Idea for a New Filesystem

Aug 23, 2007

Programmer Marc Perkel gave kernel developers something to think about with his proposal for a new filesystem.

Marc Perkel published his idea on developing filesystems in the Linux Kernel Mailing (lkml). He is more or less proposing to ditch previous approaches and redesign filesystems completely from scratch. Perkel based his proposal on the user's viewpoint, rather than that of the programmer's: this means a departure from a system of owners and groups and a move to complex permissions. He gives an example of a granular system of permissions: a user who lists a directory would only see the files for which they have permissions. The advantage of this would be various intermediate levels of users, rather than just root and everyone else.

A subscriber to the mailing list objects that this would cause file naming conflicts. If a user attempted to create a file with an existing name, because the user was unaware of the file, naming would be pot luck, and this was why programmers – and not users – developed filesystems.

Kernel developer Michael Tharp takes a similar view, pointing in particular to security issues. An attacker with write permissions for a "sticky" directory such as /tmp could discover files belonging to other users by trial and error. Tharp suggests reworking group and user permissions rather than starting from scratch, stating that there is some scope for changes to group permissions, which are particularly important for team work.

Israeli kernel programmer Yakov Lerner made a diplomatic contribution to the discussion saying that no matter how impromptu the proposal might be, the doors were open to experiments of any kind.

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