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Modding the GUI

Having invested lots of time (not to mention expense) in building the Iceberg, we saw no reason to stop there. Our next project was to replace the Windows desktop.

There have been many other contenders in the OS space, Amiga Workbench, Atari ST-OS, Apple Mac OS, Be OS, NeXTStep, OS2... and Microsoft has pirated taken inspiration from them all. As a result, the Microsoft Windows GUI (Graphical User Interface) has improved tremendously over the product's lifetime. Indeed, with the company's Windows XP operating system, the GUI has reached a level of maturity enjoyed by few other systems. But Windows is mainstream, far too common to grace the desktop of our new custom rig (not to mention buggy, insecure, monopolistic, er... sorry, I'll get off my soapbox).

Ideally, we would have liked to have installed a non-Microsoft operating system on the Iceberg. There are currently two credible alternatives to Windows on the desktop: Linux, an open source variant of Unix and Mac OS X (which is built on a Unix core).

Linux is one of the all-time great operating systems. It is renowned for its stability and is one of the few operating systems enjoying significant growth despite Microsoft's dominance. Unfortunately, while Linux makes an absolutely rock-solid server platform (Urban Mainframe runs on a Linux server), it is still somewhat lacking as a general purpose desktop OS for the average (non-technical) user, although this is slowly changing.

On the other hand, Apple's OS X is a first class desktop operating system. Fast, powerful, easy to use and visually stunning. However, at this time, OS X only runs on proprietary Apple hardware, so it's a non-starter for our x86 class machine. Or is it?

We can't buy OS X and install it on the Iceberg, that much is true. But maybe we can customise Windows XP to resemble OS X.

Let's start by looking at the OS X desktop:

What the image above doesn't convey is that the OS X desktop isn't static. There are many dynamic, animated elements that, while adding to the visual impact, make it extremely difficult to emulate. Watch the movie clips in the Mac OS X Theatre to really appreciate the many effects.

As you can see, OS X is pure, unadulterated eye-candy and much more aesthetically pleasing than any version of Windows. This then is our model, our inspiration.

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