Persistent Inappeasable Mind

thoughts about personal information management, human-computer interaction, interfaces, software ...

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Last entry: 2014-07-29 21:18
332 entries written
138 comments have been made

Tuesday, July 29. 2014

PIM disaster: a loss of over 8000 photos due to a Dropbox bug

PIM & Research

This is Jan's story of how he lost over 8000 photos and videos on Dropbox due to a bug in the client. This is an abstract from the story:

"I moved there [Dropbox] all of my photos in order to be able to view/share them on-line and also to have them backed up. In April of this year, a hard drive in my laptop was running low on space so I decided to use the Dropbox’s Selective Sync feature to unsync some large directories from the laptop. ... I opened the Selective Sync dialog, unchecked directories called 2003, 2004, …, 2014 from the Photos folder ... After that, the Dropbox client froze and didn't show any sign of life for a couple of minutes, so I decided to kill it and restart it again. ... I thought, and unsynced them one by one instead. Everything worked well, the directories disappeared from the local hard drive, but they were still available on Dropbox’s website. ... I was looking for an old presentation but couldn't find it. The directory was there but it was empty. ... I contacted Dropbox support which then broke the news to me: there was a delete event of 8343 files ... I realised most of the missing files were my photos! All the directories were still in place but many of them were empty, as if Dropbox randomly deleted some files and left some others intact. I was devastated. All those memories and the effort with collecting and organizing the photos…. gone."

The blog post has all the correspondence with Dropbox as well.

So there was a bug in the software. But also, this user kept all his photos in one place only. Since this is not what a backup means (backup is storing things in several places) it seams that the user gradually developed a trusting relationship with the online cloud storage and depended on the service's backup. Unfortunately ...

There are many other such stories online:

and the list could go on.

Depending on and trusting just one service is a spell for disaster. And Dropbox hasn't got the best PR in the last few years! E.g.  Dropbox Security Bug Made Passwords Optional For Four Hours, Trusting the cloud storage - (Drop)Box breaking the confidentiality, etc.

Don't get me wrong here. I use Dropbox daily and have plenty of files there which would mean a disaster to loose. The point here is that we should have other backup options in place. If one fails the other can be of a relief!

Sunday, July 27. 2014

Taps 27: multiple taps over a round sink

Physical Interfaces

A very interesting idea in the public bathroom to make the implementation simpler and save space.



Sunday, July 20. 2014

FoamTrees: an animated tree map visualisation for large hierarchies

PIM & Research

There are many ways of visualising large hierarchies. I have put together a nice collection of these. Here's a new one: FoamTrees.

It is basically a zooming and animated tree map without rectangular layouts. It comes as a JavaScript library anyone can use.


Wednesday, July 16. 2014

You phone carries personal information: specifically your personal microbiome

PIM & Research

Mobile phones are used for lifelogging by millions worldwide. But apparently all phones are used for logging our personal microbiome as researchers @ University of Oregon point out in this paper. Microbiome is our own and unique set of micro organisms that can identify us as an individual. And researchers have hypothesized that the set of bacteria we leave on our touch screens will reflect the bacteria found on our fingers.

The main findings are:

  • 22% of the bacterial OTUs (operational taxonomic units) on the participants’ fingers were also on their phones. However, 82% of the the most common bacteria found in participants, those representing more than 0.1% of a single person’s dataset, were also found on their phones. Washing hands had no effect on the correlation between bacteria on the phone and that on subjects’ fingers.
  • The researchers tested whether the bacteria a phone resembled the microbes from its owner more than those from other people. The answer was, not surprisingly, yes; each participant’s index finger shared, on average, 5% more bacteria with that person’s phone than with others’ phones.
  • While all participants shared bacteria with their phones, there was a difference between the amount men shared and the amount women shared. Women seem to have more bacteria in common with their phones than men do. 

Figure 2: The degree of overlap between bacterial pools differed by gender and by whether participants washed their hands. (A) Thumbs and index fingers on the same person shared, on average, 32% of their OTUs, while each digit shared about 22% with their own phone. The two fingers had significantly more in common than either did with phones (p < 0.001 for both fingers; from paired t-tests comparing the 1st bar in (A) to the 2nd and 3rd, respectively). (B) Hand-washing made a marginal but insignificant difference in the resemblance of the two fingers (p = 0.126; comparing the 1st and 2nd bars in (B)), and no difference at all in the finger/phone connection (p = 0.7; comparing the 3rd and 4th bars in (B)); (C) Women’s fingers appeared to share more OTUs with their phones than men, but the difference was not significant (p = 0.128; comparing the 3rd and 4th bars in (C)) since both shared more OTUs, on average, with their own phones than with anyone else’s (Table 1).

From IT World:

The authors argue that our smartphones "hold untapped potential as personal microbiome sensors". They suggest that swabbing our phones could enable larger scale microbial studies which more invasive sampling methods might restrict. Combined with cheaper DNA sequencing technology, smartphones could also be used for things like easily screening health care workers for pathogens and to generally help us to better understand what kind of microbes we’re exchanging with our environment on a daily basis.

On the other hand, the thought of somebody being able to learn a lot about us by swabbing our smartphone screen may give people worried about privacy.

Sunday, July 13. 2014

Icebergs Organizes Your Files, Notes, Web Clippings, and More

PIM & Research

Icebergs is a webapp that lets you drag text, images, web ages, upload and save files, make and organize notes, and more. 

Sounds familiar? My own Task Information Collections (TIC):

TIC is not so slick as Icebergs and it does not store information to the cloud (yet). And while Icebergs visualises items in a grid TIC does it on a free spatial plane. Nevertheless, a lot of ideas behind TIC have been implemented in Icebergs. I feel flattered :)!