Moving open files

Kim Goldenberg kgoldenberg at
Tue Jul 8 18:03:53 UTC 2008

Dotan Cohen wrote:
> 2008/7/8 Kim Goldenberg <kgoldenberg at>:
>>> There is no secretary. The user is the only one using his computer.
>>> Adding a different Alice or Bob for each program in these analogies
>>> will not make things any different. _I_ understand how things work.
>>> The non-CS user does not. So far as he is concerned, he is the only
>>> one in the office.
>> But he is not; he has let a computer into his office. It only does what he
>> tells it, but it is very simple-minded in that. He tried to get it to do two
>> things at once and it both succeeded and failed. Some of that was aided and
>> abetted by himself for not knowing the consequences of his instructions.
> The computer _is_ the office in this case. And he is the only one using it.

People seem to forget that having a computer is just like having a staff 
of people to do you bidding for you. Thirty years ago you would have a 
real, live secretary or office manager doing the same things you now 
have your computer do. Sometimes they would protect you from such things 
as happened to the file, other times, not.

The programs on the computer are doing this for him, and he told them, 
albeit unknowingly, contradictory instructions: Open the file in this 
folder (Desktop?), and make these changes; while you are doing that, 
move the file to another folder. Then save the file and then delete all 
the extraneous files in Desktop. The problem came in that the program 
making the changes (OOo) and the program moving and deleting the files 
(Nautilus?) are not designed to communicate this information with each 
other, and the "office manager" didn't help with that.

He could have saved the file to its new location or done a better check 
before he deleted the extraneous files, but did neither, because he 
assumed the computer would do it without him telling it to. Linux 
doesn't hold your hand that way; Windows does, and has many problems 
with that (the aforementioned reboot requirements that Linux doesn't have).

To me it's still no different than not telling the secretary that you 
moved the files. The user has to take more responsibility with Linux, 
and understand the repercussions of what is done. I've been in the same 
boat many times (seems like every time I update OS versions I end up 
deleting files I didn't mean to).

There are pros and cons of each approach, and for every person like your 
user, there are others who complain bitterly that they can't do just 
what he actually did (without the lost files, of course).

I don't mean that what happened to your user wasn't a shame or a 
problem, but as more than one person has said, the three things to 
remember are Backup, Backup and Backup. Some people just shouldn't have 
the right to use Delete, just Move to Trash.

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