Putting Home Data Management into Perspective
CARNEGIE-MELLON UNIV PITTSBURGH PA DEPT OF ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING
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Distributed storage is coming home. An increasing number of home and personal electronic devices create, use, and display digitized forms of music, images, videos, as well as more conventional files e.g., financial records and contact lists. In-home networks enable these devices to communicate, and a variety of device-specific and datatype-specific tools are emerging. The transition to digital homes gives exciting new capabilities to users, but it also makes them responsible for administration tasks usually handled by dedicated professionals in other settings. It is unclear that traditional data management practices will work for normal people reluctant to put time into administration. This dissertation presents a number of studies of the way home users deal with their storage. One intriguing finding of these studies is that home users rarely organize and access their data via traditional folder-based naming - usually, they do so based on data attributes. Computing researchers have long talked about attribute-based data navigation, while continuing to use folder-based approaches. However, users of home and personal storage live it. Popular interfaces e.g., iTunes, iPhoto, and even drop-down lists of recently-opened Word documents allow users to navigate file collections via attributes like publisher-provided metadata, extracted keywords, and datetime. In contrast, the abstractions provided by filesystems and associated tools for managing files have remained tightly tied to namespaces built on folders. To correct the disconnect between semantic data access and folder-based replica management, this dissertation presents a new primitive that I call a view, as a replacement for the traditional volume abstraction. A view is a compact description of a set of files, expressed much like a search query, and a device on which that data should be stored.
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