Aurora Desktop (is coming?)

A long long time ago (2003) in a land far far away (USA) people began speculating about the possibilities of “active wallpapers” in Longhorn (Windows Vista). Time has passed and without any further evidence of its existence, the rumours and speculation died off. But there might be hope.

Recently I’ve acquired a copy of early 2003 XAML code used to generate a fairly preliminary and bland version of the Aurora effect we have witnessed on and off in the past. Note this version of the Aurora is different to the one we witness today in the Vista installation and login screens. But this not only proves that you could generate a purely vector and animated version of Aurora using XAML, but you can run it at an acceptable level of performance.

I gave it a test run in Windows XP, but I suspect the performance in Vista (if this feature ever which could well ship with RTM) will be vastly improved. The performance of the Aurora in this video does not accurately represent the actual performance in XP due to the screen recording software.

XAML Aurora
Click image to view video (H.264, 1:14min)

Update: A little birdie told me a nice surprise might be shipping with Vista. Yay. :-)

15 insightful thoughts

  1. Nice, but I’ll pass.

    Seems like cool eye candy, but a desktop constantly moving in the background behind my active windows sounds highly distracting in the long run.

  2. I’m not one to troll but I can’t see what all the fuss is about. I’m both an avid Windows user (mainly for business) and OS-X user (mainly for personal computing) but the implementation shown in the video is very poor. How is this any different to the ‘Active Desktop’ of old? OK so the technology has increased and the scope of content may be wider but the benefit to the user is still debatable. I’m not knocking the concept of an ‘animated desktop’, in fact I have used the rather splendid ‘Quartz Desktop*’ on my Mac but, honestly, after about 5 minutes you soon crave a static backdrop. Quartz Desktop is also far better in implementation as it replaces the whole desktop image with your animation and is truly seamless.

    I honestly believe it is a ‘Good Thing’ that this kind of feature won’t ship in Vista – in the same way Apple could have added a ‘Quartz Desktop’ option to their OS – it just doesn’t cut it and detracts from some of the genuine developments in Redmond’s new OS. The hardware foot-print for Vista is already too big – especially for business users – and having to worry about users asking why their system won’t run Aurora would be… well you know.

    * This isn’t part of OS-X but is a little ‘hack’ to enable quartz compositions (screen savers and the like) to be run as the desktop ‘wallpaper’; you can find more here:

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