New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

Eagle Mode—File Manager with a Difference (eaglemode.sourceforge.net)

For those sick of file manager after file manager that essentially do the same thing, with only a slightly different interface, let's just say that Eagle Mode (EM) takes a more ambitious approach. In the words of EM's documentation:

Eagle Mode is an advanced solution for a futuristic style of man-machine communication, in which the user can visit almost everything simply by zooming in. It has a professional file manager, file viewers and players for most of the common file types, a chess game, a 3-D mines game, a multi-function clock and some fractal fun, all integrated in a virtual cosmos. By featuring a separate pop-up-zoomed control view, help texts in the things they are describing, editable bookmarks, multiple input methods, fast anti-aliased graphics, a virtually unlimited depth of panel tree, and by its portable C++ API, Eagle Mode aims to be a cutting edge of zoomable user interfaces.

Eagle Mode's file manager lives within a virtual cosmos where other programs and trinkets float around with it.

For those chasing a lightweight file manager, you're looking at the wrong project. I almost choked when I read the system requirements: CPU 3.4GHz...per core! Plus, 1GB of RAM and a gig of hard drive space for temporary files at runtime—this is an ambitious project that shoots at the opposite end of the scale! Nevertheless, don't despair if you don't have all the hardware requirements; I still found the project usable on my apparently measly 512MB of RAM and 2.14GHz per core.

Installation

Thankfully, the software requirements aren't as Draconian as the hardware requirements. The only major dependencies are Perl, GCC, libx11-dev and the libxine-dev library for playing multimedia files. There is a list of other smaller non-essential dependencies that is long enough to make you scroll down the page (such as tar, xterm, JPEG libraries and so on), but they're really the kind of things you would expect for a file manager (and unless you have a system that's more sparse than a nightclub in Salt Lake City, you probably have them all installed anyway).

So, head to the Web site, grab the latest tarball, extract it and open a terminal in the new folder's main directory. From here, I really recommend reading the documentation included in the doc directory, which, unlike a lot of documentation, actually is well set out and easy to navigate. But, for the impatient, enter the following commands:

$ perl make.pl build

And, as root or sudo:

# perl make.pl install

I got an error in the middle of compiling EM, which said:

Building emAv failed, but that project is not so essential.
So if you don't know how to solve the problem, you could     
continue the overall building now, and live without the features
the project provides. Continue? [y(es)/n(o)/a(lways)]: y

After doing some Googling, I still couldn't find out what emAv was, but it seems to be non-essential, and the installation continued on unfazed. EM seems to run fine without it. Once the compilation has finished, change into the installation directory, which by default will be:

$ cd /usr/local/eaglemode/

And, enter this command to run it:

$ ./eaglemode.sh

Usage

Once inside EM's main screen, you'll be presented with a scene that is deceptively conventional—a file manager in your home directory. Double-click on a file, and it opens it. But, double-click on a folder, and it opens a terminal within that directory—that's weird. There's a bunch of extra info in the bottom right of the folder too, what's that about? As soon as I roll the mouse wheel upward, the whole scene suddenly zooms in, and I can see the contents of those files in detail. That's kind of cool, but it still isn't what I'd call groundbreaking. Then, I give the mouse wheel a few quick rolls backward, and the whole idea of Eagle Mode unfolds in an instant. When you zoom out, you find that everything is placed within a 3-D virtual cosmos—a star field consisting of files, applications and fields of stars. Keep zooming out, and eventually it is revealed that you are looking at a cosmos that is living within the eye of an eagle—just the kind of artistic silliness of which I approve! Zooming out to the end of the universe displays this proud eagle in its entirety.

Scroll backward all the way, and it is soon revealed that your virtual cosmos is living within the eye of this proud eagle!

I'm not sure if it will come out in print, but those who look very carefully will be able to see this as a white speck in its eye. Cosmic!

Zoom back in to the eye of the eagle and you return to the virtual cosmos where you can zoom in to programs and folders in great detail. Clicking on an area of the universe changes the “aim” of the zoom, and if you hold the scroll wheel in and move the mouse in any direction, it will scroll around the screen that way. Included in these applications and objects are things like system folders, a clock, documentation and games, and I'm sure there are some hidden objects in that star field somewhere. For those looking for a distraction, a version of Chess has been included (with a rather aggressive AI, it must be said) and a game simply called Mines that is a mind-bending 3-D take on the classic Mine Sweeper.

Waste time in Eagle Mode playing a rather lovely 3-D Chess game against a rather nasty AI.

Overall, if you're sick of navigating your PC with something that feels like it was designed by a bank manager (or if you simply want to put all those GHz your new PC came with to use), Eagle Mode just might be for you (not recommended for boring people though).

______________________

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

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GinaG's picture

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