Filesystem sacrilege

January 19, 2003 5:26 PM

Dear Operating System Vendors.

I no longer want to know where my files are stored. I no longer care. I have hordes of directories on my various computers called stuff, downloads and documents, and the effort that it would take to organise them into a proper heirarchy is just not worth it. The heirarchical filesystem is a really wonderful thing for programmers and websites, but it just doesn't cut it for personal use.

I no longer care where my files are stored. Here is all I want to see when I save a file:

A dialog that simply asks the user to type in a few words describing the file to be saved.

The operating system can put the file wherever it wants, I don't care, so long as it remembers when it was created (and by whom), when it was modified (and by whom), what type of file it is, and the magic words I typed when I saved it. If the OS knows something about the file format, such as being able to interpret mp3 id3 tags, a document's author, or a download's originating site, remember that sort of thing as well.

When it comes time to load the file again, it's a simple matter of selection. First eliminate all the files that the application doing the loading can't operate on, and all files the current user can't access. Prefer files that were modified recently, by the current user, but provide a few simple menus for changing that. Add a simple, forgiving search on the description, and a more in-depth content-aware search if you're really stuck. Voila. No more messing around with the heirarchical filesystem. We got rid of heirarchical databases in the 1970s, after all.

Of course, for reasons of efficiency, the regular filesystem will still exist in the background. If I'm feeling incredibly nerdy, I might even drop down to it occasionally. And I'll need to know a little about it if I'm reading files off a CD, or trying to organise a website. But mostly, that sort of thing is just going to get in the way, and I don't want to know about it.

Some people may get a bit upset about the fact that they no longer know where their files are. Ignore them. They're just a little resistant to change. These same people have gone years without knowing what inodes their files inhabit, or precisely which sectors on disk. Why the hell should they care where in the filesystem they reside, so long as they have a reliable way of getting them back again when they want them?


Charles Miller, Alpha Nerd.

Previously: Databases, Part One

Next: Dan Bernstein and Patents