mapping files to objects

Luca Pisati
Tue, 06 May 1997 14:28:49 -0700

Mike McDonald wrote:
> >To:
> >Subject: mapping files to objects
> >From:
> >Date: Tue, 06 May 1997 11:40:11 -0500
> >
> >--==_Exmh_417284588P
> >Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> >
> >In the interest of getting something that is (a) implementable on top of the
> >Unix file system and (b) has semantics that can be expanded to The Right
> >Thing (tm) later, I'd like to make a modest proposal (no, we aren't going to
> >eat our young).
> >
> >1) Let's take the CL path objects and add the notion of a file type to the
> >object.  This file type would *not* appear in the printed representation of
> >the path, but would instead by set and read by accessor functions.  This type
> >could then be mapped into a MIME type or a MacOS style owner/type pair.
> >Initially, I thought it should be a MIME type, but then my stupidity passed
> >and I realized that it should be a CLOS class.  *duh*.  This class would have
> >a method for determining the MIME type or any other foreign typing system
> >necessary.
>   If pathname were a CLOS class, then one could subclass it instead of
> having fixed slots. For instance, the URL-pathname class could add the
> other 4 (I lost count) fields that it needs to keep track of all of
> the parts of a URL. The 6 normal components would still contain their
> normal contents, so any program that just deals with pathnames would
> have a chance of working.
> >2) Since a Unix file system doesn't have these semantics in it, let's define a
> >facility which allows one to define mappings between Unix paths and the above
> >defined classes.  A similar facility should be defined between MIME types and
> >classes.
>   Embedding or inferring type info from the name is a really, really
> bad idea. It's so error prone as to be useless. If you want to know
> the type of data in a file, look in the file!
> >3) It now becomes nearly trivial to write the function that I previously
> >proposed to map from a pathname to an object representing that file.
>   Not even close. What's a .tgz file? Is it a compressed file or a tar
> file or a compressed tar file? Kind of depends on what you want to do
> with it, doesn't it? What's a .l file? (It has multiple meanings on
> most Unix systems, partly due to us Lispers.)
>   A much better approach is the way the 'file' command does it. The
> Irix version, for instance is table driven to do some pattern
> matching. Typically, it looks at the first N characters to see if it
> is a particular string, like "%!" means it's a PostScript file.

Which is why, on my computer, the unix kernel file was displayed
by the file manager as an Alias image :)

Anything existing right now is mostly heuristic, and it should
be better to avoid it, storing right info somewhere else.

I like to have heuristic to get infor out of non-LispOs FS,
but I'd prefer to have a more "object-oriented" goal for LispOs.

>   Mike McDonald

Luca Pisati		       Voice:	 (310) 577-0518
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