Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 18th Sep 2012 21:45 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless Microsoft and RIM have announced that RIM has licensed Redmond's exFAT patents. The press release contains a ridiculous amount of hyperbole nonsense, and if you translate it into regular people speak, it basically comes down to RIM paying Microsoft protection money for stupid nonsensical software patents. Ridiculous articles like like this make it seem as if we're talking about patents on major technological breakthroughs, but don't be fooled: this is because for some inexplicable reason, we're using crappy FAT for SD cards.
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by pgquiles on Tue 18th Sep 2012 22:24 UTC
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The reason we are using FAT for SD cards is FAT consumes little space in metadata and is supported by all the major operating systems (Windows and Mac).

Don't forget most people (and OEMs) only moved from FAT32 (which is essentially FAT, only consuming a few more blocks for long names) to NTFS when hard disks became larger than 32 GB. I expected a similar move for SD cards but exFAT, which is lighter than NTFS, may make that different.

Problem is the exFAT driver on Linux is very very slow (and affected by patents), unless you purchase the commercial implementation by Tuxera.

Edited 2012-09-18 22:25 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: Metadata
by _txf_ on Tue 18th Sep 2012 22:38 in reply to "Metadata"
_txf_ Member since:

Problem is the exFAT driver on Linux is very very slow (and affected by patents), unless you purchase the commercial implementation by Tuxera.

Not just exFat. FAT is protected by patents as well, I imagine all Android/Linux makers got nastygrams with fat being some of the infringing patents.

ExFAT is basically just regular FAT with support for larger volumes and file sizes plus some minor features cribbed from more modern filesystems.

Edited 2012-09-18 22:39 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Metadata
by PieterGen on Tue 18th Sep 2012 22:42 in reply to "Metadata"
PieterGen Member since:

Most SD-cards never get exchanged between devices. So, why doesn't RIM simply choose a good an affordable (read: free) file system? ext3, etx4, reiser, jfs....

Why choose exFAT, which is a)worse and b)more expensive?

I mean, Microsoft isn't exactly known for state of the art filesystems, or did I miss something?

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Metadata
by pgquiles on Tue 18th Sep 2012 22:48 in reply to "RE: Metadata"
pgquiles Member since:

Because many people do extract their SD card from their camera or mobile phone and insert it into their laptops.

Try to do that with ext3 and you've got yourself into three problems:

- Not supported out-of-the box on Mac and Windows

- Even after installing a driver, the support is not that good. Unless you go for a commercial implementation, such as Paragon's, and that means royalties. And if you are going to pay royalties, well, wtf, pay them to Microsoft and get FAT, which does not neeed a driver!

- Some people will try the SD card on a computer where the driver is not installed, they will receive the infamous "unknown partition" message and bitch about having lost all their data

So essentially going for FAT or anything which is supported out of the box by Windows and works acceptably well is the best business decision. Props if it also works out of the box and reasonably well on Mac. Linux? No need to care about them.

Reply Parent Score: 7

RE[2]: Metadata
by MollyC on Tue 18th Sep 2012 22:55 in reply to "RE: Metadata"
MollyC Member since:

RIM likely did a cost-benefit analysis and found that paying a (very cheap, BTW) license fee for exFAT was the best option for them.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: Metadata
by UltraZelda64 on Wed 19th Sep 2012 01:44 in reply to "Metadata"
UltraZelda64 Member since:

Problem is, FAT gets incredibly inefficient the larger you make your partition. You would have to be nuts to actually want to format a 128GB drive or partition with FAT, and I wouldn't really want to make a FAT partition with a size of 64GB either. There's a reason Microsoft has placed an artificial limitation in Windows and FDISK versions starting with Windows 98 (though maybe excluding Windows ME): FAT SUCKS on larger volumes.

It's not just to get you over to NTFS (although that is no doubt the primary reason). But in this case, they're actually right: it does make more sense to use NTFS instead of FAT on larger partitions. Far more sense, in fact. Cluster sizes jump from 16K to 32K in volumes over 32GB, leading to more slack space, especially if you have a decent number of small files. The larger the partition is, the larger the file allocation table becomes, to the point of being a massive waste of space on its own. The FAT, quite literally, gets fat.

Only potential exception: flash memory devices. NTFS is not designed to work well with those and their finite number of writes per block. I guess if you're only going to put a bunch of large videos and similar files on it you might be fine, but watch out for another potential problem: FAT has a file size limit of 4GB. Sorry, no full-size DVD images here. [slack space] [partition/cluster sizes] [FAT sizes] [the whole site] [another site with some information]

I was forced at one point to use FAT32 to format one of my external hard drives to be able to use it to play music from while playing my Xbox 360. If I had the choice to use another file system, I would not have resisted at all. Even NTFS would have been nice--another Microsoft file system that is much faster, more efficient and more reliable with large drives, but the system would only accept FAT.

FAT just sucks, and exFAT is every bit as bad when it comes to these patents that Microsoft was granted and is enforcing. Not to mention its support outside of Windows before Vista sucks, as does its use as a general cross-platform-compatible "universal" file system.

Edited 2012-09-19 01:58 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Metadata
by Lobotomik on Wed 19th Sep 2012 05:19 in reply to "RE: Metadata"
Lobotomik Member since:

Not that I think that FAT or exFAT is anything other than a POS, but who cares about cluster sizes of 32K when the files are mostly going to be media files a couple megs long (pics or songs)?

Reply Parent Score: 3