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you want directories? really?
03-01-2014, 10:11 PM
Post: #1
you want directories? really?
I have run across several comments, or criticisms, about the Prime that basically state that there should be a directory tree structure for organizing programs and variables like the HP-48 to HP-50 (to name a few).

Directory trees are one of the biggest hassles I encounter on computer systems. The problem is that files (or objects like programs, variables, data, etc.) can be grouped and linked by many different attribute dimensions. While on a software engineering team several years ago, when ever we would start a new development project, it seemed like we could debate for days/weeks on how to organize the directory file structure for the new project. Should we organize it by module function? by subsystem? by revision? issue? author's pet? programmer genus or favorite food? And once we thought we figured out the perfect tree structure, exceptions would come along that challenge our system. "Shoot, that file could either go here, there, or thither." And someone would eventually break down the system anyway. Given enough time, personnel would erode the file system structure (entropy always increases).

The problem with trees in computer organizations is that they are flat and do not allow multiple attribute dimensions in linking its nodes. But using flat trees is how many file systems link files these days. Until the foundation file system does it some other way, I will always be faced with the dilemma on my computer of "where do I put that file?" Do I put it under receipts? financial statements? tax files? And then hope I'm consistent with all "similar" files. Perhaps flat trees are a result of the flat displays computer hardware before and now are constrained with (maybe when computer displays are true 3D and gesture controlled, someone will create a file system that is not as flat as now).

On my HP-48 to HP-50, I can "organize" programs and variables (data) into a directory tree. This is nice but it is easy to run into the same problems. And on a hand-held, mobile, and highly interactive device as a calculator (note that I did not use the word "computer"). When I want to pick up my calculator to do a quick calculation, or computation, hunting down the right branch of that tree is the last thing I want to do.

Now what about the HP Prime? The more I work with it, the more I like it the way it is. It has Apps at the base, each app can have programs/functions and variables associated with it. There can also be app independent programs and variables. There are no "sub-apps" or sub-directories to place objects (and lose them). The tree can not get too wild. Functions and variables attached to apps create an "object-oriented" structure that is more "real-world" or "hands-on". The objects are tools that are always within reach and I do not have to open a "sub-toolbox" (or "sub-sub-...-toolbox" to get to the tool I need right away. The menu system even organizes objects and their properties into a kind of dynamic tree structure but not too deep to be really annoying.

I like the way all the objects are right within reach on the app display or even in some menu within a few swipes of the finger tips. It is possible to have many apps on that display but then the problem is just a distance problem -- how much to swipe to get to the object. Then just select the object/tool for access to the rich functions it contributes. And after all, the Prime is supposed to be a calculator (a highly interactive computing device for those, likely small, mobile problems) and not a computer system (a device for computing or organizing, perhaps huge, amounts of data and providing means for reducing it to meaningful terms to a user). Here is much better hardware available for the latter thing.

Perhaps those who were stuck and use to a directory structure before need to shift their paradigm -- like programmers having to go from "structured" to "object-oriented" programming.

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03-01-2014, 10:51 PM
Post: #2
RE: you want directories? really?
I think some additional organising facility might be appropriate, depending on how much you can genuinely expect to store on a Prime. Perhaps a word tag approach. I can imagine the Apps display becoming rather cluttered without some additional structuring. I think apps as objects is a fair point.

Perhaps the dotted notation app.item could be used more thoroughly. I personally dislike the naked variables and would like to see them coralled in a deliberate group -- accessed through the menu, so no extra typing. I find the current system like the equivalent of a goto, making unintended references more likely. Then again, I don't really undestand why the predefined variables exist at all.
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03-01-2014, 11:14 PM
Post: #3
RE: you want directories? really?
The idea of directories born only when there is a lack of "something". I don't feel the need of a file system user publicly exposed in Windows Phone now but I certainly felt the necessity in the first months of that OS.

What is probably missing from the Prime is a way to group apps, not files and directories.

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03-04-2014, 09:58 PM
Post: #4
RE: you want directories? really?
Folders are false friends for me. First, you think they provide a possibility to manage the chaos but they are the reason for the mess. I sometimes really get angry when I have to navigate and and drill through my own folders on my notebook - what a waste of time every day. Sometimes I have no idea today where I have put the spreadsheet I updated yesterday.

I am using The Brain to organise my stuff. You are not forced into a hierarchical structure, it is more associative as our brain works like.

I personally don't need folders on the HP Prime. A simple plain list is often easier to use than a nested folder structure. The only "structure" I add at the program list is a bit silly but it works: I added dummy programms which are named like this:
A __________
B __________
C __________
..
Z __________
a __________
b __________
..
z __________

Then I chose the the option to sort the programs alphabetically.

Further, all my functions created in the CAS start with "fnc" in the beginning. So I added another dummy program named
fnc __________.

Then all CAS functions are sorted below this program and it looks like this:
...
f ___________
fnc ___________
fncBS (CAS)
fncFac (CAS)
fncFib (CAS)
fncInt (CAS)
...

I admit that my approach is not very sophisticated. But it is quite useful at the moment.

Dominik
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03-04-2014, 10:38 PM
Post: #5
RE: you want directories? really?
(03-04-2014 09:58 PM)Dominik Holenstein Wrote:  Folders are false friends for me. First, you think they provide a possibility to manage the chaos but they are the reason for the mess. I sometimes really get angry when I have to navigate and and drill through my own folders on my notebook - what a waste of time every day. Sometimes I have no idea today where I have put the spreadsheet I updated yesterday.

I am using The Brain to organise my stuff. You are not forced into a hierarchical structure, it is more associative as our brain works like.

I personally don't need folders on the HP Prime. A simple plain list is often easier to use than a nested folder structure. The only "structure" I add at the program list is a bit silly but it works: I added dummy programms which are named like this:
A __________
B __________
C __________
..
Z __________
a __________
b __________
..
z __________

Then I chose the the option to sort the programs alphabetically.

Further, all my functions created in the CAS start with "fnc" in the beginning. So I added another dummy program named
fnc __________.

Then all CAS functions are sorted below this program and it looks like this:
...
f ___________
fnc ___________
fncBS (CAS)
fncFac (CAS)
fncFib (CAS)
fncInt (CAS)
...

I admit that my approach is not very sophisticated. But it is quite useful at the moment.

Dominik

Are you doing real work over things with The brain? I can't imagine a medium-big software/engineering project without a fixed hierarchy, of course this is out the reach of the Prime or most tablets/Phones, so they basically are ok with a tag-based loose hierarchy or mind mapping.

I used some mind software while doing my thesis and they work really nice for fuzzy ideas, taking quick notes or so, but anything more objective than that is pointless because you end thinking too much in the nodes and relations, something that is not always natural.

Personally, I think Windows 8.1 (I prefered Win 7 search in Win 8.0 times) is an example of a very good (and new) approach to search perfection. Automatic non-folder explicit filesystem while in Modern apps (in the modern/'metro' UI) and normal folders in the desktop environment (with 2 versions of the search engine, one simplistic after taping win key and some text, and an advanced one with wildcards and complex conditions in the folder view).

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03-04-2014, 11:12 PM
Post: #6
RE: you want directories? really?
Yes I want directories! And I want documents! And I want tabs in documents!

I personally would favor an organizing system much like the labels in GMail (so that files can belong to several "directories"). Although this label approach would be my preference I think HP should just provide a simple well-proven directory based system. There is just too much they can fuck up about a label based system, and there are more important issues they should care about.
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03-05-2014, 06:12 AM
Post: #7
RE: you want directories? really?
I would use subdirectories for local backup of programs and data. You can easily delete or modify a program by mistake. If you are in the field and don't have access to your computer there is no chance to recover the functionality of the prime....
Some kind of write/delete protection could do the job or, maybe, there already is some concept I don't now?

When thinking about the apps. Storing different copies of app data (complete Variable set maybe) in a subtirectory of that app could be handy to switch between them. Just load a set and do calculations on that.

However I am aware that I am kind of trapped in old-style thinking. Discussions like this are really helpful.
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03-05-2014, 11:54 AM (This post was last modified: 03-05-2014 11:56 AM by HP67.)
Post: #8
RE: you want directories? really?
(03-04-2014 10:38 PM)eried Wrote:  I can't imagine a medium-big software/engineering project without a fixed hierarchy

Some sort of hierarchy is usually implied by the work at hand, but making that happen can also be at the human level rather than at the machine level. I work on a platform with a flat file system and we use naming conventions to organize things. I don't know what you consider medium-big but there are certainly many very large projects done without (and well-before) UNIX or Windows-style filesystems.

OTOH (and I am not a Prime owner) I do like the HP 48's directories. It helps me organize things more quickly than most other ways I could think of, given that it's a calculator. On a machine with a full-size qwerty keyboard I wouldn't like having a directory tree to deal with but on a small device I agree with what I think you are saying, it's nice having a directory tree.

I don't know that it's harder to find things in either type of file system as long as the system has good search and find tools or if you can write them yourself.

(03-05-2014 06:12 AM)Angus Wrote:  I would use subdirectories for local backup of programs and data. You can easily delete or modify a program by mistake.

Yes. I would have liked the ability to make a subdirectory read-only on the HP 48.

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03-06-2014, 03:27 AM
Post: #9
RE: you want directories? really?
(03-04-2014 09:58 PM)Dominik Holenstein Wrote:  I am using The Brain to organise my stuff. You are not forced into a hierarchical structure, it is more associative as our brain works like.

Thanks for that referral, Dominik. I downloaded the application and watched a couple of the tutorial videos. I like that it is very graphical and that I can cross-link multiple thoughts (objects). I'll have to play with this new thing but I can see that it may replace all the "sticky" notes on my monitor (electronic notes) that I use to organize various things like "things to do" but sometimes have to cross-link (with "software projects"), for example.

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03-27-2014, 08:21 AM (This post was last modified: 03-27-2014 02:33 PM by orcinus.)
Post: #10
RE: you want directories? really?
davetheguru Wrote:On my HP-48 to HP-50, I can "organize" programs and variables (data) into a directory tree

The key word here is can.
No one is forcing you to, but you can.

Any failure to organize your data in a way that's efficient and/or convenient (for you) is yours and yours alone.

On the other hand, forcing a flat structure on a user, without the ability to choose and organize at will, is manufacturer's failure, not user's. Hence, it's pretty clear that some form of hierarchical organization is superior than flat structure - is and always will be.
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03-27-2014, 10:38 AM
Post: #11
RE: you want directories? really?
Concur. Please don't dull my tools because sharp tools have been misused by someone somewhere.

- John
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03-28-2014, 12:48 AM
Post: #12
RE: you want directories? really?
But is a tree structure really optimal? Is it because of almost a generation of computers having a tree structure in a file system and our paradigm is constrained to that? Is there a better structure (perhaps based on how our brain works)?

Can the Prime's structure really be considered flat? Apps can have functions and variables with them. So it can be a tree but perhaps not as deep. (Call it a "bush"?).

If you allow many levels to a tree, will it allow for a more cluttered storage (more "dead wood")? Levels more than a few start to get humanly hard to manage don't they? And the Prime is just a calculator platform, not a mainframe computer that collect every email ever sent.

If it is common to have lots of apps at the "root" level on the Prime --such that it is a pain to swipe the window to the app of interest, perhaps a way of grouping them (providing another level) might be handy. Perhaps grouping app (objects) by class pages. But to help efficiency it may be handy too, to allow an app to belong to one or more classes (the classes can be category "keywords").

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03-28-2014, 01:27 AM
Post: #13
RE: you want directories? really?
Quote: Is it because of almost a generation of computers having a tree structure in a file system and our paradigm is constrained to that? Is there a better structure (perhaps based on how our brain works)?

The tree structure is pretty much ingrained in the way we do things, yes.
There have been attempts to shift to different paradigms, but i don't think any of them really caught on.

I'm rather clueless as far as neurosciences are concerned, but i'd say the world wide web is pretty much the closest one can get to the way our brain works, as far as information organization is concerned. I don't think that would work for a calculator.
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03-28-2014, 09:01 AM
Post: #14
RE: you want directories? really?
(03-28-2014 12:48 AM)davetheguru Wrote:  If it is common to have lots of apps at the "root" level on the Prime --such that it is a pain to swipe the window to the app of interest, perhaps a way of grouping them (providing another level) might be handy.

Just in case a reader might not know, you can arrange the apps icons any way you like (e.g. with your favorite ones in the top rows, so no swiping is necessary) by selecting "Fixed" icon sorting, and then dragging the icons around the screen. To drag an icon, press and hold it until arrows appear in its corners, then drag and drop it. It doesn't address this thread's topic, but it does address the "pain" mentioned in the quote above.

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