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

Tunnelblick 3.7.1a - GUI for OpenVPN.
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
Amazon Chime 4.3.5721 - Amazon-based com...
Amazon Chime is a communications service that transforms online meetings with a secure, easy-to-use application that you can trust. Amazon Chime works seamlessly across your devices so that you can... Read more
Posterino 3.3.7 - Create posters, collag...
Posterino offers enhanced customization and flexibility including a variety of new, stylish templates featuring grids of identical or odd-sized image boxes. You can customize the size and shape of... Read more
Airmail 3.2.9 - Powerful, minimal email...
Airmail is an mail client with fast performance and intuitive interaction. Support for iCloud, MS Exchange, Gmail, Google Apps, IMAP, POP3, Yahoo!, AOL, Outlook.com, Live.com. Airmail was designed... Read more
Arq 5.8.4 - Online backup to Google Driv...
Arq is super-easy online backup for Mac and Windows computers. Back up to your own cloud account (Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Cloud Storage, any S3-compatible server... Read more
Microsoft Remote Desktop 8.0.39 - Connec...
With Microsoft Remote Desktop, you can connect to a remote PC and your work resources from almost anywhere. Experience the power of Windows with RemoteFX in a Remote Desktop client designed to help... Read more
Arq 5.8.4 - Online backup to Google Driv...
Arq is super-easy online backup for Mac and Windows computers. Back up to your own cloud account (Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Cloud Storage, any S3-compatible server... Read more
Airmail 3.2.9 - Powerful, minimal email...
Airmail is an mail client with fast performance and intuitive interaction. Support for iCloud, MS Exchange, Gmail, Google Apps, IMAP, POP3, Yahoo!, AOL, Outlook.com, Live.com. Airmail was designed... Read more
Microsoft Remote Desktop 8.0.39 - Connec...
With Microsoft Remote Desktop, you can connect to a remote PC and your work resources from almost anywhere. Experience the power of Windows with RemoteFX in a Remote Desktop client designed to help... Read more
Posterino 3.3.7 - Create posters, collag...
Posterino offers enhanced customization and flexibility including a variety of new, stylish templates featuring grids of identical or odd-sized image boxes. You can customize the size and shape of... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Pokémon GO might be getting legendaries...
The long-awaited legendary Pokémon may soon be coming to Pokémon GO at long last. Data miners have already discovered that the legendary birds, Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos are already in the game, it’s just a matter of time. [Read more] | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
If you’ve got the Monday blues we have just the thing to cheer you up. The week is shaping up to be a spectacular one for sales. We’ve got a bunch of well-loved indie games at discounted prices this week along with a few that are a little more... | Read more »
Honor 8 Pro, a great choice for gamers
Honor is making strides to bring its brand to the forefront of mobile gaming with its latest phone, the Honor 8 Pro. The Pro sets itself apart from its predecessor, the Honor 8, with a host of premium updates that boost the device’s graphical and... | Read more »
The 4 best outdoor adventure apps
Now that we're well into the pleasant, warmer months, it's time to start making the most of the great outdoors. Spring and summer are ideal times for a bit of trekking or exploration. You don't have to go it alone, though. There are plenty of... | Read more »
Things 3 (Productivity)
Things 3 3.0.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Productivity Price: $7.99, Version: 3.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Meet the all-new Things! A complete rethinking of the original, award-winning task manager – with a perfect balance between... | Read more »
Oddball mash-up Arkanoid vs Space Invade...
In a move no one was really expecting, Square Enix has put forth an Arkanoid/Space Invaders mash-up aptly titled Arkanoid vs Space Invaders. The game launched today on both iOS and Android and the reviews are actually quite good. [Read more] | Read more »
Arkanoid vs Space Invaders (Games)
Arkanoid vs Space Invaders 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: LAUNCH SALE: GET THE GAME AT 20% OFF! Two of the most iconic classic games ever made meet in Arkanoid vs Space... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week
Things got off to a bit of a slow start this week, but as we steadily creep towards Friday a bunch of great games have started cropping up. If you're looking for a quality new release to play this weekend, we've got you covered. Here's a handy... | Read more »
No Stick Shooter (Games)
No Stick Shooter 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Happy Robot presents a fresh take on the classic retro-arcade shooters we all know and love. Featuring 30 levels of non-stop... | Read more »
Chroma Squad (Games)
Chroma Squad 1.0.85 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.85 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Tuesday deal: $200 off 27-inch Apple iMacs
Amazon has select 27″ iMacs on sale for $200 off MSRP, each including free shipping: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2099 $200 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac 5K: $1799 $200 off MSRP Keep an eye on our... Read more
Five To Six Million 10.5-inch iPad Pro Tablet...
Digitimes’ Siu Han and Joseph Tsai report that upstream supply chain shipments for Apple’s new 10.5-inch iPad Pro have been increasing, with monthly shipment volume expected to hit 600,000 units by... Read more
Georgia Tech Students Win Toyota and Net Impa...
Earlier this year, a team of students at Georgia Tech realized that there was a critical gap in transportation services for people who use wheelchairs, and wondered if the solution could be in the... Read more
13-inch 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro on sale...
Amazon has the 13″ 2.0GHz Space Gray non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro (MLL42LL/A) on sale for $1299.99 including free shipping. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s currently the lowest price available... Read more
Roundup of 15-inch MacBook Pro sale prices, m...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 15″ Apple Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro (MJLQ2LL/A) on sale for $1849 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $150 off MSRP. Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for $100 off MSRP, save...
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for $100 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 21″ 3.1GHz iMac 4K: $1399.99 $100 off MSRP - 21″ 2.8GHz iMac: $1199.99 $100 off... Read more
Groupon Survey Finds Families Will Spend One-...
With warmer weather finally arriving in most parts of the country and the school year winding down to a close, Groupon (http://www.groupon.com) asked 1,000 U.S. parents how much time their families... Read more
Panasonic Anounces Toughbook 33 2-in-1 Rugged...
Panasonic has announced the U.S. availability of the Panasonic Toughbook 33, claimed to be the first fully-rugged 2-in-1 detachable laptop that features a 3:2 display. Inspired by the hard-working... Read more
9-inch 32GB iPad Pros available for up to $10...
Amazon resellers are offering new 9″ 32GB iPad Pros for up to $101 off MSRP, starting at $498, including free shipping. Colors may be Space Gray, Silver, Gold, or Rose Gold, depending on the reseller... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Media Products - Commerce Engineerin...
Apple Media Products - Commerce Engineering Manager Job Number: 57037480 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Apr. 18, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Read more
Director *Apple* Platform, IS Data Manageme...
…a real difference. Come, shine with us! Astellas is announcing a Director Apple Platform, IS Data Management Lead opportunity in Northbrook, IL. Purpose & Scope: Read more
Director *Apple* ERP Integration Lead - Ast...
…make a real difference. Come, shine with us! Astellas is announcing a Director Apple ERP Integration Lead opportunity in Northbrook, IL. Purpose & Scope: This role Read more
Associate Director *Apple* Platform -- SAP...
…real difference. Come, shine with us! Astellas is announcing a Associate Director Apple Platform -- SAP Security, Risks and Controls Lead opportunity in Northbrook, Read more
Geek Squad *Apple* Master Consultation Agen...
**508241BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Apple Master Consultation Agent **Location Number:** 000149-Towson-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Geek Squad Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.