File System Formats Suck

The hard drive I keep all of my media on has started to show signs of nearing it’s end of life. Read/write speeds dropping, sounds that are not “whiiiiiiiiirrrrrrr” coming from it, all the standard stuff. That means I have to back it all up. That means a new hard drive, which I’m okay with because they’re relatively cheap these days. Wound up with a 3TB Seagate Expansion Drive, which seems to fit the bill quite handily. The thing I’m not so okay with is file systems. Full disclosure – I don’t really know much about them, and I don’t really care to, but if I were to sum up my opinion it would be this: they suck. I don’t really understand why they’re such a pain. Using various distributions of Linux, OSX, and Windows 7 and 8.1, you would think there was an easy solution. As I list those though, I can see that maybe it’s not ridiculous that there isn’t something trivial, but still. NTFS, FAT32, exFAT… Everything is a bit of a pain. FAT32 certainly has OS support behind it, of course if you have any HD movies or disk images and it’s 4GB file size limit removes it from the equation pretty quickly. The internet seems to be chock full of people who have gotten NTFS disks reading and writing away to/from OSX with relative ease, and for them it seems to be an easy solution. For myself, it just doesn’t quite work. Sometimes it does, sometimes its finicky, and sometimes it doesn’t. Likely I’m just doing it wrong, but there’s something that rubs me the wrong way of having to coerce the machine to write to an NTFS drive that it just read from, so it’s difficult to make a sincere effort when it doesn’t work immediately.

I ended up going with exFAT, using fuse-exfat in Ubuntu, and it works out of the box in OSX and on Windows systems. The fact that Microsoft *owns* it is a bit discouraging, as is the fact that it’s apparently not finalized, but I don’t know the ramifications of that and I don’t really know of a usable alternative. Can’t win. Of course it doesn’t help that shortly after removing all of the files from my failing hard drive, I removed the new drive from the computer without properly ejecting it. I’ve done this hundreds of times with various forms of media and various computers, but this time it did not go so well. I have a cursory understanding of write-caching and processes I’m not aware of interacting with the drive, but once again it seems like the software should be sophisticated enough to not die. From some quick reading it looks like Windows disables write caching on drives it deems “removable”, although that’s not a well defined term in the Windows context, but OSX does not. With no understanding of file systems, it *seems* like the files being accessed would be corrupted, and perhaps the space allocated for them, but one would think the system as a whole would be able to handle this. OSX certainly could not, and deemed the drive irreparable, read-only, and on it’s way down.

At least I got some good practice backing up content? I see a NAS in my not too distant future…

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