TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Aug 97 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 8
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

by Eric Gundrum

Intelligent Workspaces

Every few months I find myself in a situation where I have to move my workspace to another computer. The most recent occurrence was when I sent my powerbook in for repair. This activity reminded me yet again how poorly organized is the MacOS directory structure.

By workspace I mean all the software I use in my work. This is pretty much everything on my hard disk, but it shouldn't be. In an ideal world I could copy a bunch of folders to another computer (or just move their hard disk), tell the computer to use the newly copied workspace, and this other computer would suddenly behave exactly like the one I copied from. Seems sensible, doesn't it?

Enter the Real World

So, why doesn't this work in the real world? First, there is no concept of transportable workspace in the MacOS. The workspace is intimately tied to the System Folder of any given Mac. We customize our workspace by adding Control Panels, Extensions and other goodies to a System Folder. To make matters worse, third party software developers customize our workspace for us by adding their shared libraries, preference files and other items to the System Folder. One result of all this is that every System Folder is unique.

The most practical way to transport a workspace to another Mac is to copy the System Folder in addition to all the other files, but what if that System Folder is not configured for the new hardware? Every model Macintosh requires special resources provided by the Installer. Unless our transportable System Folder was created to run on every Macintosh, it probably wont run on any model other than the one it came from. Network settings are specific to a given hardware configuration, too: IP numbers are different, as are machine names, and possibly even network hardware (Ethernet or LocalTalk?). There are numerous other problems that make moving the System Folder difficult; I rather not have to touch it.

A Better Solution on the Way?

Imagine having a Workspace folder where applications can store preferences, shared libraries and other shared resources, all in a well organized hierarchy. It would also contain an Extensions folder where I can place my favorite software for customizing the operation and appearance of my workspace. The System Folder would remain untouched by third-party software and remain specific to the computer hardware. I could move my Workspace folder to any computer, tell that computer which workspace to use, and immediately have all my personal system tweaks, applications and documents available on the new computer. Such a workspace could even be made available over the network.

Does this begin to sound like the user account system of NEXTSTEP? NEXTSTEP offers some of the benefits of a transportable workspace, but at a high price: the host system must always be available to the client computer through the network. This requirement is unrealistic in our mobile computing environment; we just don't have enough bandwidth yet. I'd much rather carry a removable hard disk cartridge than launch my applications through an Internet T-1 connection. There also are many times when I have to supply my own computer, so I carry that along as well.

Making Workspaces a Reality

How can we make this happen? How can we graft the workspace concept onto the existing MacOS? How can we convince Apple to build Workspaces into a future OS? Unfortunately, it seems everyone and their brothers insist on placing their files in my System Folder. The first step is for software developers to begin using the FindFolder API with folder selectors for the Application Support, Shared Libraries, Preferences, and other special folders, and for them to stay out of the System Folder, Extensions and Control Panels folders as much as possible. Better yet, application developers can register their own shared library folder (and others) with the System and use FindFolder to access it. Then we users can move the "special" folders anyplace we want.

The next step is to get Apple to build the concept of workspace into the OS. They already have many of the pieces, but the Apple folks I've spoken with don't see the value of supporting multiple or transportable workspaces. I'm sure anyone who has managed shared access of many people to a limited number of computers will recognize the value of unique workspaces and locked System Folders. In fact, people in the institutional communities are already working on Web-based solutions to this problem.

The benefits of workspaces also affect individual users: imagine being able to store your workspace on a PC Card. Want to take a few documents home from work? Copy them to your workspace, pull the card from your office computer, and plug it in when you get home. Your home computer is immediately converted from your daughter's configuration to your work configuration. This same mechanism can be used for sharing portable computers (or desktops) in an office environment. No longer would people have to spend hours configuring a new machine to meet their needs: they just plug in their workspace.

This whole concept of workspace is just one small step to making computer easier to use. In recent years computers have become much more sophisticated, with ever more powerful processors and software to use them, but computers have not really become any easier to use. Many people spend several hours each week moving files around and otherwise organizing or cleaning up their computer file systems. Intelligent workspaces are another tool to help reduce the housekeeping chores of computer users. Now, if only we can convince Apple to make it.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

MacFamilyTree 8.2.5 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: modern, interactive, convenient and fast. Explore your family tree and your family history in a way generations of chroniclers before you would have loved.... Read more
Hopper Disassembler 4.3.2- - Binary disa...
Hopper Disassembler is a binary disassembler, decompiler, and debugger for 32- and 64-bit executables. It will let you disassemble any binary you want, and provide you all the information about its... Read more
GraphicConverter 10.5.1 - $39.95
GraphicConverter is an all-purpose image-editing program that can import 200 different graphic-based formats, edit the image, and export it to any of 80 available file formats. The high-end editing... Read more
Delicious Library 3.7 - Import, browse a...
Delicious Library allows you to import, browse, and share all your books, movies, music, and video games with Delicious Library. Run your very own library from your home or office using our... Read more
Adobe Animate CC 2017 18.0.0.107 - Anima...
Animate CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Flash Professional customer). Animate CC 2018 (was Flash CC) lets you... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2018 15.0 - Creat...
After Effects CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous After Effects customer). The new, more connected After Effects CC... Read more
Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 12.0.0 - Digi...
Premiere Pro CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Premiere Pro customer). Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 lets you edit... Read more
Alarm Clock Pro 10.3 - $19.95
Alarm Clock Pro isn't just an ordinary alarm clock. Use it to wake you up in the morning, send and compose e-mails, remind you of appointments, randomize the iTunes selection, control an internet... Read more
Adobe Lightroom 20170919-1412-ccb76bd] -...
Adobe Lightroom is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Lightroom 6 is also available for purchase as a... Read more
Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 22.0.0 - Profe...
Illustrator CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Illustrator customer). Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 is the industry... Read more

ICEY (Games)
ICEY 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ICEY is a 2D side-scrolling action game. As you follow the narrator's omnipresent voice, you will see through ICEY's eyes and learn the... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week -...
We've made it, folks. Another weekend is upon us. It's time to sit back and relax with the best new releases of the week. Puzzles, strategy RPGs, and arcade games abound this week. There's a lot of quality stuff to unpack this week, so let's hop... | Read more »
Wheels of Aurelia (Games)
Wheels of Aurelia 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander guide - ti...
Halcyon 6 is a well-loved indie RPG with stellar tactical combat and some pretty good writing, too. It's now landed on the App Store, so mobile fans, if you're itching for a good intergalactic adventure, here's your game. Being a strategy RPG, the... | Read more »
Game of Thrones: Conquest guide - how to...
Fans of base building games might be excited to know that yet another entry in the genre has materialized - Game of Thrones: Conquest. Yes, you can now join the many kingdoms of the famed book series, or create your own, as you try to conquer... | Read more »
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander (Games)
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander 1.4.2.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.4.2.0 (iTunes) Description: An epic space strategy RPG with base building, deep tactical combat, crew management, alien diplomacy,... | Read more »
Legacy of Discord celebrates its 1 year...
It’s been a thrilling first year for fans of Legacy of Discord, the stunning PvP dungeon-crawling ARPG from YOOZOO Games, and now it’s time to celebrate the game’s first anniversary. The developers are amping up the festivities with some exciting... | Read more »
3 reasons to play Thunder Armada - the n...
The bygone days of the Battleship board game might have past, but naval combat simulators still find an audience on mobile. Thunder Armada is Chinese developer Chyogames latest entry into the genre, drawing inspiration from the explosive exchanges... | Read more »
Experience a full 3D fantasy MMORPG, as...
Those hoping to sink their teeth into a meaty hack and slash RPG that encourages you to fight with others might want to check out EZFun’s new Eternity Guardians. Available to download for iOS and Android, Eternity Guardians is an MMORPG that lets... | Read more »
Warhammer Quest 2 (Games)
Warhammer Quest 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Dungeon adventures in the Warhammer World are back! | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save $100 on 13″ MacBook Airs, prices start a...
Adorama has 2017 13″ MacBook Airs on sale today for $100 off MSRP including free shipping. Adorama charges NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13″ 1.8GHz/128GB MacBook Air (MQD32LL/A): $899, $100 off MSRP... Read more
1.4GHz Mac mini available for $399, $100 off...
TigerDirect has the 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale today for $399 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Although currently out of stock,... Read more
21″ 2.3GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $100
MacMall has the 21″ 2.3GHz iMac (MMQA2LL/A) on sale today for $999 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
12″ iPad Pros on sale for $50 off MSRP, no ta...
Adorama has 12″ iPad Pros on sale today for $50 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 12″ 64GB iPad Pro: $749, save $50 – 12″ 256GB iPad Pro: $899, save $50... Read more
9″ iPads on sale for $30 off, starting at $29...
MacMall has 9″ iPads on sale for $30 off including free shipping: – 9″ 32GB iPad: $299 – 9″ 128GB iPad: $399 Read more
Apple restocks full line of refurbished 13″ M...
Apple has restocked a full line of Apple Certified Refurbished 2017 13″ MacBook Pros for $200-$300 off MSRP. A standard Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more
13″ 3.1GHz/256GB MacBook Pro on sale for $167...
Amazon has the 2017 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro on sale today for $121 off MSRP including free shipping: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXV2LL/A): $1678 $121 off MSRP Keep an... Read more
13″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $120 off M...
B&H Photo has 2017 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $120 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook... Read more
15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off M...
B&H Photo has 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MPTR2LL/A): $2249, $150... Read more
Roundup of Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs,...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2017 21″ and 27″ iMacs available starting at $1019 and ranging up to $350 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free... Read more

Jobs Board

Project Engineer, *Apple* Education Profess...
Project Engineer, Apple Education Professional Services Job Number: 113143353New York City, New York, United StatesPosted: Oct. 17, 2017Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Read more
Commerce Software Engineer, *Apple* Media P...
Commerce Software Engineer, Apple Media Products Job Number: 113092072New York City, New York, United StatesPosted: Oct. 19, 2017Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary With Read more
Engineering Manager, *Apple* Retail Enginee...
# Engineering Manager, Apple Retail Engineering Job Number: 58139948 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 20-Oct-2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Commerce Engineer, *Apple* Media Products -...
Commerce Engineer, Apple Media Products (New York City) Job Number: 113028813New York City, New York, United StatesPosted: Sep. 20, 2017Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.