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Fwd: Lost file-system story

I should have sent this to the mailing list as well as David. Google
has fixed something that wasn't broke -- gmail. They've introduced a
new UI that I haven't gotten used to yet ...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Donald Allen <>
Date: Sun, Dec 11, 2011 at 10:23 AM
Subject: Re: Lost file-system story
To: David Holland <>

On Sun, Dec 11, 2011 at 8:57 AM, David Holland 
<> wrote:
> On Tue, Dec 06, 2011 at 11:58:25AM -0500, Thor Lancelot Simon wrote:
>  > With the filesystem mounted async *nothing* pushes out most
>  > metadata updates,
> If this is really true, it's a bug and should be fixed.

It may very well be true. I just did the following:

I brought up my test laptop, running 5.1 GENERIC, with /home mounted
async,noatime. I created a new file in my home directory. I should
note that when I ZZ'ed out of vi, the disk light flashed momentarily,
and I could hear the disk doing something. I did an ls -lt | head and
the new file was there. I waited just under a minute (to let syncs
happen; this is longer than any of the sysctl vfs.sync.delays, which I
assume are in seconds; the man page doesn't say) and then I pulled the
plug (no battery in the machine). On restart, I got no fsck errors,
but the new file was not in my home directory. I then repeated this
test, waiting a little over a minute this time. Same result, the new
file was gone (this time I got fsck errors). Then I did the test a
third time, but this time I did a sync before pulling the plug. On
restart, I still got some fsck errors that were fixed, but the new
file was present.

This does suggest that the meta-data is not being written, at least
within a minute or so of creating a new file.

One thing I think we have not discussed much or at all in this thread
is that the filesystem surviving a crash and how much data you lose
when it does survive are separate issues. The experiments I did
yesterday demonstrate that a NetBSD ffs async-mounted filesystem,
together with its fsck, *can* survive a crash in bad circumstances --
lots of write activity at the time of the crash. We don't know what
the probability of survival is, just that it's > 0.

What I did yesterday also does not address loss of data. If Simon is
correct and NetBSD is just not writing metadata until sync is
explicitly called, then you could have a system up for days or weeks
and lose as many as all of the files created in an async filesystem
since the last re-boot. We don't know definitively what it's doing
yet, but I think I've demonstrated that it's not writing meta-data
within one minute windows. I will do some more playing with this,
waiting longer and will report what I find. We also know from this
morning's tests that a user-called sync does get the meta-data
written, reducing the amount of data lost in a crash that the
filesystem survives. So those who advocated periodically calling sync
in a loop (Christos first suggested this to me in a private email) are
correct -- it's necessary if you are going to use async mounting.

More later ...


> --
> David A. Holland

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