23 March 2005

Copying files around

A good 80% of what I do - including data recovery - is copy files around. Pretty basic stuff for an OS, but I find Windows isn't as good at this as you'd expect it to be! Imagine how much nicer Windows would be if you could:
  • Drop a sick HD into a system, knowing it would be safe from the risk of Windows automatically trying to "fix" it, write to it (e.g. new SR subtree) or automatically handle material on it (risk of malware infecting the host)?
  • Do a bulk file operation and leave it unattended, without having to click through ad-hoc prompts for each of read-only, is-executable, system-file, etc. e.g. if you could pre-set those responses in a single dialog at the start?
  • Trust what you see to be directly connected to file system reality - names not "editorialized" a la name space, file sizes that don't vary when the same material is copied from one hard drive to another, a Properties that shows actual file names including 8.3, etc.?
  • Trust the OS to handle disk errors gracefully, without locking up, bogging down in retry loops, or trying to "fix" at-risk material on the fly?
Here's how I'd try to deliver the above...
  1. When a new HD is first discovered, and before anything is done with it, pop up a dialog that checkboxes whether the user wants to; integrate the HD into the system (enables SR if HD is not read-only), allow writes, and trust content. The last is required before any auto-handling of content (\Autorun.inf, desktop.ini, indexing services, persistent handlers, display intrafile icons etc.) is enabled.
  2. Add a new "Fast / Safe List View" that is is the fastest and safest way to list large numbers of directory entries in a given window size - perfect for bulk copy operations. This would have no (x,y) icon position info bloat (like existing List View), but also; no waiting for icons or other persistent handlers, no malware risks from these, and no problems with content lookahead bogging down on bad sectors. This view would be the default in Safe Mode and where the initial dialog box had marked a volume not to be integrated into the system, and/or to be considered unsafe for auto-content handling.
  3. Show actual file info as part of Properties of a file (or, in Fast / Safe List View, as tooltip), i.e. the raw info from the classic dir entry, with no metadata or content processing. LFN and 8.3 name (yes, there are times when you need both), path, size in bytes, etc.
  4. New confirmation dialog that pops up which checkboxes responses to read-only, is executable (hint: .DLLs are important parts of programs too), is system file, already exists and is newer, already exists and is older, etc. Resist the urge to make these "sticky" for future file operations (dangerous). Button to this dialog from the in-progress dialog, and from the initial "are you sure you want to delete?" dialog for deletions, where a "recycle bin" checkbox is also present.
If all of the above were in place, one could use Windows itself to do more tasks that currently require a mOS (maintenance Operating System).

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