Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th Jul 2012 22:18 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes The article I'm about to link to, by Oliver Reichenstein, is pretty terrible, but it's a good way for me to bring up something I've been meaning to talk about. First, the article: "Apple has been working on its file system and with iOS it had almost killed the concept of folders - before reintroducing them with a peculiar restriction: only one level! With Mountain Lion it brings its one folder level logic to OSX. What could be the reason for such a restrictive measure?" So, where does this crusade against directory structures (not file systems, as the article aggravatingly keeps stating) come from?
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Lets pick a complex operation. You have an HTML file that you have manually transformed into XML. You now want to tell the system that its type has changed. You would normally do that by just changing the file extension (or its type metadata) and you are done.

I envision that something like this would involve the following (conceptually speaking)


I think at this point you're getting too wrapped up in implementation ideas, which may be good or bad in themselves but either way are distracting from the big picture. i.e. What are the contracts you want the system to make with the user regarding the safety, security and accessibility of their data? Musings on possible behind-the-scenes implementations is way, way down the list by comparison.


Incidentally, representing a single piece of data in multiple file formats is an especially lousy example to use. REST already figured out the correct answer: you continue to present that information as a single resource, publicly announce which representations it is available in along with any hints as to which are optimal and which are lossy, and let the client specify which of those representations it wants. The actual conversion processes - be they manual or automatic, cached or on-the-fly - are then implementation details.

The one useful point that does arise from this sort of example is that a traditional filesystem cannot natively support this sort of presentation, lacking 1. the ability to cache multiple representations at a single location, and 2. any means for the user to negotiate or specify type requirements when accessing data at that location. Whereas a metadata-driven storage system could do stuff like this in its sleep.

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