WinFS Mailbox II

Hi Everyone! Before I disappear for the holidays, I thought I’d dig through our inbox, the blog, and newsgroup, and answer a few more questions.

Q: Chris asks, “While it's good to have a common silo that all apps can easily use, it's seems a bit risky. Wouldn't some rogue app/spyware have an easier time getting to financial Quicken/Money data?
A: Even though all your data is in a single silo, all the data isn’t equally accessible. WinFS provides two data protection mechanisms. First, there is share-level security that controls access to your WinFS share. Second, there is item level security that supports NT compatible security descriptors. In order to access an item, the caller must be provisioned at the both share and the item. To manage this, WinFS will provide a rich API for security administration. Also in Vista there is the concept of “integrity level” for an application (Mandatory Integrity Control). Data can be configured to prevent lower integrity apps from accessing it. Simon (our security PM) will post more detailed description about this soon. 

It’s important to note that an application shouldn’t be using file format complexity as a primary security measure. For important information like bank account and credit card numbers, you could continue to store them in an encrypted and password-protected file. But, there’s no reason that this file couldn’t live in WinFS.

Applications may have some data they definitely want to lock away. WinFS, however, gives the application developer the opportunity to share the data he chooses to share. Today there is a good amount of information in a money file and not all of it necessarily needs to be private. For example, Money could have “payees” (i.e. someone you get a check from or write a check to) represented as WinFS contacts.

Q: Retla1 asks, “What’s the best way to get some data into WinFS?
A: This is a great question. After all, once you install WinFS, there isn’t that much to look at except an empty relational filesystem. :-) Thankfully, there are number of good ways to get data into your store. The first set of ways is to copy it in. Open up our awesome WinFS Shell Namespace Extension (in the Windows Explorer, click through My Computer->WinFS Stores->DefaultStore). Now just drag and drop some files in.

Or, if you prefer, use copy or xcopy. Our Win32 support is robust, so please try it out (note the Win32 path is a UNC path: “\\<machinename>\defaultstore\foo.doc”). You can also redirect your “My Documents” folder to your WinFS store. This would move that data into WinFS. Any application that respects Shell APIs will work fine. (If it doesn’t work, let us know.)

If you prefer, you can sync data into your store. Beta 1 came with some sample sync adapters. Open up StoreSpy (one of our unsupported tools) and import some stuff from Outlook. If you install WinFS on two computers, be sure to use Rave to share that data. 

Q: Lars asks, “Does WinFS look inside files (word, excel, pdf, etc.) like desktop search engines do?
A: Yes. When a file is stored in WinFS, its metadata will be extracted by type specific property handlers. Part of our Beta 2 work is to integrate this with the Windows Desktop Search handlers. The end result is that a Windows Desktop Search query will return WinFS and non-WinFS files. 

Q: Qearsa asked, “What about all the Shell improvements in Vista? How does WinFS fit into that?
A: Vista provides a rich user experience using indexing technology. By integrating into that technology and providing a Shell Namespace Extension, WinFS will provide this same experience to users. This means your Vista searches will have results from many stores including WinFS, NTFS and Outlook. In addition, WinFS will provide the opportunity for the new and compelling user experiences we discussed in earlier posts.  

Q: A few people asked, “Will Beta 1 run on 2003 or x64?
A: Nope, we’re not planning to re-release the Beta 1 to support any other platform. We’re currently evaluating what platforms our Beta 2 will support.

Q: A few people also asked, “Are there any new features in the Beta 1 refresh?
A: The re-release has the same functionality of the original, but runs on the RTM version of the .NET Framework 2.0.

Q: Timbu asks, “Desktop search applications already aggregate my data from different apps (like Outlook and Sharelook). Isn’t this ‘Unify’?
A: Desktop Search represents the first step in a truly unified store. While you can use desktop search to see different types of data from different silos in a result view, the data itself still resides in separate silos. This means it is hard to operate across all that data. For example, I can search for all my files that have “Shell Namespace Extension” and get a huge list of emails, docs, and other files. At this point, there are some operational limitations. For example, I can’t copy all that data and put it in a single folder or USB drive, burn it to CD, or even share it out. Desktop search is a great end user application, but it’s not a platform. WinFS is a platform with great programmer access through managed APIs targeting the unified and extensible data types.

One last question, but I need the answer from you: “What should I write about next?” I’ll like to start getting into more details and away from the high level stuff. :-) Please post some comments with suggestions and ideas.

Happy Holidays!

Author: Vijay Bangaru