Friday, January 29, 2010

File system bleg:

Yglesias has an interesting post on how, more and more, people that use computers are being shielded from having to know about file systems.

I pretty much only work with file systems. If it's a camera, I take out the memory card and copy the j-pegs onto the hard disk with a USB adapter. I don't use Kodak's EasyShare software or whatever it is on Samsung's CD. If it's music, I download the MP3s to whichever folder is appropriate. I don't use the iTunes app. I sync bookmarks/favorites over various browsers/PCs. I save webpages and web images in a rigorously hierarchical system. I even manage Outlook Express .dbx files to a limited extent. As much as possible, I try to put documents/spreadsheets in appropriate folders and not lump them in My Documents or on the Desktop.

I can take whatever files I want put them on a flash memory and (a) keep them there as a backup, or (b) copy them onto a newer machine.

Over a span of 10 years, the number of files is enormous. Something like 10,000. It would seem that file system awareness is critical to good management.

Here's my question. For people who use those applications that sidestep "file system awareness", how do they get their files transferred to a new computer?

Related: The trend seems to be moving away from "file system awareness". The way to get stuff, at least with Vista/Windows7, is to search and then you get emails, pictures, and documents all related to "Aunt Sally". The presumption is that people search on the web, so why not search your own PC? I'm not sure that's better than having the user work the file systems.

UPDATE: Somewhat related is a post where the main theme is "The iPad is a computer for people who do not like computers, not a computer for people who like computers."


This is exactly how I first became aware of the problem. Someone was asking me about transferring songs, and I was all "you need to go into the iTunes folder inside the music folder and copy the files onto an external hard drive or something, then you can just copy them onto your new computer." Turned out the person in question didn't realize that there were music files in a folder at all -- just thought of them as being part of iTunes and iTunes knew how to sync them with iPods.

By Anonymous Matthew Yglesias, at 1/29/2010 1:56 PM  

Ach! These kids today! When I started working computers, it was a PDP-10 with a TTY terminal. You typed your program in, then hit 'RUN." If it ran, you got a result. And if you wanted to run it again, you had to type the entire program in again.

The point being that progress in computers has made them much easier and more accessible for Joe Average. Joe can get an astounding amount of utility out of his computer without know much about it or how it works--just the same way he get a lot of utility out of his car without knowing how most of it works.

Know how computers work with files and what hierarchical file systems actually are grant you much more utility in some situations. But for day-to-day computer users, it's about as useful as my memories of the PDP-10.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/29/2010 6:33 PM  

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