Towards Tau’s UI

Some very specific thoughts about approximating the Tau user interface:

I am very much in favour of the Ion WM. In order to get maximum benefit, other apps that currently do a lot of managing of their own windows (e.g. Mozilla, Emacs) need to be stripped down to cooperate. I think this may be technically easier than it seems.

  • How easy is it to get Gecko to render a URL in an X window? That plus a bit of session management is basically all that’s needed for a web browser [now done by Prism] (for the rest of the UI, think of the Emacs or even better, Acme school of text-based UI).
  • Need to do the same thing with the editor. It should be feasible to make Emacs communicate with the WM rather than trying to manage windows itself. Its window management commands are already sensible (tile-based); they just need to be redirected. (Question, why can’t Emacs be the WM? Answer: because it’s unreasonable to expect all other programs to plug into it. The WM shoul be minimal, and able to play with programs that aren’t Tau-aware.)
  • xterm is already fine, by virtue of its simplicity. So Pine or mutt can be used.

I’m not sure this is going in the right direction. The whole point of Tau is to be unconstrained by what has gone before. I’m all for the principle of a window manager that demands little of its client programs, if only so that the standard for UIs can evolve over time, but there’s no way X windows has a role! If I were writing X windows from scratch today and didn’t have to worry about compatibility I would change a whole load of things. I would take out the hook that was put in to allow the writing of window managers, for example; that’s an obvious job to factor into another software layer separated from X by a proper abstraction layer. I would do the same for the networking code, and for the device driver abstraction. I mean, why can’t we write e.g. computer games using X video, keyboard and mouse drivers (I mean without the rest of X)? It’s such a waste of effort to bury that code. In summary, you’re not throwing enough away. A

Last updated 2013/01/02