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Data Storage Microsoft

Rethinking the Nature of Files 369

Posted by timothy
from the files-are-inside-the-computer dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Two recent papers, one from Microsoft Research and one from University of Wisconsin (PDF), are providing a refreshing take on rethinking 'what a file is.' This could have major implications for the next-gen file system design, and will probably cause a stir among Slashdotters, given that it will affect the programmatic interface. The first paper has some hints as to what went wrong with the previous WinFS approach. Quoting the first paper: 'For over 40 years the notion of the file, as devised by pioneers in the field of computing, has proved robust and has remained unchallenged. Yet this concept is not a given, but serves as a boundary object between users and engineers. In the current landscape, this boundary is showing signs of slippage, and we propose the boundary object be reconstituted. New abstractions of file are needed, which reflect what users seek to do with their digital data, and which allow engineers to solve the networking, storage and data management problems that ensue when files move from the PC on to the networked world of today. We suggest that one aspect of this adaptation is to encompass metadata within a file abstraction; another has to do what such a shift would mean for enduring user actions such as "copy" and "delete" applicable to the deriving file types. We finish by arguing that there is an especial need to support the notion of "ownership" that adequately serves both users and engineers as they engage with the world of networked sociality. '"
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Rethinking the Nature of Files

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  • I'm sorry, but MS issuing a paper on the "issues of file ownership" and the cloud sends a little chill up my spine. Makes me think that engineering may not be the only impetus behind their paper. It also makes me wonder if someone isn't looking to take a little more "ownership" of what has traditionally been considered *my* data.

    It's bad enough I'm already forced into "buying" software and media that I can never resell. Now they want my fucking Word files too I guess.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:29AM (#37906488) Journal
      Don't worry, user, of course you own those little files of yours.

      We just want to install some robust Technological Protection Measures to preserve your ownership of those files across all devices and platforms and legal systems aligned with international norms... Totally harmless, nothing to worry about.
      • I was amused when I discovered that the Xen hypervisor allows you to emulate a TPM in software. I didn't dig into it enough to find out if there were a way to extract stored data from within the dom0.

        What's that about a secure keystore again?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hartree (191324)

      Microsoft: All your files^h^h^h^h^hdata are belong to us!

    • How is this any different from Files-11 (VMS native FS), NTFS, or HFS+?

      (re-posting my AC comment, logged in this time)

    • by imric (6240)

      Well since the {xxAA} already owns most modern works of art and all performances forever (with the blessings of our government), and companies already own ideas (thoughts), it stands to reason that Microsoft would want to own the results of any actions facilitated by software written by them as well. I mean, how can they continue to expand their market if they don't? Be REASONABLE! I mean, this can get rid of any ambiguity about ownership and remove copyright and patent issues forever! It's simple - "Al

    • by Nick Fel (1320709)
      Please. What about a file you're working collaboratively on in the cloud? Do you own that? That's obviously the kind of thing they're talking about.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) *

        A quote from the conclusion of the article:

        A boundary object needs to be developed that can bridge the abstraction of the user and the one of the engineer, who needs to worry about where this thing that keeps growing and changing, and where the locale of storage changes too, such that when a user says ‘delete’, the thing whatever it is and wherever the entities constitutive of it are, are indeed, done away with.

        I'm sorry, but that sounds a *lot* like DRMing every file to me, with a central service controlling every file (how else could you implement such a system?). The authors even admit as much a few sentences later:

        At first reading one might think they are alluding to digital rights management.

        Of course, they seem to deny that this is DRM. But that's sure what it sounds like to me. And DRM needs some sort of central service to work, which I'm sure MS will be happy to provide of course.

        • by Nick Fel (1320709)
          What it sounds like to me is separating the notions of files from the notion of storage. So only the engineer and the underlying system needs to worry about whether your data is on your hard drive, or the cloud, or a pen drive. Instead, the user can just worry about their text/image/video, wherever it happens to be. Of course, it doesn't help that Richard Harper (a social scientist) writes such horrifically ponderous text.
          • by biodata (1981610) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @12:09PM (#37908756)
            The cloud idea likes to project an illusion of it not mattering where the file is, but it is predicated on (more or less) limitless bandwidth with near zero latency, and limitless local storage/cache. If the file you want is not on the local hard disk then it isn't. If your OS needs to fetch it behind the scenes then you need to wait until it arrives. Yes you might think you don't want to know where the file is physically, but when it takes ten minutes to open a file that should take ten seconds, you will probably want to know why (oh, it's in another country and the network is busy because everyone is watching some new TV prog, i see now). Not knowing where the file is just means needing to ask all the time. Is it really better not to know, than just knowing in the first place, and making sure it is where you need it to be? Bandwidth will never be unlimited and latency will never be zero. We are routinely working on 10GB files now where I work, and you always need to know where they are, and to care because however big the pipes are and how ever big the disk space and the RAM, the data streams grow even faster. The technologies underlying data capture devices obey their own version of Moore's law, frequently with higher multiplicities.
    • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:45AM (#37906686)

      You should read the article, you are illustrating their point. They talk about how users associate ownership with having a file on a known physical location and how in order for people to feel comfortable with cloud storage the definition of file needs to be redefined in a way that people feel they have ownership over data that exists "out there".

      "[...] ownership is what we are thinking of, when ownership stands as proxy for what used to be knowledge of location and responsibility for that location. What was once a relationship between a user and a physical thing now needs to stand as a relationship between a user and a digital thing. Just what this ownership might be and how it might function in terms of what is specified in this new entity we are thinking of, one that somehow has the properties we have described above and which also allows this new characteristic, we have begun to outline but a beginning is all it is."

      Part of this is the ability to be able to delete their data even when it has been put out there in the wild.

      "A boundary object needs to be developed that can bridge the abstraction of the user and the one of the engineer, who needs to worry about where this thing that keeps growing and changing, and where the locale of storage changes too, such that when a user says ‘delete’, the thing whatever it is and wherever the entities constitutive of it are, are indeed, done away with."

      This is a paper talking about your concerns and how to address them.

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:53AM (#37906800)

        No, they're talking about DRM. They try to deny it a few sentences later, but how else would you implement a system where any given file downloaded off the web could be deleted by a central authority at any time?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by imric (6240)

          Of COURSE they are. They are trying to find a different way to market it - since DRM has no user benefits and users actively dislike it, they 'need' to redefine the issue so users have no choice.

          This is marketing.

          • But the ability of a user to delete his "cloud" files would be a benefit. DRM is only evil when it gives a third party control over your stuff, not when it gives you control over your own stuff.

            • by elrous0 (869638) *

              DRM is only evil when it gives a third party control

              Who do you think is going to be running the central service that administers all this DRM?

              I'll give you a hint. It rhymes with Picrosoft.

    • My thoughts too. This sounded like Microsoft trying to justify the idea of embedding DRM directly into their next filesystem.

      • There's nothing wrong with DRM when it's used to protect my ownership of my files. Would you be opposed to a DRM scheme that would allow you to totally and irrevocably delete a picture you posted to Facebook because it allows you to retain total ownership ? The problem with DRM is when it's used to take away rights you traditionally hold, i.e. when DRM is used to reduce your ownership instead of increasing it.

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          There's nothing wrong with DRM when it's used to protect my ownership of my files.

          Yeah? And who do you think is going to run the central system that administers all this DRM? You, or MS? And if MS is running it (and it's on your system too), what makes you so sure it's still *your* data? Is there something stopping them from deleting it anytime they want on your system too?

        • by biodata (1981610)
          Yes I would. If I deliberately transmit a message to someone else, then I have no expectation of being able to 'untransmit' that message. The logic error here is thinking that files are like objects. They are not (only), they are also like messages. Big business wants files to be like objects so they can own them. Everyone knows they can't do it, and this effort will fail like all others, due to the nature of reality. Files are not objects.
        • by digitig (1056110) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @10:41AM (#37907566)
          And if instead of a picture it was a music track or a book? And if you charged the customer for access to it? And you could still delete it after they had "bought" it? And how does that look from the other side of the fence? How is your sort of DRM any different from the "bad" sort?
        • Yes I would be opposed. Nothing is 100% secure and having all my files disappear would be unacceptable. My files, my ownership, on my machines. That's how I like it.
      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        Yep, sounds like a very elaborate way to justify DRM, while denying that it's DRM. It walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck--but MS is issuing a paper to let us know it's *not* a duck. It's a new *file paradigm*, see.

    • by Ultra64 (318705)

      Jesus Christ, there should be a limit to paranoia. They are obviously talking about ownership in the context of the filesystem. Ie. file X is owned by user ID 1

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        You need to read the paper (I know it's sacrilegious to say that on /.). They *start off* by talking about file systems, but by the end it moves very much into the cloud and the internet and advocates for a thinly-veiled DRM system for all files, under the guise of "this will allow users to delete and control their files anywhere, even in the cloud or on the internet."

    • by EdZ (755139)
      To me, it sounds like they've looked at ZFS and thought "hey, that sounds like a good idea". Abstracted storage (bits of your files could end up split up and spread multiple times redundantly across physical volumes, but files will still respond to all the usual operators), lots of metadata (including a history of changes to files), built in error-checking, etc.

      The future is here, and unfortunately is currently owned by Oracle.
    • Ownership is stupid when it comes to files. Or to many other things. If a developer has made a 90% of config file on my system, is it his or mine? But that is not the question. The question is: Who *lovemaking* cares?
  • by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:29AM (#37906478)

    I couldn’t make it through the first paper. It came across as meandering and very academic. Didn’t try the second

    Either way, of all the stuff that is currently broken, files are one of the few things that still mostly work. Yes would be nice to have more standardization and maybe metadata, but I don’t foresee it happening. And yes users sometimes get confused, but the generally figure stuff out.. and nothing described in the article seemed any more intuitive and would probably be just as miss-understood by users.

    We’ll end up with 10 different standards, and no one will bother keeping metadata accurate on all their files. At best metadata is useful for a single person on a small subset of files where they find it useful. Everything else, the only metadata anyone is going to care about (and be bothered to enter) is title, which is served fairly effectively by the file name.

    • Are you saying that quoting Wittgenstein in a paper that is ostensibly concerned with file structures is pretentious, content-free twaddle?

      Couldn't be...
    • They kinda sorta work, *if* you manage 100 file extensions. Forget the Ribbon, the other disaster from Office 2007 was the 'glorious basterd' new file names, docx xlsx and the others. But of course 'file extensions are too hard for users' so those differences get hidden. One of my 'mission critical' programs from work FINALLY added support for those filenames ... *this past April*.

      So yeah, there's probably a scorpion barb in the Microsoft article.

    • We’ll end up with 10 different standards, and no one will bother keeping metadata accurate on all their files.

      Concur, look at ID3 tags on audio files... any reason to believe that human behavior will improve in other areas?

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Hmm, all the ID3 tags on my MP3s are in order. Get your files from good people, and you'll get good metadata.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Either way, of all the stuff that is currently broken, files are one of the few things that still mostly work.

      Exactly. It's time to screw that up now.

  • by klubar (591384) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:29AM (#37906484) Homepage

    I've always thought it would be useful if you could mark as file as automatically deleting at a certain date. If you create a temporary file, it would be nice to flag it as "delete after 60 days" so it doesn't need attention in the future. (The same functionality would be really useful for emials...I want to save this email until after the event (or whatever it's about) and then have it automatically deleted.) I once saw the file functionality on a custom Cray operating system in the 1977.

    • If your file system starts to fill up Disk Cleanup will wipe your Temp folder of old files. So this functionality sort of already exists, it's just not automatic (you have to answer the "disk is filling up" prompt) and doesn't delete files unless it needs to.
      • And of course I'm thinking of Windows, not 'nix, but Ubuntu does have a similar tool and functionality as well. Not sure about other 'nixes.
        • by Anrego (830717) *

          On *nix, this tends to be the idea of the /tmp directory. A consistent place to put stuff that is temporary, and yes, many different strategies for keeping it clean.

          The approach I use (on Gentoo, but this can work on any distro), is my /tmp file system is a ramdisk. In other words, it's effectively cleared out every time I reboot (which isn't often.. but I have a lot of ram and temp files are small..). This is also better if you use a SSD. Generally files in /tmp are safe to delete on reboot, at the very le

      • by deniable (76198)
        Lots of people have 'temp' files that don't live in %TEMP^%. I had to move *important* data for one of our units a couple of months ago and saw a file 'To do December 2002' or some such. Things like that should have expiry dates.
    • I think "archiving" rather than deleting after a certain date would be vastly preferable. Then just clear out the archive folder manually from time to time. Otherwise there's too much potential for user error/confusion. In a networked environment especially that could cause some headaches.

      I think with email thing you should set up a meeting/calendar event rather than have a plain email. Then you get reminders of it up until the event, and afterwards it's out of your hair, unless you want to review it on the

    • That's the sort of function that would probably be the work of a weekend to add if you just wanted it to work on your computer(crudest case, just a wrapper that automatically creates a cron job/scheduled task to delete at the desired time in the future; if you wanted it to still work if the file is moved/copied you'd need a metadata facililty and a scrubber task that kills files at their marked expiration times).

      Now, on the other hand, if you want a system that is even possible for random 3rd party syste
    • I'd take this one step further; There are certain classifications of files that need special behaviors ( encryption, reliability, ect.. ) as well as special permissions ( if it's an evidence file, it belongs to the investigators by default, ect... ). That's why I'd like file system tags. Where if you tag a file with "HR Policy", it will auto-assign the correct permissions AND assign special behaviors ( file is deleted 7 years after implementation, it's not allowed to be copied off the network, it's encryp

      • by deniable (76198)
        When you get to that level you use document management systems that have security and features like retention and disposal schedules. As for cruft, we end up not being allowed to delete files because nobody can tell us who owns it or can make a decision.
        • I have looked in to those, but they are almost universally more complex than needed. My user base tends to be a bit...low on the technical knowledge. I don't want to introduce a complex system like that, only to be stuck in perpetual training hell for the duration of it's deployment.

          A simple drag/drop system, where I can "tag" a file would be the simplest system I can envision that would do the job I need. It certainly wouldn't be as full featured as many of the document management systems out there, but

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      You could probably do this with extended attributes and then something like inotify to watch when a file has an expiry date set. Every so often a cron job would check if something has passed its expiry date and delete or archive it.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      I'd bet you could get a government subsidy for developing this file system.

      Bonus points (from the gov'ts point of view) if you could set the delete-date to be file-creation date.

    • Neither of those would be a change to the concept of a file.
      The "delete after 60 days" would simply be accomplished by sending the request to a application who would store all requests and then every so often check to see if a file needs deleting. This is really the only way to accomplish your functionality, because if you stored the data in the file then the entire HD would have to be scanned constantly looking at all the files until one went out of date.
      The same would happen with emails except that the de

    • by Khopesh (112447)

      I have coworkers that do this (on Posix systems). They prefix temporary files' names with commas. Then all they need is a daily cron job like this:

      0 4 * * * * find $HOME -name ',*' -mtime +30 2>/dev/null |xargs rm -rf

      Voilà!

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:32AM (#37906528)

    We suggest that one aspect of this adaptation is to encompass metadata within a file abstraction

    this before? Are resource forks coming back into vogue?

  • I like fuzzy folder structures where I can tag, or label files and find them in any tag/label.

    Like one does with g-mail or photo managing software. If I have schematics for the pentagon- I want to be able to tag those files as "Pentagon" and "Schematics" and "Operation Zesty Lemon". No matter which tag I look under I can retrieve my files easily.

    • by wertarbyte (811674) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @09:54AM (#37906818) Homepage
      DOCUMENT=~/myschematics.pdf
      SHAID=$(sha512sum "$DOCUMENT" | cut -f1 -d' ')
      mkdir heap
      mv "$DOCUMENT" "heap/$SHAID"
      mkdir tags
      mkdir tags/Schematics
      mkdir tags/Pentagon
      mkdir tags/Operation_Zesty_Lemon

      ln "heap/$SHAID" tags/Pentagon/
      ln "heap/$SHAID" tags/Schematics/
      ln "heap/$SHAID" tags/Operation_Zesty_Lemon/
      • That will break as soon as I edit the file with a non-supported application (that doesn't know to update the stored SHA1 hash). This is why it is important to implement the feature at the filesystem level.

  • A file is essentially just a collection of data - no more and no less. To try and add attributes to that makes little sense and seems as futile as trying to say that each collection of molecules should have a tag saying what it is, who it belongs to and what it's for. Sure, you can add abstractions and structure on top of the basic form, but when you do that you are adding a layer - not redefining the basic building block.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      To be honest, this sounds like MS is inventing something that Apple already invented. Apple has had forked files for how many years now? With one fork for the data and a resource fork for the icon and a few related pieces of information.

      Personally, I don't like it, it's non-standard and requires special steps to work with at times, and I'm don't really understand why it's needed in the first place. If it's really that big of a problem you can always zip up the meta data file and the data file and call it a

    • by ultranova (717540)

      But files are not molecules, they are a sequence of bytes. And we do exactly this with other sequences of bytes; it's the whole idead behind object-oriented programming. So, one possible way of "extending" files would be for them to define a type and type-dependent operations; for example, an image file could define "getWidth", "getHeight" and "get24ColourRectangle" functions for reading it, a text processor file could define "getContentsAsAnUtf8String", etc.

      Whether or not this would be a good idea is anoth

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        So, one possible way of "extending" files would be for them to define a type and type-dependent operations; for example, an image file could define "getWidth", "getHeight" and "get24ColourRectangle" functions for reading it, a text processor file could define "getContentsAsAnUtf8String", etc.

        How is a file going to define any kind of operation? Are you seriously suggesting we should run arbitrary code from some random file downloaded off the Internet?

  • Every so often, someone steps up to the plate to get rid of the file metaphor because people can't find their files.

    But they don't need to abstract away the notion of files.

    Here's what to do: Give us an unlimited Most Recently Used (MRU) list. That's both for files and folders. Not the 9 or so in OpenOffice. How much space would it take to save some inodes?

    You should be able to go back in time and answer the question "What file was a I working on a week ago?"

    If you do that, you might not even need continual

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      It could stand to be a bit more granular than that though.

      A MRU per directory could be very handy. Is very handy infact. I have implemented this myself for certain use cases.

      Metadata is useful but there's really no good way to handle it that won't break things and serve as a compatability barrier. Simpler abstractions are useful because there are fewer moving parts and less things that can go wrong and fewer options for Vendor A to do something different from Vendor B.

      Everyone pointing out how other vendors

    • Nah, "Unlimited" is bad. That's just like throwing everything into "My Documents". (I hate MS's schemes, programs randomly pick their default location between My Documents, Downloads, /Programs/Data/____ , /_____/____/Temporary/Content/___/____/ThisMail/____ (5% of my job at work is spent recovering stuff that people "open" out of their email. Yuk!

      I do "Drive Reads" that gather all files on the disk into a text file, and then search *that* for my long lost files. It's 1000 times faster than old windows sear

  • I read the entire paper (the second article), which was essentially an analysis of Apple software that concludes that "Apple write a lot to the hard drive and we don't know why" and "this raises more questions than it answers".

    Can someone please explain if either article is actually proposing an applicable solution, or simply stating "things need to change!" like a 19-year-old Occupy Wall Street protester?

    • I read the first article, and I have to say, I did not see anything that proposed what should replace files. There was the vague "encompass metadata within a file abstraction", but really, what does that mean?

      The main point of the article, as I read it, was that what a user *believes* a file is and what the storage media/application calls a file are often completely different and that the next form of "file" should better represent what a user thinks of as a file--i.e. the smallest allocatable unit of conte

    • by Hatta (162192)

      I'll bite on that OT troll. OWS has actually published a list [washingtontimes.com] of reasonable, workable policy changes. If you want to make fun of someone for being ignorant, look in the mirror.

  • There isn't an issue with files. Files are essentially the atomic structures of the filesystem -- the dividing points between different pieces of content. You can add all the abstraction you want, but if you can't find Piece of Information X at the end of it, it's still a worthless abstraction. Redesign the file system, sure, but the nature of files isn't in question here, but rather how they're accessed.

  • First, they're using bloated programs on poorly optimized file systems and they then complain about performance.

    Second, a better optimization would result if you took in to account what the file type was.You'd lose some compatibility, but you'd gain a surprising amount of performance. The solution has been sitting around for decades: Anyone remember the infamous Record Management System from DEC? It existed as a layer between the kernel and the user space.

    It would answer the concerns of these researchers,

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Am I the only one who was thinking this post was going to be about giving Richard Stallman a makeover?

  • Pretend for the moment that Microsoft has found a way of storing data that completely does away with the directory tree and file concept that have been a basic piece of operating system design since the 1970's. Now, to make Windows do that would require major changes and break backwards compatibility, so why would they possibly want that?

    Well, imagine another family of operating systems had made files the key component of what they do, so much so that it makes practically everything look like a file, whethe

    • by skids (119237)

      Good god! We'd have no choice but to return to IBM mainframe COBOL, where everything is a database record, not a file.

      Or we could just ignore them and go on with our lives.

      BTW, while where on the subject, do any of the meta-data-supporting filesystems support an operation to "export" a file which just creates an archive of a known format with a bunch of EXIF-ish data bundled along with the file's contents? If so they'd better apply for a patent for it before MS does, given we are now a "first to file" nat

    • by N1AK (864906)

      Now, to make Windows do that would require major changes and break backwards compatibility, so why would they possibly want that?

      Because sitting still and waiting for someone else to do it isn't always the best business strategy. I suppose it's possible that Microsoft employs enough people who are stupid enough to consider your scenario as a viable business strategy but I don't find it to be a remotely reliable answer. Microsoft can't remove the ability for 'file' interactions between their operating system

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @10:03AM (#37906942)

    Do NOT "improve" the file. I'd like to continue to be able to use my computer and other devices.

  • POSIX xattrs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Salamander (33735) <jeff@nOspaM.pl.atyp.us> on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @10:04AM (#37906962) Homepage Journal

    Look them up. They already allow you to attach arbitrary metadata to a file. Most modern filesystems and user-level utilities support them already. They're even used as the underpinnings for security mechanisms such as POSIX ACLs and SELinux. Sure, there are issues with performance when you have *lots* of xattrs on a file, and that's a fruitful area of research, but we sure don't need some brand-new Microsoft-invented thing to deal with metadata.

  • "Copy," "delete," and "ownership" being three points they're trying to address? Why does this sound like a submarine attempt to embed some sort of IP protection in the lowest levels and very concepts of files on computers, framing it all as merely a technical re-engineering of the "file" concept?

  • A file is simply a linear series of data. Period. End of story.
    I don't care where you store the ownership rights, the metadata, or what new fancy things you want to be able to do with files; That is not a ground breaking new concept.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @10:29AM (#37907340) Homepage

    Personally, I've found that the biggest issue with all the "metadata" systems that try to improve on the basic file/folder system is that they don't transfer anywhere. Send the file once through Samba, NFS, email, FTP, rsync or whatever and the metadata is lost. The only systems that actually get used are those that are embedded in the file, like EXIF for JPG, ID3 for MP3 and so on.

    The stupid thing is that we didn't make that a generic part of all file formats, a simple key-value list appended to the file would do. But today that'd break almost everything, plus most things working on the file system would have to know that each file has a data and metadata part. Maybe use a compatibility layer for metadata-unaware applications, where they only see the data part?

    That way we really could have a standard form of metadata. It might not cover every use but it'd sure cover a lot. Copy the file, copy the metadata (if you want, of course). Of course most of these researchers seem to want to get rid of the file altogether and replace it with some sort of cloud service, but I'd rather not. I'd rather know where I have my stuff and be able to put it where I want.

  • away from my data!
  • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @10:45AM (#37907652)

    "Quoting the first paper: 'For over 40 years the notion of the file, as devised by pioneers in the field of computing, has proved robust and has remained unchallenged. Yet this concept is not a given, but serves as a boundary object between users and engineers. In the current landscape, this boundary is showing signs of slippage, and we propose the boundary object be reconstituted. New abstractions of file are needed, which reflect what users seek to do with their digital data, and which allow engineers to solve the networking, storage and data management problems that ensue when files move from the PC on to the networked world of today."

    They pretty much peppered the report with bullshit and buzz words to make "meta data" and "internet based storage" sound all new and shiny for the brain dead market droids and managers.

    This reminds me of that MIT operating system hoax that was going to take current file system ideas and throw them out the window. Face it, how else do you organize bits of information? The concept of a file is simple: an organized arrangement of bits that contains data which can be moved, re-sized or deleted. How do you change that? The only thing that can change is the method in which they are stored on physical media (file system) or cataloged and indexed.

    I just want one thing: a file system that is part database for fast file searches. I don't want to manually build indexes or any other bullshit just look at the file table and give me my fucking file. Even if you had 100,000 files with file names of 256 characters, its only 2.5 MB, how long does that take to parse? Maybe I don't understand file systems but even a 10 MB file table should only take a few seconds to scan. When I do a search of a directory or entire disk with tens of thousands of files it sometimes takes a minute or two. The disk is thrashing away as if the program is looking all over for the file names. Shouldn't they all be in one place pointing to where they are on disk? Maybe I don't understand file systems in general, someone care to explain?

    And one thing that just popped into my mind is a better method to tag and store files. When I download a file or save a document/image/whatever I shouldn't have to dig through a huge directory hierarchy. I should be able to type the name of a directory and something along the lines of Google's auto complete or intellisense will begin to auto complete my search, regardless of what volume its stored on. As I type vacation.. it should list all directories beginning with that string or tag. Maybe I am ignorant of similar functionality for Windows and Linux. The tags and file/directory names should be system wide and accessible to all programs and commands that interact with files, not just a built in shell.

  • A file is an outdated concept. We should have objects, with attributes and relations (pointers) to other objects.

    We should have an object-oriented database system, not files.

  • by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @12:40PM (#37909046)

    I'd like to take this opportunity to point out the brilliance of the "file" command (in *nix). All its smarts, plus all the details mentioned in its manpage, are all I ever needed to know about any file's technical details. This BS from Microsoft is re-inventing the wheel, badly and foolishly, with suspiciously strange priorities. No surprise there.

    The "file(1)" manpage is a great read, including potshots at SysV, BSD, and mention that it (or at least Debian's version) was written by a fellow Canuck (Ian F. Darwin).

    FYI, a point & click interface to manpages:

                  xman -notopbox -bothshown &

    Enjoy the odd behaviour of the Athena Widget Set's scrollbars. :-)

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