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LWN.net Weekly Edition for May 16, 2013
A look at the PyPy 2.0 release
PostgreSQL 9.3 beta: Federated databases and more
LWN.net Weekly Edition for May 9, 2013
(Nearly) full tickless operation in 3.10
Shuttleworth: Unity shell will be default desktop in Ubuntu 11.04 (ars technica)
Posted Oct 25, 2010 21:09 UTC (Mon) by rahvin (subscriber, #16953)
Files, Folders, and Search
Posted Oct 25, 2010 21:59 UTC (Mon) by rfunk (subscriber, #4054)
Both KDE and MacOS X have done a lot of work in this direction, and for a lot of the Mac people I've met it's become indispensable. (In KDE people still tend to turn it off because the indexing overhead has often been too noticable.)
Posted Oct 25, 2010 22:51 UTC (Mon) by drag (subscriber, #31333)
It works and I think something like ZeitGeist would actually be REALLY F-ING useful for me at work.
For folders I frequently use in a GUI I arrange things according to date. When I am on the command line I've started using 'ls -ltr' habitually.
There comes a time when managing files manually and having well-laid out directories for managing information just does not scale.
Search helps a lot, but it would be even more useful to find ways to naturally be able to track _relationships_ between data. That would be fantastic.
Anybody who thinks that directory/file structure for managing information manually by humans....
How many times (and be honest) you were browsing the internet and found some interesting image or pdf or tarball or anything and you downloaded it and openned up in the default application.... and then _later_on_, maybe hours or weeks or months later decided that you wanted to look at that file again you just ended up searching the internet for it _again_ and _redownloaded_ it just because it was quicker and you were in a hurry?
I don't know about you, but it's much easier to remember text in a document, how I found a document, or relationships between different data (in some way shape or form) then it is to remember what I did with a file after I was done with it.
Anyways; GUI file managers are all piles of crap anyways. I rather use Nautilus compared to Finder or Explorer, but all three of them a pretty irritating to use. Especially when using Windows I always long for a nice Unix shell and on Windows machines I use a lot cygwin is universally installed. There just has to be a better way.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 7:57 UTC (Tue) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523)
I miss FAR (http://www.farmanager.com/index.php?l=en) on Linux, it's _the_ best file manager in existence. Everything else seems clunky in comparison, including the 'most advanced' GUI managers like Dolphin in KDE.
Try it on Windows. Though it does have a steep learning curve, kinda like emacs/vim.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 10:34 UTC (Tue) by Seegras (subscriber, #20463)
Posted Oct 26, 2010 11:27 UTC (Tue) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523)
There's a project to resurrect MC: http://www.midnight-commander.org/ - it _might_ one day produce FAR's rival. But it's still not comparable, so far.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 16:20 UTC (Tue) by aseigo (guest, #18394)
Posted Oct 26, 2010 17:11 UTC (Tue) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523)
I think, I've tried all the two-panel managers in Linux. http://freshmeat.net/projects/XNorthernCaptain/ is most close to FAR in 'spirit' but its functionality is severely lacking.
It's certainly possible to live in Linux without file managers, but sometimes it's almost painful to write series of commands which can be done in a few keypresses in a good file manager. Does not happen that often, so it's not a deal-breaker.
I guess, users of vim/emacs feel the same when they are forced to use less powerful editors.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 16:56 UTC (Tue) by iabervon (subscriber, #722)
I think the directory method is several orders of magnitude more effective at handling those files for which it is at all useful, so abandoning it would make certain important things extremely inefficient for many people. But it's also nearly useless for many other things, and search is better for those. In real life, I don't put every paper I have into some folder or other, because that kind of classification doesn't really make sense for everything; but I do put all of my tax records for the same year into a folder, and even having an effective content search wouldn't mean I could live without these folders, because I sometimes need to go through exactly those documents, and they don't share any content features which are distinctive.
I'd actually really like to see a system where users get some storage with names and some storage that's indexed, where either can be used but the defaults are sensible. Mainly, I think that files should only be in some particular directory when created with a "New File In This Directory" interface, and otherwise they're all in a single directory with random names that gets indexed. That is, using filenames for files should be supported and efficient, but there shouldn't be any encouragement to do it except when the user actually wants to.
Posted Oct 28, 2010 7:25 UTC (Thu) by russell (subscriber, #10458)
I have a directory tree in my home directory with 16 million map tiles, and lots of other non searchable stuff such as source code. What's it going to do when it see that. Spend days analysing them? Will I be forced to move stuff out of my home directory that isn't searchable? I think there is a big difference between a home directory where I control stuff and the internet where I don't.
Posted Oct 31, 2010 12:31 UTC (Sun) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Posted Oct 25, 2010 23:39 UTC (Mon) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630)
many people remember where they put things, but not what they called them.
Really?? I'm just the opposite. I remember what I call things, but forget where I put them. find or locate help me out.
I like files and directories as a way to organize things.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 2:03 UTC (Tue) by brouhaha (subscriber, #1698)
The kind of thinking that "folders are bad, search way better, so we're going to do away with folders and use search instead" should be studiously avoided.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 14:36 UTC (Tue) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630)
Different people think in different ways. The system shouldn't force them to think one way or the other.
We are in violent agreement on this point. That's why I get irritated when developers try to engage in social engineering and force the One True Way of doing things on their users.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 21:32 UTC (Tue) by rgmoore (✭ supporter ✭, #75)
I remember what I call things
Posted Oct 27, 2010 15:48 UTC (Wed) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630)
If you don't have control over the name- either because it's automatically named by whatever creates it or because you're collaborating with somebody else and they named it- then it can be hard.
True, which is why at work we use a revision-control system to collaborate on documents and we enforce naming guidelines.
Yes, I successfully have non-technical people trained to use Subversion rather than mailing around things like "Press Release Foo - Revision 2 (DFS-Rev-1)" I'd love to have them on git, but Subversion was a steep-enough learning curve. :)
Posted Oct 26, 2010 12:01 UTC (Tue) by Quazatron (guest, #4368)
Posted Oct 26, 2010 1:11 UTC (Tue) by rgmoore (✭ supporter ✭, #75)
As an example, I'm a photographer. I tend to sort my photographs into folders first by the year when I took them, then by a general subject (e.g. pictures I took when hiking), then by more specific criteria depending on the subject. That's OK when I'm looking for specific pictures- I can narrow things down a lot by remembering an approximate date and subject- but it's severely limiting if I want to do something more.
I may want to do something more complicated, like search for all photos taken in a specific location, or taken with a particular lens, or with a shutter speed slower than 1s, or even all pictures taken within 1/2 hour of sunrise. Those are all criteria that I might want to consider using, and they're all things that I potentially could search on based on the metadata within my images*. But I obviously can't sort my pictures into folders according to all of those criteria. The only practical approach is to have really good support for metadata searches. There are currently programs designed specifically to support that kind of searching for photographs, but it would be better if it were supported at the OS level.
*My camera can automatically geotag my images, which would let me sort them by location or even let me calculate local sunrise time and see if they were taken close to sunrise.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 10:38 UTC (Tue) by Seegras (subscriber, #20463)
But where are the tools to edit EXIF-tags in movies?
Posted Oct 26, 2010 10:55 UTC (Tue) by job (guest, #670)
There is fundamentally no problem with this. A file can have a number of names and positions in a traditional directory hierarchy. There are a number of practical issues, such as that you have to delete all instances of the file to actually delete it which may not fit a photography collection, but there are issues with any system.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 16:12 UTC (Tue) by sorpigal (subscriber, #36106)
Posted Oct 26, 2010 18:26 UTC (Tue) by rgmoore (✭ supporter ✭, #75)
There's also the a matter of practicality. Yes, I can theoretically create a whole set of parallel directory structures each of which serves as a a way of sorting according to different criteria. But the more different criteria I use, the more cumbersome that solution gets. Just adding and deleting files gets to be a pain, since it involves creating or deleting numerous links. You'll wind up needing to create a whole set of new tools to create and maintain your fancy link structure.
And all you're really doing is duplicating the functionality of a database- probably badly. At some point, it gets easier just to have the computer maintain a proper database rather than trying to do it with links. Once you've built the tools to maintain the database, a whole world of other possibilities opens up. You'll be able to use standard database queries to look for your files. Adding new file types only involves figuring out what kind of metadata they might want to use. There's a lot more upfront effort, but the potential payoff is huge.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 11:36 UTC (Tue) by sorpigal (subscriber, #36106)
I was looking around the other day for this because I wanted to start tagging images that are not always JPEGs and I figured someone must, by now, have developed a scheme for using extended attributes for file tagging. What I have found so far is that nothing for this is published anywhere, even if some application or other may implement it, and there's certainly no common standard.
On a *nix system a hard link acts a lot like a tag: One or more names is associated with a file. The down side to hard links is that adding a lot of them, like 20 or more, for a single file purely for the purpose of 'tagging' it becomes a management nightmare. Extended attributes would work nicely for simple label tagging, though it would be nicer if tags could be typed so that dates (date taken, etc) could be stored this way as well.
If file tools knew about tags in extended attributes then it would be a simple matter to add a few to any file and have a VFS which lets me see one directory per tag on any file on the system and drill down to specific files. Some indexing would be required for that, naturally, but even without it we could certainly all benefit from moving MP3 and JPEG tags into metadata where they belong, writing them back to the files only when we're ready to transfer across the network.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 14:37 UTC (Tue) by jackb (subscriber, #41909)
You mean something like a filesystem that supported arbitrary file metadata and exposed it in a way that made it accessible to all programs without needing to go through a separate API?
Posted Oct 26, 2010 19:13 UTC (Tue) by rgmoore (✭ supporter ✭, #75)
Why directories are 'broken'
Posted Oct 26, 2010 10:37 UTC (Tue) by epa (subscriber, #39769)
Arguably, it's not the folders model itself that is broken but rather Microsoft and friends who have broken it by obfuscating the directory hierarchy away from the user and making crappy filepickers in each application rather than a simple, usable file browser that's common to the whole desktop. But in its current state, and for most users, the nested-folders model isn't working well.
Posted Oct 26, 2010 16:59 UTC (Tue) by cry_regarder (subscriber, #50545)
Posted Oct 26, 2010 20:25 UTC (Tue) by droundy (subscriber, #4559)
Having recently used inkscape a bit, this was *very* frustrating. It'd be lovely if our GUI programs could use the "folder" approach nicely...
Posted Oct 26, 2010 20:23 UTC (Tue) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
the problem is that the OS/application defaults put the files somewhere else that makes sense to the application developer, but not necessarily anyone else
Posted Oct 27, 2010 14:33 UTC (Wed) by ibukanov (subscriber, #3942)
Yes. I have observed that for almost 15 years. People cannot find a file unless it is on Desktop. This has become worse with recent tendency to use Downloads or similar folder by default to save files.
What is interesting is that many people seems just remember the location of the file on desktop and if the icons is rearranged they have some hard time initially. For those people the button that MS have added in Windows 98 (or something) to show the desktop was a real productivity boost and so was the ability to drag files from the desktop to open them in applications (like mail attachments etc.)
Yet it seems all those modern interfaces do not try to explore that tagging by visual location on the screen.
Why directories are 'broken' in Windows apps
Posted Oct 30, 2010 0:37 UTC (Sat) by stevem (subscriber, #1512)
Now she's got a Linux machine and she's much happier.
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