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To control or not to control, that is the question

Jun 28, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

Last time out I ranted about installing a service on my new Linux (Fedora, in this case), a kindly reader pointed me to a blog rant  that appeared at just about the same time. This was complaining about the user unfriendliness of Gnome, the GUI designed and supported by Ximian (now Novell) for the Linux desktop. Specifically, it talks about default folder names and application actions on them – Jane User doesn’t want to have to remember folder navigation, she just wants to get a document (or a picture, or a song) with a minimum of hassle.

It isn’t just Linux that needs help, though. Windows users have many of the same problems. Especially networked Windows users. While many Windows applications do default to folders called “My Documents,” “My Pictures,” “My Music,” and savvy users understand they can create sub-folders within this structure to aid organization, why can’t applications specific to music or pictures continue with the metaphor? Why aren’t music titles stored as “cuts” on “platters” stored in “jukeboxes”? Why not automatically organize photos by albums or events? One reason that prevents this sort of activity is you, the network manager.

When users have “home” directories/folders on network storage, they’re usually given full rights to create, maintain and remove files from that area. But frequently network managers ask how they can allow full rights for files while preventing users from creating sub-folders. It’s a question I’ve never understood, although I’ve been given dozens of justifications for it.

I’m not looking for anarchy or a straight jacket here. You can suggest (even create) a template-like folder structure for new users and offer classes, seminars or tutorials, on efficient, electronic organization and storage.

The application vendors should do a better job of standardizing default storage locations and names (even as aliases) while still letting users override those choices and pick their own storage metaphor. This isn’t nuclear physics – everyone has experience organizing their “stuff” (socks, bills, books, DVDs) so why not a) let them do it and b) use familiar metaphors for it? Sounds like a plan.

Tip of the week

Speaking of plans, July used to be a month to plan your vacation for because very little was happening. This year, though, the Catalyst conference begins July 19, the Open Source conference starts on the 26th and LinuxWorld begins the week after that. I’m planning to be at all three. Maybe you should, too.