Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 30th Sep 2007 13:48 UTC, submitted by Rahul
Fedora Core "The world is changing and online applications are becoming more and more popular, whether for e-mail or word processing. The developers behind Bigboard and Gnome's 'online desktop' initiative think it's time our desktops started catching up. Read on to find an interview with Colin Walters, more information about Bigboard, the online desktop and the obligatory screencast showing it off!"
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RE: Oh, how much we need Plan9
by butters on Sun 30th Sep 2007 22:05 UTC in reply to "Oh, how much we need Plan9"
butters
Member since:
2005-07-08

Linux has FUSE, and GNOME will soon have GVFS, which is a userspace VFS that works on top of FUSE to provide per-user namespaces where unprivileged users can mount all sorts of volumes, like their GMail. The KDE equivalent would of course be KIOSlaves, although I'm not sure if FUSE integration is planned. FUSE allows applications that don't use the GVFS and GIO libraries to access these volumes using plain Linux file I/O.

I'm not sure that thinking about web services as Plan9-style network volumes is necessarily a good approach. It simply moves the application part of the service from the web server to the desktop. Therefore, you need a client application that understands the service to access the data, send/receive commands, and whatnot. The proliferation of clients might cause interoperability problems or even break the service.

I agree that something has to be done to decouple user data from web services. However, I think that this problem is harder than it may seem. The more sophisticated the service, the more challenging it is to separate the application from the data. For some services, simply exposing a volume and using the default MIME handlers would be sufficient. But I imagine that MySpace would be difficult to translate through a network volume.

I think that if Bell Labs were still around today (well, I guess Google is the new Bell) and wanted to reinvent UNIX, they'd probably explore in the opposite direction from where they went with Plan9. Files are nice, but the object is a much more powerful abstraction. The class definition is all you need to interact with an object, so if a web service published its class library and exported the data as objects, developing client applications would be relatively simple.

Oh, well. The computer industry is a place where the penalty for being ahead of your time is that your ideas won't be realized until many years after their time. Network computing is certainly one of those tragedies. We'll have to trudge through this Web-2.0 era before we realize that the Web is a distribution medium, not an application environment, and we'll eventually end up thinking about networks in much the same way that Bell Labs did in the mid-nineties.

Reply Parent Score: 5

aseigo Member since:
2005-07-06

> We'll have to trudge through this Web-2.0 era
> before we realize that the Web is a distribution
> medium, not an application environment, and we'll
> eventually end up thinking about networks in much
> the same way that Bell Labs did in the
> mid-nineties.

i couldn't agree more. =)

the value is not the web browser (seriously, uck!) but the dislocation of where you and your machine are (locality) and data access/delivery (information). particularly so when you can "mash" it up with local data at the same time.

oh well .. we'll get there eventually.

Reply Parent Score: 8

de_wizze Member since:
2005-10-31

"But I imagine that MySpace would be difficult to translate through a network volume."
Not if the approach taken is one of the plumber mechanism, whereby universally similar sources of information are subscribed to. For example my "Pictures folder" can derive images from the Photos of MySpace, messages show up as special emails, etc..

"Files are nice, but the object is a much more powerful abstraction."
Im not sure if you have seen Microsofts PowerShell and what it attempts to achieve. It sounds quite similar to that concept. instead of piping iostreams they pipe objects.

Reply Parent Score: 1

superstoned Member since:
2005-07-07

KIO-FUSE has existed for years already, mounting any KIOslave as a fuse mountpoint. But it was/is never used outside KDE, as far as I can tell.

Edit: and have a look at some less know KIOslaves to see what Plan9 like stuff could do. I mean, the Audiocd:// KIOslave is seriously cool, showing the content of an audiocd as mp3files, flac and ogg files, ready to be dragged and dropped anywhere, encoded on the fly. Or the settings:/ kioslave, or applications:/, or man:/ (yes, unix manuals throuhg KIO, from within any app). Some apps like strigi are even configurable through KIOslaves, though KIOslaves also support html-like interfaces.

In other words, KDE is way ahead of you ;-)

Edited 2007-10-01 11:15

Reply Parent Score: 4