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OS designer/writer stuck in the box?

By jonr in Technology
Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 11:43:34 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

I miss BeOS. I miss the simple, fast GUI. I really, really miss the BFS. The live queries especially. I miss the integration of messaging (Email), addresses, the quick navigation of the filesystem.

You all remember BeOS, right? The little OS that could have been. Every day I get more and more frustrated with Windows, and I am using the latest XP. It is not a good sign when you get more annoyed with a product the more you use it. A good design works in the opposite way. You may start with a doubt, but the more you use it, the more you like it. That was the way with BeOS.

I joined the Be Developer Program when they were still producing the BeBox. I recall that Be always under promised and over delivered. BeOS "just worked"(TM). Why aren't we seeing some of BeOS ideas in other operating systems? Journaled file systems? Life queries? Integrated messages? (EMail) A simple API? (Even though it was in C++!). And the live queries, when I think about it, this was the feature that I used the most. To give an example: All my email was just dumped in a folder. Sounds horrible? Not at all. When BeOS fetched email, it indexed it. And I could browse it in the exactly the same way I browsed the rest of the filesystem, only I saw extra attributes like Sender & Subject. Then I sorted them, not in folders using some program, but with life queries. I just made one that read: All file of the type Email, with the status New and addressed to jonr@foobar.is. That way I got a list with all new emails without getting the mail from mailing lists in the way. Read a mail, and it dropped instantly from the list. No "Searching..." dialog boxes that just don't work on a 80GB drives anymore.
I know that many of this features are available, I am even considering getting a PowerPC just to be able to use OS X.

Even if I go further back in time I find "nicer" operating system; The Acorn RiscOS. Now that was another OS that just worked! Everything was drag'n drop. Save a file? Drag an icon from a small window and into a filesystem window. Or a zip file window. Or a ftp window. Or even printer. The user didn't really care. Print a complex file? The OS asked the application for a "print service", no need to start up the whole application and open the file. Just print the file quietly. Open help system, you could write your own. Just register to get help messages from the applicaton.

I guess that I am just really disappointed with Windows XP. And Linux. XP offers really nothing over Windows 2000 except cute icons. And Linux is too fragmented, is also missing all these things and is still pain in the butt to configure. I consider myself quite computer literate, but there are too many moments where I have to rely on Google to figure out how to do things on both.
So, to not make this any longer, here are my suggestions:

  1. Switch to document oriented desktop. Users work ON files, not WITH applications.
  2. Resurrect that Live Queries from BeOS, please! You don't search tens of thousands of files on a 80GB or bigger hard drives.
  3. Linux users, stop fragmenting Linux. Yes choice is good, and you don't have to loose it even if you settle on 'official' GUI & features.
  4. Integrate the Internet. MacOS X is getting there, with Sherlock and other stuff.
  5. Use open standards.
  6. Use open standards.
  7. Use open standards. VCard, XML, HTML, LDAP, MIME-type for files etc. You don't have to reinvent the wheel all the time. And I shouldn't have to import/export everything all the time!
I still have hope. :)



Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


What would you like the most in your OS of choice?
o Object/Document oriented desktop 10%
o Journaled FS with Live Queries 20%
o Open standards for everything 48%
o Integrated Messaging (Email) & Addressbook 0%
o Everything is fine as is it. 4%
o This poll sucks. 15%

Votes: 149
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Google
o BeOS
o browse it in the exactly the same way I browsed the rest of the filesystem
o Drag an icon from a small window
o Open help system
o Also by jonr

Display: Sort:
OS designer/writer stuck in the box? | 88 comments (67 topical, 21 editorial, 0 hidden)
Live queries (4.00 / 7) (#2)
by speek on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:07:44 PM EST

I've never heard this term before, but if I understand correctly, then yes - bring it on. Why do I have to accept my file system organized under a static heirarchy? Why can't the heirarchy just a "view" that I can change on a moments notice? I know Linux is fascinated with the idea of "everything's a text file", but it's time to go the database route. Everything should be a database - configuration, filesystem, applications, etc. We've known how to effectively organize data for decades - time to use that knowledge.

I'm full, but I'm going to eat these cookies anyway. That's my whole problem right there, in a nutshell.

Reiser (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by leviramsey on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 02:49:47 AM EST

Hans Reiser has, at various points in time, espoused turning the FS into a database. To some extent, ReiserFS was designed to lay the groundwork for that movement.

[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#50)
by cpt kangarooski on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:52:40 PM EST

There is a place for hierarchies, as at times you will a) remember where it is that something was put, and b) could access it more efficiently and comfortably that way than via a query. (e.g. that one text file you don't really remember the name of, but do remember the spacial and hierarchical location of -- I'm vaguely like this with geographical locations IRL)

But yeah, databases are very good. There is some discussion about this concept in either Tog on Software or The Art of Human Computer Interface that you might enjoy. They're both good books at any rate, though dated.

All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

hierarchy is just a specialized view of a query (4.00 / 1) (#58)
by speek on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:07:01 PM EST

"/usr/local/shared" could just as easily be a convenient form of query as it can be a fixed location.

I'm full, but I'm going to eat these cookies anyway. That's my whole problem right there, in a nutshell.
[ Parent ]

Document centric computing.... (3.75 / 8) (#4)
by MSBob on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:17:14 PM EST

has always been Bill Gates' mantra. I'm not at all sure I agree with it. I find most people (myself included) slightly confused when the browser and the file manager take each other's place at most unexpected points.

Personally I do prefer application based computing. Do one thing and do it well. Don't try to be everything to everyone at all costs. Users value simplicity and I'm not sure that document centric computing simplifies anything for them.

In the past software applications have done a spectacularly bad job of blending together with the particular nasty case of Acrobat Reader 'integrating' itself into the browser and the crashing and taking the browser process with it.

Clean modular apps that work is what I prefer over the 'document centric computing' that complicates developers' lives immensely and is of dubious value to the end user.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

Nut the ms apps only work with each other. (none / 0) (#45)
by steveftoth on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 11:44:25 AM EST

You can't build a thired party application that interfaces with a MS doc. At least not easily.  You can't build a standalone application that opens doc files, does some processing and then saves it.  Or even cooler would be for a way to have word run your doc through a filter (third party) and return to you another document, like photoshop, but for word processing.

It may be document oriented, but you are dependent on MS for features, and if it doesn't do what you want, exactly the way you want, then it's useless.

[ Parent ]

*sigh* (3.50 / 4) (#7)
by Talez on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:26:29 PM EST

I know how you feel. I miss BeOS too.

I've never seen something as beautifully engineered as the BeFS and at the rate that most OSes are going I don't think I ever will.

I miss the fact that I could copy a million things simultaneously while running a 17 MP3s, 9 videos and empty the trash. BeOS just didn't care and the interface was still just as snappy as if it had no load.

I remember this one time when I started a directory full of MP3s by mistake on my poor old 166. BeOS didn't care, I just quickly closed down each window and each of them responded nicely and closed cleanly.

I miss everything using MIME types. No more extension hell.

I miss the way Net+ used meta-data to turn a regular directory into a download manager.

I miss having a brilliant way to organise my MP3 collection. I mainly miss the ability to symlink my MP3 collection together.

I loved everything about BeOS. I especially loved the filesystem and it will always have a special place in my heart.

I think I'm going to cry now :(

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est

Like the filesystem? Get OS X! (none / 0) (#63)
by sean23007 on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 07:20:58 PM EST

For anyone who loved the BeOS filesystem, the obvious OS choice is the upcoming point revision of Mac OS X. They are redesigning their system to make use of a journaling filesystem designed and written by Dominic Giampaolo, the guy who designed the filesystem for BeOS. Now, it won't be exactly the same as the FS for BeOS, but it is expected to be similar and the next step up from the BFS. Perhaps there were wonderful features of the BFS that you would not expect to be found in another product, but Apple has a very good eye for detail. I would expect all of the features that were in BFS, in time, and perhaps eventually more.

Long story short, get OS X.

Lack of eloquence does not denote lack of intelligence, though they often coincide.
[ Parent ]
To organise MP3s (none / 0) (#73)
by imperium on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 10:44:03 AM EST

Without wishing to sound like an Apple zealot, the cleverest thing I've seen in a while is what iTunes just did to 17 gigs of randomly named and ordered MP3s from the net. It looked at the ID3 tags and renamed and rearranged them accordingly, with folders named for artists containing folders named for albums containing files named for tracks, making my filesystem coherent and accessible, and it did it unobtrusively over a few minutes. Of course you need to keep the ID3s up to date, but surely you would anyway?

[ Parent ]

Not only Apple can do this... (none / 0) (#85)
by grzebo on Sun Oct 20, 2002 at 04:06:56 PM EST

On Linux, there is an excellent program called Cantus, that can do just that, and much more.

"My God, shouts man to Himself,
have mercy on me, enlighten me"...
[ Parent ]
Disagree (4.42 / 14) (#13)
by godix on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:06:19 AM EST

I hate 'document oriented desktops'. I want my computer to do what *I* want. Under 'doctument orientation' you end up with a computer ignoring the user and doing what a programmer thinks it should do. I've often cursed because MS Word just hijacked .doc files, again (although MS isn't the worse offender, internet plugins are). My biggest problem with installing hardware these days isn't getting the hardware to work, it's getting winamp to load my MP3's instead of whatever POS my new soundcard installed. Most of my cursing isn't at Windows anymore, it's at whatever braindead idiot decided that I always want to open up Adobe files in my browser instead of just downloading the damned thing. About once a month I have to go digging through the registry to remove whatever program decided to load up on startup this time (Realmedia should die for this reason alone). Yes, I know how to change all of these behaviors to what I want them to be, but the point is I shouldn't have to reprogram my computers settings everytime I install some app.

Linux is almost as bad anymore. In the designers constant attempt to play catch up with windows they usually take the features of windows and make them even worse by lack of support resources. I hate win9X design, but at least I can find instructions for most of it in one place.

The longer I use current OS's the more I miss dos and windows 3.1. I next looked at Dos and yelled 'why the hell are 30 processes in memory' like I have with taskmanager. I never had to fight with win 3.1 just to convince it that I really do want a viewer to open jpegs instead of Photoshop. I never had to spend half an hour in the INI's figuring out what the hell netscape just screwed up like I've done with the registry. I've never stared at my computer going 'What the hell are you installing now? The program is loaded. Stop putting shit on my HD.' Dos and win3.1 had lots of problems, but at least fighting just to control what your computer is doing wasn't one of them.

Love, like god, only exist at orgasm and agnoy

Well, you may, of course, disagree with this. . . (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by kfg on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:38:39 PM EST


You sound like a perfect candidate for running Linux at the command line, or with a simple window manager that only acts as a front end to the command line programs.

Linux is really only "fragmented" at the level of the "Windows workalike" desktops. At the CLI interface, and since you're longing for the DOS days I take it you're not command line shy, it is rock solid and integrated.

FVWM gives much the same feel and functionality as Win 3.1 did to DOS, or for perhaps the best of both worlds the GnuScreen/Ratpoison combo.

And all with the added power UNIX has over DOS.

Honestly, I'm not making this up, if you stay away from the bleeding edge of Linux GUI development it's not only probably not what you think it is, but may well be your "perfect fit."


[ Parent ]

That's nice and all (none / 0) (#54)
by Fon2d2 on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:53:53 PM EST

but it's not something that somebody like me really wants.  I agree with everything the original poster stated and its one of the big reasons I even tried Linux in the first place.  And at just a shell level, Unix is much more sophisticated than DOS, but I do want some level of window manager.  So far I've only tried KDE but at least the default configuration is not really what I had in mind.  What I want is something that's really minimal.  Maybe I will look into the GNUscreen/Ratpoison thing.

[ Parent ]
Minimal? Stay away from gnome & kde (none / 0) (#57)
by nowan on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 02:38:15 PM EST

If you want something minimal there are lots of options. fvwm, twm, ratpoison, ion (my personal favorite, but not a traditional wm), pwm, etc.

Just stay away from gnome & kde.

[ Parent ]

Takes too much time (none / 0) (#59)
by Fon2d2 on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:18:18 PM EST

Linux has a huge learning curve.  It took me forever just to learn how all the windowing components fit together conceptually.  I still really don't understand it all.  As of now I don't know a thing about how the X Window System and window managers are layed out on disk, how it's configured, or how to go about changing any of that.  I wouldn't be surprised if messing around with it broke some RPM dependancy file.  I suspect it will be awhile before I'm at that level of Linux savvy.

[ Parent ]
windowmanagers (none / 0) (#80)
by twi on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 06:45:06 PM EST

There are tons of windowmanagers for Linux/X ranging from the simple/small/fast to the featurefull/glitzy/bloated. I prefere it simple and unobstrusive, so a complete "desktop-environment" like Gnome/KDE is out of the question. For some years now I use Afterstep, and I realy like it a lot.

[ Parent ]
Linux (none / 0) (#62)
by godix on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 05:52:43 PM EST

I tried command line linux back in the days when 95 was new and I first realized how much I hate it. That experiment lasted a few days till I realized I want to play the dos/win games. I was about to try and learn Wine when I accidently deleted my /etc directory. After that I decided to just put up with windows.....

Love, like god, only exist at orgasm and agnoy

[ Parent ]
My suggestion: (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by MMcP on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:31:16 AM EST

Go back to windows 2000 ASAP.

I've been able to wrangle Win2k down to where processes run when I want them to, unlike XP which really does have a mind of its own when it comes to loading MSN messenger, automatic updates etc etc and using 'wizards' to make everything 'easier'.  I turn off all the services that shouldn't have been there in the first place as well as the useless visual flimflam that gets in the way of doing what I want to.  

Win2K leaves me alone and I do the same.  

XP Processes (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by Cloaked User on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:53:29 AM EST

I'm currently using XP Professional at home, and I certainly seem to have switched off Automatic Updates, Background Intelligent Transfer Service (or whatever it's called), Messenger, etc. They even stayed off after I applied Service Pack 1.

I'm not usually bothered by wizards, either - I've switched the Control Panel back to "classic" (i.e. useful) mode, and don't have to contend with that God-awful "user manager" thing.

I'll admit that the "no passwords by default" on a Professional version of an OS is an absolute joke (or does it only do that if you're not part of a domain? Even so...), but so far, overall, I prefer XP Pro to 2k Pro.

Of course, I only really use Windows for gaming and occasionally surfing (mostly for patches, etc), and do all my real work under Linux, so maybe I just haven't used it enough yet to find all it's little quirks.
"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
[ Parent ]

I'm hoping that MS are learning (none / 0) (#67)
by Fuzzwah on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 10:11:47 PM EST

With .Net server MS seem to have switched from the "everything is on" to "everything is off" mentality. No longer is the first thing you do after installing a server a matter of going through and removing the services which the machine isn't going to be running, it's now a process of turning on what is required.

This is a much better approach and one that I hope MS use in their next desktop release. Either that or have a simple first up question which gives you the option of "running all the cool new stuff" or "I'm old school".

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

This is a dark age, but it's not hopeless (4.28 / 7) (#17)
by Sloppy on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:36:40 AM EST

We're in a pretty dark age for personal computers right now, where the stagnation can really be depressing if you're an enthusiast, or if you're not used to the cycle.

I remember an even more hopeless and darker time: the mid 1990s. The Amiga's light was fading after the death of Commodore, and Microsoft was about to release Win95 and get the world to commit itself to eternal mediocrity. And IBM had started to give up on their mostly uninteresting OS/2 that happened to include an interesting desktop, WPS. But just as things were at their blackest and bland poorly-designed homogenization was closing in, a man with an "Amiga95" license plate publically announced the very OS that you now miss. I am not kidding about this: when I learned of it on that October day in 1995, I was shocked, and also literally shed tears of joy.

Perhaps in a few years, someone with a "Be2005" license plate will pick up the pieces of the shattered dream again. Yet, as crazy as it was for someone to introduce a new platform in 1995, it's even crazier now, regardless of how badly needed it is. The real hope lies in the hackers, because the big commercial guys are just going nuts trying to figure out new ways to make their systems (Windows, MacOS) suck even worse than they do now. You are never going to see any ray of sunshine while you keep using XP. You'll just be adding to the strength-in-numbers that legitimizes that abomination.

IMHO, the next Good Thing is going to come from the Free Software / Open Source guys. No, not those Windows clones Gnome and KDE, but I do think it'll be something that can run on Linux. Linux doesn't currently offer what you want, but if you switch now, then you'll more likely be ready.

There's just one catch: you have to stop fearing fragmentation. Diversity is necessary for progress. (If the Linux dudes "standardize" on a single desktop, it will almost certainly be a desktop that sucks. People are very stupid in groups.) The reason to go with Linux (or something like it) is so that you'll have the flexibility to try out new things.
"RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."

Still Hope (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by 90X Double Side on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 02:54:05 AM EST

The BeOS engineers are still hard at work on filesystems, so there is still hope that at least some of these features will resurface.

“Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity”
—Alvy Ray Smith
The live queries is cool (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by HidingMyName on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 02:57:56 AM EST

I'd really like to see that as part of a widely deployed O/S. I thought Palm was getting ready to embed a BeOS on an ARM or something when they picked it up, but Palm ran out of caah and didn't do such a hot job at long term planning in general it seems. Looks like Microsoft may eat their lunch on the software side, who the hardware vendor will be is up for grabs. The Eros operating system looked very interesting as well, but for security and persistent object handling reasons.

However, Journalling is not strictly required for file system integrity, FreeBSD uses soft-updates, a competing system where metadata updates are very carefully scheduled to reduce the number of redundant and unnecessary metadata updates while still maintaining consistency in the event of an abnormal shutdown.

The standard GNU/Linux user-interface should be (3.50 / 2) (#22)
by kholmes on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:00:40 AM EST

The Anti-Desktop. I found the link on slashdot and I think I'm going to try it.

It seems to me that the GNU/Linux desktop solution failed once people failed to realize that they didn't know what the problem was.

For those to lazy to read the link, the Anti-Desktop (I like what he called it) is basically a combination of a mouseless window manager (ratpoison in this case) with the screen console utility (which I don't seem to have on my system). With this setup, you don't need to use the mouse at all nor do you need to play with themes, icons, and widgets (within reason, of course).

Has anyone tried anything like this? I'm using KDE right now and I realize I don't really use any of its features and it just tends to slow my whole computer down.

PS: I think I'm going to vote this article up since the lack of technical discussion here is beginning to cause me to miss Slashdot.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.

Ratpoison looks nice (none / 0) (#33)
by squigly on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 07:13:16 AM EST

It has one of the features I really loved on the Amiga - Screens.  Each application had its own screen.  This is not the same as the mutliple desktops on Be, KDE, Gnome etc. Those still leave all the clutter including the title bar and taskbar, and panel.  

But what does it do with application subwindows?  If I run Mozilla and open a find window, will it make that fill the screen as well?

[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#42)
by starsky on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 09:30:37 AM EST

>>I think I'm going to vote this article up since the lack of technical discussion here is beginning to cause me to miss Slashdot.

Agreed - when exactly did this place become politicaldiscussion.com?

[ Parent ]

Ratpoison... (none / 0) (#77)
by TheEldestOyster on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 09:17:05 PM EST

I tried it yesterday, and while it does seem pretty okay for people who desire a more consol-ish feel (like Ion), it's just a *little* too stripped down for me. Maybe if I could preset frame sizes and such, then switch between workspaces (still no overlapping windows of course), I might like it a little more.

I've tried a lot of WM's, but the one that's currently (and has been for some time) rocking me is Fluxbox, a fork of Blackbox. Small, fast and well-designed (the code is so amazingly clean). Still has overlapping windows, but it also has the ability to throw a bunch of windows into the same frame and let you move around by mousing over its tab, as well as a number of other nifty features.
TheEldestOyster (rizen/bancus) * PGP Signed/Encrypted mail preferred
[ Parent ]
Fluxbox (none / 0) (#83)
by kholmes on Sat Oct 19, 2002 at 02:26:29 AM EST

It is fast, but looks like ass. Sorry to the developers, but no matter what theme I try--it still looks like ass. The colors are just trying to distract you.

Thats one of the nice thing about ratpoison, without window decorations it becomes impossible to look like ass.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]

Redmond seems to learn (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by bigbug__ on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:06:36 AM EST

Longhorn (the next Windows release, due 2004 if I'm not mistaken) is said to include an SQL based FS, and if MS has some sense (and I think they do), you'd be having Live Queries all over your new 3D desktop (that one sounds particularly horrible to me). They also say they will have a Task Oriented UI, which would be a good thing if you like document oriented UIs (unlike me), or if you don't have a particularly good idea of what you're doing.
//Rant about MS + open standards supressed here

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. -- Alan Watts
Yeah (3.00 / 1) (#52)
by cpt kangarooski on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:58:46 PM EST

But they invariably fuck it up too. Plus their motives are evil. Sure they're getting better, but with MS it is always haphazard at best, and tends to harm innovation and the industry as a whole to boot.

I'm using WinXP at the moment b/c everything else is just as bad at best in one respect or another, but I'm waiting for some newcomer to pick up the ball. MS never will, Apple's dropped it, and the Unix community is hopeless, more interested in implementation than functionality.

All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

Microsoft and release dates (none / 0) (#64)
by ttfkam on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 07:55:36 PM EST

Please refer to this Cnet article. Anyone remember Cairo? Please note that the article was written in 1996 and contains the following quote:
The directory service may not actually be available until the second half of 1997 when NT 5.0 rolls out.
You know... Active Directory... That apparently was released in 1997. Doesn't everyone remember that?

Microsoft gets it? Bull. Microsoft has a wish list just like everyone else. Out in 2004? Anyone remember when Win2K was released? Late 2000 wasn't it? Anyone remember when the first beta of Win2K was released? A hint: it wasn't in 2000. When was it originally supposed to be released? NT 5.0(!!!) was originally planned for 1997. 2003 is coming up quick. I'll believe a 2004 release of Longhorn when it actually hits the shelves.

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]

Mac-OS 10.2.2 (4.33 / 3) (#26)
by widoxm on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:51:32 AM EST

Apple are releasing a journaling file system ('Elvis') with the next release of Mac OS-X. It is apparently on par with BEOS's file system. You can read about it in the Apple section of that other site...

Link (none / 0) (#31)
by Rasman on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 06:06:32 AM EST

To save you the trouble of venturing to the other site:

eWeek article: Look Out Enterprise: Mac OS X to Get Journaling

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Not only on par... (none / 0) (#76)
by TheEldestOyster on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 09:10:13 PM EST

But designed by the same guy who designed BFS. I forget his name, but when Be went under, Apple snapped him up in a hurry.
TheEldestOyster (rizen/bancus) * PGP Signed/Encrypted mail preferred
[ Parent ]
RiscOS (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by Freak NL on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 04:47:08 AM EST

Actually, my mother runs a small Desktop Publishing service from home using 1 antiquated (10 years old?) Acorn Archimedes machine with RiscOS 3, it has 8mb of memory. :) Still it does everything that needs to be done with it quite well. I grew up with RiscOS. :p

Perhaps something can be learned from some the OS'es that didn't make it into this century with more then a handfull of users.

Linux is to fragmented yet, but I have good hopes for it on the desktop (I still need Windows for some small things). I think a more unified approach to desktop and filemanagement would be a great step forward (the old KDE vs Gnome problem)

I like Linux, I use Linux, my laptop is 100% Linux, but Linux is not userfriendly. I recommend recent Windows versions to family and friends.

Sherlock sucks (none / 0) (#30)
by Rasman on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 05:58:23 AM EST

I have never found Sherlock more useful than Google. Especially if you don't live in the US and all the cinema and yellow-page searching is useless.

It's a great idea, but Sherlock could be A LOT better!

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
Well, except, of course... (none / 0) (#37)
by haflinger on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 08:23:53 AM EST

If you have a Google plugin for Sherlock. :P

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
Google Plug-in (none / 0) (#38)
by Rasman on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 08:37:03 AM EST

Opening Google in Mozilla is still faster than opening Sherlock. So what's the point?

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Is it? (none / 0) (#39)
by haflinger on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 08:38:21 AM EST

I open Sherlock in less than a second. :)

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
Even so... (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by Rasman on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 09:05:13 AM EST

What Google returns you is a web page. So you're going to be opening a browser anyway. If the browser's already open, my way must be faster.

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
You have a point. (none / 0) (#44)
by haflinger on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 11:12:51 AM EST

However, NS7 opens in a couple seconds on this machine. So I'm not sure speed is the issue. :)

What I like about Sherlock is the ability to do a simulated Dogpile, except with far more search engines (like 40+) at a time...

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

We *can do* much of this! (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by rapha on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 06:10:57 AM EST

Anyone wanna help? -- mailto:raphael.schmid@gmx.de


BeOS' potential demise... (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by Gooba42 on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 11:46:32 AM EST

I was watching the news the other day and they mentioned that apparently Palm had taken a big hit on the market and my first thought was "damn and they're going to take BeOS with them to the grave".

The coolest thing I remember when I got BeOS running was when I was triple booting Windows, Linux and BeOS.

I got a new DVD drive, installed everything in Windows and it worked okay but was a little funky, crashes and such. I installed everything I could find in Linux and *still* had a rough time forcing the system to mount it properly with UDF, etc. In BeOS I booted, tried to view the movie just for kicks before I downloaded anything and it played just fine. I don't know precisely how it managed, but BeOS which was released before DVD drives were widely available was playing my movie without any extra drivers or anything. That's just damn cool.

Now since Palm isn't using BeOS for anything right now, I'd really like to see them just release the source and see what we can do with it but they'll probably let it rot.

Querying mail (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by hans on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 11:50:39 AM EST

I've been hoping for an evolution of mail clients to do something like what you mentioned.  I use Outlook, and rely heavily on message rules to sort mail into nested folders.  There are a lot of instances where this doesn't work too cleanly, especially when people cross-post to similar mailing lists.

I'm hopeful that email clients will replace the static folders with "views" that dynamically sort mail when activated.  Not knowing much about programming, I thought this could be easily accomplished with a simple database and some SQL queries.  I don't know what sort of resources it'll take to run the database, and then you've got new security considerations.  Seems it would be easy to upgrade the mail client to a server, to have this database exposed to the internet, so you can easily read your old mail while traveling.

ximian evolution? (3.00 / 1) (#51)
by 5pectre on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:53:55 PM EST

that has vfolders which are virtual folders that you can filter mail into (the mail stays in the original folders (such as inbox), but also appears in the virtual folder).

"Let us kill the English, their concept of individual rights might undermine the power of our beloved tyrants!!" - Lisa Simpson [ -1.50 / -7.74]

[ Parent ]
My point exactly (none / 0) (#75)
by jonr on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 05:29:06 PM EST

Why use those stupid filters and folders, it is so unflexible. A mail can belong to many folders/groups. I did this all the time on BeOS. My "inbox" was just a Live Query that was something like "All mail where status = "New" and to = "jonr@foobar.com". That way all my mailing lists email got ignored (and only showed up in queries for those lists) and it was real time.
And I could mark files with my own attributes. Like if I got a jpg from Anna, I could add her email as an Email attribute freely. And the search for it, or even keep a query for all files from anna, etc etc...
And I didn't care if Anna's files where in home/mail/incoming or home/photos or even home/trash.
It was just a bliss... :)

[ Parent ]
BeOS does not run well on shitty hardware. (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by logiterr on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:51:38 PM EST

I have a laptop. it is an old compaq 1020. Pentium 120mhz, 16MB ram, 1.03GB HD. Running BeOS on that, is like using your head as a replacement tire for an off-road vehicle. That is my only beef with BeOS. Apart from that, could the features in BeOS be ported to linux as kernel modules? What would stop any dedicated coder from doing this? Apart from responsiveness, the linux kernel can handle most features AFAIK. A little work with the framebuffer and you could do away with having to run X. In fact, linux needs about 30MB of core binaries to run, the rest can be BeOS-like binaries. How hard would that be to develop? Not hard AFAIK. And in all likelihood, it would run better than pure-BeOS on my shitty laptop. That is what I like so much about Win95/98, Free/Open/NetBSD, and Linux 2.0/2.2/2.4. They all run decent on my shitty laptop.

Maybe modifying Debian to emulate BeOS? debian has that tarball that has all the core binaries and libraries in it to get a very minimalist OS going. Instead of putting the usual GNU stuff, just but the BeOS stuff. hrm. apt-get BeOS-emulation on day. apt-get GNU-emulation then next. Or even to be freaky apt-get GNUstep on Sunday. All you would need are repositories right? Sounds like a good idea that might work faster than it is taking to develop HURD. And with all the attention Debian is getting as a starting point for some spin-offs it already has the infrastructure.

Sounds like a good idea (nt). (none / 0) (#55)
by metagone on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 02:09:29 PM EST

[ Parent ]
You want BlueEyedOS (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by pin0cchio on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 10:34:04 AM EST

Maybe modifying Debian to emulate BeOS?

Start with BlueEyedOS, BeOS implemented on top of the Linux kernel.

[ Parent ]
I don't want "functions," I want tools. (5.00 / 2) (#53)
by kfg on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:12:13 PM EST

to perform the functions with. And I want the free choice of what tool *I* think will do the best job at the time.

I still wear the brains in this family.

Contrary to what some people are promoting this really is the way people think. If I sit down to write a snailmail I think of the *tools,* like pen and paper, but I *could* think Sharpie and cardboard, or even, if I wanted to be whacky, latex house paint and plywood. It's entirely up to me given the tools and materials I have at hand just what this "letter" is going to be like. Ain't that just too cool?

Given a good range of tools one can even "misapply" them to one's benifit as one sees fit, such as using a screwdriver to open the lid of the paintcan and a sponge for a "brush."

With the tool approach I have paint, sponge, screwdriver, pen, paper, Sharpie, cardboard, and can combine this items to do anything it's possible to do with these items.

With the functional approach I'm largely confined to doing what some programer, somewhere else, has predecided I'm going to do and in the manner he wishes me to do it in.

This is Bill Gates wet dream. Not mine. Thank you very much but I'd appreciate it if you'ld leave *all* the decision making to me and as far as I'm concerned anybody who wants to have their "computer" ( actually the programer behind the computer, call him "Big Brother" just for argument's sake) make their *decisions* for them . . . deserves to.


to extend that idea... (none / 0) (#66)
by Fuzzwah on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 09:55:48 PM EST

Office XP almost gets it right in my mind. I only use Office to produce monthly server reports, when I open it up it should quickly realise that I'm working on a task which is extremely similar to what I've done before. It should automatically complete the steps which I've used before.

The "hide unused options" is a step in the right direction, and as much as I hated the early implementations of "it looks like you're...." wizard I can now see them as a step in the correct direction. Now that they get away from prompting you for a select few "templates" which were added by the programmers the next step is to prompt me with a task that I've done before.

You still get to select your screw driver to open an envelope, but this way next time you've got a screw driver in one hand and an envelope in the other the software knows what you're about to do with them.

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

Fine, but (none / 0) (#68)
by epepke on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 10:17:22 PM EST

The functional approach has consistently beaten the snot out the the tools approach in the marketplace.

There are a number of reasons for this, including the following:

  1. In business, software is seldom chosen by the people who are to use it
  2. Functions and features fill up a bullet chart nicely
  3. Software is usually purchased on a per-item basis, and "does this package have this function" is often a question used to distinguish between them
  4. The vast majority of people don't understand software synchronicity to anywhere near the extent they understand the synchronicity of a pen plus a piece of paper
  5. The vast majority of people want at home what they have at work, so that they can do work at home and also swipe software from work
  6. Experts don't run the market: there's more money to be made in paint-by-numbers sets than in single sable brushes

For much the same reasons, mediocre interfaces have consistently beaten the snot out of good interfaces. No, I don't like it either, but that's the reality.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
There's a reason for that... (none / 0) (#79)
by der on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 12:25:20 PM EST

If Microsoft decided to have Windows take a "tool-based" approach, then you'd be saying "The tool based approach has consistently beaten the snot out the(sic) functional approach in the marketplace."

Winning in the marketplace has just about nothing to do with quality. Look at Windows' history.

[ Parent ]
I think I disagree, but maybe not (none / 0) (#81)
by epepke on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 07:56:14 PM EST

What I get from Windows' history is that a deficit in quantity is not a killer for a product, as long as it is within certain limits. I also get this from, say, VHS versus Betamax. VHS was lower quality, but it was good enough.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Your assessment of Windows XP is a little off (none / 0) (#56)
by Silent Chris on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 02:29:40 PM EST

I agree with a lot of what you said (although some of us like upgrading to new OS's just for the "cute icons" -- the thumbnail view in XP for pictures and videos is quite functional), but two things are really off:
  1. ) Searching over a system: Every NT-based OS, and MacOS since (I believe) 9.0, can index the drive.  Searches on my XP box take under a few seconds, and it's a 60 GB drive.  It's turned off by default in 2000/XP because it can eat resources (that index has to be stored somewhere).  Today, with these monster drives, it really doesn't matter.  MacOS, I think, has it turned on by default, although last time I used one of Apple's newer operating systems (MacOS 10.1), it wouldn't allow me to index the main hard drive.  I know this is something that was allowed in previous versions, so hopefully it was something they "fixed".
  2. ) Print service: it's been crude up until now, but both Windows and Mac have a decent print service.  Mac had the "desktop printer" motif for a while, where you could drag a file to the printer to print it.  Windows has had a similar feature since Windows 95, where you'd highlight a file (or a group of files), right-click and choose Print (I think you can also drag the documents onto the printer icon in the Printers folder.  I say it's "crude", because often the OS will open the file, execute the print command and close.  With Word, this usually takes under a second (but you notice the open and closing).  Starting with Office XP, Microsoft has started opening up their app APIs more, so calling a print command directly without opening the app is possible through code (most easily done with .NET).  The APIs have always been there, but were often undocumented/hidden.

BFS indexing felt completely different (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by adamsc on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 05:19:14 PM EST

BFS's live queries were really different from the Windows or Mac OS indexing - those feel like separate apps and they're excruciatingly slow to update. Both are also astonishingly amateurish - even simple queries run maybe as little as two or three orders of magnitude slower than, say, MySQL queries across a similar dataset would and on slow/busy systems a decent database might be a five or size orders of magnitude faster because it's working more intelligently. This is because they were designed and built as afterthoughts rather than part of the filesystem and they aren't considered core OS features - there certainly isn't any technical reason why any operating system couldn't offer the same thing. They don't simply because most programmers aren't used to thinking that way. BFS essentially drove the cost of searching to zero - there was no discernible difference between browsing a folder or the results of a query and they updated in real-time. There was absolutely no lag between creating or downloading a file and it showing up in your lists. This may not seem like a big difference but it fundamentally alters the feel of the system and made new ways of working viable. Real-time updating was a common BeOS interface feature - e.g. the NetPositive browser would display a progress bar on the icon of a file being downloaded and that bar would smoothly update right in sync with the bar in the download window because the Tracker could use the change notification service to have the filesystem tell it when something in an open window changed instead of constantly polling like the Windows Explorer or Mac Finder have to do.

[ Parent ]
Searches on desktops (none / 0) (#65)
by Silent Chris on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 08:09:06 PM EST

I would venture to think that early designers of MacOS, DOS and Windows, never thought we'd be searching huge file stores locally, on the same machine doing graphics manipulation, polling inputs on devices, etc.  The paradigm is that every desktop would become a thin client, with a server (built for queries and searching) handing out the files.

It'll be interesting to see what Microsoft decides to do with their next operating system, which is supposed to incorporate some kind of SQL functionality directly into the file system.  If they do it right, and design it by scratch (which, I'm told, they did with Windows 2000 -- their first good operating system) everything will be dandy.  If they try to retrofit an older filesystem, they'll only be asking for trouble.

[ Parent ]

Competition and DB File Systems (5.00 / 4) (#60)
by Eloquence on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 05:10:39 PM EST

It doesn't matter how good BeOS may have been, its fate was sealed by the decision to create a closed source operating system. On the Fortune Global 500, IBM is #19. Microsoft is #175. Yet IBM's OS/2 failed to compete with Windows. Why? Partly it was their own fault, but Microsoft's OEM-practices (which were even worse back then than they are now: PC makers had to pay the "MS tax" even for systems without an OS) made it extremely hard for any competitor, no matter how large, to gain ground. The nature of operating systems complicates things further: Since everything else depends on the OS, switching the OS is a lot like trying to "switch" the foundation of a house. You have to tear the whole damn thing down and rebuild it to do it. No wonder that most people didn't see a reason to do it on their own.

Be-founder Gassee probably finally understood how the MS monopoly works when Hitachi shipped a notebook with Windows and a disabled BeOS partition. They had agreed with Be to ship the two-OS system, but buckled under OEM contract pressure from MS and made the second OS unusable shortly before shipping.

The only OS that can compete with MS is a completely open one. For the first time, MS is facing a competitor they can't beat on price. A competitor without a name: There's no company that can go bankrupt for the open source idea to die. There's nobody they can beat up. It is essential to understand this difference. If you commit yourself to a closed system, you can only lose. You lose if the system dies, and you lose if it wins because then, once again, you're locked in. The only situation where you don't lose is when the system remains active on the fringe, such as Apple, which has made a deal with MS: You port your apps to our OS, and we don't try to steal your market share.

But with an open system, you cannot lose. You win if the system grows, because then the closed system gets replaced with an open one. But even if the system shrinks, you still don't lose, because there's always a way to migrate -- you could even take all those open apps and use them under a closed system if the need should ever arise.

For the time being, Linux is in the spotlight, but something else might be built from open source components. It doesn't really matter what it's called, it only matters that it's open. Be doesn't deserve your tears -- had they won the impossible fight against MS, they would now be in MS' position, and be subject to the same corporate politics.

Building the open desktop OS

Linux still has some catching up to do in the client area. It was only a year ago when in literally every Slashdot discussion about Linux on the desktop there was a consensus that it "wasn't ready", and many thought it would never be. Just this month Red Hat has released their first desktop distro, and United Linux is planning to do the same -- because now they feel that major components have become available that are necessary for corporations to use Linux clients in some areas. In other areas like games, it is still lacking. But it's getting there.

I'm amazed, for example, by how far WINE has come. Crossover Office, based on WINE, allows you to run Office, esp. Word, almost perfectly. Even IE works like a charm. If this currently proprietary stuff finds its way into the open source tree, I'm sure WINE will soon be able to run most smaller apps without problems. This will be another major puzzle piece for Linux' client competition.

As for the database file system, yes, it's obviously a killer feature. Even MS has realized this and plans to do something similar, or the same, in Longhorn, but this is still foggy and far away. I'm not sure if Linux will get it before MS will. I surely hope so, but this is a large effort that needs to be coordinated in the same way as big projects like GNOME and KDE. There needs to be a DBFS project that covers everything from the kernel modules over command line interfaces to the high level UI stuff in Konqueror, Nautilus etc. If this isn't done in a coordinated fashion, it will end up as crappy as the clipboard currently is under Linux/X. [Note to zealots, do not correct me on this, or I will get angry.]

That's where closed efforts like Be have a huge advantage. They started from scratch and could come up with a good, clean design. Linux as a whole grows in an evolutionary fashion, only subprojects are engineered.

But I'm sure that if the whole DBFS thing gets widely acknowledged as the killer feature it truly is, efforts will quickly start to copy it in a 1:1 fashion. FWIW, Ximian Evolution has full text indexing of all mail; I can search 10000 mails in a couple of seconds and V1.2 will have an even faster engine. I could never do this with any Windows mail client I tried. For email this is already pretty good, and for text files, grep is usually fast enough, even recursively. There are some indexing tools for local content searches, but I agree that stuff like that is best done on the FS level.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!

Apple/MS Deal (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by isaac_akira on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 04:10:07 AM EST

...Apple, which has made a deal with MS: You port your apps to our OS, and we don't try to steal your market share.
Are you sure about that deal? Switch.

[ Parent ]
Fair enough (none / 0) (#82)
by Eloquence on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 08:00:01 PM EST

They're obviously pulling their leash, or trying to get rid of it entirely. But we'll have to see how well these Switch ads work if new versions of IE and Office are no longer made available for MacOS.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]
I'm a zealot (1.00 / 1) (#86)
by Psycho Les on Sun Oct 20, 2002 at 09:53:18 PM EST

The clipboard sucks because the Gnome and KDE trolls are incompetent morons.  There is a perfectly usable clipboard in X but they were to fuckin' incompetent to use it.

[ Parent ]
If this is what you want, then you want Syllable (none / 0) (#69)
by Jon Doda on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 11:33:27 PM EST

Unfortunately Syllable still requires an awful lot of work, so come help us out :).


"Sufficiently advanced anything is indistinguishable from utter nonsense."

Database Filesystem (none / 0) (#70)
by LoppEar on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 12:29:21 AM EST

By far the most important of things mentioned in this story to me: a Database Filesystem.

I've seen a few things that Reiser may be designed with that in mind (built on b-trees). Regardless, for me the power is immediately apparent when you easily allow for transient views of files, as opposed to fixed hierarchial trees of files. I want! I would be willing to help develop, if I could just find a project that has begun..

So where are the initial projects towards a DBFS for Linux (presumably, although platform doesn't even matter to me at this point..)?

Am I missing something here? (none / 0) (#71)
by Lord Snott on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 12:32:19 AM EST

Everyone is talking like BeOS is gone, like they don't have it anymore. If it was so great, why stop using it? Has the US passed another insane law, this time stating once a company goes under it becomes illegal to use their products?

I thought BeOS was great (I loved the elegance and simplicity in design), but the UI shit me.

I don't use it out of choice, but jonr seems to no longer be using it because it's old. Am I missing something here?
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

Lack of development (none / 0) (#74)
by Psycho Les on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 03:51:59 PM EST

No-one can fix bugs becuse the source isn't available. And they don't get many hackers writing stuff like device drivers. Not when they have access to OS's with full source.

[ Parent ]
What about event handlers? (none / 0) (#87)
by rufiao on Sat Oct 26, 2002 at 07:16:04 PM EST

I wonder why the whole idea of 'indexing' files need to be implemented directly into the filesystem. By just adding some filesystem event handlers one could implement exactly the same thing in the user space without a huge effort. For instance, If the filesystem supports the asynchronous call of processes to handle add/update/remove events, one would not have a huge problem to implement indexing using a simple db backend to suit application needs.

iTunes has some live querry-like stuff (none / 0) (#88)
by David McCabe on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:25:40 PM EST

Apple iTunes is by far the best music player that I know of.

It has a number of features that are very much like live queries as I understand. The music is stored on the filesystem in a directory tree with directories for artists, then albums, then tracks. The application keeps an index with the metadata and stuff. At the very top of the window is an input field into which upon typing, the displayed list is narrowed to that which contains whatever you have typed. This is extremely fast on my 3-year-old iMac. Pretty much realtime.

It also has a feature they call `smart playlists', which is a playlist that is created based on some createria. For instance, I could create a playlist which contains all songs by Chris Rice published between 1999-2002, the titles of which contain the world `color'. This playlist would update dynamicaly as I added or removed songs from my library.

Additionally, there is a feature which when activated displays side-by-side a list of all artists, and all albums. Clicking either of these narrows whatever list is displayed to those. Cicking an artists limits the album list to albums by that artist.

I'm intently waiting for Rhythmbox to become usable.

OS designer/writer stuck in the box? | 88 comments (67 topical, 21 editorial, 0 hidden)
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