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Linux Patch Clears the Air For Use of Microsoft's FAT Filesystem 272

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the anything-you-can-do-i-can-do-better dept.
Ars Technica is reporting that a new kernel patch may provide a workaround to allow use of Microsoft's FAT file system on Linux without paying licensing fees. "Andrew Tridgell, one of the lead developers behind the Samba project, published a patch last week that will alter the behavior of the Linux FAT implementation so that it will not generate both short and long filenames. In situations where the total filename fits within the 11-character limit, the filesystem will generate only a short name. When the filename exceeds that length, it will only generate a long name and will populate the short name value with 11 invalid characters so that it is ignored by the operating system."
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Linux Patch Clears the Air For Use of Microsoft's FAT Filesystem

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  • by BumbaCLot (472046) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:07AM (#28557183)

    Is FAT used for anything other than USB drives?

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:12AM (#28557265)

    You get my support if you add in something about a requirement that it should be possible to build a working example of whatever you're patenting using the patent documentation(you know, so that patents actually serve their stated purpose).

  • by Ex-Linux-Fanboy (1311235) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:13AM (#28557283) Homepage Journal

    As a long-time user of Linux who is currently using Microsoft Windows XP, the whole vfat (FAT with Win95 long file names) patent and how Microsoft has handled this patent makes me feel that maybe Microsoft is engaging in the same kind of monopolistic behavior that they engaged in when they destroyed Netscape in the 1990s.

    I'm sure people know about Microsoft's patent violation lawsuit against TomTom; if you don't the Wikipedia is your friend [wikipedia.org]. What a lot of people don't know is that Microsoft made some changes to Vista so that you can no longer easily use an unpatented filesystem like ext2 (Linux's 1990s file system which nicely enough is supported in Windows with a couple of different 3rd [ext2fsd.com] party drivers [fs-driver.org]).

    For me, it seems very suspicious that Microsoft made some changes to Vista that make it very difficult to use filesystems not patented by Microsoft around the same time they used licenses for their filesystems as a revenue source.

    I posted a blog about this back in March [blogspot.com] and to quote that blog entry:

    it can be shown, with Vista, that Microsoft removed compatibility for non-patented filesystems, forcing people to license Microsoft's patents, not because the patents are novel, but because the patented filesystems must be used for interoperability purposes

  • by Jurily (900488) <[jurily] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:21AM (#28557413)

    When I read this my first impression, though admittedly not an informed one, was "you mean people pay to use FAT?"

    No they don't. At least, nobody I've ever heard of. Also, do US patents apply to imported software? Say, I download OpenBSD from [insert patent-free country here], then I use that to build my own product, am I infringing?

  • by phoxix (161744) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:28AM (#28557515)
    One has to wonder if these are Microsoft's actions around something as simple as VFAT, why the f*** would we trust them with C# ??

    What am I missing here ?

    Will Groklaw one day be reporting about MSFT v. SPI ?

  • I was initially skeptical because of your abusive use of "unpatented" all over the place, as if this is solely about patents. You don't provide any clear links here, but 2 clicks away, I found this [fs-driver.org]:

    The problem is caused by Vista's internals: There is some code that compares whether the name of the file system type is one of the following: "NTFS", "FAT", "FAT32", "CDFS", "NPFS", "MSFS" or "UDF". If there is a match, it is one of Microsoft's file system types and a lot of code is skipped in the Multiple UNC Provider (MUP) implementation of Vista. If the file system type is a third-party type, for example "Ext2", some code runs in the MUP of Vista that always generates an ERROR_INVALID_PARAMETER error status code due to a bug of Vista.

    Bug or on purpose? Who knows.

  • by The Empiricist (854346) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:43AM (#28557699)

    You can't claim any damages that occurred between your becoming aware of infringement and filing suit.

    Sure you can. You can claim damages for damages that occurred between your becoming aware of infringement and filing suit. However, the other side can raise laches [wilmerhale.com] as a defense. If you delayed unreasonably in taking action, then the judge might bar your claim to earlier damages.

    What is reasonable and what is not? You can't look at the patent statute to find out, laches are a judicial remedy for inequitable conduct. Thus, you have to go through Federal Circuit cases to find cases that are most similar (and probably distinguishable given a particular set of facts).

    It would probably get very complicated in case where a third-party has allegedly infringed for some time, but the patent owner sued (or countersued) a new alleged infringer based on recent conduct. If the patent owner did not plan on suing the third-party, then why is unfair to wait until the recent conduct before suing the new alleged infringer?

  • by cowbutt (21077) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:52AM (#28557833) Journal
    Hopefully, soon, we can start using UDF [wikipedia.org] instead of FAT. Cross-OS compatibility is pretty much there, though FAT's support is still the most broad.
  • The poster to whom I originally replied mentioned cross-OS compatibility. I think the scope was pretty clear at that point.

    UDF is pretty well supported isn't it?

  • by BlackSash (1420967) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:57AM (#28569771)

    To which again the EU would say: "No government contracts, research and development budgets, market potential and tax breaks for YOU!" Mrs. Smit-Kroes is already on a roll, I don't think Microsoft would really appreciate the idea of losing a potential market of 100 million people anytime soon. Not to mention the *businesses* here, (yes, I'm in the EU) such as big banks, shell oil and large ventures on this side of the pond.

    So far only high fines have been imposed (of the fun "Pay now, argue about it later" variety, too), but if Microsoft really decides to "No Visual Studio, MS Office compatibility, filesystem compatibility, driver signing (they are already pushing to completely remove unsigned driver functionality from Windows), or networking compatibility (AKA kill SAMBA for good), cross/compatible DRM support, etc for you!" over here. They'd be out within the year.

    Hmmm... sounds like a pretty sweet deal, actually...

    Anyways, some people (including me) use linux, others like Macs and people like Windows, and to all of them I say "more power to you", but if any of them start to severely hamper our increasingly interconnected economy and culture: out you go.

    Take this for the rant that it is...

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