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 FreeDB.org or IMDB.com. 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 email@example.com dated December 1 to December 31, 2002.
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?
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 . . .
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.
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.
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?
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.
Apple appears to be implementing (for Panther) a suggestion of mine (I doubt I am the only one who thought of it) — driving directions from within the Sherlock web services application. What I would like to know is if they will implement the other part of my idea — making those directions available on the iPod…
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.
There was a rumor a while ago about Apple possibly developing a movie equivalent of their iTunes Music Store. These are my thoughts on implementation of such a thing.
- The boogey man of digital media: Digital Rights Management.
- What kind of burning and copying restrictions would Apple place on downloaded movies? Blocking burning altogether would not be a good idea, as many people would have no idea how to hook their computer up to their television. Then how do you display the movie on something larger than a computer screen? The SuperDrive would seem to be the obvious solution. Then comes the question of third-party external burner support… I imagine Apple would only officially support DVD-R drives shipped by themselves, leaving add-on support to OEMs or enterprising users, much like the iTunes CD-R drivers. Three burns per movie?
- Would the movies be transferable to multiple machines as songs are with the iTunes Music Store? A mechanism to authorize movies on multiple machines would seem to be a good idea. The advantage (and dis-advantage, depending on how you look at it) of using the .Mac login/password for authorization is that due to the number of services those can be used to access, they are not something people are going to be willing to give out freely to those they do not know and/or trust.
- Who can access the store: broadband only.
- This would cut off a portion of the potential customer base, but also ensure that movies could be delivered speedily, a boon to both provider and consumer. Modem connections are too easily broken (not to mention slow). Oops, Billy picked up the phone before the last two megabytes of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" finished. I suppose this could be worked around by using a resume feature. Do you really want connection sockets taken up by someone downloading "Ishtar" on a 33.6K modem?
- If done right (reliable, high quality, good selection), such a service may well increase the adoption of broadband (assuming multi-platform availability).
- Fee structuring: who gets the $$?
- What would the pricing model be? Rentals would be welcomed by consumers, but are just not practical from a content-provider standpoint. If the media can be transfered to a computer and played, it can be recorded. A rental model would also limit the possible use of the available SuperDrives for burning to DVD for playback on a home theater system. $10-$15 USD per movie?
- As for the division of the fee, Apple and the studios would have to work that out.
- The Content Itself: Codecs, compatibility, extras.
- What codec would deliver the best quality/size ratio? H.263 is supposed to be quite good (Update 10/27/04: H.264, which will be supported in 10.4, would be better) and is already supported by QuickTime 6.3. In addition to the quality and size considerations, there is the matter of adding DRM atop them.
- Use the Mac market as a testbed or simultaneously release Mac and Windows clients?
- Extra content? Would the file include all the extras included with a DVD or should they be available as a separate, but free download?
- Interface: making it easy to use and as addictive as the iTunes Music Store.
- For movies, a genre browser similar to that available in iTunes would make sense. It would be great to be able to browse by actor, director, or genre.
- Previews - trailers or actual film segments? Using the trailers would best capitalize on Apple's existing movie trailer service.
- Including movies of interviews with those related to the film (director, actors) would add some interest.
- Online reviews available? Professional film reviews or user contributed?
- Meta-data aplenty: Add "tags" for (many that apply to music can also be used to organize movies):
- Personal rating
- Movie poster/art
- Links to the iTunes Music Store where applicable: soundtrack and possibly individual track listings.
- The ability to give a movie credit as a gift (something that has been requested for the iTunes Music Store). There would be too many issues with people being given movies they don't want. There is no easy way to refund them, so a gift certificate would make more sense.