Re: Icons of program

[this got long, sorry - if someone can summarize it better please do.]

On Mon, 20 Apr 1998, Toshio Kuratomi wrote:
> There's merit in the SimpleVFS idea you propose, but I wonder what you're
> really asking for -- I was replying to a post about creating a desktop that
> hid most files, and I can see SimpleVFS fitting into that quite naturally.
> However, there is also a place for meta-information associated with each and
> every file on the system.  It seems that this is possible so what does
> SimpleVFS give us that that does not?

I think SimpleVFS is pretty much a regular Unix fs with meta-information.
The difference is that instead of trying to add meta-information all over
the place, there's a clean break, like two virtual disk partitions: one
for SimpleVFS, one for the regular fs. It's probably the same as using a
parallel directory tree for meta information, rather than putting the meta
information in the regular tree. But it's a parallel tree, not a
corruptable database. The parallel tree is implemented in the regular Unix
fs, but does not show up as that in the file manager. 

There are multiple goals, in my view: 1) meta-information (e.g. icons), 
2) creating a simplified file hierarchy with only apps and user data, 
3) backward compatibility.  The meta-information solution doesn't deal with
2), in fact it makes it worse because there are all these extra files
floating around. To hide all these .info files, or to use the meta-info
database, you have to have a VFS-type-thing for gmc and GnomeFileSelection
anyway. 3) is dubious for both solutions, but I think better for SimpleVFS
because you just leave the regular Unix fs alone.

Some thoughts:

* Do you really want meta information on all the files on a Unix system? I
bet you never even look at 90% of them. You want meta information on apps, 
and the files you use often. A guess based on filename extension, 'file',
and permissions should be adequate for browsing the filesystem. 

Also, with SimpleVFS, each user can create their own meta-information for
the parts of the regular fs they care about. This is impossible if the
meta-information is built into the filesystem, or in the same directory
with the regular files.

* Think of SimpleVFS as a browsable, configurable, data-storing
Start/Apple menu, i.e. it contains only files that are really relevant to
your day-to-day work. I think there should be the following top-level
default folders in it:
 - Apps. Systemwide folder, contains all apps. You can "copy" these files 
   to your Home folder, or your AppsMenu folder. These are really links
   to Unix fs files.
 - Home. Contains your data and apps, that you want to see and use often.
   Some of these are links, some of them may actually contain data.
   (meaning, a .desktop link and a real file are both there.)
 - AppsMenu. Like the Apple Menu folder, contains stuff you want on your
   window manager or panel menu. All links.
 - Trash. 
 - Gnome Session. Contains whatever you want launched on startup, like 
   .xsession or the Mac startup folder. Links.
 This is just worlds easier to use than a regular Unix fs. I'd use it all
the time, not for some purposes, but for end-user type things. I guess
this point is kind of separate from the SimpleVFS issue, you could sort of
do it with the regular fs, but it would be harder to hide system
directories and make clear the conceptual break between the Unix system
and the particular user's Gnome environment. 

* With SimpleVFS it's clear where things are. SimpleVFS is like a remote
site. If you want to use the shell, you drag from a SimpleVFS
directory to a regular fs directory, then do so. (Note that from gmc you
can still use regular Unix tools because gmc would resolve the SimpleVFS
.desktop file or whatever into a real fs file.) You can also drag from
regular Unix to SimpleVFS. This means I can keep a separate Gnome
environment and telnet environment. It also means naive users can stay
entirely in the Gnome environment (and programmers will have to code in a
way that allows them to do so). 

It makes clearer the division between one's home directory and the rest of
the system, because everything in SimpleVFS is "yours" the environment
seems more like single-user systems (MacOS, Windows 95) - only better,
because there are *no* system files unless you link to them explicitly. 

* You have a choice; you can use either or both Simple/regular. It could
even be possible to have SimpleVFS files with no .desktop, they'd have
their meta-info guessed at just like the real Unix fs.  As I said, I'd use

* The actual implementation of SimpleVFS should be a regular fs tree, with 
regular files and .desktop files containing meta-information. This means
you can always go into ~/.SimpleVFS or wherever this tree lives and
intervene manually. It also means you can make your whole fs SimpleVFS if 
you want, and then you have the meta-information approach you're talking
about, or close to it. 

* You could put your real Unix ~/ directory in your SimpleVFS, and
SimpleVFS would just store links to files in it. However, when you move
the SimpleVFS files, the real files move to. This could get tricky, and
obviously breaks if you turn around and use the shell, but it's handy if
you want to do regular Unix stuff from the GUI. Most SimpleVFS directories
would not be tied to a real directory in this way (though they'd be
implemented as a real directory).

I guess I'm conflating a lot of separable ideas under the "SimpleVFS"
name. Basically I want to have a separate little single-user simplified
Gnome world, and a wider Unix system universe, and the option to use
either or both. I think it would be very nice from an end-user standpoint,
provided it could be made to work.

It's pretty much the same implementation as meta-information in the
regular fs, just a different emphasis, a sharper divide. You wouldn't
see . and .. and .desktop and .*rc and /usr/local and /etc and 
/opt/pkgs/foo- and so on. The user has the
illusion of being on a single-user system with the power to change all
visible files. If they are the administrator or a power user, they just
use the regular fs, as gmc does now. I guess my point is that
meta-information and the way gmc views directories with meta-information
has to be implemented in a certain way to make this possible. That's what
I'm calling SimpleVFS.

Maybe I should just come up with an example. I feel like I'm explaining at
length but not being clear. I don't think I'm saying anything that
different from anyone else, I'm just suggesting more automagicality and
less implementation exposure.

Havoc Pennington

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