Re: file metadata via fs API (was: [GIT PULL] Filesystem Information)

From: Linus Torvalds
Date: Tue Aug 11 2020 - 12:05:49 EST

On Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 8:30 AM Miklos Szeredi <miklos@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> What's the disadvantage of doing it with a single lookup WITH an enabling flag?
> It's definitely not going to break anything, so no backward
> compatibility issues whatsoever.

No backwards compatibility issues for existing programs, no.

But your suggestion is fundamentally ambiguous, and you most
definitely *can* hit that if people start using this in new programs.

Where does that "unified" pathname come from? It will be generated
from "base filename + metadata name" in user space, and

(a) the base filename might have double or triple slashes in it for
whatever reasons.

This is not some "made-up gotcha" thing - I see double slashes *all*
the time when we have things like Makefiles doing


and then people do "$(srctree)/". If you haven't seen that kind of
pattern where the pathname has two (or sometimes more!) slashes in the
middle, you've led a very sheltered life.

(b) even if the new user space were to think about that, and remove
those (hah! when have you ever seen user space do that?), as Al
mentioned, the user *filesystem* might have pathnames with double
slashes as part of symlinks.

So now we'd have to make sure that when we traverse symlinks, that
O_ALT gets cleared. Which means that it's not a unified namespace
after all, because you can't make symlinks point to metadata.

Or we'd retroactively change the semantics of a symlink, and that _is_
a backwards compatibility issue. Not with old software, no, but it
changes the meaning of old symlinks!

So no, I don't think a unified namespace ends up working.

And I say that as somebody who actually loves the concept. Ask Al: I
have a few times pushed for "let's allow directory behavior on regular
files", so that you could do things like a tar-filesystem, and access
the contents of a tar-file by just doing

cat my-file.tar/inside/the/archive.c

or similar.

Al has convinced me it's a horrible idea (and there you have a
non-ambiguous marker: the slash at the end of a pathname that
otherwise looks and acts as a non-directory)