Maybe it’s time to reduce our FAT intake

In the continuing action on the patent battlefield, a recent announcement declares that “German appeals court upholds Microsoft Long File Name patent.”

This is the sort of thing that caused problems for TomTom and is likely to cause problems for other device manufacturers as Microsoft begins to explore ways to augment their revenue stream.  Please don’t get me wrong.  If Microsoft is legally entitled to receive royalties for this technology then it is appropriate that they pursue those royalties in whatever manner they see fit.  It would be nice if they could take the more magnanimous route of allowing it to be freely used by anyone, but that does not appear to be what they want to do.

So, why do we still want to use the FAT file system on devices?  There are other, unencumbered file systems that are available which would do the job —  arguably a better job — that FAT does today.  The initial argument is that everybody uses Windows and so we have to follow that protocol.  While it may be true that many people use Windows, FAT is no longer the de facto standard in a Windows environment.  FAT is just a legacy carry-over which could be allowed to go to pasture.

I would like to propose that manufacturers consider using the open ext2 file system.  There are Windows drivers for ext2 available.  The openness of ext2 breaks down the barriers of drivers for any operating system.  When someone buys a device, they are accustomed to having some sort of driver disk that goes with it.  The device could simply install the ext2 driver along with whatever other helper software was provided.  If this became more common, OS manufacturers might simply start providing a driver as part of the standard software stack.

The open-source world provides viable alternatives for many problems.  Rather than fighting this further, let FAT go and start working with a truly freely-available alternative.

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