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Linux Patch Clears the Air For Use of Microsoft's FAT Filesystem

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the anything-you-can-do-i-can-do-better dept.

272

Ars Technica is reporting that a new kernel patch may provide a workaround to allow use of Microsoft's FAT file system on Linux without paying licensing fees. "Andrew Tridgell, one of the lead developers behind the Samba project, published a patch last week that will alter the behavior of the Linux FAT implementation so that it will not generate both short and long filenames. In situations where the total filename fits within the 11-character limit, the filesystem will generate only a short name. When the filename exceeds that length, it will only generate a long name and will populate the short name value with 11 invalid characters so that it is ignored by the operating system."

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272 comments

frist fat post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557161)

I rule

Who in their right mind would want to use FAT? (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557179)

Maybe, maybe for something like a thumb drive, but on a hard drive?

Or maybe I'm just scarred by microsoft's implementation of it...

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use FAT? (5, Insightful)

Tom9729 (1134127) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557363)

The reason that FAT is still around has more to do with compatibility than any kind of technical merit. Pretty much every version of Windows supports FAT, and most other operating systems can use it as well. I think most "smart" vendors have figured out that if they use FAT for their devices (music players, cameras, GPS units) then pretty much anyone will be able to use them. That's why it's important to have FAT support in Linux, no one is saying that you have to use it on your / partition though. :-)

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use FAT? (3, Informative)

croddy (659025) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557561)

when you're setting up your own filesystems, however... just use ntfs-3g and fs-driver. problems solved. just don't forget to use mke2fs -I 128

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use FAT? (1)

hamburgler007 (1420537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557851)

People who have a dualboot machine with windows on it, where they don't have the luxury of using ntfs.

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use FAT? (3, Informative)

noname444 (1182107) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557899)

Sometimes though, when you think you're being all smart, and you've formatted your USB-drive to FAT so you can use it easily in both Linux and windows. Then you start copying your DVD images or mkv / x264 movies onto the drive. 4 GB later: "out of disk space". "Huh? But this USB stick is like 16 GB! wait... DOH!"

The 4 GB file size limit can be a bit of a hassle at times.

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use FAT? (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558513)

This limit is the only thing preventing me from using FAT32 on all of my hard drives. The system drive of my main PC is FAT32 (small files).
Why would I want FAT32?
1) It has a second copy of FAT*
2) It is compatible with more operating systems.
3) It does not support permissions**.

* It is said, that NTFS is very reliable with its journal and things, however, there is only one copy of the MFT, so if your hard drive developed a bad sector there, you will lose some number of files. FAT has a second copy of the FAT, in the event of a bad sector you can just copy the remaining good copy over where the corrupted table was.
** I don't know how to tell NTFS that "hey, look, I am the only person using this computer so how about you let me do everything I want?" Being an administrator doesn't always work.

Oh well, at least NTFS supports 64KB cluster size and that size is compatible with every OS that is compatible with NTFS (unlike FAT where 32K is the max for compatibility).

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use FAT? (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557957)

And NTFS is not an alternative. If the mp3 player has a simple 8-bit CPU with 64K RAM, implementing NTFS is pretty much impossible, and anything else likely won't be readable from Windows. Besides, most common flash media (SD cards etc) use FAT,

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use FAT? (1)

Tom9729 (1134127) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558081)

Admittedly I don't know that much about file systems, but I think implementing any kind of journaling file system on a device like that (especially if it uses flash media) would be a bad idea. Going with the example of an mp3 player, 99% of the time the file system will only be used in a read-only way anyways so there really is no point in having anything fancy to keep track of writes in the event of an unexpected loss of power. :-)

Who in their right mind would want to use Ext3? (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557479)

FAT is needed to support embedded hardware that presents itself as a USB mass storage device to the host, or that has to talk to flash memory devices.

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use Ext3? (1)

ubersoldat2k7 (1557119) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557891)

ehm... you don't need to use FAT for USB mass storage devices or for any other kind of device, you could easily use anything else (actually all my pen drives have Ext3). The problem is that Windows (by default) only supports FAT and NTFS.

Re:Who in their right mind would want to use Ext3? (0, Flamebait)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558051)

Ok, I'll qualify that. If you want your product to nosedive, because the only people who're able to use it think never paying for anything and wearing rotating beanies are good ideas, then go ahead and use ExtWhatever. Otherwise, FAT is a prerequisite.

Can someone explain to me why this is important? (4, Interesting)

BumbaCLot (472046) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557183)

Is FAT used for anything other than USB drives?

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (0, Offtopic)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557257)

It's used for yo' momma.

Sorry, low-hanging fruit.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557435)

low-hanging fruit.

Much like yo momma's ass and titties.

Oh snap!

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (3, Informative)

daid303 (843777) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557287)

To allow USB drives, cameras, SD cards and more to work out of the box under Linux. With this patch you can distribute Linux without the fear of Microsoft suing you (like the did with TomTom)

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (4, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557289)

Is FAT used for anything other than USB drives?

You say that like that's a small thing.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (4, Funny)

AVee (557523) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557811)

Don't know about you, but I like my USB drives to be small things.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (4, Informative)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557339)

Media players. Hard drives, in computers where there are multiple OS's. Industrial equipment controllers. I bet you even some satellites use FAT.

It's ubiquitous because it's simple and until the NTFS drivers were fixed(read:not trashing your data), FAT was one of the only convenient formats for sharing data between Windows and Linux.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557647)

I found that for anything that could use NTFS, there is also an EXT2/EXT3 driver (that not only works better, but was more easily available earlier). It's just that a lot of Windows people don't think of EXT2.

My rule of thumb:
if the drive is under 120GB, I use FAT32, over, I use EXT2.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557831)

However, ext2 isn't that much better than FAT (no journal, for example) and the various Windows ext2 IFSes only work reasonably well in most circumstances - however, I did encounter situations where a certain Windows-IFS-volume combination wouldn't work reliably. Plus, NTFS has better compatibility than ext2 as there is no usable ext2 implementation for Mac OS.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28558193)

I second that, anything that's obvisouly linux-based and touts "NTFS support" can handle EXT2/3.

The last thing I tried was a Tvix Dvico m6500a, a media player/recorder that "requires" NTFS for recording.
It works perfectly well with Ext3.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (4, Interesting)

cowbutt (21077) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557833)

Hopefully, soon, we can start using UDF [wikipedia.org] instead of FAT. Cross-OS compatibility is pretty much there, though FAT's support is still the most broad.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558011)

I don't see any indication that UDF supports journaling or anything else to maintain filesystem integrity--is that the case? If this is true, I don't see how it will be suitable for general filesystem use....

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (1)

cowbutt (21077) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558431)

Um, FAT doesn't have those things either.

My point was that unlike FAT, UDF isn't a proprietary standard, but is nearly as widely supported, making it suitable for the same classes of devices as which currently use FAT.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (2, Insightful)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558487)

I don't see any indication that UDF supports journaling or anything else to maintain filesystem integrity--is that the case? If this is true, I don't see how it will be suitable for general filesystem use....

Yeah, but if it's to be used as a replacement for FAT...

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558451)

note however that anything older then vista do not have write support.

but its a interesting thought non the less...

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (1)

Simon Rowe (1206316) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557355)

Is FAT used for anything other than USB drives?

Dozens of devices use it. Cameras, GPS, if it has files most likely it uses FAT.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (3, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557447)

Are you honestly that dense? That's like asking if CD drives are used for anything other than CDs.

Flash drives have replaced floppies as the primary small rewritable data storage medium. Not supporting them is as egregious as not supporting DVDs, which incidentally have issues that are on sturdier legal ground.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (1)

Jake Griffin (1153451) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558089)

Are you honestly that dense? That's like asking if CD drives are used for anything other than CDs.

I'm sorry, but what else are CD drives used for? If it's used for DVDs, Blue-ray disks, or anything else, it's not a CD drive, it's a DVD drive, Blue-ray disk drive, or something by some other name, such as "combo drive." CD stands for "Compact Disk" which is not music specific. Unless you're talking about using it as a cupholder [snopes.com] ....

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (3, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557485)

Not much, but "USB Drives" covers a lot of devices. Most MP3 players and digital picture frames behave as USB drives, so do some satnav devices.

Re:Can someone explain to me why this is important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557937)

You may want to ask the North American population that one, as FAT is a lot more common in the North American population than say, the European population.

Patents and Trademarks (5, Informative)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557189)

When I read this my first impression, though admittedly not an informed one, was "you mean people pay to use FAT?" I wish patents were more like trademarks, where if you don't vigorously defend them and instead let them go for a while, you lose them and they become public domain. Wouldn't that be nice, to get rid of all these situations as well as all of the "submarine patents" in one fell swoop?

Re:Patents and Trademarks (5, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557265)

You get my support if you add in something about a requirement that it should be possible to build a working example of whatever you're patenting using the patent documentation(you know, so that patents actually serve their stated purpose).

Re:Patents and Trademarks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28558303)

You mean, like an enablement requirement [uspto.gov] ?

Maybe you're just not a person of ordinary skill in the art, eh?

Re:Patents and Trademarks (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557293)

Well, they're almost like that in the USA. You can't claim any damages that occurred between your becoming aware of infringement and filing suit. Fortunately, not many FAT patents are still valid. Patents last at most 20 years, so anything from the DOS days is gone. The relevant ones here were included with Windows 95. I presume MS filed them before releasing '95, possibly even before releasing the betas, so they should expire in the next few years.

Re:Patents and Trademarks (4, Interesting)

The Empiricist (854346) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557699)

You can't claim any damages that occurred between your becoming aware of infringement and filing suit.

Sure you can. You can claim damages for damages that occurred between your becoming aware of infringement and filing suit. However, the other side can raise laches [wilmerhale.com] as a defense. If you delayed unreasonably in taking action, then the judge might bar your claim to earlier damages.

What is reasonable and what is not? You can't look at the patent statute to find out, laches are a judicial remedy for inequitable conduct. Thus, you have to go through Federal Circuit cases to find cases that are most similar (and probably distinguishable given a particular set of facts).

It would probably get very complicated in case where a third-party has allegedly infringed for some time, but the patent owner sued (or countersued) a new alleged infringer based on recent conduct. If the patent owner did not plan on suing the third-party, then why is unfair to wait until the recent conduct before suing the new alleged infringer?

Re:Patents and Trademarks (4, Informative)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557321)

FAT is hardly a submarine patent. MS has sued MANY manufacturers over their use of FAT in electronic devices and most companies end up reaching a licensing agreement and the lawsuit is dropped.

Re:Patents and Trademarks (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557569)

FAT is hardly a submarine patent. MS has sued MANY manufacturers over their use of FAT in electronic devices and most companies end up reaching a licensing agreement and the lawsuit is dropped.

Thank you for correcting my ignorance on this matter.

Incidentally, the more I hear of things like this, the better I can understand why so many Europeans think it's absurd that the USA has software patents at all.

Re:Patents and Trademarks (2, Informative)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557871)

There are plenty European software patents; they just don't have any legal backing.

Re:Patents and Trademarks (2, Insightful)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558345)

Incidentally, the more I hear of things like this, the better I can understand why so many Europeans think it's absurd that the USA has software patents at all.

Seriously i hope distros ship dumbed down "us versions" of packages to avoid stupid software patents, because i sure as hell don't give a flying fuck about infringing this patent in the UK. Once it's clear that software patents are hurting US companies, it wont take long for SIGs in congress to sort the problem out, and given the current economic climate bullying the EU to be as retarded as the US (in this respect, we sure as hell already are in other areas) isn't an option.

Re:Patents and Trademarks (4, Informative)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557349)

Actually, patents expire 20 years from the filing date. This means that (A) they only last 20 years (with some possible term extension of a few years) and (B) "submarine" patents are basically a thing of the past.

Under the old law, patents expired 17 years from issue so you could keep an application going with continuations for 20 years at the PTO and still have a 17 year term. Now if you kept an app going that long, you would come out with zero term.

Re:Patents and Trademarks (1, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557413)

When I read this my first impression, though admittedly not an informed one, was "you mean people pay to use FAT?"

No they don't. At least, nobody I've ever heard of. Also, do US patents apply to imported software? Say, I download OpenBSD from [insert patent-free country here], then I use that to build my own product, am I infringing?

Re:Patents and Trademarks (4, Informative)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557821)

Yes, patents cover any imports. Also according to the statutes wording it is also a violation to manufacture, import, or distribute a kit composed of non-patented items if it violates a patent when assembled. So since the vendors have to include the source code, even if the code is compiled in such a way to avoid the patent the source itself would still be in violation of the patent statute. See US Code TITLE 35 PART III CHAPTER 28 S 271 (c). [cornell.edu]

Re:Patents and Trademarks (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557893)

FYI, we're dealing with
US#5,579,517
http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=cLAkAAAAEBAJ&dq=5579517

and
US#5,758,352
http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=bUohAAAAEBAJ&dq=5758352

issued in 1996 and 1998 respectively. (17 year expirations in 2013 and 2017, respectively.

Re:Patents and Trademarks (1)

Jake Griffin (1153451) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558127)

issued in 1996 and 1998 respectively. (17 year expirations in 2013 and 2017, respectively.

Math check...

Re:Patents and Trademarks (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558079)

I wish copyrights were like patents and expired after 20 years instead of the unconstitutionally unlimited time thay do now. If patents were like trademarks they would be worse than copyright and never expire.

Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (5, Interesting)

Ex-Linux-Fanboy (1311235) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557283)

As a long-time user of Linux who is currently using Microsoft Windows XP, the whole vfat (FAT with Win95 long file names) patent and how Microsoft has handled this patent makes me feel that maybe Microsoft is engaging in the same kind of monopolistic behavior that they engaged in when they destroyed Netscape in the 1990s.

I'm sure people know about Microsoft's patent violation lawsuit against TomTom; if you don't the Wikipedia is your friend [wikipedia.org] . What a lot of people don't know is that Microsoft made some changes to Vista so that you can no longer easily use an unpatented filesystem like ext2 (Linux's 1990s file system which nicely enough is supported in Windows with a couple of different 3rd [ext2fsd.com] party drivers [fs-driver.org] ).

For me, it seems very suspicious that Microsoft made some changes to Vista that make it very difficult to use filesystems not patented by Microsoft around the same time they used licenses for their filesystems as a revenue source.

I posted a blog about this back in March [blogspot.com] and to quote that blog entry:

it can be shown, with Vista, that Microsoft removed compatibility for non-patented filesystems, forcing people to license Microsoft's patents, not because the patents are novel, but because the patented filesystems must be used for interoperability purposes

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557345)

If the Windows Ext2 people updated the driver, theres nothing stopping you using Ext2 under Vista - I happily use the commercial HFS+ driver from MacDrive with no issues.

So, in short, it sounds like an implementation issue.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (5, Informative)

myxiplx (906307) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557617)

Actually, if you follow the links, it sounds like deliberate behaviour by Microsoft. If true Microsoft are asking for trouble with this. They change the behaviour for their own file system types, and generate an error for any other:

Quoting from the fsdriver.org site:

"Currently it is not possible to start a program on Vista if UAC is enabled and the program's executable is stored on an Ex2/Ext3 volume. An "invalid parameter" message box appears, but the program does not start.

UAC is the feature of Vista that prompts the user to elevate the user privileges to administrator level when necessary. UAC is enabled by default. It is not recommended to disable it.

The problem is caused by Vista's internals: There is some code that compares whether the name of the file system type is one of the following: "NTFS", "FAT", "FAT32", "CDFS", "NPFS", "MSFS" or "UDF". If there is a match, it is one of Microsoft's file system types and a lot of code is skipped in the Multiple UNC Provider (MUP) implementation of Vista. If the file system type is a third-party type, for example "Ext2", some code runs in the MUP of Vista that always generates an ERROR_INVALID_PARAMETER error status code due to a bug of Vista."

source: http://www.fs-driver.org/relnotes.html [fs-driver.org]

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28558013)

If the file system type is a third-party type, for example "Ext2", some code runs in the MUP of Vista that always generates an ERROR_INVALID_PARAMETER error status code due to a bug of Vista."

Bug. Right. It's a bug. Sure thing Microsoft.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558153)

Sounds like what they did with DR-DOS back in the Win 3.1 days. Truly, MS is deeply resistant to reform. They keep pulling the same crap year after year.

I'm betting the "unfortunate bug" is also tagged with "won't fix".

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (2, Interesting)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557597)

I was initially skeptical because of your abusive use of "unpatented" all over the place, as if this is solely about patents. You don't provide any clear links here, but 2 clicks away, I found this [fs-driver.org] :

The problem is caused by Vista's internals: There is some code that compares whether the name of the file system type is one of the following: "NTFS", "FAT", "FAT32", "CDFS", "NPFS", "MSFS" or "UDF". If there is a match, it is one of Microsoft's file system types and a lot of code is skipped in the Multiple UNC Provider (MUP) implementation of Vista. If the file system type is a third-party type, for example "Ext2", some code runs in the MUP of Vista that always generates an ERROR_INVALID_PARAMETER error status code due to a bug of Vista.

Bug or on purpose? Who knows.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (1)

FauxPasIII (75900) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558059)

> Bug or on purpose? Who knows.

When in doubt, always remember Bart's Second Law:

Any time a person or entity makes a "mistake" that puts extra money (or power) in their pocket, expect them to make that "mistake" again and again and again.

http://www.bartcop.com/bartslaw.htm [bartcop.com]

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (4, Insightful)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557627)

The bottom line is that Microsoft is using its monopoly position as an operating system vendor to force third parties to license trivial but patented VFAT technology that is only useful for interoperability.

If that isn't abuse of their monopoly, I don't know what is.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557805)

"If that isn't abuse of their monopoly, I don't know what is."

Perhaps you don't know what it is. If MS denied third parties a license, then you could make the case that there are abusing their position, but enforcing your patents and requiring a license fee, isn't abuse.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558189)

When it's coupled with a scheme to prevent patent-free filesystems from working on Windows, it certainly IS an abuse.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558315)

Windows has its file systems which isn't an abuse. I don't know whether there's an API for installing a foreign file system, but the lack of one isn't abuse either.

If you wanted to implement a file system on top of Windows, there's nothing to prevent you from doing so. It's not as if Windows uses AI to scan your code and displays an error message like "You are running a patent-free filesystem, application will close".

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (5, Informative)

croddy (659025) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557669)

ext2fsd and fs-driver both work on vista. and they'll both mount my ext3 filesystems, as long as i formatted them with the right inode size.

the issue you (eventually) link to basically says that all ext2/3 filesystems mounted on vista are the equivalent of noexec. i don't think it is accurate to describe that as a significant issue. i don't know many people who keep substantial quantities of windows executables on their linux drives. the permissions system on ext2/3 is totally wrong for windows anyway, so you'd never use it for, say, %ProgramFiles% or %SystemRoot%.

do not disable UAC.

the problem i have with vista's driver support is that on amd64 it requires them to be cryptographically signed by some sort of extortion outfit, or i have to press F8 F8 F8 F8 F8 F8 F8 F8 F8 F8 F8 up up enter every time i boot the system in order to get it to load the drivers i need.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (1)

Ex-Linux-Fanboy (1311235) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558099)

i don't know many people who keep substantial quantities of windows executables on their linux drives

This is a really bad idea. I tried running a Windows XP program on ext2 once. While the program would start up and run, it gave me obscure error messages whenever I tried to change its configuration. After a couple of hours of hair-pulling troubleshooting, I moved the program to my NTFS file system, and everything worked again.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558329)

Ext2/3 supports the use of xattrs that are perfectly adequate for storing ACLs and other such. In fact, however rarely it is used, that's how ACLs are supported in Linux. xattrs are also used to store SELinux data.

It is true enough that there probably aren't many windows .exes stored on ext2 other than for backup or sneakernet, but it does represent a needless limitation that appears to exist purely as an attempt to force 3rd parties to use MS's patented junk.

Re:Is Microsoft engaging in their 90s behavior? (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558031)

File systems are a core part of an OS. The Internet Explorer rulings only apply because the courts ruled that was a separate product. When you buy Windows, part of the cost is going towards the licences for them. If there was ever a court ruling saying they had to support rival file systems on their own OS it would open the floodgates for insane amounts of nuisance law suits from companies competing again ones with large market shares.

The patents (5, Informative)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557299)

Two of the patents are:
USPN 5,579,517 [uspto.gov] and USPN 5,758,352 [uspto.gov]

Claim 1 of the '517 patent reads:

1. In a computer system having a processor running an operating system and a memory means storing the operating system, a method comprising the computer-implemented steps of:

(a) storing in the memory means a first directory entry for a file wherein the first directory entry holds a short filename for the file, said short filename including at most a maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system;

(b) storing in the memory means a second directory entry for a the file wherein the second directory entry holds a long filename for the file and wherein the second directory entry includes an attributes field which may be set to make the second directory entry invisible to the operating system and the step of storing the second directory entry further comprises the step of setting the attributes field so that the second directory entry is invisible to the operating system, said long filename including more than the maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system; and

(c) accessing the first directory entry with the operating system.

Claim 1 of the '352 patent reads:

1. In a computer system having a storage, a directory service for accessing directory entries and a file system that uses the directory entries to access files, a method, comprising the computer-implemented steps of:

(a) creating a first directory entry for a file wherein the first directory holds a short filename for the file and the location of the file;

(b) creating a second directory entry for the file wherein the second directory entry holds at least one portion of a long filename having a fixed number of characters and a signature that identifies that the second directory entry holds a first portion of the long filename;

(c) storing the first directory entry and the second directory entry on the storage among the directory entries used by the directory service; (d) accessing the second directory entry by the directory service to access the file; and (e) creating and storing in the storage a sequence of at least one additional directory entry for holding a next sequential portion of the long filename.

It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court has to say about the scope of patent-eligible subject matter in the upcoming Bilski case. It will probably be a year or two before we get a decision.
http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2009/06/bilski.html [patentlyo.com]

Other Microsoft traps (0, Offtopic)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557303)

I wonder how long it will be before the FOSS community has to start writing patches for Mono to make it patent safe?

Re:Other Microsoft traps (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558115)

That depends on how Microsoft do in going back on their licensing offer in the standardisation process (making them available royalty-free without discrimination), which I think IBM and at least one other company also did. Either that or the problem will be in parts of System.Windows.Forms, at which point it is a two minute "patch" to delete the source tree and leave Mono just implementing the core and standardised part.

This seems like a good compromise (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557437)

So when the file can fit in 8.3, it is saved as such, and when it can't, the long file name is saved in the directory, but a corresponding short name is created with a bunch of bogus random garbage. TFA doesn't explain what happens with mixed-case 8.3 filenames (VFAT long names would be case-preserving, but it may not be a great idea to use mixed-case in 8.3 directory entries), and that would be interesting to know.

The only real problem I can see if you name stuff with long names (or maybe use mixed-case short names) and then try to use them with equipment old enough to only support 8.3 names, or equipment that only supports 8.3 names to avoid the VFAT patent.

Re:This seems like a good compromise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557747)

no case sensitivity for FAT/VFAT

the 80's called (3, Funny)

wardk (3037) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557449)

they want their obsolete file system back

Re:the 80's called (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557733)

Sure, FAT is obsolete, I wouldn't want it as my primary partition, but lets say I want to have a small partition to read/write on to store a few music files that are readable across OSes. I would more than likely have to use FAT because the others don't work with all OSes.

Re:the 80's called (2, Informative)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557955)

Come up with a replacement that allows reading and writing without any FS-specific actions to be taken by the user, has low administration overhead and has native first-class support by every operating system and we can talk about FAT being obsolete. Right now FAT32 is the most modern, most advanced file system in its class (the class of high-compatibility general-purpose filesystems, which consists entirely of FAT16 and FAT32).

A future bug (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557497)

If this patch is ever widely deployed, Microsoft will change their operating system to recognize and reject it. They won't admit to any intention even after the fact -- it was only a bug.

Re:A future bug (1)

pentalive (449155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557989)

If the user only writes short file names to the media, then it will look like any other
media with only short file names.

MSFT can't give out VFAT, but can give out C#/Mono (4, Interesting)

phoxix (161744) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557515)

One has to wonder if these are Microsoft's actions around something as simple as VFAT, why the f*** would we trust them with C# ??

What am I missing here ?

Will Groklaw one day be reporting about MSFT v. SPI ?

Re:MSFT can't give out VFAT, but can give out C#/M (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557661)

C# is an ECMA/ISO standard. Linux vfat drivers are reverse engineered.

Re:MSFT can't give out VFAT, but can give out C#/M (0, Flamebait)

rec9140 (732463) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558121)

Only portions of C# crud are ISO standards. The .netrash and other items are not, thus are infestations that need to be banned from linux.

Re:MSFT can't give out VFAT, but can give out C#/M (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28558217)

C# is an ECMA/ISO standard. Linux vfat drivers are reverse engineered.

So was RAMBUS [europa.eu] .

It's called a "patent ambush"

It's warm and I'm tired but I think it goes like this:

Step 1. Join standards committee and learn all there is to learn about competitors
Step 2. Patent something in such a way that you know your competitors infringe
Step 3. Leave standards committee so you're no longer held by its rules
Step 4. 15 years later ( 20 years), sue their pants off
Step 5. ??
Step 6. Profit!

Re:MSFT can't give out VFAT, but can give out C#/M (1)

_32nHz (1572893) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557921)

Patents cover independently derived solutions. Most of the c# patents probably cover Java anyway. MS also hold a host of patents related to HTML. I am not planning to stop using it till they sue me.

Re:MSFT can't give out VFAT, but can give out C#/M (1)

torrija (993870) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558311)

It may be an strategic choice from MS. Preventing people from use other filesystems will lock you to Windows. In the other hand, releasing a development kit to users for free (as in beer) would help them increase the user base, and thus selling more Windows copies. A better explanation here: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLetterV.html [joelonsoftware.com]

Good fix but (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557557)

It shouldn't have had to be done.
This patent really smells of anti-trust to me since the only good reason to use it is for compatibility with Microsoft's products.

So avoid Mono? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557651)

Hmm. So we jump through hoops to work around Microsoft IP for an obsolete decades old thing like FAT. What does that make Mono? A really really bad idea? A bug factory for future IP workaround and "you're sooo screwed" pain? A "here's an arm and a neck - twist either whenever you wish"? "Balmer, feudal lord of linux, we hereby place our lives and honor, and those of our descendants, into your hands, and those of your heirs"? "Linux - it's illegal (but Microsoft is turning a blind eye to it this week)"?

Does anyone seriously think that if at some future time, arm twisting manufacturers and lying to customers isn't sufficient, Microsoft won't fight us using IP?

Re:So avoid Mono? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557903)

"What does that make Mono? A really really bad idea?"

Not really because MS (like any patent-savvy corp) uses very broad language in it's patents. That means it's unlikely that Mono will be in more patent danger than any other significant software project (open or closed).

Re:So avoid Mono? (1)

pentalive (449155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557965)

Can't one have a Linux distribution without mono?

so, no it's not "linux -its illegal" but it may be "mono - it's illegal"

Re:So avoid Mono? (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558505)

Can't one have a Linux distribution without mono?

yes, very few programs use msjava.v2 (wouldn't want to infrindge any tradmarks by calling it mono), in fact very few distros ship with java and thats patent safe!

Re:So avoid Mono? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558365)

for an obsolete decades old thing like FAT.

      If it's so old, the patent will be expiring soon anyway, right? 2015 is what I hear. That's under 6 years from now - an eternity in computing years, but once it's gone it's gone.

In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28557665)

... they patented a workaround for their own broken design (!), used their monopoly power to force everyone into using it as well, and are suing people over that now. Damn, these people are smart!

Unrelatedly, doesn't anyone else find this part a little frightening: "The garbage string is generated with random bytes in a manner that is intended to minimize the risk of triggering that bug."

or heres a great idea (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557729)

we stop using proprietary filesystems from microsoft, stop making them less lethal to linux, and start making it easier for normal everyday people to stop using them too! a sanitizing program for thumb drives that converts your fat data to EXT perhaps?

Re:or heres a great idea (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557781)

MS made some changes to Vista to make it very very hard for a third party program to read/write to any non-MS partition. So who is going to make a cheap flash drive that only works on Linux, BSD and OS X? I would imagine the answer would be not very many.

Re:or heres a great idea (2, Insightful)

pentalive (449155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557929)

wouldn't the sanitizing program stand in violation of the patent?

Re:or heres a great idea (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558549)

nope it merely takes a raw data-dump of a pen-drive and converts tables in that data dump to inode addresses according to an algorithm of its choosing, in no way does it deal with any of your so called "filesystems"!

Re:or heres a great idea (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557981)

That will work exactly when Microsoft decides to make ext* a first-class filesystem for Windows and Apple decides to do the same for OS X. Until then you can use ext* all you want; I'll use a filesystem that means people besides me can mount my thumb drive.

I predict incompatabilities (3, Insightful)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557847)

This sounds dangerous to me. What if someone uses this to write to an SSD card that they plug into some cheap portable device (a media player for example) that doesn't implement the "standard" properly and gets confused by the data in the short filename when a long one is present? Or refuses to read half the files because it only likes short names (some cheap Chinese import MP3 players just use the short filename in displays) and half the files have names too long? The user won't blame their crap cheap little portable device they paid $3 for on eBay, they'll blame that there Linux thing because their copy of Windows can write things so the player understands.

It's time to show MS the power of *nix (1, Flamebait)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 4 years ago | (#28557861)

We need to fight back and stop fulfilling http requests from anything Microsoft. Hell even go deep enough to determin the OS. If you run MS, good luck using the web. Microsoft needs a smackdown, and there is enough of us out there that administer websites and such that we could have a huge impact. It's time to tell Microsoft, "free FAT or no web for you!"

Re:It's time to show MS the power of *nix (1)

thejynxed (831517) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558545)

Dear DigitalReverend,

I dare say sir, that you could do that. Microsoft, in turn, would have been given the valid excuse needed to reply as follows, "No Visual Studio, MS Office compatibility, filesystem compatibility, driver signing (they are already pushing to completely remove unsigned driver functionality from Windows), or networking compatibility (AKA kill SAMBA for good), cross/compatible DRM support, etc for you!"

Let's see what your average corporate tower full of PHBs say to you and your IT department then. I have a feeling you and your like-minded associates would soon be familiar faces at the unemployment office. This could be a good or bad thing, depending upon how much money you have squirreled away for just such an occasion. My suggestion would be to go take a nice long vacation somewhere warm and sunny while you consider your career change.

Your friend in (in)sanity,
thejynxed

P.S.-
Good luck reverse-engineering anything if they ever decide to encrypt their system files by default. Also, good luck filling those gaps with FOSS software that doesn't visually and functionally resemble an Introduction to C Programming 101 project from the 80's.

Have you ever tried UDF on a USB flash drive? (5, Informative)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558151)

I use FAT on my usb keys only because I want to be able to use them from Windows machines.
But in Windows Vista+ you can also format USB flash drives to UDF (you’ll have to use the command line FORMAT tool, the GUI frontend won’t show UDF as an option).
When formatted in UDF, the drive’s performance improves dramatically: on my usb key, untarring the linux kernel and then deleting it changed from taking a few hours to taking a few minutes.
UDF can be read/written under Linux and, unlike NTFS, it natively supports all UNIX features (including extended attributes), so for example you could boot Linux straight from a Windows-accessible USB drive without creating ext3 images on it, and without using userspace file system drivers.
So it could be a nice solution for Linux/Windows interoperability... but sadly Windows stops liking UDF file systems if Linux creates files on them (I don’t know what exactly makes Windows upset; when it happens, Windows’ CHKDSK says the file system is OK).

Bad idea (3, Insightful)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28558169)

This will break the myriad of read-only implementations out there that only use short names, which is a lot more than you'd think. This means this can't be enabled by default on your average Linux.

It might help TomTom and the like, but it's not a cure for the patented portions of FAT. It's just a hack that might help some specific implementors. Kudos to the kernel developers for doing their best, but the real solution is to get the bogus patents invalidated.

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