pax/ustar not properly handling long pathnames

Matt Morgan minxmertzmomo at
Thu Dec 29 18:54:40 UTC 2005

On 12/29/05, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at> wrote:
> On Thu, 2005-12-29 at 11:02, Matt Morgan wrote:
> > Do people just not use ustar? I opted for it because it seemed the
> > most basic of the archive formats that is both a) POSIX-compliant and
> > b) supports longer filenames. I could try xstar, which is
> > near-compliant. But I work with a lot of museums, and they like
> > standards (they tend to think very long-term).
> I think if you were really concerned about portability you'd
> cd to a point where the path wouldn't be so long anyway.  I've
> always been happy with gnutar's non-standard format since
> gnutar itself is fairly portable and can be installed about
> anywhere you might want it if it isn't already there.  The
> author of star is very pedantic about being able to output
> a strictly standard format but in practice that would only
> matter if you run across a platform that had a program that
> handled the ustar format correctly (which as you've seen
> isn't common) and could not run gnutar.

Museums and Libraries are as pedantic about standards as anyone.
They're trying to think on scales of hundreds of years. In one hundred
years, when we no longer have pax, star, or gnutar, it'll be easier to
re-engineer starting from documented standards than to reverse
engineer a non-standard.

I realize that in reality it's not this simple and that
POSIX-compliance is not some be-all, end-all. Your point is really
important--but ideally I should be able to get both
standards-compliance and popularity, so I can work with the present
and the future. Is there some archive format that gives me both?


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