Two Quick Reviews: 360Desktop for Windows 7 and XBMC for Linux (Ubuntu 9.10)

03Feb10

Well… I installed and tried 360 Desktop on my Windows 7 system. Cute, but useless in terms of improving the UI. All it does is pan a panoramic photo on your desktop. You have the option of having desktop icons and application windows stay “pinned” to that wallpaper, or you can individually keep icons/windows in one place. But it’s slow. I kept my icons stationary (why would anyone want their desktop icons to move off screen?) but let the app windows move with the wallpaper. It takes too long to cycle all the way around. You don’t have control over the speed of the movement. In Compiz Fusion, you determine the speed of the rotation of the desktop cube/shpere/cylinder based on your mouse movement. It does give you more space to work with, but if you can’t navigate that space quickly and efficiently, how useful is it? So I give it three stars out of five for cuteness factor. But it’s not useful to me. Someone suggested I try Bumptop. I’ll give it a shot but it looks gimmicky to me.

I was looking around for a Windows Media Center equivalent for Linux. I’m not actually much of a fan of media centers because it’s a new UI. That’s not a problem for me. But my wife and daughter need to be able to access the media center, so I’ve kept it on the familiar Gnome desktop with custom scripts, button panels with custom icons and the like. But I got curious tonight and tried out XBMC (started out as an XBOX Media Center but now it’s available for Linux, Windows, Mac and Apple TV platforms too). I installed it on my laptop (Ubuntu 9.10) and it works a treat. What I really like is that you don’t have to run it as the main shell. It does take over the screen, but it’s just an app. It does weather, photos, music, videos, plays DVDs (for external regions as well but requires the use of libdvdcss which violates software patents in a few countries), etc… pretty much everything I’ve been doing with Gnome for the past five or six years. And it has a lot of eye candy. It’s missing a few important features for me (like Xine’s Alt-1 through 9 to jump 10-90% into a program as well as other keybindings). But, it’s quite usable and somewhat simple to use. So I will be throwing this on the media center once I migrate it from Gentoo to Ubuntu 9.10. Kudos to the XBMC people!

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