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From: Yitzhak Sapir (yitzhak.sapir_at_[hidden])
Date: 2006-08-22 10:15:34

Bronek Kozicki wrote:

> Yes and no - there are platform specific limtations that apply to
> any filesystem attached to the machine you run your program on,
> and there are also filesystem specific limitations. I have nothing
> against library enforcing platform specific limitations, however it
> should not try to enforce limitations that not always apply -
> instead just go and try to create the file, and report error
> (presumably via exception) if that fails.

It appears to me that the issue in our code is going to be solved by
using the boost portability checker rather than the boost native
checker. However, your statements in the last mail show some (in my
opinion) misunderstandings, and the discussion suggests that the boost
filesystem only goes halfway towards fulfilling its goals.

To start off, it could be understood from you that the reason question
marks or asterisks are not allowed is that they are problematic for the
filesystem but not the operating system. Looking at the invalid set of
characters in your URL -- "< > : " / \ |" it becomes quite clear that the
logic behind these is that they are reserved tokens in the command shell.
But, in fact, so is "question mark" or "asterisk." The NTFS filesystem
itself probably could care less if the filename has a question mark but
certain operating system utilities such as the command shell, the file
search dialog, or the FindFirstFile and related functions will not operate
properly if it could be allowed.

Furthermore, to quote one of the basic requirements of the boost::filesystem
Library as listed in:
"Interface smoothly with current C++ Standard Library input/output
facilities. For example, paths should work in std::basic_fstream

"Rationale: One of the most common uses of file system functionality
is to manipulate paths for eventual use in input/output operations.
Thus the need to interface smoothly with standard library I/O."

I can't see how "work" fits in with a constructor throwing an exception
because the path is invalid. Naturally, if no checker was used to
construct the boost::filesystem::path object, then the library safeguards
against this have been bypassed. But if the user provides the native
checker why shouldn't the library identify a problem such as an asterisk
or question mark inappropriately placed in the path? Furthermore, the
library identifies the need to work within the reality that "Some
operating systems allow file systems with different characteristics to
be "mounted" within a directory tree. Thus a ISO-9660 or Windows file
system may end up as a sub-tree of a POSIX directory tree."

If an operating system allows multiple filesystems, the boost filesystem
should identify and allow for this reality. In an ideal scenario, the boost
filesystem "native" checker will:
A) identify whether the path is legal for the operating system
B) identify which filesystem the path references
C) identify whether the path is legal for the referenced filesystem

Fulfilling (A) alone requires a user to provide himself the functionality
of (B) and (C). Simply hoping for an exception in the constructor of
fstream falls short of the stated goal of smooth interfacing with the
standard i/o library. Various scenarios can also be produced that show
shortcomings in such a method. For example, a mail system with a GUI
interface that stores mail in directories or files named according to the
name of the user. The GUI interface, when asked to create a new user,
should not permit creation of a username whose name is not valid in the
filesystem. But only if the user presses OK, should the filesystem be
expected to create the user file and if it exists ask whether the user
directory should be overwritten. There is a very wide pattern here that
is used in all sorts of applications, whether it is a firefox profile, an
IDE project name, or a mail directory or inbox file. The filesystem as it
exists now requires each one of these to write their own logic to handle
(B) and (C) above, whereas this should be expected of a purported all-
purpose "standard" filesystem library.

Yitzhak Sapir

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