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Microsoft

Microsoft Expands exFAT Multimedia Licensing 181

Posted by timothy
from the exfat-is-not-skinny dept.
alphadogg writes "Microsoft Thursday announced a broadening of its licensing program around its exFAT file system, which is designed to handle large multimedia files. Microsoft hopes companies making devices such as cameras and smartphones will adopt the Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) technology to support the sharing of audio and video files. The technology is available on Windows 7, Vista SP1, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Embedded CE."
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Microsoft Expands exFAT Multimedia Licensing

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  • I wish... (Score:2, Funny)

    by mb1 (966747)

    ...I was exFAT.

  • EEE (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheUni (1007895) on Friday December 11, 2009 @03:42AM (#30399054) Homepage

    Embrace

    ---- You are here ----
    Extend

    Extinguish

    (Thanks slashdot formatting-filter for making me sacrifice my ascii art skills.)

  • Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Teun (17872) on Friday December 11, 2009 @03:56AM (#30399112) Homepage
    Why, when you can pick up ext2 for free?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bucky0 (229117)

      To be able to read it on almost every computer available? There's a benefit to that when you have removable media, you know.

      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Teun (17872) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:07AM (#30399166) Homepage
        You'll need to develop and install a driver anyway, why not take an existing one that's unencumbered?
        • If you use a widely supported file system on your camera, you have to develop a file system driver only for your camera. But if you use a Free file system on your camera, you have to develop a file system driver for your camera, develop a file system driver for Windows and Mac OS X, and convince PC administrators to install this file system driver for Windows and Mac OS X.
          • by donaldm (919619)
            The ext3 file-system is widely supported on all Linux systems (well over 100 million machines) and it is free to use by any manufacturer so there is little if any development costs. Any USB or Memory card can be formatted with an ext2, ext3 or even ext4 file-system from just about any Linux distribution. The mke2fs (there are others) command that can do this is only 65kB in size.

            Even if you need to transfer data from an ext3 file-system to an MS Windows machine you can always get software that can read th
            • by tepples (727027)

              Here is a MS Windows ext2/3 reader if you don't believe me.

              Does it run on a user account that is not a member of the Administrators group? And it appears to be read-only; am I going to have to carry a separate, smaller stick formatted in FAT32 for files that I want to copy to a Linux system?

              We require software that can read ext3 file-systems. Here is a change request that is signed by the appropriate people to install the appropriate software

              You mean a petition? Please. Do operators of PCs in public libraries, Internet cafes, and office break rooms actually read those?

              • by SiChemist (575005)

                So, you want an installable file system. You mean like this?

                Ext2 Installable File System For Windows [fs-driver.org]

                I'm not sure why the GP referred to the sysinternals utility when there is a freeware installable filesystem driver available.

                • by tepples (727027)

                  So, you want an installable file system.

                  And privileges to install it. I don't find it likely that change requests to install Ext2 IFS on publicly available computers will be accepted more often than not.

        • by Petaris (771874)

          I've been thinking the same thing for a long time. FAT really does need to be replaced on removable media with something that is better (larger partition sizes, handles large files better, doesn't fragment). EXT2 or 3 would be good options. I can't believe that MacOS X doesn't have native EXT2/3 support though. And the drivers people have created for it are not the best, though I applaud the attempts.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Megane (129182)

            I can't believe that MacOS X doesn't have native EXT2/3 support

            Blame the GPL license. Most of OS X is under a BSD-style license. Is there even a BSD-licensed EXT2/3 implementation?

            There is a pre-built version that you can download and install yourself, however.

            Also, the only people who need it are the 2% who use Linux. 2% of 5% isn't much, especially when OS X users have much less need to keep Linux around than Windows users.

            And we OS X users already have a very nice filesystem, thank you very much. Apple did add an amazing number of hacks to it so that it can do Un

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Renegrade (698801) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:28AM (#30399260)

        Almost every computer available? Hardly. From the article: "The technology is available on Windows 7, Vista SP1, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Embedded CE". That's it. The Win 98, 2000, and XP systems you'll find in the wild won't support it. Some of the older systems (ie, XP) can be patched with an update from Microsoft, but are you going to carry a second removable media device with FAT16 or FAT32 around with you and install this patch everywhere you go? And bring XP or later as well for those machines running 98/NT4/2K? I don't believe there's Apple support either, and Linux support is still experimental.

        I haven't seen the spec for exFAT (I'm not paying some fee to see a spec for some microsoft cruft), but I imagine it's another vendor-lockin, poor-performance-substitute abomination like NTFS was, or WinFS will be.

        • by Jugalator (259273)

          WinFS? Really? :p

        • by Malc (1751)

          NTFS is actually a very good FS. The performance isn't so bad for desktop usage at least, and I've hard far fewer problems with it over the years than with say ext2/ext3 from a corruption point of view. It's easier and more reliable to read on my Mac (or on Linux boxes) than ext2/ext3 is (I had to uninstall the OS X drivers due to issue they caused, and the Windows support is a joke). The only downside is that nobody seems to be able to create a driver with reliable write support.

        • NTFS has too much overhead for removable media devices, which is why they created exFAT (FAT64).
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hitmark (640295) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:08AM (#30399172) Journal

      simple, the only non-microsoft formats that windows supports out of the box are cd and dvd media.

      i wonder how long it will take before microsoft gets a slap on the wrist over this...

      new microsoft, same as old microsoft...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by peppepz (1311345)
        What about UDF? It's already supported out of the box on removable media by Windows Vista and higher.
        Open standard, tons of features, fast on flash media, broad adoption by existing operating systems and devices.

        They should use it instead of inventing yet another file system with less features. And closed, too (so much for Microsoft's commitment to interoperability and open standards).

        • UDF is also used on DVD Media. That is why it is supported.
          • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by peppepz (1311345) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:57AM (#30399378)
            Of course! But starting from Vista, it's supported on all other media, too. So what's the need for exFat? I think UDF might cover all of exFat's use cases, with no patents pending and secret specifications involved.
            • Starting with Vista is the problem. There are still lots of XP machines around that would like to be able to write to memory cards from various devices (I think they can read from UDF already). OS X only got write support for UDF quite recently, so there are probably a lot of Mac users without it too. At the very least, you'd need to provide an IFS for XP that properly supported UDF. You could port a lot of it from FreeBSD, but it still might be cheaper just to license the MS patents.
              • by hitmark (640295)

                and to add insult to unjury, i think microsoft have already provided xp with a exfat patch that provides full read and write support...

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by MrMr (219533)
              I think UDF might cover all of exFat's use cases, with no patents pending and secret specifications involved.
              So where's the profit in that?
        • by donaldm (919619)
          The UDF [wikipedia.org] file-system is for Optical Storage not magnetic or even solid state storage. So this is not really a contender.
          • UDF doesn't magically know what kind of storage it is used on, and there's nothing special in its design that makes it unsuitable for use on magnetic or solid state storage. In fact, it fares somewhat better on SSD than many other general-purpose filesystems, because it's originally designed for media that wears out quickly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by oglueck (235089)

        Well, the CD-ROM standard they support is "Joliet". Which is their own extension.... I wonder how long until they are going with patents after others implementing it.

        • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by A Friendly Troll (1017492) on Friday December 11, 2009 @05:44AM (#30399574)

          Well, the CD-ROM standard they support is "Joliet". Which is their own extension.... I wonder how long until they are going with patents after others implementing it.

          ISO-9660 doesn't support Unicode. Believe it or not, some languages use characters that aren't part of ASCII.

          ISO-9660 doesn't support lower case letters, spaces and multiple dots in file/directory names.

          There's nothing wrong with naming a directory "Family Photos 25.12.2009." - if Joliet didn't exist, we'd have to burn that to CD as "FAMILYPHOTOS25122009".

    • by DrXym (126579)
      The problem there is that ext2 is as associated with Linux as FAT32 is with Windows. But it doesn't enjoy the ubiquity of FAT32 and probably never will. Even though ext2 drivers do exist for Windows, who is going to bother installing them to read large content from a flash drive?

      The best chance ext2 / ext3 / ext4 or any other fs has for multimedia storage is when the user doesn't even know or care what file system is being used. I wouldn't give a damn what fs a NAS / streaming devices is using so long as

    • by mishehu (712452)

      Why ext2? How about UDF [wikipedia.org]? I know it was originally intended for optical media, but it works quite well for non-optical media. I use it on a number of flash drives that I have that I want to use between Windows and Linux systems...

  • by sco08y (615665) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:25AM (#30399250)

    FAT looks like someone's half-baked science project. FAT32 and exFAT (aka FAT64) just take the same mistakes and repeat them.

    The fact that FAT32 is widely available is irrelevant; everyone will still have to install drivers.

    So, yes, there's a demand for a simple (needing little CPU and RAM) filesystem. There's even an argument to be made that it should honor the same overall contracts that FAT does so that device manufacturers don't have to put lots of extra logic in. But it does *not* need to be the spawn of FAT.

  • There are several quality open source programs I always use on Windows. Most know the big ones...Firefox and OpenOffice. Open Source advocates need to familiarize yourself with http://www.fs-driver.org [fs-driver.org]. They have created an ext2 driver for windows. If this driver gains in popularity, it will be one less "Microsoft tax" you pay on your gadgetry.
    • by Sterling Christensen (694675) on Friday December 11, 2009 @05:04AM (#30399412)

      That driver has a serious user-unfriendly limitation: No support for inodes larger than 128 bytes.

      This means Linux users can't use GUI tools to format a USB stick (or a harddisk partition for sharing files with Windows) - they must use the command line and figure out how to persuade mkfs.ext2 not to default to 256 byte inodes. And this probably after learning of this limitation the hard way. Easy enough for you and me, but definitely not user friendly.

      Also, this still leaves Windows users unable to format as ext2. A crashy driver is not enough.

      That brings me to the third problem: I have yet to see a stable IFS (Installable FileSystem) driver for Windows. In my experience, perfectly stable Windows installations start crashing when an IFS driver is installed and in use. I suspect this part of Windows needs more debugging, or the API needs to be better documented, or both.

      exFAT may be a patent encumbered extension to a lame filesystem, but the ext2 drivers for Windows are a lousy counter proposal.

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        MacDrive seems stable enough, although it isn't free in any sense of the word.

      • Though it blue-screened almost constantly when I started using it, ext2fsd [ext2fsd.com] is pretty stable, these days.

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        exFAT may be a patent encumbered extension to a lame filesystem, but the ext2 drivers for Windows are a lousy counter proposal.

        Perhaps those specific drivers are. But the proposal of using ext2 makes perfect sense. It's open, unpatented, and already has free implementations. The only reason for manufacturers not to support it is fear of reprisal from Redmond.

    • by tepples (727027)

      They have created an ext2 driver for windows.

      Not everybody owns the PC that he uses. Can this driver be used by someone who does not have privileges to install programs (user outside the Administrators group) or to run executables from %USERPROFILE% or removable media (look up Software Restriction Policy on a search engine)? I'm thinking of a scenario involving a user at a public library, Internet cafe, or employer's break room. Linux has the same thing: user not in sudoers and /home mounted noexec respectively.

  • Just great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MojoRilla (591502) on Friday December 11, 2009 @04:26AM (#30399254)
    And the best news...

    The SD Association has adopted exFAT for its SDXC memory card specification.

    So a mediocre but patent encumbered technology gets adopted as a standard because it runs out of the box on Windows. As Microsoft itself puts it [microsoft.com], "exFAT is relatively simple". Hello, antitrust regulators? Hello, patent office?

    • by abigsmurf (919188)
      Why is it anti-trust? SD cards, although popular do not represent a monopoly of the flash media market. History has shown that multiple file structures on portable media doesn't work as HW makers don't want to spend time and money including a dozen or so extra drivers on their devices.

      Don't want to create a piece of hardware with support for exFAT? Use another memory format. No one is forcing you to use it.
  • This is only tangentially related to TFA, but lets have a go:

    I can't read SDHC cards on any Windows PC I can find. I have one of those cheap USB readers. It used to work, then it stopped - I have no idea what changed. It's not hardware, because Linux machines will read it just fine. Yes, the card is >4GB, but as I said, Linux can read it, so this is not a hardware problem. Does anyone out there know how to fix this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by peppepz (1311345)
      Microsoft realeased an updated SDHCI driver [microsoft.com] for windows XP which is supposed to support SDHC cards. But since it has not been distributed with Windows Update, I suppose it could have some problem. I've never tested it.
    • by rdebath (884132)

      Can't be sure, but the filesystem & partition driver for windows USB devices is sometimes very temperamental. Generally both the partition table and the filesystem must exactly match what windows expects.

      If you're feeling brave you could try a complete wipe of the SD card partition table and all.
      ie: "dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdc"
      Then reformat it under windows.

      I would make sure I keep a copy of the existing partition table and filesystem though.

  • You just have to apply the update, which you can get here [microsoft.com]. So has anybody benchmarked it to see how it compares to FAT?

    And for those in Linux that want exFAT support according to the wiki [wikipedia.org] an opensource experimental driver is in the works, or you can purchase a proprietary driver derived from licensed MSFT source code from Tuxera.

    That said I doubt we will be seeing FAT go anywhere for awhile, even though FAT is pretty long in the tooth. Sadly FAT is the only format that I know of that can be truly read b

    • by peppepz (1311345)

      And for those in Linux that want exFAT support according to the wiki [wikipedia.org] an opensource experimental driver is in the works, or you can purchase a proprietary driver derived from licensed MSFT source code from Tuxera.

      The sad thing is, that exFAT is being patented. That means that Linux users will either have to be lucky enough to live in that shrinking part of the world where software patents are not allowed, or consult their lawyer before connecting their camera to their computer.

      Oh well, at least the patent submission appears to contains a copy of the exFAT specification, so reverse engineering the format won't be that hard.

  • "The technology is available on Windows 7, Vista SP1, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Embedded CE".
    I find this as technological as a fork or a pencil are "a technology". Why do trivial things so often get called "the technology"?

    • by MrMr (219533)
      It's relative to the user. It's just like "a challenge", when you're an incompetent idiot everything looks like one.
  • When does the FAT patent expire ? Getting manufacturers to adopt a new, patent encumbered, standard will give them another 20 years of harassing Linux users.
  • Seriously, until and unless there's (at a minimum) royalty-free supported drivers for non-Microsoft and pre-Vista (not just XP, I use 98 in some situations) operating systems, I don't see this going anywhere.

  • by DrXym (126579)
    If I were developing a multimedia box, or an essentially closed system (e.g. a satnav), what possible reason have I got for using exFAT? The reality is I could just shove ext2 or any other random fs on my device and it doesn't matter.

    And if its a device that plugs into a PC, why not use MTP? After all, MTP is fairly decent these days and it means that USB stick, or media player or whatever you plug into your computer (of any kind), can implement any fs its little heart desires. It doesn't matter because i

  • We all know it's nice to share, or that is the way I was raised, but the last time I checked that kind of activity could land your ass in JAIL.

    Kinda of a mix message, No?

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