A Yale professor’s invention, 10 years in the making, will soon find a home at Yale.
Scopeware, a program that indexes files on users’ computers, is the brainchild of Yale computer science professor David Gelernter. In 1997, Gelernter’s company, Mirror World Technologies, Inc., began developing the software outside Yale. Recently, Yale negotiated a contract to begin using Scopeware in administrative and academic departments. An end-user version will soon be available for interested Yale students as well.
Scopeware — which comes in both a server version and the PC version, called Vision — indexes and organizes over 150 document types, allowing users to more easily find information stored on their computers. The server-based version uses a Web interface, while Vision is a desktop application.
The software indexes all documents on a user’s PC, or shared documents on a server, so that users can find all documents related to a particular topic.
“It replaces the search capacity that comes with your Windows operating system,” said Arthur Hunt, Information Technology Services manager for Change Management for Administrative Systems. “It does it faster and provides better indexing capacity — It provides flexibility in your search.”
John Richardson, president of einfo Dynamics — the higher education reseller of Scopeware — said studies have found that over 80 percent of an organization’s data does not fit neatly into a database.
Yale has negotiated contracts with einfo Dynamics for both the server version and Vision, which Yale students and faculty will be able to purchase at a discounted price.
Richardson’s company will assist in the roll-out of the software on campus, helping departments with analysis, training and possible customization.
Richardson said so far the Office of Cooperative Research has “gone live” with the product, while other University departments — including ITS, the Office of the General Counsel and Yale libraries — are evaluating it for possible uses. Scopeware is currently in use at the U.S. Department of State, AT&T and Verizon, as well as several higher education institutions, he said.
Hunt said the decision to use Scopeware will have to be made by individual departments, particularly because departments will likely have to pay for the installation, in addition to the cost of the license. He said thus far, nobody is testing the software “in a serious way.”
Gelernter began developing the software over a decade ago while Mirror World Technologies — which shares a name with Gelernter’s book, “Mirror Worlds,” about networks in the future — commercialized the product.
“This really dates back 10 years ago now, when [Gelernter] really thought there was a better way of dealing with the file-and-folder metaphor,” Richardson said.
That this software would come from Gelernter is not surprising. In the past, the software guru has criticized the ubiquitous windows and files interfaces as outdated. He has said software for end-users should be more chronologically oriented. Richardson said the hierarchical system of folders and subfolders is unnatural for many people.
“A lot of us — remember time much better than we remember what folder we put things in,” Richardson said.
Charles Powell, director of Academic Media and Technology, said he has tried the public version of the software available on the Scopeware Web site.
“It’s very intriguing and could be very useful to some audiences, but right now it appears a little immature and just as telling, it is really only targeted for Windows users, which makes it far less useful in a heterogeneous environment like Yale,” Powell said.
Powell said the software has long-term potential, but he is not convinced it is ready for “general deployment.”
Gelernter is perhaps best known for his encounter with the Unabomber. His book, “Drawing Life,” is an account of his survival of the 1993 letter bomb he received from Ted Kaczynski. In the 1980s, Gelernter developed programming techniques that led to the development of the Linda programming language, which contributed to the later development of Java.