Sunday, 13 March 2011

File systems and operating systems

Most operating systems provide a file system, as a file system is an integral part of any modern operating system. Early microcomputer operating systems' only real task was file management — a fact reflected in their names (see DOS). Some early operating systems had a separate component for handling file systems which was called a disk operating system. On some microcomputers, the disk operating system was loaded separately from the rest of the operating system. On early operating systems, there was usually support for only one, native, unnamed file system; for example, CP/M supports only its own file system, which might be called "CP/M file system" if needed, but which didn't bear any official name at all.

Because of this, there needs to be an interface provided by the operating system software between the user and the file system. This interface can be textual (such as provided by a command line interface, such as the Unix shell, or OpenVMS DCL) or graphical (such as provided by a graphical user interface, such as file browsers). If graphical, the metaphor of the folder, containing documents, other files, and nested folders is often used (see also: directory and folder).
 Flat file systems

In a flat file system, there are no subdirectories—everything is stored at the same (root) level on the media, be it a hard disk, floppy disk, etc. While simple, this system rapidly becomes inefficient as the number of files grows, and makes it difficult for users to organize data into related groups.

Like many small systems before it, the original Apple Macintosh featured a flat file system, called Macintosh File System. Its version of Mac OS was unusual in that the file management software (Macintosh Finder) created the illusion of a partially hierarchical filing system on top of EMFS. This structure meant that every file on a disk had to have a unique name, even if it appeared to be in a separate folder. MFS was quickly replaced with Hierarchical File System, which supported real directories.

A recent addition to the flat file system family is Amazon's S3, a remote storage service, which is intentionally simplistic to allow users the ability to customize how their data is stored. The only constructs are buckets (imagine a disk drive of unlimited size) and objects (similar, but not identical to the standard concept of a file). Advanced file management is allowed by being able to use nearly any character (including '/') in the object's name, and the ability to select subsets of the bucket's content based on identical prefixes.
 File systems under Unix-like operating systems

Unix-like operating systems create a virtual file system, which makes all the files on all the devices appear to exist in a single hierarchy. This means,in those systems, there is one root directory, and every file existing on the system is located under it somewhere. Unix-like systems can use a RAM disk or network shared resource as its root directory.

Unix-like systems assign a device name to each device, but this is not how the files on that device are accessed. Instead, to gain access to files on another device, the operating system must first be informed where in the directory tree those files should appear. This process is called mounting a file system. For example, to access the files on a CD-ROM, one must tell the operating system "Take the file system from this CD-ROM and make it appear under such-and-such directory". The directory given to the operating system is called the mount point – it might, for example, be /media. The /media directory exists on many Unix systems (as specified in the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard) and is intended specifically for use as a mount point for removable media such as CDs, DVDs, USB drives or floppy disks. It may be empty, or it may contain subdirectories for mounting individual devices. Generally, only the administrator (i.e. root user) may authorize the mounting of file systems.

Unix-like operating systems often include software and tools that assist in the mounting process and provide it new functionality. Some of these strategies have been coined "auto-mounting" as a reflection of their purpose.

   1. In many situations, file systems other than the root need to be available as soon as the operating system has booted. All Unix-like systems therefore provide a facility for mounting file systems at boot time. System administrators define these file systems in the configuration file fstab (vfstab in Solaris), which also indicates options and mount points.
   2. In some situations, there is no need to mount certain file systems at boot time, although their use may be desired thereafter. There are some utilities for Unix-like systems that allow the mounting of predefined file systems upon demand.
   3. Removable media have become very common with microcomputer platforms. They allow programs and data to be transferred between machines without a physical connection. Common examples include USB flash drives, CD-ROMs, and DVDs. Utilities have therefore been developed to detect the presence and availability of a medium and then mount that medium without any user intervention.
   4. Progressive Unix-like systems have also introduced a concept called supermounting; see, for example, the Linux supermount-ng project. For example, a floppy disk that has been supermounted can be physically removed from the system. Under normal circumstances, the disk should have been synchronized and then unmounted before its removal. Provided synchronization has occurred, a different disk can be inserted into the drive. The system automatically notices that the disk has changed and updates the mount point contents to reflect the new medium. Similar functionality is found on Windows machines.
   5. An automounter will automatically mount a file system when a reference is made to the directory atop which it should be mounted. This is usually used for file systems on network servers, rather than relying on events such as the insertion of media, as would be appropriate for removable media.

 File systems under Linux

Linux supports many different file systems, but common choices for the system disk include the ext* family (such as ext2, ext3 and ext4), XFS, JFS, ReiserFS and btrfs.
 File systems under Solaris

The Sun Microsystems Solaris operating system in earlier releases defaulted to (non-journaled or non-logging) UFS for bootable and supplementary file systems. Solaris defaulted to, supported, and extended UFS.

Support for other file systems and significant enhancements were added over time, including Veritas Software Corp. (Journaling) VxFS, Sun Microsystems (Clustering) QFS, Sun Microsystems (Journaling) UFS, and Sun Microsystems (open source, poolable, 128 bit compressible, and error-correcting) ZFS.

Kernel extensions were added to Solaris to allow for bootable Veritas VxFS operation. Logging or Journaling was added to UFS in Sun's Solaris 7. Releases of Solaris 10, Solaris Express, OpenSolaris, and other open source variants of the Solaris operating system later supported bootable ZFS.

Logical Volume Management allows for spanning a file system across multiple devices for the purpose of adding redundancy, capacity, and/or throughput. Legacy environments in Solaris may use Solaris Volume Manager (formerly known as Solstice DiskSuite.) Multiple operating systems (including Solaris) may use Veritas Volume Manager. Modern Solaris based operating systems eclipse the need for Volume Management through leveraging virtual storage pools in ZFS.
 File systems under Mac OS X

Mac OS X uses a file system that it inherited from classic Mac OS called HFS Plus, sometimes called Mac OS Extended. HFS Plus is a metadata-rich and case preserving file system. Due to the Unix roots of Mac OS X, Unix permissions were added to HFS Plus. Later versions of HFS Plus added journaling to prevent corruption of the file system structure and introduced a number of optimizations to the allocation algorithms in an attempt to defragment files automatically without requiring an external defragmenter.

Filenames can be up to 255 characters. HFS Plus uses Unicode to store filenames. On Mac OS X, the filetype can come from the type code, stored in file's metadata, or the filename.

HFS Plus has three kinds of links: Unix-style hard links, Unix-style symbolic links and aliases. Aliases are designed to maintain a link to their original file even if they are moved or renamed; they are not interpreted by the file system itself, but by the File Manager code in userland.

Mac OS X also supports the UFS file system, derived from the BSD Unix Fast File System via NeXTSTEP. However, as of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), Mac OS X can no longer be installed on a UFS volume, nor can a pre-Leopard system installed on a UFS volume be upgraded to Leopard.[6]

Newer versions Mac OS X are capable of reading and writing to the legacy FAT file systems(16 & 32). They are capable of reading, but not writing to the NTFS file system. Third party software is still necessary to write to the NTFS file system under Snow Leopard 10.6.4.
 File systems under Plan 9 from Bell Labs

Plan 9 from Bell Labs was originally designed to extend some of Unix's good points, and to introduce some new ideas of its own while fixing the shortcomings of Unix.

With respect to file systems, the Unix system of treating things as files was continued, but in Plan 9, everything is treated as a file, and accessed as a file would be (i.e., no ioctl or mmap). Perhaps surprisingly, while the file interface is made universal it is also simplified considerably: symlinks, hard links and suid are made obsolete, and an atomic create/open operation is introduced. More importantly the set of file operations becomes well defined and subversions of this like ioctl are eliminated.

Secondly, the underlying 9P protocol was used to remove the difference between local and remote files (except for a possible difference in latency or in throughput). This has the advantage that a device or devices, represented by files, on a remote computer could be used as though it were the local computer's own device(s). This means that under Plan 9, multiple file servers provide access to devices, classing them as file systems. Servers for "synthetic" file systems can also run in user space bringing many of the advantages of micro kernel systems while maintaining the simplicity of the system.

Everything on a Plan 9 system has an abstraction as a file; networking, graphics, debugging, authentication, capabilities, encryption, and other services are accessed via I-O operations on file descriptors. For example, this allows the use of the IP stack of a gateway machine without need of NAT, or provides a network-transparent window system without the need of any extra code.

Another example: a Plan-9 application receives FTP service by opening an FTP site. The ftpfs server handles the open by essentially mounting the remote FTP site as part of the local file system. With ftpfs as an intermediary, the application can now use the usual file-system operations to access the FTP site as if it were part of the local file system. A further example is the mail system which uses file servers that synthesize virtual files and directories to represent a user mailbox as /mail/fs/mbox. The wikifs provides a file system interface to a wiki.

These file systems are organized with the help of private, per-process namespaces, allowing each process to have a different view of the many file systems that provide resources in a distributed system.

The Inferno operating system shares these concepts with Plan 9.
 File systems under Microsoft Windows
Directory listing in a Windows command shell

Windows makes use of the FAT and NTFS file systems.

Unlike many other operating systems, Windows uses a drive letter abstraction at the user level to distinguish one disk or partition from another. For example, the path C:\WINDOWS represents a directory WINDOWS on the partition represented by the letter C. The C drive is most commonly used for the primary hard disk partition, on which Windows is usually installed and from which it boots. This "tradition" has become so firmly ingrained that bugs came about in older applications which made assumptions that the drive that the operating system was installed on was C. The tradition of using "C" for the drive letter can be traced to MS-DOS, where the letters A and B were reserved for up to two floppy disk drives. This in turn derived from CP/M in the 1970s, and ultimately from IBM's CP/CMS of 1967.

Network drives may also be mapped to drive letters.

The File Allocation Table (FAT) filing system, supported by all versions of Microsoft Windows, was an evolution of that used in Microsoft's earlier operating system (MS-DOS which in turn was based on 86-DOS). FAT ultimately traces its roots back to the short-lived M-DOS project and Standalone disk BASIC before it. Over the years various features have been added to it, inspired by similar features found on file systems used by operating systems such as Unix.

Older versions of the FAT file system (FAT12 and FAT16) had file name length limits, a limit on the number of entries in the root directory of the file system and had restrictions on the maximum size of FAT-formatted disks or partitions. Specifically, FAT12 and FAT16 had a limit of 8 characters for the file name, and 3 characters for the extension (such as .exe). This is commonly referred to as the 8.3 filename limit. VFAT, which was an extension to FAT12 and FAT16 introduced in Windows NT 3.5 and subsequently included in Windows 95, allowed long file names (LFN).

FAT32 also addressed many of the limits in FAT12 and FAT16, but remains limited compared to NTFS.

exFAT (also known as FAT64) is the newest iteration of FAT, with certain advantages over NTFS with regards to file system overhead. exFAT is only compatible with newer Windows systems, such as Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 2008, Windows 7 and more recently, support has been added for WinXP.[7]

NTFS, introduced with the Windows NT operating system, allowed ACL-based permission control. Hard links, multiple file streams, attribute indexing, quota tracking, sparse files, encryption, compression, reparse points (directories working as mount-points for other file systems, symlinks, junctions, remote storage links) are also supported, though not all these features are well-documented.[citation needed]
 File systems under OpenVMS
Main article: Files-11
 File systems under MVS [IBM Mainframe]
Main article: MVS#MVS filesystem
 Other file systems

    * The Prospero File System is a file system based on the Virtual System Model.[clarification needed] The system was created by Dr. B. Clifford Neuman of the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.[8]
    * RSRE FLEX file system - written in ALGOL 68
    * The file system of the Michigan Terminal System (MTS) is interesting because: (i) it provides "line files" where record lengths and line numbers are associated as metadata with each record in the file, lines can be added, replaced, updated with the same or different length records, and deleted anywhere in the file without the need to read and rewrite the entire file; (ii) using program keys files may be shared or permitted to commands and programs in addition to users and groups; and (iii) there is a comprehensive file locking mechanism that protects both the file's data and its metadata.[

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