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Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 4:31 UTC (Sat) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
In reply to: Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME? by dskoll
Parent article: Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

I agree. Gnome Shell looks like a nice clean interface and seems useful, but unless Zeitgeist provides some kind of compatibility interface where files can be seen the way they are, I don't see how I could ever use it.

I guess it comes down to when and how one was taught to organise files. In the olden days, we used to be drilled to organise our files properly, so finding them was never a big problem. Not sure what they teach kids these days...


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Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 7:31 UTC (Sat) by Los__D (guest, #15263) [Link]

Folder structures sucks major balls, simply because there is only one entry point/one view, and it's so damn rigid. (ok, you can create more views if you use links, but that isn't exactly something you'd want to maintain)

Anything that can remove the importance of the structures when finding data (i.e. by providing alternative views) is a step forward.

I just hope that Zeitgeist isn't going to be the only alternative organization. Advanced "by date" is definitely an important step, but there's so much more.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 13:53 UTC (Sat) by ms (subscriber, #41272) [Link]

I broadly agree. Filesystems should be databases, and it should be possible to create projections of the filesystem based on any metadata associated with files. Files should also be strongly typed. Ultimately, a "directory" is just a piece of meta data associated with a file.

However, I rather suspect that the Gnome Zeitgeist, by just adding "by date" projections is going to demonstrate that that's really not good enough.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 16:12 UTC (Sat) by seilo (guest, #55462) [Link]

We don't only add projections by date. That is why we provide tagging! So you can chose not to view by date but rather to view data related "by tags" to whatever you wish! You can also browse files that have a specific tag
or view files that have several tags in common!

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 18:39 UTC (Sat) by dirtyepic (subscriber, #30178) [Link]

I've never understood the appeal of tagging. How is going through all my files and adding the appropriate tags to each one any easier/faster/more convenient than just putting them in a folder in the first place? Sure you can have multiple tags per file, but every one of the very few times I've had to find files based on some kind of arbitrary metadata, it's something that I never thought to use as a tag (eg. i have photos tagged with location and date, but i need to find pictures of my brother).

i do see the value in social tagging where it's likely someone else has already done the dirty work, but for my own stuff? Never.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 18:52 UTC (Sat) by ms (subscriber, #41272) [Link]

Yeah, if people can't be arsed to put they files in a sensible folder structure then they won't bother to richly tag them. All such meta data should ideally come from the file content itself. E.g. id3 tags, exif data etc etc. The ability to have live projection with many, often pretty complex constraints (i.e. you need a full expression engine in this, not just some "show me files tagged with 'red'" crap) is actually pretty cool.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 22:07 UTC (Sat) by salimma (subscriber, #34460) [Link]

Pretty cool, and we'll finally be where BeOS was ten years ago.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 30, 2009 18:47 UTC (Thu) by rfunk (subscriber, #4054) [Link]

And where OS X is today (with Spotlight and QuickSilver).

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted May 5, 2009 20:13 UTC (Tue) by salimma (subscriber, #34460) [Link]

You can do that with Beagle/Strigi/Tracker coupled with deskbar-applet/gnome-do/katapult already.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Jun 3, 2009 16:29 UTC (Wed) by renox (subscriber, #23785) [Link]

>>
How is going through all my files and adding the appropriate tags to each one any easier/faster/more convenient than just putting them in a folder in the first place?
<<
It's *exactly* the same work to put all your file in a folder or tagging the files: both are setting a metadata attribute on the files.

But hieararchical folders are more rigid and require an order even when there is no 'natural' order: ie /landscapes/NewYork isn't better than /NewYork/landscape..

So tags are more flexible.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 12:48 UTC (Mon) by jzbiciak (subscriber, #5246) [Link]

Files should also be strongly typed.

Isn't that roughly the opposite of UNIX file philosophy? Even Apple's OS hasn't had strongly typed files for years.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 19:33 UTC (Mon) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

Completely the opposite. You give me strongly typed files and I ask you to
do forensics, open a file in a wildly different app (there sometimes are
good reasons), or even run *backups* or use things like indexers.

Weakly typed files *are* a good idea: build it on top of libmagic.so (and,
for portability rather than speed, calls to file(1) if libmagic.so isn't
around).

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 21:30 UTC (Mon) by jzbiciak (subscriber, #5246) [Link]

I was just surprised nobody else jumped on that, since it seemed so un-UNIX.

(And un-everything these days, for that matter. I remember the Bad Old Days, when I couldn't open a file because it was the "wrong type." And that was on cassette!)

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 21:47 UTC (Mon) by ms (subscriber, #41272) [Link]

Nah, you misunderstand me. I don't care about changes to opening or manipulating file contents, this is all about the metadata associated with the file.

File types should form a hierarchy, so, eg ogg is subtype of music is a subtype of media is a subtype of file. And then the attributes a file carries is defined by the filetype, with inheritance. So, eg all files have a size, and then all media files have a length, and all ogg files have channel count, for example. This tends to keep the interfaces simpler, because it means you don't have to present the user with 7843264372 different attributes to constrain, it's very likely they know the file type they're expecting and so you obviously only offer the attributes that are defined for those file types.

Myself and a few friends actually implemented all this a few years ago, basically building the UI and everything on top of Postgresql. It worked tremendously well and was fantastically powerful. However, the issue, as it will always be, is making a sane bridge between such a rich and powerful system back to a normal file/directory system such that the command line works. We never really implemented it, though did have some ideas. As an indication of how powerful it all was, we never bothered adding "name" or "directory" attributes, which would, logically have been attached to the root file type. The meta data was so rich that you really didn't need to name files at all. I guess the obvious take away here is the age old adage of "a system is only as good as the data that's in it". In this case, it was excellent, but it could quickly deteriorate.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 22:17 UTC (Mon) by jzbiciak (subscriber, #5246) [Link]

Ah, I see. So the actual file itself isn't strongly typed, per se, in the traditional notion of a "strongly typed file system." Rather, you're saying that any organizational scheme you use should have a strong notion of what the file's contents are so that it can use that metadata to organize things. The command line still sees bags of bytes with a simple pathname, and "dd" and "cat" and "cp" and "tar" all do what I expect.

As for "making the command line work," wouldn't this just be an alternate implementation of "glob"? Traditional glob is just a very primitive sort of database query: The only keys you can query against are components of the pathname. Your metadata organizational system just gives you a different thing to query against to get your set of pathnames to go act upon.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 22:28 UTC (Mon) by ms (subscriber, #41272) [Link]

The way we'd thought about making the command line work was along the lines of:

Rather than "being in a directory", you're in a current view of the system which has constraints (i.e. you've specified some requirements on some attributes and only files that match those attributes are available).

Then ls works as normal, and cd (or some such tool) provides a means to alter the constraints. Oh yes, the other awesome feature we had was the ability to save views. So eg, you'd have a view which would specify all media files added within the last two weeks, and then you'd save that view, and could switch very quickly to it. This meant that it was worthwhile putting a couple of minutes into setting up (we have GUI tools) a good powerful view of the system (this is why I said in an earlier comment you really want a full expression engine).

Once you'd got the command line working that well, it would be easy enough to try and do some fuse type binding, but it would be tricky. I looked into it but never wrote any code in that direction.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted May 5, 2009 20:16 UTC (Tue) by salimma (subscriber, #34460) [Link]

Was this ever released? This sounds tremendously useful.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 16:05 UTC (Sat) by dskoll (subscriber, #1630) [Link]

Anything that can remove the importance of the structures when finding data (i.e. by providing alternative views) is a step forward.

find and locate generally do it for me. I've never yet run into a situation I couldn't solve with one or the other.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 30, 2009 15:02 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

I have frequently run into situations I couldn't handle with find and locate (e.g. 'show me all the unstripped ELF executables and shared objects under this directory which I can write to and which are really unstripped, i.e. do not have a .gnu.debuglink' but actually contain the debugging information themselves. You can't do *that* with find/locate.

But find, locate, and 'other stuff with pipelines' should be able to handle everything. Of course 'other stuff' can include file(1)...

... maybe what we need is some sort of 'hierarchical file(1)', perhaps a way to ask boolean is-a questions of its MIME type database, and a much bigger MIME type database.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 18:18 UTC (Sat) by dirtyepic (subscriber, #30178) [Link]

Data needs to be structured to be organizable. What you're suggesting is dumping everything in one big pile and saying, "Hey look, the newer stuff is on top!".

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted May 1, 2009 15:59 UTC (Fri) by kov (subscriber, #7423) [Link]

No, it's more along the lines of ditching hierarchy for tagging and locality. I don't like the current
implementation, and I really want to see that as part of Nautilus, but the idea rocks IMO. I believe
this is one of the things that make people like GMail so much. This is how people think about
things.

Also, notice that find and locate, and tracker, will continue being nice ways of finding files, but
not for my mom =P.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 7:49 UTC (Sat) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

"Compatibility interface" would be nautilus. It isn't going away.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 26, 2009 8:51 UTC (Sun) by bojan (subscriber, #14302) [Link]

Good to know. Thanks.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 25, 2009 10:12 UTC (Sat) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

The problem may not be 'kids'. I remember when my dad retired I had a look
at his work machine.

Everything he'd done for the previous ten years or so was in *one*
enormous directory. He'd noticed things were getting 'rather slow'...

This is how a lot of non-computer-people seem to organise things. Just
save it on the desktop until we run out of room... though the user
interface calls them 'folders' (yuck), they don't actually act enough like
real file folders for people to realise how they can be used without
tuition.

(Of course 'non-computer-people' are literally a dying breed these days.
Pretty much everyone under the age of 30 probably understands how
hierarchical directories are used, at least to some extent.)

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 11:17 UTC (Mon) by fatrat (subscriber, #1518) [Link]

"Pretty much everyone under the age of 30 probably understands how
hierarchical directories are used, at least to some extent."

Not the ones I see, or at least not beyond the basics. Everything on the desktop is the most common, with probably some folders called "old" or similar to chuck stuff in when that gets full

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 12:51 UTC (Mon) by jzbiciak (subscriber, #5246) [Link]

I'm far from computer illiterate, but I find myself guilty of this level of organizational laziness, at least with my work computer. I have a folder named "CRAP" on my desktop, and every so often I haul another batch of stuff there.

My desktop acts like a spatial LRU for files.

Shell and Zeitgeist: the future of GNOME?

Posted Apr 27, 2009 17:16 UTC (Mon) by amarjan (guest, #25108) [Link]

Guilty? Why guilty?

The simple fact is that a strict hierarchy is a really lousy way to organize most things, and that's all that a filesystem gives you. (Except in Unix we have links, so we can have cycles in our trees, yay.)

David Weinberger said it far better than I ever could in a lecture some years ago. Video and audio are here:

http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/mtarchive/003386.html

I refuse to be guilted about my "poor" file organization habits when the system I have available for organizing my files is half-assed and inadequate. Any given file may belong in an arbitrary number of buckets and it's the computer's job to keep track of that, not mine. After all, why do we have DBMS-managed indexes instead of doing it all by hand?

Personally I think a combination of arbitrary metadata and fulltext/metadata search would be the bee's knees, but I don't know of anything that does that yet -- most systems tend to do one or the other. Nepomuk is supposed to do both, if/when it gets into a usable state.


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