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Subject: Re: [boost] [filesystem] How to remove specific files from a directory?
From: Niall Douglas (s_sourceforge_at_[hidden])
Date: 2016-09-12 14:44:51

On 12 Sep 2016 at 7:51, eg wrote:

> > ... Windows may take until the next
> > reboot to delete a file, and until then it cannot be opened by
> > anybody.
> This is news to me. Do you have any links to documentation on this?

Short answer: as the Win32 docs for DeleteFile() says:

"The DeleteFile function marks a file for deletion on close.
Therefore, the file deletion does not occur until the last handle to
the file is closed [in the system]. Subsequent calls to CreateFile to
open the file fail with ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED."
vs.85%29.aspx. [square brackets stuff added by me]

Longer answer: the Windows NT kernel was originally the next edition
of the VAX VMS kernel, and was considered by many to have a set of
superior, if more conservative, design choices to the Unixes of the
day which ended up becoming POSIX. Many of the NT kernel APIs are
very similar to those of VMS as a result. One interesting feature of
the VMS filesystem was that when you deleted a file, the system went
off and securely scrubbed the contents before doing the deletion, a
process which could take considerable time. NTFS and Windows NT
inherited that behaviour, and it was furthermore considered valuable
for secure by design code to lock out use of a file being deleted
because it makes inode swapping tricks and other such security holes
on POSIX systems impossible on VMS and NT systems. NT absolutely
allows you to explicitly opt into POSIX semantics by renaming a file
before deletion as AFIO does, this leads to default more secure
semantics than the POSIX default behaviour. Ultimately of course the
ship has sailed, and POSIX is now the standard. NT reflects a
continuing objection to many design failures in POSIX especially
around the filesystem where POSIX has many deeply flawed design

As a result of the above behaviours, unfortunately the lion's share
of code out there written for Windows which deals with the filesystem
is simply wrong. It just happens to work most of the time and people
are too ignorant and/or don't care that it is racy and will cause
misoperation for some users. A lot of big famous open source projects
indeed refuse to fix incorrect code after a bug report because they
just don't believe it's a problem, mainly through not fully
understanding what files that can't be unlinked means for correct
filesystem code design. There is a group of dedicated AFIO repo
followers who have tried logging bugs about these bad design patterns
with various projects, and it's been quite amazing how little people
care that their code will always fail under the right conditions. But
in the end the file system has always been considered as unchanging
when programmers write code for it, thus leading to a large number of
race bugs and security holes caused by unconsidered concurrent third
party induced changes.

AFIO is intended to help programmers to avoid these sorts of issue
more easily than is possible with just the Boost and standard C++
library facilities where it is currently quite hard to write
completely bug free filesystem code without resorting to proprietary

Those wanting lots more detail may find my conference presentations
worth watching:

20150924 CppCon Racing the File System Workshop

20160421 ACCU Distributed Mutual Exclusion using Proposed Boost.AFIO

The third in the series is coming next week at CppCon.


ned Productions Limited Consulting

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