2022.06.03

Seagate press release acquisition of Maxtor
So this post is about logical file systems. Still, if there's a good metaphor, it's Seagate (who, by all information available to me, makes garbage hardware) acquiring Maxtor (who, by all information available to me, made great hardware).

Here's a brief history of user data storage, precipitated by an extremely frustrating experience with Google Drive. "History" isn't the right word. This is an ill-informed presumption of how things went and lacks any due diligence or regard for facts. But I'm pretty sure it's accurate.
Storage v1: file manager

Windows 95 file manager icon

In the beginning, there was File Manager. Well, obviously, this wasn't the beginning. But it was the beginning for mass market computer use. And if you want to rewind to *nix and DOS, they were what File Manager represented graphically.

File Manager let you see everything on your hard drive, displayed as branches and leaves on a tree. There was no magic and it was as organized and unambiguous as the user desired. Well, okay, filesystems under the hood are kind of magical.

But, probably, a bunch of users lost track of where their documents lived in this tree. Or they deleted a Windows configuration file. Or something.
Storage v1.5: "My Documents"

Microsoft Bob

Microsoft seemingly addressed the partition between user data and everything else by aggressively pushing its users into the "My Documents" sandbox. I'm not using airquotes here, it's necessary to enclose "My Documents" in quotes because it contains whitespace.

The execution may be mediocre and something that changed again and again, but it was a good idea. "My Documents" mirrored the use of ~/ on other operating systems, but was named to annoy anyone who thinks filepaths shouldn't have whitespace or capitalization (in a case-insensitive filesystem).

It also encouraged the user to adopt Microsoft's ever-shifting paradigm of sorting things into "My Music", "My Pictures", "My Videos", Downloads (no my or quotes) and so forth.

Depressingly, at least one Linux distro followed suit by creating similar subdirectories in ~/.
Storage v2.0: the application is dead, long live the app

Android app storage Firefox Nightly

"Hey", some hypothetical person said, "people only access files via apps, right?"

And crucially, "I (the product manager) only want people playing music in my music app or viewing photos in my photo app. So let's shift the paradigm. Instead of having our killer apps access files on the computer, let's put the files in the app."

And so user content was moved to the fiefdom of the software that created/downloaded it. In most cases, the data could be accessed traditionally via the filesystem, but not easily. To whit:

C:\"Program Files"\steam\userdata\36942016\760\remote\780290\screenshots

And so everyone that grows up using only phones and tablets thinks of photos as something in Instagram, rather than a jpg that Instagram can access.
Storage v3.0: data as a service


From a user perspective, the cloud is just app data that will survive if you drop your phone in the toilet. It's persistent as long as you have mobile/wifi bars and a subscription. Access to user is dependent on the front end app, often taking the form of search and/or a timeline. The cloud tells users that it can organize their data based on the meta information, so just sync everything.
You were talking about Google drive?

Google drive file count directory UI fails

Ah yes.

I wanted to back up Jes's shared drive of Danielle photos. Downloading them isn't too bad, Google zips them and lets you download the files as one or more archives. To verify I got all of the files, I wanted to compare the number of local files to remote files for each directory. Obviously this wasn't a problem on my local file browser but it wasn't so easy on Google Drive. The directory details view that I expected (and searched for) didn't seem to exist.

I looked for answers. The suggestion I found was to go through the motions of sharing the directory with someone, the share confirmation would ask if you wanted to "Share ### files". They must have changed it because when I tried it just said "Share files" or something nonspecific.

The only way I found to count the files in a Google Drive directory:
  1. Browse to the directory.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom. This isn't straightforward for anything with more than a few files; the list lazy loads. So you have to hold the bottom of the scroll bar until the "..." goes away.
  3. Select all and look for the toast that briefly appears.
But this was using a browser. I'm sure there's a gdrive desktop app. I should have used that to sync to local. Then sent it to the USB backup drives using the Western Digital app. Or just left everything in the cloud.