1 Introduction
2 Ground Rules

Building a File System
3 File Systems
4 File Content Data Structure
5 Allocation Cluster Manager
6 Exceptions and Emancipation
7 Base Classes, Testing, and More
8 File Meta Data
9 Native File Class
10 Our File System
11 Allocation Table
12 File System Support Code
13 Initializing the File System
14 Contiguous Files
15 Rebuilding the File System
16 Native File System Support Methods
17 Lookups, Wildcards, and Unicode, Oh My
18 Finishing the File System Class

The Init Program
19 Hardware Abstraction and UOS Architecture
20 Init Command Mode
21 Using Our File System
22 Hardware and Device Lists
23 Fun with Stores: Partitions
24 Fun with Stores: RAID
25 Fun with Stores: RAM Disks
26 Init wrap-up

The Executive
27 Overview of The Executive
28 Starting the Kernel
29 The Kernel
30 Making a Store Bootable
31 The MMC
32 The HMC
33 Loading the components
34 Using the File Processor
35 Symbols and the SSC
36 The File Processor and Device Management
37 The File Processor and File System Management
38 Finishing Executive Startup

Users and Security
39 Introduction to Users and Security
40 More Fun With Stores: File Heaps
41 File Heaps, part 2
42 SysUAF
43 TUser

45 Shells and UCL


Download sources
Download binaries

File Content Data Structure

Back in article 2, we briefly defined a "Store". This concept is fundamental to the design of the UOS File System, so let's review it. A store is anything that can store data. Here are the characteristics of stores, and examples of them:

ReadWrite*SizeAccess modeExample
YesYesFixedRandomHard disk
YesYesFixedSequentialMagnetic tape
YesOnceFixedRandomCD, DVD
YesYesVariableRandomContainer file

* the ability to write data may be prevented if the device is set to read-only

The reason for basing the UOS File System off of stores is that we can have the file system software work regardless of what physical device it is on. So long as a store interface is provided for the underlying hardware, the file system software can work with it and we don't need to concern ourselves with the differences between different storage mediums, within reason. This approach is useful because it means that we can easily manage a file system on a hard disk, in memory (a RAM disk), or in a file (a container file). All we need to do is provide the file system with an instance of a store for the device in question. RAM disks can be used to create very fast (but small) virtual disks in RAM. This can be used in place of (or in addition to) memory caching of slower hard disks or network disks. Caching happens automatically and is the default behavior, but the ability to create a RAM disk provides the user with a certain amount of flexibility. Container files are used to hold a lot of different data (files) within a single file. For UOS, we will use container files to create library files, for instance. But, that will have to wait until later.

Managed Stores
The File System will need to allocate chunks of the available storage space as required - for instance, for data for our files. Also, as things are deleted, we will need to deallocate those chunks so they can be reused for other purposes. The management of free and allocated space is the domain of the store itself - not the file system. For this reason, we use a type of store called a "Managed Store". An example of a managed store is a heap. In fact, for RAM disks, we can give the File System an interface to the system heap (also to be discussed later). Different stores have different minimum allocation sizes. In terms of hard disks, the minimum allocatable unit is the sector. Most hard disks have a sector size of 512 bytes, which means that the smallest amount of data that can be read from or written to is 512 byte sectors. Memory heaps on Intel hardware tend to have a minimum allocation size of 16 bytes (for various reasons that we will eventually discuss). It certainly is possible that a store class could be written to deal with operations on chunks of data that are smaller than the minimum allocation size, but this would be an inefficient means of accessing something like a hard disk, because it means that the store class will have to read in a chunk, modify part of it, and write it back out rather than just writing a new value. That is, it takes three physical I/O operations, instead of one, to accomplish a single logical I/O operation. We don't want to make our disk I/O run three times slower than it needs to. What this means is that allocations, deallocations, and I/O operations must operate on some multiple of the minimum allocation size. So, on a disk, we will use chunks of 512, 1024, 1536, 2048, etc. Note that 512 is a multiple of 16, so a default size of 512 will work for our RAM disks, our hard disks, and all container files. It will even work for old floppy disks, which have sectors of 256 bytes.

A store is essentially an array of bytes. To support the largest available disks out there, we will use 64-bit pointers to access any point on the store. These pointers are simply integer offsets from the start of the store. So, a 1 Gb disk will have offsets 0 through 1,073,741,823. Thus, a 64-bit address range allows for a disk as large as 18 quintillion bytes (about 8 billion times the size of the largest hard disk today). All allocations on the store will return an offset that is on a minimum allocation size boundary, and we can verify that we have a valid pointer by making sure it is a multiple of the minimum allocation size. As long as we use valid pointers (that is, those returned from the store when an allocation is requested), and only read/write buffers that are multiples of the minimum allocation size, we will be accessing the store efficiently. On our 1 Gb hard disk, we would have 2,097,152 possible chunks which indicates the maximum number of file extents. Except that it doesn't. You see, a managed store needs to keep track of free and allocated space, which is typically done through an allocation table (a data structure that allows the store to manage the space). On this disk, the allocation table will take about 256Kb of space (512 chunks). This isn't much overhead on a small disk. But on a 1 Tb disk, there will be over 2 billion chunks and the allocation table will take up 256 Mb of space. As a percentage, that is a small amount of the total disk size, but 1/4 Gb for overhead is quite a lot (and there is other overhead we haven't talked about yet). One way to shrink the size of the allocation table is to increase the minimum allocation size. We call this the Cluster size, because we will cluster two or more chunks together on each allocation/deallocation. If we increase it to 1024, we halve the size of the allocation table to 128 Mb. We also reduce file fragments by about half. However, that also means that we waste 512 bytes per file, on average. With a clustersize of 512, we waste only an average of 256 bytes per file. The UOS File System can deal with any clustersize, although anything over 64K is likely to use up excessive amounts of RAM for I/O buffers. We will default to 512 as the clustersize for our File System stores, but allow the user to customize the cluster size for each device as they see fit.

So, here is our abstract virtual store and managed store classes, descendants of which will be used for each type of hardware device supported by the UOS File System software:

type TStore_Size64 = int64 ;
type TStore_Address64 = int64 ;

type TCOM_Store64 = class
                        public { API... }
                            function Read( var Data ; Address, _Size : TStore_Address64 ) : TStore_Address64 ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Read data from specified Address in store to Data.
                              Read _Size bytes.
                              Function returns the number of bytes actually read. }

                            function Write( var Data ; Address, _Size : TStore_Address64 ) : TStore_Address64 ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Write data from Data to specified Address in store.
                              Write _Size bytes.
                              Function returns the number of bytes actually written. }

                            function Min_Storage : TStore_Address64 ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Returns the minimum atomic size of the store.  For
                              instance, this would be the sector size for a disk. }

                            function Get_Max_Storage : TStore_Size64 ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Returns the maximum (current) size of the store, in
                              bytes.  In other words, this is the highest valid
                              address (plus 1). }

                            procedure Set_Max_Storage( Value : TStore_Size64 ) ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Sets the maximum (current) size of the store, in bytes.
                              In other words, this is the new highest valid address
                              (plus 1).  This should only be used to shrink the size
                              of the store, not to extend it.  To extend, use the Extend method. }

                            function Get_Read_Only : boolean ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Indicates that the store can only be read from. }

                            function Get_Write_Only : boolean ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Indicates that the store can only be written to. }

                            procedure Set_Read_Only( Value : boolean ) ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Set read-only status. }

                            procedure Set_Write_Only( Value : boolean ) ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Set write-only status. }

                            function Contiguous_Store : boolean ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Returns True if the store's addresses are contiguous
                              (non-sparse). }

                            function Extended_Size : TStore_Address64 ;
                                virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            { Returns the maximum theoretical size that the store can
                              be extended to.  If the store is not extendable, this
                              returns the same value as Get_Max_Storage. }

                          property Max_Storage : TStore_Address64
                              read Get_Max_Storage
                              write Set_Max_Storage ;

                          property Read_Only : boolean
                              read Get_Read_Only
                              write Set_Read_Only ;

                          property Write_Only : boolean
                              read Get_Write_Only
                              write Set_Write_Only ;
                    end ; { TCOM_Store64 }

First we define a couple data types, which are just synonyms for int64 (a signed 64-bit integer).
The class name reflects the fact that this is a 64-bit-address store. The COM indicates the use of stdcall conventions on the methods.
The Read and Write methods do what you'd think. Min_Storage/ returns the minimum allocatble amount of data, in bytes. Max_Storage indicates the size of the store. Extended_Size returns the maximum potential size for variable-length stores (files, for instance). A variable-length store can be resized. On a fixed-size store, Extended_Size returns the Max_Storage, and the size cannot be changed. Read_Only is true if the store cannot be written to. Write_Only is true if the store cannot be read from, but can be written to. Note that some stores are inherently one or the other and cannot be changed. Others, however, can be changed to read-only insofar as the class is concerned.

type TCOM_Managed_Store64 = class( TCOM_Store64 )
                                public { API... }
                                    function Allocate( Size : TStore_Address64 ) : TStore_Address64 ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ; { Allocate space}
                                    function Allocate_At( Offset, Size : TStore_Address64 ) : boolean ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ; { Allocate space at specific location }
                                    procedure Copy( Source, Destination : TStore_Address64 ;
                                        Count : integer ) ; virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ; { Copy data }
                                    procedure Deallocate( PTR, Size : TStore_Address64 ) ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ; { Deallocate space }
                                    procedure Fill( PTR : TStore_Address64 ; Count : integer ;
                                        Value : byte ) ; virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                                    function Reallocate( PTR, Old, New : TStore_Address64 ) : TStore_Address64 ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                                    function SpaceAvail : TStore_Address64 ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                                    function XSpaceAvail : TStore_Address64 ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                                    function MaxSpace : TStore_Address64 ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                                    procedure Get_Root( var Buf ) ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                                    procedure Set_Root( var Buf ) ;
                                        virtual ; stdcall ; abstract ;
                            end ; { TCOM_Managed_Store64 }

The managed store descends from the basic store, adding the allocation and deallocation features of a managed store.
Allocate and Deallocate methods do what you'd think. Allocate_At is a special case of Allocate where the caller can attempt to allocate space at a specific location on the store. In terms of our File System, this is used for placing files at specific locations. If the requested space cannot be allocated at the requested location, the method returns false. Reallocate attempts to extend an allocated chunk of memory in-place. If that cannot be done, it will allocate the requested space somewhere else, copy the data from the original location, and then deallocate the old value. It returns the new address of the data (which might be the same as before). Copy is a way to copy data from one location in the store to another. The class instance will attempt to do this in the most efficient way possible, given the actual hardware and therefore should be used rather than a read/write cycle in the calling code. MaxSpace returns the size of the largest possible contiguous chunk of the store that can be allocated. SpaceAvail returns the size of the total free space on the store, although this space may be fragmented into multiple pieces. XSpaceAvail returns the potential total free space on a variable-sized store. On fixed-size stores, XSpaceAvail will return the same alue as SpaceAvail. Fill is used to write a certain number of a given byte value to the store. We will use this to erase old data (for instance, after deleting a file) for security purposes. The class instance will use the fastest possible means to accomplish this task on the given hardware.
Of special note are the Get_Root and Set_Root methods. Generally, a pointer with a value of 0 is considered to be null, and using a null pointer is considered an error. Stores treat address 0 the same way, but then how do we get to the lowest addresses of the store? Get_Root will return the lowest chunk of the store, and Set_Root will write to it. These functions prevent inadvertant overwrites of the lowest area of the store. This is especially important because the lowest area contains some important information about the store. For instance, on a bootable disk, this area is considered the boot block. But, even in the case of non-bootable disks, all stores keep important information about the store in that area. Information such as the size of allocation units, pointers to important structures, etc. Boot blocks and this other key information will be discussed in a later article.

Now we are ready to look at the structures used to maintain the extents of our files. For a zero-length file, we actually don't need any pointers, but we'll ignore this situation for now. Since each extent of the file data can be anywhere on the store, since we don't know where the managed store will allocate the extent, we need a list of pointers to these extents - in essence, an array of pointers. But this array will need to be stored on the store as well, so that when UOS reboots, the array can be accessed and the file's data located. Since we will assume a minimum clustersize of 512 bytes, we can allocate 64 8-byte (64 bit) pointers. For a clustersize of 512, this can represent a file of up to 32Kb (64 x 512). What if we need a larger file? We will reserve the last pointer in a cluster as a pointer to another allocation cluster, with another 64 pointers. We can chain these allocation clusters together until we have enough for whatever file size we have. Unused pointers will be 0, and the last allocation cluster will end with a zero pointer since there are no more allocation clusters to link to. Here is a diagram of what a 32Kb file's allocation clusters might look like:

To access a specific location in the file, we simply take the desired file offset and divide it by the clustersize to determine the extent entry where that offset is located. We take the extent entry index and divide by 63 (the number of extent pointers in an allocation cluster) to get the allocation cluster in question. We follow the pointers at the end of each allocation cluster to get to the appropriate one. Then we take the extent entry index mod 63 to get the proper pointer offset within that allocation cluster. For instance, let's say that we have a request to access offset 25088 in the file. With a clustersize of 512, we divide 25088 by 512 to get extent index 49. We then divide that index by 63, to get allocation cluster 0. So, we need to access the first allocation cluster (cluster 0). 49 mod 63 gives us the pointer index 49 in this allocation cluster. That pointer is the location of that file position on the store.

Although the overhead of the allocation clusters, in terms of storage space, amounts to a mere 1.5%, there is a potential performance problem associated with reading multiple allocation clusters while following the allocation links. One way to reduce the number of read operations required to reach the needed allocation cluster, is to give the files a larger cluster size. In such a case, more of the file would be represented by the extent pointers in each allocation cluster, reducing the total number of allocation clusters that are required for the file, and fewer read operations would be required to find the pointer to any specific file position. But we don't want to force all files to use a large cluster size just for the sake of one or two files. Therefore, UOS will allow each file to have its own cluster size, which must be a multiple of the store's cluster size. This will allow the user to balance the needs between space and performance efficiency according to his own needs. There are some system files that, for reasons of hardware requirements on Intel architectures, should have a clustersize of at least 4Kb, which we will discuss later. Suffice it to say that supporting different cluster sizes for each file provides a useful amount of flexibility, both for the user and for UOS itself.

In the next few articles, we will write a file allocation class to manage the allocation clusters, and an extent store class to manage the file extents.