Time traveling applications

Jeremy Whiting jpwhiting at kde.org
Tue Jun 29 13:13:19 BST 2010


I like this idea a lot.  At my last job I worked on a tool called TrackBack
that automatically backed up files on every save and had a nifty restore
feature.  Towards the end of my time at that job I was tasked to write a
timeline view.  I implemented it as a slider with qgv showing a bar graph of
number of lines changed between each revision, it was not quite what the
boss expected (or not as usable as he wanted or something) so the idea was
dropped.  It looked basically like that zfs time slider Hans pointed out,
but had a bit more data to show visually (so one could see where the big
changes took place easily at a glance and view those revisions directly).

I think whatever is done here the usability folks should be involved,
showing time is not exactly the most intuitive thing to design in my

just my 2c,

On Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 5:24 AM, Hans Meine <hans_meine at gmx.net> wrote:

> On Tuesday 29 June 2010 11:40:16 John Tapsell wrote:
> >   It seems that quite a few applications have the potential to show
> > past information, and I'm thinking that it would be good to get a
> > consistent GUI for this sorted out earlier rather than later.
> Good idea!  While there'll probably not be a "one size fits all" solution,
> consistency may also be first approached via similarity.
> >   Consider a file manager showing the contents of a folder at an
> > earlier date.  Or Okular etc showing previous versions of a file using
> > the same technology.  (Whether that is an SCM or filesystem
> > snapshots).
> >
> >   In my particular case, System Activity (ctrl+esc thing) could get
> > process and system data for any previous time and date if "atop" is
> > installed.  (atop logs that info every 10 mins).  But I wouldn't know
> > how to expose this GUI wise.
> Did you ever see "Time Machine" from OS X?  At first sight, it might be
> pure
> eye-candy, but what it does is quite useful actually (all from the top of
> my
> head):
> 1) It moves a finder window to the screen center, blends out the rest of
> the
> screen and substitutes a space background -> indication that you're "time
> traveling"
> 2) You get many "shadow" finder windows stacked behind each other ->
> indication which points in time are available
> 3) You can select the point in time by either clicking on the window in the
> stack, or by using a timeline at the right screen border -> easy
> interaction,
> i.e. choosing the point in time
> Here's a review with some screenshots:
>  http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2007/10/mac-os-x-10-5.ars/14
> In summary, what you need is
> - a clear indication of *where in time you are*, and potentially
> - a very clear sign that you're in the past (the available options will
> most
> certainly differ!)
> - a clear indication of where you may go (in this context, time is probably
> not really continuous, but only certain snapshots are available)
> - interaction (forward/backward incrementally, and/or jump to a position)
> Since time is linear (does not fork, at least in most contexts), I think it
> is
> obvious that a visual depiction of the time axis makes sense.
> Also, Sun^H^H^HOracle's ZFS snapshot integration in Gnome is relevant:
>  http://blogs.sun.com/erwann/entry/zfs_on_the_desktop_zfs
> Have a nice day,
>   Hans
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