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Re: Some impressions about the current status of Unity


On Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 01:14, Jo-Erlend Schinstad
<joerlend.schinstad@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> On 26. feb. 2012 22:49, Adrian Maier wrote:

>> Locating/searching is one thing .   And the actual storage of the
>> files is another thing .
>> Let's not mix those two things together.
> Exactly. Storage is completely irrelevant. Particularly for the Dash, which
> is designed to get data from all kinds of different sources. That, in and of
> itself, is a very good reason not to use a hierarchical scheme.

It is irrelevant ,  as long as command line tools and file managers
(like Gnome Commander)  still work .

They wouldn't work if the files are stored in some kind of new
non-hierarchical data storage ...

>> So basically the idea is to generalize the idea of "photo album
>> management using labels"    to any kind of file.    It could be
>> interesting.
> That is what we currently do and have been doing for a few releases now,
> though the user-visible tools to exploit it have just started to appear.
> When you access something in your Ubuntu system, you store when you accessed
> it, how you accessed it (clicked on a file), what you accessed it with
> (Nautilus), what was used to display the file (Totem), etc. Just in order to
> prevent heart attacks, let me quickly add that it's obviously only stored on
> your own computer and as personal information! There's nothing googlebing
> about it :)
> We can store all kinds of other types of information in addition to that,
> such as where you were (using GPS), who were nearby (using Bluetooth), what
> project you were working on (using Hamster, for instance)... So, if you
> always play poker on friday nights, for instance, it makes sense to make
> your poker application extra visible on friday nights, even if you don't use
> it much during the week.

I probably wouldn't even notice that every Friday ,    the Poker is
shown the first in the list of frequently used apps.  And that in the
rest of the days it's the 10th  in the list.

> That is how recent applications, files, etc, are retrieved. The same could
> be done for the web, of course, making it possible to automatically add web
> applications to the applications lens, and as a frequent application in the
> dash. Then those web applications would be launched using a special web-app
> application which would give the web-app its own browser instance,
> quicklist, etc. None of that is impossible. It would be extremely
> impractical to implement that in something like Gnome menubar, for the
> simple reason that over time, you'll use a large number of web applications
> from different places. Storing that in a menusystem that displays everything
> all the time, wouldn't work.

I don't fully understand why are you mentioning that there will be a
"large" number of  web applications .   It would be simply one lens
full of links to the user's  preferred web applications  (actually
websites...) .   These can be maybe 10-20 ,  not thousands .   It's
hard to see what is the big novelty here :   in 10.04   it is already
possible to create an app launcher that starts firefox with a specific

Hopefully there is no intention to have in the Dash a huge list of all
the websites that exist in the world , right  ?!

So the idea would be to have the user's recently accessed websites
presented inside Dash?   This sounds handy if  done right  :   if
it's dynamic it would need a clever algorithm for ignoring the
irrelevant urls .

>> However it's hard to imagine how could someone backup the photos if
>> the files are stored "nobody knows where"   and are accessible with
>> multiple search paths .  This sounds like chaos .
> No, why? You'd backup a set of files based on what they contain and how you
> use them, not where they are located. Then you add a "last backup" tag to
> the files, and you would be able to get files which hadn't been backed up by
> searching for files with old backup tags. That might also help clean the
> system, because if you never care to backup a file, then that might mean
> it's because the file isn't needed anymore. So you could be presented with a
> list of files you've chosen not to backup, and given an option to remove
> them.

When talking about backup it is dangerous to confuse the access
frequency with the importance of a file .

Ex:  I definitely want to backup the master thesis and the related
documents ,  even if i don't open any of those files in years ...

> To me, semantic data access is the exact opposite of chaos. It is clarity
> and easy access across all kinds of data sources.

I could  get used to a "semantic"  way for accessing the applications.

But redefining the file handling experience in a
backwards-incompatible way would be unwelcome .   Innovation is good
when it actually introduces new features,   not when it tries to
radically change how people manage their files  just for the sake of
being unique .

I welcome the idea of having tags for files , and advanced search
possibilities .    However these should be additional features , not
replacement for the traditional file management.

Imagine that  :
-  there are 400 files ,    tagged with 20 different tags
-  searching works perfectly ,   bla bla
-  however at some point i'll want to review what's available ( copy
the important files on an usb stick  , cleanup , delete what is
unneeded,  etc)
-  at that point i'll  hit the problem of redundancy :   the same file
will appears in multiple tags
-  if  want to see everything ,  i'll have a huge list of
dis-organized 400 files .
-  if i look at  the contents of each tag , it would become difficult
to keep track of all those files that appear in multiple places

So from my point of view,    the semantic desktop seems seems to have
nice features .    It just shouldn't  attempt to replace the file tree
browsing  and management   (as it does with the apps)  .     There is
room (and there are use cases)   for all approaches .

My message is :   please don't be too innovative regarding the file
management.    Don't replace all wheels with anti-gravitational
spheres  ....

>> So you are thinking to have the metadata stored in a small database.
>> And integrate into the desktop the ability to manage the files with
>> labels , and search for them.
> Not only labels. Structured metadata. We're using that database now. It's
> called Zeitgeist. You can read more about it here:
> http://zeitgeist-project.com/. It's a seriously cool project that creates
> seriously cool possibilities. Once we have good metadata, it becomes
> possible to build truly intelligent solutions that understands this data.
> For instance, when a customer calls you on the phone, the system prepares
> all the data relevant to that customer so that you have quick access to it
> when you answer the phone. Again, if the user has a bluetooth-enabled phone,
> the system could do this automatically when the customer enters the room.
> Or, your GPS could be used for the same thing. For instance, when you enter
> your office, the system makes your business stuff more available and your
> personal stuff less available.
>> What about the actual files ?   They still have to be stored somewhere
>> :  in a real filesystem   ,  or in some kind of database.
> They have to be stored somewhere, somehow. It doesn't matter where or how,
> as long as you have access to them. Zeitgeist knows where the files are and
> hence whether they're accessible, which is why the recent files in dash will
> immediately hide files when you disconnect a USB datasource, for instance.
> If the files aren't available, you can't do anything with them, so don't
> show them.

>> Using a database would be a really bad option :  the access to the
> Any single solution would be bad. We should always support any kind of
> storage. Currently, for instance, computers are able to use EEG to read
> patters from your brain. That's currently very primitive and only after
> serious training can it be used to write, for instance. In the future, it
> may be possible to use your brain as a data source. Sure that should be
> supported. Can you imagine using the memory of your first kiss as a key in
> order to login or to encrypt your data? :)

That's funny .   Imagine that the user encrypts everything with the
"thought" of his beloved one.  Then he goes through a nasty divorce.
And then he becomes unable to access any of the files because the
encryption "thought"  is no longer recognized :      now he feels rage
every time when thinking of  the former wife and therefore is unable
to reproduce the mental encryption key .

> That may sound insane, but I think when designing software, it's important
> to keep an open mind. Besides, the real insanity is, that idea isn't insane
> anymore. It's just a little far fetched. :)
>> file would be possible only from within the special "semantic" file
>> manager .   Inaccessible from command line .   And inaccessible from
>> other file managers or  desktop environments  .
> No. Why?

It is not possible if the files are moved into a new kind of storage .
  This route is bad.

However it is possible if the files remain "normal"   and the semantic
desktop only introduces an alternative view for accessing them  .

> You can access web pages in Firefox now using keywords for your
> bookmarks instead of storing it in a hierarchy. But you can store it in a
> hierarchy in addition to using keywords, and of course, in reality web
> servers present them in their hierarchy, and the network itself can be seen
> as another hierarchy. There's no conflicts. And the command line is very
> much more suitable for semantic access than any GUI I've seen, since it's
> actually intended to express words.

> Todays GUIs are actually more suitable
> for static data that never changes. But GUIs can be modernized. This is why
> we're here. The HUD in Unity, for instance, is available as a CLI
> application as well, proving that there's no conflicts between GUI and CLI
> in that regard.
>> If the files are stored in a real filesystem,   there will be problems
>> with keeping the metadata in sync with the actual files.
> No, they're different things. You have your set of metadata on your
> computer. Let's say I am the object. Your metadata is correct as long as it
> reflects your opinions about me. How accurate those opinions _really_ are,
> is a completely different thing. The goal is for you to express yourself to
> your computer. That's also why it's important that the metadata isn't simply
> a tag editor. It needs to react to your actions and learn from what you do –
> like Ubuntu does. :)

That's true :    actually there is no tags system currently available
in Ubuntu .     So discussing about tags is just an assumption about a
future feature that might exist or not.


When mentioning sync problem I was having in mind situations like :
-  on an external disk  there is a collection of photos . Everything
is tagged and searching works nicely  .

- if  i rename a directory  from command line ,    I expect that the
semantic desktop would loose track of that particular directory .

- assuming that the tags is stored on the computer ,  all the tags
will be unavailable when attaching the external disk to another pc  (a
laptop that is running the same Ubuntu version) .

- it is also very useful to preserve the tags

This is why the metadata belongs to the filesystem  when talking about
external devices .
Perhaps external drives could carry a subset of the metadata ,  that
get synchronized when the device is attached to a computer.

Also,  it is seems useful  to save the metadata when doing backups  :
 when the user upgrades the computer it will be nice to be able to
restore the metadata on the new machine together with the files.

>> So I would take this idea much more seriously if i had heard you guys
>> speaking of designing a new modern filesystem that adds support for
>> file metadata , file tagging , and advanced search capabilities .
>> So it would be a backwards-compatible filesystem usable from any
>> already existing application ,   but adding some new ground-breaking
>> features  .
> There's no need for new file systems at all. And Zeitgeist isn't a secret.
> Neither is NEPOMUK, which is a related, but different technology. It's very
> exciting stuff.
> And we have already begun to see ground-breaking features, such as the Dash
> and the HUD. Obviously; the best is yet to come. Just consider what will
> happen when we're finally able to ditch IPv4 and people are able to connect
> their computers to others and share data freely. If you're famiar with
> Last.fm's Scrobbler system, consider a digital life scrobbler that you can
> share directly with your friends without giant data providers as
> intermediaries. Then your friends computer can learn from your computer how
> you think, and then use that to optimize communications between you and your
> friends.
> Suffice it to say, I'm all about the weird stuff :)

Ok !


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