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ext4, application expectations and power management

Mar 17, 2009, 08:32 (0 Talkback[s])

"Asking the filesystem to truncate a file and then writing to it is an invitation to failure - there's clearly no way for it to intuit the correct answer here. In the end this has been avoided by avoiding delayed allocation when writing to a file that's just been truncated, so everything's fine.

"However, there's another case that also breaks. A common way of saving files is to open("foo.tmp"), write(), close() and then rename("foo.tmp", "foo"). The mindset here is that a crash will either result in foo.tmp being zero length, foo still being the original file or foo being your new data. The important aspect of this is that the desired behaviour of this code is that foo will contain either the original data or the new data. You may suffer data loss, but you won't suffer complete data loss - the application state will be consistent.

"When used with its (default) data=ordered journal option, ext3 provided these semantics. ext4 doesn't. Instead, if you want to ensure that your data doesn't get trampled, it's necessary to fsync() before closing in order to make sure it hits disk. Otherwise the rename can occur before the data is written, and you're back to a zero length file. ext4 doesn't make guarantees about whether data will be flushed before metadata is written."

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