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Quantum OS - OS based on Linux which conforms to Material Design guidelines (quantum-os.github.io)
391 points by turrini on Nov 22, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 163 comments

I'm just going to leave a comment to contrast the usual negativity.

What I like about this is:

- The developers are not attempting to reinvent the wheel.

- Material Design is well-regarded on mobile devices, and it's interesting to see what you can do with its ideas on the desktop.

- They clearly pick technologies that are the way forward on the Linux desktop: Wayland and Qt+QML. It's great that these things are maturing to the point that we can start leaving behind X and that it's clear that Qt has won the toolkit war.

- Focused approach of not (yet) supporting different distros, but (like Elementary OS) an attempt to focus on getting it to work well for one system configuration.

I hope these guys can put in the time and effort to make something out of this. It seems they are making a couple of good decisions already.

Has Qt one the toolkit war? I thought most applications and desktop environments were still GTK based (though I can't comment how widespread the adoption of GTK3 has been).

I mean, I hope you're right because I really do prefer Qt over GTK (both as a developer and as a user). But my experiences as a user would also suggest that GTK is anything but an underdog.

If you use homebrewon Mac. you'll find yourself using --with-qt more and more often. Because fuck X11

Qt most definitely won the toolkit war. Multiple applications are switching to it from GTK.

There's also a large repository of software that isn't switching. "Won" implies the war is over; that Qt has earned a monopoly on Linux (or at least the de facto standard) but that's not the case here. At least not yet, maybe in a few years - though I can't see that either personally.

Maybe I'm just being pedantic, but "won" seems a little too optimistic. Particularly on a platform that's famed for it choice / fragmentation (depending on which side of the fence you sit hehe).

> "Won" implies the war is over

It also implies that there was actually a war, and that there is now not. Did gtk+ suddenly stop being developed because Qt won some imaginary war dreamed up by people who don't develop either toolkit?

Wow, I didn't expect people would read so much in my poetic language.

Qt used to be relegated to KDE on Unix but is now also used by Unity and LXDE. People prefer using Qt because it is much more cross platform friendly than GTK+ and has great developer tools. Qt seems to be the future of the Linux desktop at this point. So excusez-les-mots.

It really, really did not. GTK+ these days is superior to Qt in some critical areas, such as HiDPI support. Lots and lots of new applications and platforms are being written in GTK, consciously choosing it over Qt.

> such as HiDPI support.

That is by no means an accurate statement. GTK's HiDPI support involves an integer scaling factor for the whole desktop, and that's it.

Qt/KDE on the other hand allows you to simply specify the size and dpi of your display and everything will scale accurately, aided by the fact that KDE uses SVG icons.

You're conflating a desktop environment and a graphics toolkit. KDE <-> GTK+ ~= apples <-> oranges.

Futhermore, no, GTK's HiDPI support does not in fact force a scaling factor for the whole desktop. You can turn it on app-by-app. The fact that whatever desktop you're using doesn't utilize this capability isn't GTK+'s fault, it's the desktop environment's fault.

Now having said this, you could be entirely correct that for the time being KDE offers a better HiDPI experience than a GTK+-based desktop, but again, that has really nothing to do with the toolkits themselves.

> Multiple applications are switching to it from GTK.

Which ones? Not disputing you, I don't keep up with Linux desktop these days.

Subsurface, a program for divers, was another high-profile switch. High profile because Linus started it. If he and a bunch of other pretty smart kernel hackers can't figure out GTK, that says something.


On a related note, GNU Radio has a foot in both Qt and WxWidgets and intends to focus on Qt going forward.

"Subsurface, a program for divers, was another high-profile switch"

I can't see how subsurface, which is an extremely niche application, can be considered as high-profile. And I am a scuba diver myself, so I have a bias going opposite what my opinion here is.

" If he and a bunch ... can't figure out GTK, that says something"

All it says is that they like Qt better. Linus told at a Debian meeting that he does not use Ubuntu or Debian because he tried once to install it and it did not work for his hardware, while some other distro worked right away. He never tried it again since. Does it mean that Debian is crap because if even Linus cannot figure it out "it says something"? No, of course not.

Wireshark, Openshot, Unity, and every app in LXDE has / is switching to Qt from GTK.

Which is a drop in the ocean as far as the FOSS app ecosystem go, and to be honest after all this time I can't see either of GTK or Qt winning the 'toolkit war'.

If either of those would have the capacity to emerge as the de facto standard then it would have happened long time ago in my opinion.

Taking a quick look at the gui software (not a whole lot as I typically prefer the commandline) I have on my Linux desktop machine (running bspwm, not a desktop environment):

  Gimp (GTK)
  Krita (Qt)
  VLC (Qt)
  Inkscape (GTK)
  Chromium (GTK)
  Firefox (GTK)
  MyPaint (GTK)
  Handbrake (GTK)
  Galculator (GTK)
  Shotwell (GTK)
  VirtualBox (Qt)
  Brasero (GTK)
  Thunar (GTK)
  File Roller (GTK)
  Deadbeef (GTK)
  Blender (opengl)
Of course this is purely anecdotal, but this notion of some 'winner' in the FOSS toolkit space comes across as fanboyism more than anything based in reality.

I'm not citing Qt software I use, I'm citing GTK software that is now switching toolkits. How many apps are going from Qt to GTK? I could write a list of KDE equivalents to all the GTK programs you are citing - nobody is arguing that there isn't pretty much a program for every use case written against either toolkit. The question is what is software people are using, and what toolkit are people looking to write new software using? Conclusively it seems to be Qt nowadays.

It's irrelevant how many apps are switching, given that Qt have for so many years been a total non-starter for a huge segment of Linux desktop apps. As you say, the question is what software people are using, and you've given nothing real to support your contention that this "conclusively seems to be Qt nowadays".

Did you know OpenSuse still maintains a patchset for Firefox to use it with Qt? It’s amazing.

Qt is not even standard C++ . I can't understand how people are double standard'ed and double dealing with problems . just look at what is done by Qt in C++ (whole non-standard Moc's) I am sure if it was from Microsoft (even open source product) whole Internet blaming Microsoft "wtf is this" & "Microsoft every time should disobey standards" and "Microsoft is just crap". how is this work? when we (as open source community) doing something this is good , but If Microsoft done something exactly like this then Microsoft is evil.

Sorry but that's an old, tired argument that only occasionally gets aired these days. Running a pre-processor as part of the build process does not mean that Qt is not standard C++. Also, if you knew anything about the history of Microsoft you'd know they deserve all the stick they get for their abuse of standards - 'embrace and extend' was their philosophy, it sounds innocuous but the effects weren't.

They use a code generator to implement reflection methods on classes marked with the Q_OBJECT macro. The output of that code generator is standard, readable C++. It was, and still is, a very useful, practical way of doing things.

I can't say as to what Microsoft has done or not done, but I don't see anything immoral about the moc.

Another thing I forget to tell , Imagine one day whole linux desktop ported to Qt , what about C programmer ? what is Qt's answer for C programmer ? (please don't start C vs C++ , it is personal and technical choice , somebody like me prefer C's simple approach , somebody maybe like you prefer all OOP/C++ approach)

You could probably write linkable libraries to wrap around Qt's C++ bindings - much like how other programming languages do things.

Material Design is well-regarded on mobile devices

It is? Wasn't it shipped just last week?

I've enjoyed it for almost a week on my tablet. I find it well-regardable.

On a more serious note, it is well-regarded by at least a large number of well-regarded designers and UI people. Material design has kinda swept the blogosphere in designer/UI circles. And, Google don't play when it comes to usable UIs; they put serious resources into figuring out how people interact with their software, so if they say, "This is good enough to be our UI standard for the next several years in every product we ship." then the odds are, it really is pretty good.

[Google] put serious resources into figuring out how people interact with their software, so if they say, "This is good enough to be our UI standard for the next several years in _every_ product we ship." then the odds are, it really is pretty good.

Not necessarily[1]. Especially in cases like this, where the org is large enough, the cash is endless enough, and the goal is fuzzy enough; that principal-agent problems are inevitably bound to prevail.

Think Pontiac Aztec. Or Lotus Notes. Or, for that matter, the all-new Google Maps(TM).

[1] http://brousseau.info/pdf/cours/grossman_hart_83.pdf

Not necessarily...but, the odds are good. I do find I'm very angry at Google Maps a lot of the time, though, so maybe Google is getting worse at interfaces and Material Design is going to go down in history as a massive failure.

People seem to be tolerating Windows 8 "flat" design, though, and that is pretty much a nightmare for usability as far as I'm able to discern.

In short, I don't now what's right and wrong, but I know what I like. I like my new tablet, and I dislike most other "flat" designs I've used in the build up to Material Design.

> People seem to be tolerating Windows 8 "flat" design, though, and that is pretty much a nightmare for usability as far as I'm able to discern.

FWIW, usability is being able to do something with as little thought or confusion as possible. So there is nothing inherently wrong with a flat UI - its the design choices made using it that matter.

Agreed. I wasn't complaining about the "flatness" of the thing. Just the chaotic nature of it (to me). Though, I suspect that with experience Win8 would become more usable to me. I just don't spend significant time in a Windows environment, so it feels really confusing whenever I find myself in front of one. "Usable" often means "What I'm used to."

I think there is some truth to the concept of material design, but so far in practice I've seen a wide variety of implementations that vary from "subtle yet pleasant" to "what the fuck were they thinking" and "why is this happening?".

I think the implementation is a lot harder than people realize. It's not Bootstrap, you can't just apply it to your site and be done. You have to think about the interaction design in context with the actions in your application.

Google Inbox seems to be the best example of good material design components, however, I've yet to see another app/site that uses these principles well. The "material design" frameworks I've seen on github thus far (even the Google Angular one) are sorely lacking.

Agreed. The frameworks provide a veneer, without the behaviors that are actually the important part of the UI/UX.

I'm still reading about it, and our UI is so far behind the curve that anytime I bring elements forward to new paradigms it is a positive gain. Switching to all Material Design would be a vast improvement...but so would switching to all Bootstrap (plus some new interaction guidelines), which is what I'm mostly working on lately. I'll probably experiment with Material Design, as well, but I don't have confidence I could do it well without a lot more research.

> it's interesting to see what you can do with its ideas on the desktop.

I am one of the negative voices but you're right here: it's certainly worth a try.

> Material Design is well-regarded on mobile devices

Says who? Isn't Lollypop all MD based? I've heard quite a bit of 'meh boring' reactions to it

I just got Lollipop on my 2nd generation Nexus 7 and overall it seems like a downgrade instead of an upgrade.

I have it on 2012 and 2013 N7 along with N4. Really pleased with it. My dad uses the 2012 N7 and he was wondering whether i got him a new device! And i really like the new keyboard. I think my mistakes have been reduced.

I don't have Android Lollipop and I am really curious , can you explain a little further?

The new keyboard looks awful.

There is some kind of network problem that causes 3 to 10 second latencies when I look up web pages at home with DSL but is not so bad at the gym with cable. I think DNS is involved.

It used to be that a left hand swipe and a right hand swipe would bring up different menus but now I have to swipe multiple times to count through the menus. It's that kind of hamhanded design that make people think bigger devices are unwieldy

While not your biggest issue by far: you can change the colour scheme of the Lollipop keyboard in its settings. "Material Dark" is a far more attractive setting (and I think the "Holo" settings will make it look like the older keyboard).

On my first edition Nexus 7 it has slowed down everything considerably, it is borderline unbearable to use it for anything now, even just browsing web pages is an uncomfortable experience. The lagginess combined with the double-gestures required for unlocking and getting to settings is especially frustrating. I used to love this device, but now I feel like it's working against me.

I primarily have heard reactions to how buggy the OS is. I haven't heard many complaints about the design concepts.

I tend not to criticize design decisions unless they are just plain asinine... Mostly if it is more of a matter of taste vs comfort level. I won't reject new designs just because they are uncomfortable.

There are only a handful of design changes in Android 5 that piss me off... I don't mind having email and gmail's apps combined. Two irksome things, is that the account switching circles are all but useless, I have 5 email apps, it only shows two bubbles, and there is no way to really tell which one is what. I can use the dropdown, but once you have more than two accounts, it should only show the dropdown picker. The second, is there doesn't seem to be a way to set an email as unread... I often will peak at a mail, and mark it unread to get back to. I know that inbox is working to get around things like this, but inbox really doesn't fit my workflow.

Aside from that, the keyboard changes don't bug me. Even the double swipe for settings really isn't that bad.

I really don't do much on my phone though... I removed facebook for shoving not one but two spyware apps down my throat, I removed most of the heavy battery offenders, and tend not to install apps that ask for permissions they have absolutely no need for... (flashlight apps that want sd and contact access, I get they need camera access for the flash)...

It will really be an interesting few years as phones approach today's desktop capabilities... I think remote displays will be a next thing... car interfaces especially..

So your main complaint is that it is not optimized for users with 5 different email apps? I have 3 on my iPhone, and I thought that is excessive.

No, my complaint is that with more than two email accounts, you can't tell one from another on the menu screen... there's no point in having them displayed that way at all as opposed to just keeping the drop down.

Android 5.0 breaks the Nook app and Twidere outright, and damages F-Droid. It's also crazy-slow.

Avoid, for now.

Crazy slow on what? My Nexus 5 is as fast as always - possibly even slightly nippier.

The animations feel slower than they did before, but it's apparently a deliberate choice, not a performance issue. Scaling them at .5x in the Dev Options menu make the whole UI feel much snappier on my Nexus 5.

'meh boring' is a lot better than 'oh god help me'. A lot.

But 'meh boring' is not the same as well-regarded.

Isn't the point of a good UI to not get in the way? If that's the case, then whether or not it's been well-regarded might be best determined by the "meh, boring" factor, regardless of how much users/critics/etc are aware of that fact.

In other words, an absence of 'oh god help me' ought to be well-regarded if it isn't already. :)

> to contrast the usual negativity

Thank you.

I can't dispute Qt becoming more popular for apps, and even DEs, but I still find that Qt apps AND all the Qt DEs on linux and BSD are horrifically ugly by default. That is harming adoption of Qt more than anything.

It's likely just bad taste and poor theming, but nevertheless, I find that 99% of the apps I use are GTK, and I'd always pick a GTK based DE (Gnome Shell, maybe mate) over KDE or Lumina.

Please no. Material design might work well for mobile devices, where you don't spend too much time in front of a single screen (by screen I mean app screen, not the physical screen). The screenshots show exactly what the problem is:

- really bright colors in the top bars: that's exactly what we _don't_ want in desktop apps, as the focus is on the (changing) content, not the title bars. Grab this http://quantum-os.github.io/images/desktop_layout_1.png, resize it to full screen, and you'll see what I mean.

- large empty spaces: for me it's too much even on touch-based devices, but on the desktop it's just utter waste of real estate.

I want the desktop to get less and less popular, so then the OS and app makers can start optimizing for people who create stuff (e.g. me), and it could look like http://i.imgur.com/7Tu2i6W.png or http://yxbenj.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/vs2012_colortheme_...

> really bright colors in the top bars: that's exactly what we _don't_ want in desktop apps, as the focus is on the (changing) content, not the title bars

Bright colors serve as good visual anchors. If you have a lot of windows open, they can help you find the one you want to focus on, although in this case it'd be better if the user set the colors rather than the applications.

> Grab this http://quantum-os.github.io/images/desktop_layout_1.png, resize it to full screen, and you'll see what I mean.

You'll have to spell it out for me, because I don't :(

> large empty spaces: for me it's too much even on touch-based devices, but on the desktop it's just utter waste of real estate.

I agree that the information density is too poor. As long as there's a compact mode I'm good, but few app makers bother, even though it would be trivial to offer.

> I want the desktop to get less and less popular, so then the OS and app makers can start optimizing for people who create stuff (e.g. me), and it could look like http://i.imgur.com/7Tu2i6W.png or http://yxbenj.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/vs2012_colortheme_....

You know, if the desktop gets less and less popular, OS and app makers won't start optimizing for people like you. They will pack up and leave. These two screenshots show the current extent of the effort deployed to cater to power users, and I'm afraid they show their future extent as well.

The really bright color should only be on the app who has focus I think, the other one could be dimmed when not on focus.

On Mobile you see only one app at a time so it's fine, but it would be tiring quick to have all these bright colors everywhere, plus when you get back to your desktop you would have no idea on which app you are.

Good point. It's important to properly highlight the focused window on desktop so that it's clear where keyboard input goes, and in the screenshots it doesn't look like they do that. I hope the final product fixes that.

Totally disagree on the only mobile point. I've been using Google Inbox as my main mail client for about 2 weeks now and it's great. Doesn't get sore on the eyes and my workflow with it is really quick (as in, it doesn't rely on touch to work). Yes I know it's a web app, but it may as well be a standalone application.

I do agree on not using material colours for app title bars. But that's my only real issue. I personally think material design looks great, and this example screenshot looks much cleaner and aesthetically pleasing already than the current linux offerings

Also, given that touchscreens on laptops and even desktops seem to be a thing now, this could well be a starting point for a Linux operating system which can scale seamlessly from smartphone to tablet to laptop. Obviously it's not for everyone, but it could be good as a kind of 'tablet plus', for watching videos, checking emails/facebook etc.

Although Sailfish OS and Ubuntu seem to be much more serious in that respect.

I personally love Inbox on my phone, but hate it on my laptop. I don't like how everything is so spaced out and personally don't find it easy on the eyes or matching my workflow at all. In fact, I've been trying to do as much of my email-related tasks as possible on my phone these past three weeks because of it, because Inbox itself is fantastic.

In terms of space usage, I' actually prefer the more spaced out approach. Other apps look a bit cramped and cluttered now in comparison.

A few related data points: I'm a developer and project manager.

I do all my work on a 13" laptop with nearly every app full-screen (I hate having two tasks visible unless I actually need both at once - which is very rare).

My eyesight isn't marvelous so that might be a factor. :-)

I found that zooming out the Inbox page on the laptop doesn't make it perfect, but more pleasant to use. (90% or 75%)

>> Please no.

Well, to me, this is what I love about Linux - there are different flavors for different sensibilities.

This particular flavor isn't for you, but it clearly scratched an itch for someone.

I guess the holy grail of Qt is to have one codebase for all devices. Perhaps different GUI (to a degree), but most logic can stay.

The thing is, you CAN creat the kind of app layouts like you linked - QML makes it incredibly easy to roll out your own UI.

But it could be argued that for many types of applications that is not the kind of GUI that works best, and a responsive, modern, touch friendly widget library is the way to go. It really depends on the application.

What window manager/etc is http://i.imgur.com/7Tu2i6W.png?

Openbox, probably running w/ CrunchBang Linux. Looks like the primary application in use is a terminal emulator with tmux.

What's the monitoring program on the far right? It looks like it's running in a terminal as well, but I don't recognize it.

Am I the only one who doesn't get this Material Design everywhere thing? Maybe it's why I'm not a designer, but do we really want all our UI experiences everywhere to look exactly the same (with perhaps color variance only)? I mean I'm all for having design principles, like the timeless principles of typography, which have near-infinite variance, but with a powerful yet subtle underlying set of guidelines which make it beautiful and legible. Material Design seems to me like Google branding forced all over the place. Boring.

UX designer here. It's way overhyped. The concepts behind it are great (using good motion design, giving proper feedback, showing clear affordances for actions, and lots of other good stuff), but that does not mean that everything has to look like Google's material template to work.

For everyone: take the UX cues from Material, sure, but please make it your own. The clone army is getting very, very old.

I'm working on a desktop application at the moment, and taking great detail into making a good UI/UX. This is something I've never really paid much attention to in the past - and the Google's spec is one of the few comprehensive guidelines on UI/UX. I'm following it, and using for inspiration, but taking liberties as to not make something that looks solely Google-y or Lollypop-ish.

The sad truth is in particular in the free software space there are only a few gems of truly inspiring consumer software, the rest are mindless rip-offs with terrible UI. Especially the chrome and rendering techniques used on a modern linux desktop compared to both Windows / Mac OS X are hacks. Compare for example the graphical foundation libraries of Mac OS X with the X11 + compositing wm + gtk / qt stack. So for example Yosemite style translucency might be implementable, but not in the presumably nice way OS X is able to do it, because OpenGL is not integrated as tightly in the graphics stack in Linux.

At least Kwin primarily runs in OpenGL mode, rather than GLX mode, so it never uses X for compositing and always does its graphical effects (which include translucency, blur, wobble windows, desktop cube, etc) as OpenGL only effects with no X library dependencies.

Its transition to Wayland is depreciating any latent X dependencies in its internal rendering code as well.

Qt 5/QML is implemented as an OpenGL-based scene graph and is tightly integrated with OpenGL.

The interesting bit is that in addition to scene graph engine, "QML" is actually two slightly different but overlapping things.

First - QML is a set of javascript bindings to manipulate the native Qt widgets. In this regard it's a bit like Delphi mixed with Smalltalk. You can build and rewrite the UI scenes, using javascript as just the glue language. The more logic is built into the native widgets, the less javascript code will be required for actual UI implementation. (QML requires QtScript, which builds on top of V8. So for random javascript code execution, it's reasonably fast.)

Second - QML is a declarative scene description language, not entirely unlike CSS. You can embed javascript code to handle dynamic UI updates, which is pretty neat for simple interfaces, and quite nice for prototyping. For anything which requires high frequency and reliable low latency, native widgets are still the way to go. Yes, you can write your own custom widgets; Qt 5.x provides proper development headers so extending the framework is easier than in 4.x days.

Technically the scene graph and QML parts are separate. There is quite a bit of history in how the implementations lived and diverged: from a single "declarative" engine to first integrating a scene graph backend, to eventually splitting the QML implementation(s) into their own higher level modules.

Disclosure: I had the privilege of working for very propeller-head style Nokia projects where we had direct exposure and visibility to how Qt evolved from its 4.7/4.8 form to the current, modular 5.x rewrite.

Right, but at least as far as I know, currently a window manager trying to do compositing in Linux has to fight with X11 to achieve that, because it was not really designed to support that use case. Which is why Wayland is getting traction I guess.

OpenGL originated from the X world, for better or for worse, so I doubt there's much fighting going on. Any modern OpenGL is pretty separate from it however.

Mir in Ubuntu can do that type of translucency and other openGL effects

You're not. And "make all the apps look the same except for some color" is a misinterpretation, but it's how a lot of the early practitioners seem to be interpreting it.

The idea, as I understand it, is material is a base metaphor that's basically flat goo paper. It can be arranged, layered, and has some intrinsic animation behavior.

But the designer should think of material in the same way print designers think of text columns, or pullquotes, or the page. These are all things someone invented. They're useful, but they're not compelling. You still need to do something else on top of it.

The biggest problem I see with the flat goo paper is it's being treated like its intrinsically playful. But that's not appropriate for all UI's. Some apps should be stark and clean. Some should be dark. To me, if you're going to create a base UI language, it needs to be flexible enough to adapt to less playful brands. The next question is whether that's a problem with "material design" or just a matter of nobody has made a stark app with material as a metaphor yet. And if that's not possible then it's just a passing fad.

All design is just a passing fad. I bet in a decade or so, we'll look back at Material Design and think of it as being gaudy and blocky.

(Can you define "goo paper"? I searched for that term and did not find anything useful: almost all of the hits were "false positives", with "goo" and "paper" as part of different phrases separated by punctuation. I ask, because you seem to have a really short intuitive summary of the design concept, and I'd like to understand it, but you seem to be using a term that no one else has ever used.)

That's because I made it up. I'm just trying to narrow in - talking about the idea of material but not necessarily the type or color palette.

Plastic paper

I'm a designer, big MD fan, and I'm dying to see some decent design in OS desktop land. But I don't get it either.

Design is all about understanding a problem/context and creating a solution to match it. MD is a great answer to a completely different problem than this project is solving.

> do we really want all our UI experiences everywhere to look exactly the same (with perhaps color variance only)?

For the most part, yes. We want them to behave exactly the same way, too, and use the same metaphors.

> Material Design seems to me like Google branding forced all over the place.

There is no Google branding in material design. They've been quite explicit about that.

>seems to me like Google branding forced all over the place

I'd argue that this has been the case since Holo.

I like this. I don't like it because I like Material or even Linux. I like it because I want to build a compelling user interface for my own app. The two best reference UI's I've seen (and yes, this is subjective) are Office and Visual Studio. Nothing else out there that's even vaguely mainstream and on a desktop pushes boundaries like those two. And yet I like neither of them. My own design (https://www.wittenburg.co.uk/Entry.aspx?id=bc4a9a14-cdd5-4c0...) reflects the best I can do. I'm not creative, nor am I an expert at UI or UX, so its really useful seeing what others come up with.

And that is why I appreciate both the effort it took to put this together, and a new perspective that someone was generous enough to share.

I would download and explore Interact if you were to publish it under an open-source license.

It will be open sourced. Just as soon as I have a working beta (core functions must work).

I'm not getting why someone has to declare "we are creating a new OS", instead of just settling on "we are creating a better UI". OS is a very serious thing that has nothing to do with usability as it is perceived by grandma

To be fair a "OS" is a compilation of lots of components: kernel, user-land utilities, a user-facing graphical environment and associated tools. You know, the source behind the whole "GNU/Linux" affair.

This means that somewhere you have to draw the line.

Android has a Linux-kernel, but (from a user's point of view) shares near nothing with a "regular" GNU/Linux OS, so it's considered an OS of its own. Which I think most people will be fine with.

That Debian is a GNU/Linux OS should be beyond any debate.

Ubuntu is a plain Debian-derivate. Is it its own OS? It's "merely" added a prettier installer, pre-bundled some common firmware and added a new (different) login-manager and GUI shell (Unity) and tried to add some consistent themes on top of that?

Elementary OS is (as far as I know) based on Ubuntu. It's the same story, except this time they're not just changing the shell (Pantheon instead of Unity), they're also creating lots og new user-facing GUI applications consistent with their own design-guidelines to compliment it.

A user using elementary OS and just the pre-provided GUI-apps a no terminal, will only see components provided by elementary OS. A new OS or just a new GUI? If we accept the principles behind Android being its own OS, this should be too: A user sees nothing of the traditional Linux apps or Linux DEs.

If we don't accept elementary OS as its own OS, why don't we? And if so why do we accept Android as such? You have to draw the line somewhere, and I agree this is hard. But if we accept elementary OS as its own OS, how is this (once built) not?

UI/UX is a very serious thing of its own given that the most popular consumer OSes today are arguably not the most technically superior.

I hope they package the desktop environment in a way that it can also be used on other distros. Going to an entirely new OS seems a bit much to me, but I'd be way more willing to try it out if I could just install it next to KDE or whatnot.

> Going to an entirely new OS seems a bit much to me

To be brutally honest it sounds like they don't know what they are doing - at all.

I did think that too - why not just release this as a Qt widget library? Why a new distro?

Even a new distro is not a new OS (in opposite to what they claim).

So is Android not an OS because it uses the Linux kernel? If it is a program that manages other programs and is itself not managed then it is an OS, is what I've heard. Just because you're only making a small part yourself doesn't make the assembled thing not an OS.

Android is not distro, it is a fork. In similar way they could build a new os based on linux but the work compared to just replacing UI is massive and maintenance is absolutely not something you want to do if you just want to replace ui.


More like a QML theme. You don't need a library at all.

And KDE's breeze theme and Plasma animations in Plasma 2 are really close to Material as is.

And I know of at least a few themes on kde-look that are already mostly material.

Are we still confused about OS vs window manager?


Is Gnome an Operating System? Is Unity? Then why is "Quantum OS" one?

I'm getting the impression that they are wanting to start their own distro using the UI to pull in users.

I've been asking a lot of people if they know of any "fresh start OSs that have modern minimalist UX" lately - and haven't gotten any good responses. So much that I've been planning on maybe building my own soon. But THIS, this looks like a great beginning! I'm super excited to watch this make progress! Congrats, great job, and keep it up.

I for one think it's time we saw bold and ambitious attempts at changing the desktop.

Most desktops today are arguably variations of the desktops we were introduced to in windows95 and OSX (v10). The colours, placement and names change but rarely does anything new show up (save for metro desktop).

With wayland and mutter/qt+ this is a great time to try out wild and out-there concepts. It's the only way to break out and really change the desktop.

I can understand peoples frustration; the desktop, after all, wraps up everything we experience when we use our machines. However I will approach this with an open mind, and I certainly hope others will do the same.

In my personal opinion, Windows 95 was pretty much the benchmark for how to build an intuitive and productive desktop environment.

There's obviously a few things that have come since that have improved upon it (eg quick search in the start menu / launcher, and the way how Linux better groups applications in it's launchers than Windows does in it's start menu) as well as mistakes made since (Windows quick launch start menu tool bar being one prime example). But for me, Microsoft really did create the design concept of optimal working environment.

Obviously this is just my preferences - many would disagree. But I think the reason why there are so many variations on the Windows 95 desktop is because many people feel like myself in that it's a paradigm that works extremely well for them too.

I agree and many attempts to push away from the Windows 95 design in order to be different have been usability nightmares

I've had a lot of people have good experiences with the Unity launcher. It is highly divisive from anything else on the market (it is a search frame always with filtering tabs) but does its job nicely. Homerun from KDE acts the exact same, except it is a full screen version.

>I for one think it's time we saw bold and ambitious attempts at changing the desktop.

I'd ask what problem we're trying to solve. I think desktops should be out of the way. I don't really use "a desktop" for anything. I just need a way to launch and switch between applications, and that's a solved problem in my opinion.

Totally agree with you!

The problem though is getting rid of the desktop would not go down well with the majority. you'd need a way of proving that you can still make multi tasking painless. Currently a desktop environment means I can resize and arrange windows to allow me to work with multiple apps.

One idea is have some sort intelligent system for deciding how much screen real estate is needed for each app and how they can be grouped and arranged into sensible workspaces.

You mean a tiling window manager?

not really. there is nothing wrong with overlapping, and most tiling WM'S are user managed in some way.

The shell in Gnome 3 is arguably also a departure from win9x/osx desktop paradigm (it took some ideas from the latter, but it went in a direction different enough that I consider it its own different thing). It received quite a bit of backlash.

I love it.

You say this as if nobody else out there is attempting to really radically change the desktop, which isn't true. Lots and lots of distributions and platforms are — you're provably just not familiar with them (not a swipe at you at all, by the way, but it goes to show that these things don't always catch on like wildfire). Also, re:desktop metaphor dating back to OSX/95, try 1984 and the original Mac and shortly thereafter windows 1.0 :p. (or really, Doug Engelbart some years before all of that!)

>not a swipe at you at all

no problem! :)

> Most desktops today are arguably variations of the desktops we were introduced to in windows95

That's simply because win95 was really that good. I, for one, think that there's no need to change what already works quite well.

The new version can be found here: https://github.com/quantum-os You can read the reasons here: https://plus.google.com/113262712329378697012/posts/M1muF1f7...

But ... why?

What does Material even offer to a Desktop OS?

And why a whole custom distribution, instead of a desktop environment?

(These answers are guesses)

> What does Material even offer to a Desktop OS?

A sense of (generally well-regarded) design direction made by professional designers. Familiarity to Android users. Not reinventing the wheel and doing a worse job at it.

> And why a whole custom distribution, instead of a desktop environment?

It's easier to make an integrated desktop if it isn't distribution agnostic. This way you can easily depend on distribution-specific stuff like which version of Wayland it has, depend on systemd, PulseAudio, which package manager it uses, what font settings it has, which GPU drivers it uses. If you make this a desktop environment instead of distribution, then you need to make it work with a far more diverse set of variables, which I think is undesirable when you're starting out (or even in general).

Your first reason is a bit condescending. KDE Plasma, Unity, Elementary, etc. all have clear design guidelines, and are all made by professional designers. They are not any less professional because you disagree with their choices / reasoning, and it's not clear that what makes Material Design work on mobile will translate well to the desktop at all.

Big issue is that professional designers don't typically use linux distributions. It's a real shame because Linux really needs some attention.: https://www.kde.org/announcements/4.6/screenshots/46netbook2...

I agree, and the reason is mainly lack of good design tools on Linux. It wouldn't take much though, perhaps there will be a Qt based design tool in the near future which will have a Linux port, and we'll see more designers (especially web designers) moving over.

If there was Photoshop or Sketch for Linux, and a lot of people could migrate. And no, GIMP or Inkscape don't cut it

It's kind of pretty and ugly at the same time.

>> Your first reason is a bit condescending.

I didn't get that at all. He made a statement about one project. In that statement he didn't compare it to other projects, nor even mention them.

My comment was not intended as a comparison of this to other desktops, or to imply one. FWIW, I think Gnome 3 and KDE 5 are beautiful.

> What does Material even offer to a Desktop OS?

A unified design language for a desktop OS is desperately needed in the Linux community.

This strikes me as the "there are too many standards"[1] approach.

You're not going to get that by adding yet another standard, and anything not written to that standard isn't going to look all pretty and Material Designed anyway.

[1] http://xkcd.com/927/

>> What does Material even offer to a Desktop OS?

I don't think we'll really know until these devs provide a working version of their OS.

I do think what this OS is trying to do makes for an interesting experiment -- even if it turns out to be a failure.

Good question. It could be even just a custom theme (with additional plugins) or something

A simple theme will do ... !! Why such a waste of effort ?

They should just write a gnome/metacity theme and call it a day. There is no point in having a new OS/distribution just to feature a new UI.

So much negativity in these comments. Instead of saying "why?" or "MD is for mobile screens," present your opinions in a factual matter to support your arguments.

I personally don't prefer the MD/Metro look design philosophy. This stems from the fact that I believe in designs that help accomplish a task, not prettify it for the sole of prettifying it.

I agree regarding the negativity. They come to "hacker news" but don't think like hackers.

Firstly, really great initiative. Looking forward to this. However, arent these two objectives contradictory

"The focus will be on creating a "stable" and easy-to-use operating system"


"Our goal is to base our work on the latest upstream versions available"

instead of using more tested and reviewed versions. Unstable drivers are a very common issue making the linux experience hard.

For people wondering about GTK,this was posted on Reddit


>Evolve OS reached out to them, we started with a chrome OS esque environment, and we started a material gtk theme. This uses qt, which is good for new apps, but not existing. Evolve is implementing a new lib for animations, that'll work with gtk, and existing apps. We've got dreams for it, check out the live stream on YouTube!

I generally like the look and feel of Material, but I'm not sure how well it works with mouse and keyboard.

From everything I've read it wasn't intended to be specifically for touch and Google's use of it for the new Inbox interface would seem to bear this out.

I use it regularly on a desktop in the context of Google Play Music, and it works great there. I'm looking forward to see where this goes.

From what I've seen of Material it's also a lot about classifying information visually and that's definitely something where desktop OS interfaces can be improved. Nobody likes looking at a jumbled mess of information spread on a flat plane without any general cue as to where you're supposed to look first.

I would be more interested in this as a desktop environment alternative, or a skin of an existing one. Not as a new distro though. The message is a bit mixed but I gather they want to control a new distro ecosystem and are starting with the UI as a way to draw in users.

Bells should be going off in a head somewhere about using Android alongside a desktop Linux home-rolled to become an amalgamated ecosystem of both and "just work" on a PC form factor but with LTE. Developers are demanding it so much that we're building it.

Is this in any way related to this project?


It's based on Evolve OS.

Link is broken!

It was there a minute ago and it suddenly disappeared, including the GitHub repository. Weird.

Edit: It seems like it just got renmaned. It's now available under https://github.com/quantum-os but the blog is not yet up.

The Google+ page says they need to come up with a new name because it conflicted with the Quartz graphics stack name used by OS X. This might be why everything is taken down.

Maybe it was taken down due to negativity. But here's an article about it, with screenshots: http://9to5google.com/2014/11/21/quartz-os-linux-material-de...

I really want not to be snarky and downplay anyone efforts, but I just wanted to point out that such an operative system already exists and is open source. You may have heard about it, it's called android... I can't even think of a valid reason to "reproduce" (aka making something that kind of looks like it but in the end is annoyingly different). For fun, maybe is the only valid one...

Seriously though if you pulled a nice installer for really up to date android on my desktop the thousands of apps in the play store and I would be really grateful...

Can someone think of any solid reason for why I should be interested?

I love Android but I'm also a developer. It's not productive to try and write code on Android. I have in the past skinned my Gnome Shell to look like Android Holo (I just applied styles someone else created).

Much like bumper stickers or giving your hatchback racing stripes, it's a way that people can personalize their experience.

Also for the people who are designing the skin, it gives them practice interpreting/adapting the spec and some of that knowledge may trickle back to the source.

People like to skin OSs in general because they want to change the appearance to something they like, while preserving the other familiar parts of the OS; I've seen Windows made to look like Mac OS, for example. Linux systems can be made to look (and behave) like any other OS, with enough customisation. It's understandable that people like the look of Android, but they don't want to deal with the rest of the Android ecosystem.

Because you still get all the benefits of a regular GNU/Linux system underneath, I'd presume.

This is one of the best ideas I heard in years. To me this totally makes sense, plays on Linux strengths etc. I wish you best and intend to follow closely.

If nothing else, a material UI widget set comes out of it which I can use to write android and ios apps. Thanks for this :)

If the special effects can be turned of and it will be as efficient as the Blackbox Window Manager I may give it a try.

Why not having just as a theme for current Linux window managers? What is the reason for a whole O.S. behind that?

Pointless cached version without the pretty pictures: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ypB2BA-...

That turned out handy since it is returning a 404 now: "There isn't a GitHub Page here"

Reminds me of BEos. Not quite sure why. Great effort. Keep at it.

Is it based on Unity? It looks really good.

Where can I download it from?

"Google, will you hire me? Pretty please?"

What's its ultimate tensile strength of the OS?

Material Design aside, the development community should have somehow reserved the name "Quantum OS" for the first operating system to run on the first quantum computing devise. I'm almost offended that some port of Linux is trying to bogart it.

You know what would be a great idea? get a Window Manager that everyone is hating because the usability and customization that took years to achieve is being throw out of the window by the new maintainers just to copy Apple's UI, and let's use that and add Google's latest UI mumble jumble, and instead of just releasing as a window manager, let's call it a new distro.

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