GNOME Storage

A recent Slashdot headline described a new filesystem/UI concept by Seth Nickell, GNOME Storage. Having looked at the screenshots and read the PDF describing the reasoning behind the project, I am very hopeful that such a system will be embraced by the GNOME community and other operating systems (ahem, OS X).

As more and more information moves online, particularly media, organizing and locating this information becomes almost linearly more difficult. Many users forget where they save and what they name their files. Most people can remember what was in a file they are looking for – this is most applicable to text documents. For either audio or video, most people can remember at least a few facts about a given item: an actor’s name, the year it came out, who the bass player was, a lyric or snippet of dialogue, etc. This information is meta-data. This would make a system like Storage useful.

The problem: how does the meta-data get there? At some point along the road, someone somewhere has to input this information.

For certain types of media it could be input once into a world-accessible database such as or While most people realize the utility of this information, they do not want to have to enter it manually. This puts the burden of meta-data input/creation on the content providers. This is fair and logical, as the customer/consumer is (in a law-abiding world) providing money in exchange for a product. This data is also useful to content providers, so there is no reason not to expect them to add it.

For the content of individuals, meta-data entry is a bit more problematic. How do you get a person to add valuable contextual information to a document, every time they create one? Ideally, the information that would be added to this individually generated content could be automatically drawn from data stores on their computer. Access by programs to this information should be tightly controlled BY THE USER, preventing spyware from transmitting your social security number to some shady character.

In a perfect world, I should be able to use a Storage like interface to instantly display all image files sent to me by Joe Smith in December of last year. The system would use the catalog of meta-data to locate all images that were attached to emails from dated December 1 to December 31, 2002.

Red light on?

Should the 1.0 version (or later) of iChat AV include the ability to record voice and video chats? There are privacy issues, but at least by using a built-in solution, they could be accommodated. Apple could simply allow users to specify if a particular buddy could always, with authorization per instance, or never record their exchanges. Being able to apply different settings to voice and video would be nice.

As far as I know, there is a law requiring that parties be notified when telephone conversations are recorded – would this apply to VoIP?


Sort of.

I am happy to say that we have posted my friend Brian’s updated site. Brian is a very talented pianist/songwriter/singer (that is the order I encountered his talents in) who has been a good friend and musical collaborator of mine. If you are into piano-based indie rock, you’ll probably enjoy his music. I play drums on a few tracks.

While it isn’t going to win a place at the CSS Zen Garden, it is a 100% XHTML 1.0 Strict/CSS site. I will attempt to get it to render properly in IE6, but that browser is such a broken piece of shit compared to browsers such as Mozilla, Opera, and Safari. CSS-D, here I come . . .

Grass rooting

I came across something I’ve never seen before: a web badge (of the sort used for indicating W3C standard compliance) for a political candidate.

As far as I know, this is a new approach to grassroots, personal political advocacy. I don’t recall having seen this during Indecision 2000.

Sooper dooper!

The current rumor around Mac sites is that Viginia Tech has ordered 1,100 Dual 2.0Ghz G5 machines with gobs of RAM for a supercomputing cluster. Interesting.

This may well be tied to the recently announced delay in the shipping of those machines – Apple recognizes the value of quickly filling this order, for reasons both financial and otherwise.

First, this would obviously amount to a large chunk of change for Apple. While they have not been in as sorry a state as many computer manufacturers, they could definitely use this to improve their financial standings come the end of the quarter.

Second, if this would indeed rank in the top five for supercomputers, it would be a good marketing opportunity for Apple. To my knowledge, their systems have never been used in a supercomputer that ranked anywhere near that high. This might also help Apple with corporate customers, showing scalability and ease of deployment.

Personally, I am somewhat surprised that VT would use these systems rather than waiting for the (to my mind) inevitable announcement of PPC970-based Xserves.

F10 Launch Studio

I’ve been using F10 Launch Studio a bit. While I think the concept is very solid, there are some issues with the interface that prevent me from using it full time.

1. The order of the groups cannot be rearranged. Why?

2. Items cannot be sorted into rows – they can be ordered, but that order is used for a continuous left-right, top-bottom layout. This makes it hard to subdivide a group. For example, the Internet pane would much more useful if I could create several rows (or columns) in which similar items were placed.

Row A: Browsers – OmniWeb | Mozilla | Safari | iCab | Opera
Row B: Chat clients – iChat AV | Proteus | AIM | Fire
Row C: FTP/SSH – RBrowser | Transmit
Row D: P2P – Poisoned | XNap | mlMac
Row E: Misc. Utilities – URL Manager Pro | Safari Bookmark Exporter

I imagine one of the problems the designers encountered was with icon sizing and horizontal scrolling – the app is designed to offer scalable icon sizes and ONLY vertical scrolling, a la iPhoto. This would create a problem if a group of icons were confined to one row. The solution: limit the maximum icon size when using grouped rows!

One of the features I’ve found very useful is the hot-corner activation – I’d like to see the corner be used to both show AND hide the launch window, saving a bit of mousing if it is accidentally activated.

I think these changes would make a good product great. Then again, what do I know?

File copying UI

Having used Gnome a bit, one of the features I found much to my liking was the method used to show the progress of file copying. Rather than using a chunky, clutterific progress window, the file’s icon label updates (in real-time) the filesize until the copy is complete. On completion, the filename is displayed as normal.

I think this would be a welcome addition to OS X. A number of the Eazel people who created Nautilus are (back, in some cases) at Apple. They may well have ideas about how to improve this feature, possibly taking advantage of the graphical features of Quartz to give the user additional visual feedback. Perhaps a gradual fade-in of the icon?

I would not advocate using this method in all cases – it is best used ONLY for file copies initiated in the actual file manager. Downloads started from FTP clients or browsers would have no easy way to indicate that a download has begun as requested. This is how it works in Nautilus/Gnome.

In this corner . . .

I have been using Greg Schueler’s CornerClick on my iMac. An interesting implementation of Fitts’ Law. While it is true that the corners of the screen have infinite depth, there are only four of them. Using modifier keys is a good way to expand the manipulation possibilities, but forces the user to remember the key combinations. CornerClick used in conjunction with the upcoming 10.3 release with Expose might greatly alleviate the need to use the Dock.