NOTE: These notes are by Allan Gottlieb, and are reproduced here, with superficial modifications, with his permission. "I" in this text generally refers to Prof. Gottlieb, except in regards to administrative matters.


================ Start Lecture #17 (Apr. 6) ================

Storing free blocks

There are basically two possibilities

  1. An in-memory bit map.
  2. Linked list with each free block pointing to next.

6.3.7 File System Performance

Buffer cache or block cache

An in-memory cache of disk blocks.

6.3.4: Shared files (links)

Hard Links

Start with an empty file system (i.e., just the root directory) and then execute:

cd /
mkdir /A; mkdir /B
touch /A/X; touch /B/Y

We have the situation shown on the right.

Note that names are on edges not nodes. When there are no multinamed files, it doesn't much matter.

Now execute

ln /B/Y /A/New
This gives the new diagram to the right.

At this point there are two equally valid name for the right hand yellow file, /B/Y and /A/New. The fact that /B/Y was created first is NOT detectable.


Assume Bob created /B and /B/Y and Alice created /A, /A/X, and /A/New. Later Bob tires of /B/Y and removes it by executing

rm /B/Y

The file /A/New is still fine (see third diagram on the right). But it is owned by Bob, who can't find it! If the system enforces quotas bob will likely be charged (as the owner), but he can neither find nor delete the file (since bob cannot unlink, i.e. remove, files from /A)

Since hard links are only permitted to files (not directories) the resulting file system is a dag (directed acyclic graph). That is, there are no directed cycles. We will now proceed to give away this useful property by studying symlinks, which can point to directories.

Symlinks

Again start with an empty file system and this time execute

cd /
mkdir /A; mkdir /B
touch /A/X; touch /B/Y
ln -s /B/Y /A/New

We now have an additional file /A/New, which is a symlink to /B/Y.

The bottom line is that, with a hard link, a new name is created that has equal status to the original name. This can cause some surprises (e.g., you create a link but I own the file). With a symbolic link a new file is created (owned by the creator naturally) that points to the original file.

Question: Consider the hard link setup above. If Bob removes /B/Y and then creates another /B/Y, what happens to /A/New?
Answer: Nothing. /A/New is still a file with the same contents as the original /B/Y.

Question: What about with a symlink?
Answer: /A/New becomes invalid and then valid again, this time pointing to the new /B/Y. (It can't point to the old /B/Y as that is completely gone.)

Note:

Shortcuts in windows contain more that symlinks in unix. In addition to the file name of the original file, they can contain arguments to pass to the file if it is executable. So a shortcut to

netscape.exe
can specify
netscape.exe //allan.ultra.nyu.edu/~gottlieb/courses/os/class-notes.html
End of Note

What about symlinking a directory?

cd /
mkdir /A; mkdir /B
touch /A/X; touch /B/Y
ln -s /B /A/New

Is there a file named /A/New/Y ?
Yes.

What happens if you execute cd /A/New/.. ?

What did I mean when I said the pictures made it all clear?
Answer: From the file system perspective it is clear. Not always so clear what programs will do.

Garbage Collection

Keep reference count for each file. When file is created or a hard link is created, increment reference count. When file is unlinked, decrement reference count. When reference count == 0, file may be garbage collected.

Since hard links are not allowed to directories, link structure can't be circular, so reference count works.

6.3.6: File System reliability

Bad blocks on disks

Not so much of a problem now. Disks are more reliable and, more importantly, disks take care of the bad blocks themselves. That is, there is no OS support needed to map out bad blocks. But if a block goes bad, the data is lost (not always).