9161035)
    fma [] uses time-dependent translucent windows. Enough?
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:50AM (#9161038) Homepage Journal
    Mod parent up, and mod submitter of the story and approving editor (Hi, CN!) down. This is not about translucent windows, it's about translucent windows used in a certain specific way. It's going to be a lot harder to find prior art for this one.

    jpkunst, I know you were in a hurry to get a story submitted to and accepted by slashdot. I can imagine the scene now; Palms moist, you rush to type a compelling, FUD-spreading (same thing, around these parts) story which will be sure to get your story accepted! And in your mad rush, you don't even bother to read the patent application. If you're going to link something, you should really read it in its entirety to find out if it contradicts your story.

    If you want to complain about Apple patenting translucent windows, perhaps you should examine U.S. Pat. No. 5,949,432 [], entitled "Method and Apparatus for Providing Translucent Images on a Computer Display", which is referred in Patent application 20040090467 (your link.) This patent was granted September 7, 1999 (filed April 11, 1997.) That appears to be a patent on software transparency by blending layers done by the CPU, which is to say it does not compete with hardware transparency.

    True laziness [] is a virtue. Your brand, however, leaves something to be desired.

  • Re:Everquest (Score:2, Informative)

    by emilng ( 641557 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:02AM (#9161138)
    The difference is that in Everquest you can't click through the window to whatever is behind the window say if the window becomes less than 50% transparent whereas that's what the Apple patent covers. It's a small but significant difference.
  • by Markus Peter ( 13998 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:03AM (#9161140) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I'm equally opposed to software patents as everyone else here is, I just want to corrent some misinformation here.

    I do not want to spoil the fun here, but this patent is in fact not about translucent windows, so anyone here posting about prior art in the respect is basically Off Topic.

    Instead, the patent basically describes the overlays Apple has been using for certain system functions like increasing/decreasing brightness (whenever you press the corressponding buttons on the keyboard an overlay shows up, displaying the current volume, and then slowly fades away again unless you press the key again). The patent exactly describes the Apple OSDs, even if maybe in a bit of general way, so it could probably be applied to similarly behaving ordinary windows.

    A comparable programm would e.g. be "xosd" and prior art would probably be best searched for in TVs and other appliances using on-screen-displays.
  • by Frambooz ( 555784 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:03AM (#9161144) Homepage
    I've used an application (Jeskola Buzz []) that had an extention that determined the translucency of windows based on their history.

    Jeskola Buzz is a program that allows you to create music, so usually you have 5+ sub-windows open with all the controls for your synths, samplers and effects. The most recent window was fully opaque, whereas the window that had been open for the longest grew more translucent every time a new subwindow was opened. Time was not taken into account, and when clicking any subwindow (even the almost fully translucent ones) put them on top of the stack, making them fully opaque again.

    Closest thing I've seen to this.

  • Windows 2000 (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:22AM (#9161255)
    Windows 2000 had translucent windows built into it called layered windows. Very easy to do, only involves two API calls, one to set the window to layered and one to set an opacity level of 0 to 255.

    Prior versions of Windows could do translucency, but it required more work and wasn't directly supported by the OS.

    Sorry Apple, MS beat you to this one. (Not saying MS invented it, I'm sure other systems had it before MS, but MS did have it before 2004.)
  • Re:Miranda (Score:5, Informative)

    by nacturation ( 646836 ) <> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:28AM (#9161275) Journal
    The Apple patent [] was filed in December 1999. The abstract is fairly clear as to how it differs (emphasis mine):
    Methods and systems for providing graphical user interfaces are described. overlaid, Information-bearing windows whose contents remain unchanged for a predetermined period of time become translucent. The translucency can be graduated so that, over time, if the window's contents remain unchanged, the window becomes more translucent. In addition to visual translucency, windows according to the present invention also have a manipulative translucent quality. <b>Upon reaching a certain level of visual translucency, user input in the region of the window is interpreted as an operation on the underlying objects rather than the contents of the overlaying window</b>.
  • by hak1du ( 761835 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:34AM (#9161312) Journal
    Apple isn't patenting "translucent windows", they are patenting a specific method for choosing to make windows translucent. The method seems pretty hokey to me (windows automatically become more translucent over time and eventually let events pass through), and probably has horrible usability problems. I can just see the support calls: "but my Microsoft Word window was there a few minutes ago, and after I came back from getting a cup of coffee it was just gone".

    In this wonderful world of software patents, the patent may be valid, but it is not relevant to anything real.

    If you want to read about good uses of translucency in user interfaces, see this survey from 1994 [] (long before OS X).
  • by advance512 ( 730411 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:38AM (#9161335)
    Microsoft Outlook 2003 has time-dependant translucent windows which notify you of new incoming mail messages. You can move your mouse over the window, causing it to be opaque - or you can move the window out and allow it to slowly become more and more transparent, eventually disappearing. This window also contains delete, open and flag message (IIRC) option buttons.

    Not sure if this completely corresponds with the "Upon reaching a certain level of visual translucency, user input in the region of the window is interpreted as an operation on the underlying objects rather than the contents of the overlaying window." part of the patent request. More over, I am not even sure if this is prior-art - whether Apple had this before Microsoft or not.
  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:55AM (#9161457) Homepage
    It's sad that the world's coming to all these patents but if Apple doesn't patent this some other company might

    Some history here - Apple spent years suing anyone who copied the same GUI interface they stole from Xerox. If you are upset that there is no alternative to Windows blame apple. They killed GEM with a malicious and totaly unwarranted lawsuit.

    Early on the FSF used to picket Apple over this.

    Apple gets a free ride in the open source community despite being by far the most aggressive enforcer of bogus patents amongst the major computer companies.

  • by AndyElf ( 23331 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:09PM (#9161544) Homepage
    Get it straight -- Xerox interface was not stolen. I'd suspect that if it were, Xerox would have long-long time ago sued anyone trying to implement WIMP.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:15PM (#9161579)
    Actually if you RTFA you'll see that APPLE CLAIMS MORE THAN JUST TIME DEPENDANT TRANSPARENCY in this NEW applciation!?!?! Sheesh. Look at claim 26.

    26. A computer-readable medium for providing a graphical user interface for a computer, the computer-readable medium comprising: means for rendering a window on a display; and means for varying a level of translucency associated with said window in response to a predetermined event.

    A predetermined event is ANYTHING! Not just time. The earlier 1999 patent may be limited but this is a translucent patent land grab.
  • Re:Everquest (Score:3, Informative)

    by angle_slam ( 623817 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:28PM (#9161656)
    If they've been using it for 4 years, that means that patent is invalid (you have to patent within one year of public use).
  • by rdean400 ( 322321 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:34PM (#9161684)
    Judging by the abstract, the window needs to be inactive for a certain time before becoming translucent, and the translucency becomes greater the longer the window remains unchanged.

    I don't think any software patents are good. However, *if* software patents are permissable, this is a novel application of a concept and I would think that the implementation meets the standards for patentability.

    I still don't think it should be patentable, however.
  • by AmericanInKiev ( 453362 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:42PM (#9161723) Homepage
    What is stupid is failing to realize that computers are just another medium, and that "fading one image into aother image" has been a common practice since the first slide projector was built.

    Having experimented with every imaginable transition, I would suggest that none is so natural as the gentle fade. Perhaps because it mimics to some extent the sliding of the sun behind a cloud - thus "fading one scene into another" naturally.

    From this shared experience we project "fading" into amorphic examples "Summer fading into fall".
    "Love fading", fading youth etc.

    But the quintessential fade - I believe is caused by the sun passing behind a cloud - that noticible relief - or some times chill and the effect it has on the emotions as a result of frequency of the change relative to the bodies ability to accomodiate change without notice has this marked effect which we cary into our language and seek to replicate in the virtuality of the computer.


  • by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:55PM (#9161822)
  • by doctorfaustus ( 103662 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:05PM (#9161890) Homepage
    If someone sues you and you don't lose, they pay your legal fees. If they offer you a reasonable settlement and you instead go to court and you lose, you pay their legal fees. So it doesn't exactly "cost them money whether they win or lose." If they win it doesn't cost them anything.

    This is just incorrect in the United States. Absent some special statutory rule, each party pays its own fees, win or lose. This is called the American Rule.
  • by MyDixieWrecked ( 548719 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:07PM (#9161900) Homepage Journal
    I believe you can request a patent anonymously, which is precisely that.

    I remember there being an article about a pharmecudical (yeah, I can't spell) company that got one for some treatment so that no one else would be able to patent it and it would be openly available and published.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:11PM (#9161924)
    It doesn't matter. The graphics card is a black box. The implementation of it's compositing is irrelevant to OS X. Compositing in the graphics card may mean producing a final frame buffer, or it may mean doing it on the fly. Just because the Amiga was blitting chucks of memory about 15 years ago doesn't mean that it is necessarily the way it must be done now. Nor does it mean that was the way it was always done before the Amiga. The Atari 400/800 predated the Amiga, and it's "player missile graphics" were never incorporated into the frame buffer. Nor did many games systems with sprites - GameBoy for example. Go back even further and Pong didn't even have a frame buffer.
  • by doctorfaustus ( 103662 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:14PM (#9161945) Homepage
    Just to state the above cited rule with a ittle more precision, thanks to rs-9201.html ...

    "Under the U.S. legal system, each side pays their own attorney's fees, win or lose, unless there is a specific statutory provision for the recovery of such fees. The patent law includes such a provision, but it only authorizes the award at the discretion of the court or arbitrator in exceptional circumstances of the type which justify an increase in damages.

    "On the other hand, the patent law also provides that the accused infringer may be entitled to attorney's fees under exceptional circumstances, such as when the patent was procured by fraud or the infringement suit was brought or prosecuted in bad faith."
  • by Twirlip of the Mists ( 615030 ) <> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:15PM (#9161946)
    The only person who benefits from patents are the patent holders, not the consumers.

    Right! That's exactly the point! The purpose of a patent is to give a person or group the exclusive benefit of their labor for a time, thereby allowing them to recoup the investment that went into producing whatever it was they invented.

    A lot of people here have said that they think it's easy to create original software inventions. I would ask them if they've ever done it.

    What was it Douglas Adams said about invention?

    "It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious. The cry 'I could have thought of that' is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn't, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too."
  • by jkabbe ( 631234 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:15PM (#9161952)
    1. It wasn't stolen. How many times does this have to be corrected before people actually pay attention?

    2. It was a look-and-feel issue (basically, trademark). No patents were involved.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) * <{tepples} {at} {}> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:36PM (#9162059) Homepage Journal

    I am neither a patent agent nor a lawyer, but I have read about the patent process and learned the following:

    U.S. patent applications always name one or more individual inventors, and they usually name an assignee. Engineers' employment contracts typically require an employee to name her employer as assignee in any patent on an invention developed with the employer's resources. The shorthand "Foo Corp filed a patent for the baz process" means "An employee of Foo Corp filed a patent for the baz process, using a patent lawyer retained by Foo Corp, naming Foo Corp as assignee."

  • by mpaque ( 655244 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:54PM (#9162166)
    based on reading just the title, Microsoft has applied for a few.

    My favorite title is "Universal Computing Device".

    20040093593 Software componentization
    20040093568 Handwritten file names
    20040093515 Cross platform network authentication and authorization model
    20040093393 System and method for selecting a media file for a mobile device
    20040093389 Light weight file I/O over system area networks
    20040093372 Challenge and response interaction between client and server computing devices
    20040093371 Memory bound functions for spam deterrence and the like
    20040092297 Personal mobile computing device having antenna microphone and speech detection for improved speech recognition
    20040090457 System and apparatus for sending complete responses to truncated electronic mail messages on a mobile device
    20040088657 Method for selecting a font
    20040088589 System and method for preserving state data of a personal computer in a standby state in the event of an AC power failure
    20040088537 Method and apparatus for traversing a translation device with a security protocol
    20040088394 On-line wizard entry point management computer system and method
    20040088390 Method and levels of ping notification
    20040088335 Method and system for ghosting a property during synchronization
    20040088321 Method and system for modifying schema definitions
    20040086191 Passive embedded interaction code
    20040086181 Active embedded interaction code
    20040085523 Pen projection display
    20040085468 Photo-sensor array with pixel-level signal comparison
    20040085370 Input mode selector on a mobile device
    20040085364 Page bar control
    20040085358 Glow highlighting as an ink attribute
    20040085302 Statistical model for global localization
    20040085287 Decoding and error correction in 2-D arrays
    20040085286 Universal computing device
    20040083460 Forward walking through binary code to determine offsets for stack walking
    20040080499 Adaptive input pen mode selection
    20040080482 Display controller permitting connection of multiple displays with a single video cable
    20040078792 System and method for selectively deactivating auto-deploy functionality of a software input panel
    20040078597 Automatic client authentication for a wireless network protected by PEAP, EAP-TLS, or other extensible authentication protocols
    20040078581 Installation of black box for trusted component for digital rights management (DRM) on computing device
    20040078565 Method for prompting a user to install and execute an unauthenticated computer application
    20040078460 Network connection setup procedure for traffic admission control and implicit network bandwidth reservation
    20040078383 Navigating media content via groups within a playlist
    20040078382 Adaptive menu system for media players
    20040078357 Optimizing media player memory during rendering
    20040078356 Method for selecting terms from vocabularies in a category-based system
    20040077314 Bluetooth smart mode switching for security and privacy
    20040076069 System and method for initializing a memory device from block oriented NAND flash
    20040075696 System and method for automatic mnemonic assignment
    20040075695 Method and apparatus for providing context menus on a hand-held device
    20040075687 System and method for managing a message view
    20040075673 System and method for scaling data according to an optimal width for display on a mobile device
    20040075672 System and method for block scaling data to fit a screen on a mobile device
    20040075671 System and method for scaling images to fit a screen on a mobile device according to a non-linear scale factor
    20040075648 System and method for inputting special characters
    20040075623 Method and system for displaying images on multiple monitors
    20040073873 Adaptive image formatting control
    20040073872 System and method for converting between text format and outline format
  • RTFP! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThisIsFred ( 705426 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:56PM (#9162178) Journal
    It's not a patent on translucent windows, it's a patent for using graduated levels of translucency instead of active/inactive window coloring schemes. From what I've read, it appears that the longer you go without performing actions in the window, the more translucent it becomes, to the point where you can "click through" it and input into whatever object is underneath.

    This particular interface feature would be incredibly annoying and confusing to people with less than perfect eyesight, so I hope that Apple defends its patent and that it never appears outside of Apple's software.

    If it was simply an attempt to patent translucent windows, it would be easy to knock down. Some games use translucent pop-ups in their interfaces via D3D / OpenGL.
  • by mrpull ( 112590 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @02:09PM (#9162252)
    Trillian has an option to "Fade alert windows out (uses transparency)". The Trillian popup notifications fit that description very well.

  • by jkabbe ( 631234 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @03:30PM (#9162625)
    Well, NO if they did, they would have had to do it before 1990, when I saw it done by people working at Cambridge University Maths Lab, and whoever did do it first, the patent would have run out by now.

    If you invent something and keep it secret but do not follow through on the invention by publishing it or selling it (or otherwise making it public) or file for a patent you have abandoned your invention. Someone who comes along later and invents the same thing is entitled to a patent on that invention.

    The lesson is, if you invent something and don't want a patent you have to publish.
  • by danielsfca2 ( 696792 ) * on Saturday May 15, 2004 @03:54PM (#9162750) Journal
    The barrier to entry in software, as in everything else, is financial. This will be true as long as time and effort have a dollar value associated with them.
    No, the financial barrier to entry in software is significantly lower than other industries. Why do you think countries like India are able to outcompete western programmers? They aren't rich countries, quite on the contrary, poverty is quite rife.
    Obviously you have not taken microeconomics. India has such a comparative advantage over industrialized countries in the area of IT, among other reasons, because their opportunity cost of doing an hour of programming is much lower than someone in the US--in other words, they don't have a lot of very good alternatives. This allows them to command less money since their time is worth less to them. Therein lies their competitive advantage--their time is worth less and they can therefore export their services for cheaper than we can provide them domestically.
  • by zephyr1256 ( 729696 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @03:55PM (#9162752)
    Not a strawman at all. It is clearly an analogy, and not all that bad of one, IMHO. A strawman is a logical fallacy where you make up some kind of weak argument and portray it as the argument for the other side.
  • if you're using OS X (Score:3, Informative)

    by option8 ( 16509 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @04:04PM (#9162798) Homepage
    if you're using OS X to read this, and have a keyboard with volume up/down keys on it, this is for you:

    press one of the volume buttons on your keyboard.

    note the translucent display element indicating the current system volume - a gray, lozenge-shaped "window" to use the generic term [] for such things. notice that you can interact with the other interface elements behind it with the mouse/keyboard. note that, after a period of inactivity (after you let go of the volume adjustment key) the interface element indicating the current volume slowly fades to transparent.

    ta. da.

    if you're not, however, using OS X and/or have never seen this in the wild, this patent will pretty much assure you that the same thing won't show up on a windows box near you any time soon.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @04:12PM (#9162838)
    Prior art? Glass2k under windows 2k. It works just fine. Maybe a little hard on older hardware.
  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @04:28PM (#9162904) Homepage
    Maybe you should RTFA first before you ask questions that are answered by reading it?

    What Apple has come up with is a pretty interesting idea... a window that slowly gets more transparent as you ignore it, and after a certain point it ignores user inputs, which are then passed to the next window behind it. I'm not sure it's a good idea, but it is an interesting one, and definitely is a novel one.

  • by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 ) <> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @04:40PM (#9162956) Homepage
    Did you know that the steam engine, the invention that basically sparked the industrial revolution, was patented? It's true. James Watt improved on existing designs to create the first modern reciprocating steam engine in 1763, and was granted a patent for it. That patent didn't expire until 1800, by which time Watt and his business partner, Michael Boulton, had manufactured some 500 engines.

    Actually that's only half the truth.

    Watts' patents held back the development of the steam engine by many years. Richard Trevithick had designed a vast improvement on the watt engines by using high pressure steam. The patents were so worded that he was unable to begin development until the patents expired in 1800 - some 20 years after he thought of the improvement. Without high pressure steam engines we would never have had the steam train.

  • RTFA (Score:3, Informative)

    by werdna ( 39029 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @04:45PM (#9162979) Journal
    It's a challenge to find a non-Apple translucent window that isn't just a snippet of desktop wallpaper pasted in the background.

    It wouldn't matter if you did. The patent is not directed to just any translucent windows. The application acknowledges that there exist various prior art methods to draw objects, including windows, translucently, inlcuding methods they patented years ago.

    The application appears to be directed more particularly to the user interface device of having a window's translucency be a function of the amount of time that has passed since the content most recently changed.
  • by TallCool1 ( 685482 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @05:50PM (#9163221)
    Not too long after Commodore crashed-and-burned, I saw some stuff that was being done vis-a-vis the AmigaOS GUI that involved translucency. I have lost my archives from that time, unfortunately, but it is much as described here. IIRC, one aspect was that the translucency could vary with mouse movement as well, so as a user moved "off" a window with the mouse, the transparency could increase to make the partially-hidden underlying window more visible.
  • Re:Enlightenment (Score:4, Informative)

    by .com b4 .storm ( 581701 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @08:34PM (#9164114)

    I know that the enlightenment window manager had translucent windows in the late 90's

    To the best of my recollection, those translucent windows only showed the desktop background, not other windows that were behind the translucent ones. I'm not sure if that counts in this case - I haven't looked at what Apple is patenting here. But none of the translucent windows I saw on Linux showed anything but the background. Contrast this to Apple's Terminal app, which shows windows underneath. And this translucency is real-time: if the window is playing video or something, it shows through.

  • by gumbi west ( 610122 ) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @08:48PM (#9164161) Journal
    I don't care if Apple doesn't like virtual desktops, the seperation of context they provide pretty much makes them the best thing ever for a GUI as far as I'm concerned. I can keep multiple different portions of a project I'm working on open and seperate with ease. In a single mode of thought like writing a paper they may not be necessary, but I've found them useful time and time again.
    You know what is suprising, when I used GNOME (RH 6.0 through 7.0) I loved multiple desktops to no end, it was why I moved from Win2k to linux. When OS X came out, I installed a multiple desktop utility very quickly and used it for a while. But as I became more familiar with the dock and OS X's brilliant maxamize that doesn't fill the whole frigging screen. The dock doesn't mix metaphors, when I close the last open window, the application stays loaded and in the dock--this is HUGE for ease of use. I stopped using the virtual desktop system extension entirely. Now I would say that both are very nice GUI tools, but I have a moderate preference for the OS X components.

    Oh, and about the mouse, here is what I like about Apple's OS design over windows: my 5 button trackball (plus 2 scroll clicks) just works, the driver is already in the OS. I don't see the problem with that. But I have to tell you that once a tech support person came to my office and couldn't figure out why it was working as she moved the trackball as if it was a mouse...

  • by sh00z ( 206503 ) <> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:25PM (#9164578) Journal
    Prior art? Glass2k under windows 2k. It works just fine.
    Which you somehow think occurred before Apple did it with Mac OS 7.5.5 in 1996 []?
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) * on Wednesday May 26, 2004 @12:51AM (#9256113) Homepage Journal

    It's a fucking lie, and you know it.

    No. You're wrong if you think I'm being insincere or trolling.

    Perhaps you have some good sources, but your position is contrary to common opinion of property and American history. People have damned good reasons for not buying into the relatively new invention of "intellectual property." And I have to say, you're awefully cynical. Do you think this topic has been so hotly contested for the last 200-300 years just because everyone wants to steal?

    Property is property. If you want to arbitrarily decide that some kinds of property aren't really property and therefore can't be privately owned, then you're no better than the fucking collectivists.

    Nice tautology. If one accepts that publically disclosed ideas are property, then yes, it's very dishonest to make weird exceptions to "property is property." But if one doesn't accept that publically disclosed ideas are property to begin with, then no such dishonesty or contradiction has occurred.

    So quit calling me a fucking collectivist.

    Now onto the issue..

    Even today, there are primitive peoples living in Papua New Guinea and other remote places who believe that to even say another person's name without permission is theft.

    Such a ridiculous extreme example just discredits Papua New Guineans. I can't believe you actually agree with that position, unless you actually went to the trouble of licensing your Slashdot handle from Vernor Vinge. If that culture thinks that speaking someone's name is theft, then that culture's concept of property is utterly alien.

    I'll have to take your word on the Australian aboriginal song anomaly. But when you get to European (and today's American) culture, everything points to this stuff emerging with the medieval guilds, which definitely got their power from the state rather than the most people's concepts of right and wrong. (Contrast this to what a typical medieval person might think about someone stealing a cow.) In Britain, there weren't even modern-like laws about this stuff until the 17th century (patents) and 18th century (copyrights). (Again, compare this to laws about physical property.) And even those laws were primarily intended to attack the guilds (e.g. the Stationer's Company). And it was America that really led the way. And even that 1789 wording doesn't talk about property or as though the purpose was to protect a right, but rather, talks about the pragmatic utility. (Though I do concede that Madison does talk that way in the Federalist papers (#43) -- but I guess his views on this particular topic weren't too popular, because look what we ended up with in the Constitution).

    If this idea is so deeply rooted, then why are all the laws so new? Laws about physical property sure aren't new.

    Similar traditions can be found in all known cultures.

    Fine, trot out some more obscure cultures. But it's a new idea in Europe and America. The ancient Greeks, Chinese Confucians, Islamic states, Jews, and early Christians all had pretty much the same idea: knowledge came from the gods (or God) (or "the ancients") and "today's" people couldn't own it. As late as the Rennaissance, artists were thought of as "divinely inspired."

    Get to the Enlightenment and finally people starting giving humanity some credit, and this idea started to pop up. Now, I don't belittle 1700s thought at all; just because it's new, doesn't mean it's wrong. Heck, most of what I believe in seems to come from that era. ;-) But even then, the idea that ideas could be owned, was controversial: which is why the constitution says what it says, and that copyrights and patents still have expiration dates. Maybe it really is a collective argument, but the opposition's summary is that there's prior art and inspiration behind just about everything. And many inventions are rooted in ob

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.