July 25, 2012
Matches of Mountain Lion and MPE/iX
By Brian Edminster
I follow far too many blogs, in my vain attempt to stay informed on the state of technology (software, hardware, and other). When Apple released its state of the art OS today, I kept on researching. As a byproduct of those attempts, I happened on an article from Information Architects, Mountain Lion’s New File System, and found it quite interesting.
In short, it appears that Apple -- in working to move away from a many-leveled folder hierarchy to 'force' a two-level hierarchy in its file-systems (iOS, and now in OSX) -- is now basically moving towards where MPE was from the beginning.
In MPE's case, it's Account and Group, rather than Application, and folder within Application. But the resemblance is striking.
MPE applications can 'see' -- and when necessary -- access, across accounts. I'm not entirely sure how that'll be achieved in OSX or iOS, although I'm fairly sure that those better-versed in Apple products could point it out to me.
I also noted that, perhaps for different reasons of which I'm not sure -- I'm going purely on conjecture here --Microsoft is doing the same basic thing in its folder structures. The folder structures in Windows 7 are becoming more libraries of 'kinds of things'-based, plus it tries to 'hide' you from the 'pathing' to get to a file. So far, I find their implementation far less satisfying that Apple's has been.
I can't honestly say that (for the filesystem structure, at least) that MPE was so far ahead of its time that other OS's are just now catching up. But I am curious about what drove the two-level structure. Perhaps someone who worked in the labs might have that insight to share.
Regardless of the reason, good designs often converge in a particular direction or way. And I suspect that this may be an example of that as much that as anything else.
I know that the late Wirt Atmar of AICS Research firmly believed in simple paradigms for storage concepts (often explained as file-cabinet drawers and folders) -- and that MPE's filesystem fit that quite well. He firmly believed that was one of MPE's great strengths.
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I've been trying to understand this statement:
"I'm not entirely sure how that'll be achieved in OSX or iOS, although I'm fairly sure that those better-versed in Apple products could point it out to me."
At first I thought Brian was talking about sandboxing, Gatekeeper, and "entitlements." But the more I (re)read it the more I think it's referring to this:
So, yes, if you create a text file using TextEdit, it’s “in” TextEdit conceptually. But when you see it in TextEdit’s iCloud document picker window, you can just drag it out and drop it on another app, and the file will open just fine. Or you can drag it to your desktop or a Finder window. Behind the scenes an iCloud document is really just a file on your Mac with a path like ~/Library/Mobile Documents/com~apple~TextEdit/Documents/Foo.txt. I expected this to feel like a bigger change than it does. Instead it just feels like a simple default folder for each app’s files.
I dearly miss the keen insights that Wirt -- and Bruce Toback -- provided so freely, but I must say that I hadn't considered a direct comparison of file systems between Mountain Lion and MPE. This may be even more apt with the hidden-but-always-there POSIX interface.
Posted by: Glenn | Jul 25, 2012 7:15:28 PM
Thanks for the insights, Glenn. Understanding the power of Posix that's inside MPE is a new level of managing the filesystem, isn't it?
Posted by: Ron Seybold | Jul 25, 2012 7:21:52 PM
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