Oct 2005

The Old vs the Different

Rosyna Keller writes an interesting blog entry about patching some bugs in Apple’s Safari and Preview applications. All good and well, but if you’re a veteran Unix hacker, the following statement will likely catch your eye:

In a perfect world paths would never be used in software. They’re evil.

It’s interesting coming from a Unix-centric background that there may be ways to refer to things on your filesystem with something—anything—other than a path (and inodes don’t really count). In a similar fashion to groupthink, the idea of paths as the Primary Way of locating files have been so ingrained into Unix culture that it’s quite hard to think about anything else.

The operating system world is so largely dominated by Unix and Windows these days that it’s hard to conceive of other ways of doing basic things like naming files. I greatly respect people like Hans Reiser who are trying to advance the state of computing, and have to fight tooth and nail with traditionalists to do so. (Note that I’m not saying tradition, nor Unix, is bad: it’s just not a good enough excuse to reject new ideas that might conflict with it.)

I wonder if Unix (or at least Linux) will ever have something as user-friendly as the Mac’s aliases to locate files? It is kind of nice that, you know, you can actually move a file to somewhere else on your disk and the application will automagically know where it is anyway. You’d think that in 30+ years of computing, we’d be able to do at least that by now.