The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cloud filesystems and permissions - not just user, but also user/local/device - DRM for users?

IMHO things like Dropbox and Google Disk (aka Docs) are just steps towards a web or cloud filesystem.

Frustrated by the deficiencies of to-do list and organizer apps, I am playing around with just using files - on one of these nascent cloud filesystems. Perhaps edited by hand.  (Hey, emacs runs on my android pda-like device, but I haven't tried org-mode.)  Perhaps with a nicer front end.

Frustrated because I really need the ability to do offine editing on my PDA.  Google Disk only allows offline viewing.  Dropbox... unclear... certainly allows files to be queued for upload when offline... but the first few text editors I tried just lose the data when you try to edit offline, and then save (of course, so many don't have an explicit save).

Perhaps I'll cobble something together with git or mercurial. After all, DVCS is just a Pootr Man's occasionally connected wide area network filesystem.

But, the above is just background to my post.

As I play around with Dropbox and Google Disk, I am

1) happy to see how easy they have made it to share things.  Share is a button as prominent as "Save File" used to be.

2) scared at how easy they have made it to share things by accident. I have several times hit Share by accident. (Especially since Google Chrome has oscillatory layout issues - buttons keep jumping around.)  In another app, MapMyHike, every time I save I am asked if I want my record to be private or public.  Doesn't seem to be a default setting so that I can disable the Public option. Several times I have saved as public by accident.  (I should not need to have to explain the security issues with recording your hikes publicly accessible.)

But more... playing around with Dropbox and Google Drive synching and offline access:

It occurs to me that permissions need to be not just by user.  Not just by user/role (as I have discussed elsewhere).  But also by user and locale, by user and device.

I.e. there is some stuff that I may want to have on a cloud filesystem that I may never want to have on my phone or PDA.

There is some stuff that I may want to have on a cloud filesystem, that I may want to access on my phonbe or PDA, but that I may never want to have cached or enabled for offline access.

This is, I suppose, just a role.  But instead of having to manage many roles, I might just want to say "Never save this file offline on a phone or PDA".  Simple.

Hmmm.... I want to say that this is just a capability.  But it isn't, is it?   It is rather like a capability modifier, something associated with the data, not the user.

In some ways, it is an application of DRM, except for the benefit of the user, not just the motion picture industry.