pax/ustar not properly handling long pathnames

Matt Morgan minxmertzmomo at
Fri Dec 30 03:25:11 UTC 2005

On 12/29/05, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at> wrote:
> On Thu, 2005-12-29 at 12:54, Matt Morgan wrote:
> > 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.
> If you have a C compiler and the gnutar source, you don't have
> to reverse-engineer anything to make a program that uses it's
> format.  And by having the actual source you get the exact
> specification, not what someone mistakenly thought it was
> when they read the document a hundred years ago.

The really important part of this argument, to a professional
archivist, is the part where you say "if you have." No archivist would
build a repository around the expectation that C compilers and gnutar
source will be usable and readable in 100 years.

> > 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?
> I'd probably write ISO9660 CD's but you'll lose any OS-specific
> attributes in the process.  If you expect it to be read by
> some currently-unknown OS, I guess that wouldn't matter and

I guess it depends on what you mean. For present needs I do need to
preserve file ownership and permissions.

> might be a good thing.  The more important issue is the format
> of the data files.  Is this something that you'd expect some
> random computer to be able to use?

It would be nice if someone can open it in WinZip, but it's not
super-critical. I like that the Gnome archive manager seems to be able
to open tar, gnutar, ustar, etc. But again, not critical.

I didn't intend to make this super-complicated. I think the short
answer to my question is "no": I can pick a standards-based archive
format or I can pick a convenient and well-supported one. That's OK.

Thanks a lot,

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