Let me first state that this topic is going to sound downright dorky, but it’s actually really cool (as any geek would agree). Second, it took me a bit of research, some code digesting and a couple app installs to actually grok this, but now that I do, I think it’s an amazingly powerful demonstration of future web technology. Anyway, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
First, FUSE is a Linux fanboy’s dream — it allows you to hook up your file manager to just about any “collection of stuff”. A germane example might be connecting your Linux computer with a Windows machine in order to read, write and delete files. A less obvious example might be hooking up the Mac Finder up to an RSS feed and treating it like a hard drive where each post represents individual files that you can copy, move and delete.
Not that you would, but you could.
And in fact, Amit Singh, who built MacFUSE, demonstrates that use case in this excellent video. If that doesn’t give you goose-pimples, well… what if you could create “true smart folders, where the folders’ contents are dynamically generated by querying Spotlight.” No? Hmm. Ok.
Well, I’ll leave with you with two examples that might start to shed some light on what’s so interesting about this technology and then follow up with another post that extrapolates on an idea I’ve mentioned before and where I see kind of technology heading (perhaps not in its current form but in a more polished state).
So, let’s say that you want convenient access to SSH storage on your Mac. Ok, no problem. Just install MacFUSE Core, restart, then install sshfs (both files are available here). Load up sshfs, connect to your remote host (for example, on TextDrive, you’d used something like nelson.textdrive.com), enter your password and sshfs’ll mount the remote drive on your desktop, which you can then browse as though it were a local drive — moving, copying, drag and dropping files. In fact, I used this trick to upload the photo in this post.
The second example is definitely not for the faint of heart (and honestly, I couldn’t really get it to work though it compiled and connected just fine). The goal is to enable you to mount your Gmail account on your desktop — which might start to reveal Google’s interest in developing FUSE (more on that later). (Oh, and for the record, gDisk already serves this purpose very well, FYI). So, take a look at the detailed instructions laid out by Jean-Matthieu and then crack open that command line. You’ll need some knowledge of compiling apps (and you’ll need Apple’s developer tools) but it’s still pretty cool to be able to type
mount -ovolname=bla -t gmailfs /usr/local/bin/gmailfs.py ~/gmailfs and have your Gmail account pop up on your desktop. Sort of.
Given this advance (and Amit’s demonstration of hooking into Picasa, an RSS feed, Gmail, Google Docs and Spotlight) it’s just a matter of time before we’re able to connect natively to remote web services, as we do today over FTP, AFS and Bonjour. I’ll elaborate on just what that might mean in my next post.