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Apple is Upgrading Millions of iOS Devices To a New Modern File System Today (theverge.com) 191

Apple today began rolling out iOS 10.3, the latest point update to its mobile operating system. iOS 10.3 brings with it several new features, chief among which is a new file system -- called the Apple File System (APFS). From a report: It's a file system that was originally announced at WWDC last year, and it's designed with the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV in mind. Apple has been using its 31-year-old Hierarchical File System (HFS) for iOS devices so far. It was originally designed for Macs with floppy or hard disks, and not for modern mobile devices with solid state storage. Even its successor, HFS+, still doesn't address the needs of these mobile devices enough. Apple's new APFS is designed to scale across these new types of devices and take advantage of flash or SSD storage. It's also engineered with encryption as a primary feature, and even supports features like snapshots so restoring files on a Mac or even an iOS device might get a lot easier in the future.
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Apple is Upgrading Millions of iOS Devices To a New Modern File System Today

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sent from APFS

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Modern APP APPERS don't use any luddite filesystem to store their data. They use APPFS to APP their APPS in! APPS!
  • Catch? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nwaack ( 3482871 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @02:44PM (#54120517)
    Hmmm...this actually sounds like a useful upgrade. Given Apple's recent "innovations," I'm left wondering what the catch is. There must be something in this update that screws over the customer somewhere.
    • Who knows... maybe it won't be a smoke and mirrors type of screw-over. It could just be that your device stops working because it can't boot up after "taking on a big task to carefully and silently update millions of iOS devices."
      • Re:Catch? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Proudrooster ( 580120 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @02:51PM (#54120573) Homepage

        Apple File System is designed to avoid metadata corruption caused by system crashes. Instead of overwriting existing metadata records in place, it writes entirely new records, points to the new ones and then releases the old ones. This avoids a crash during an update resulting in a corrupted record containing partial old and partial new data. It also avoids having to write the change twice as happens with an existing HFS+ Journaled file system where changes are written first to the journal and then to the Catalog file.[3]

        Still no checksum for user data like ext4. But it might help iPhones will sudden battery failure.

        • Re:Catch? (Score:5, Informative)

          by GerbilSoft ( 761537 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @02:53PM (#54120597)
          Ext4 doesn't have user data checksums, only metadata: https://ext4.wiki.kernel.org/i... [kernel.org]
          • by aliquis ( 678370 )

            ZFS have checksums.

            Sadly we don't use ZFS for some stupid reason (maybe RAM for instance but I'd just get more RAM if needed.)

            • ZFS have checksums.

              Sadly we don't use ZFS for some stupid reason (maybe RAM for instance but I'd just get more RAM if needed.)

              There are a number of reasons why we don't use ZFS; some technical, some political.

              This is a good alternative.

              • by mlts ( 1038732 )

                I will say that APFS is a must have update from HFS+. It has copy-on-write functionality, snapshots, and other stuff that make sense. It has a very interesting facility for encryption to allow for volume, file, and almost anything in between, with keys for everything able to be different.

                However, it doesn't have the good bit-rot detection that ZFS, ReFS + Storage Spaces, and btrfs have. In fact, it doesn't have any real robust drive scrubbing type facility to find and (even better) repair ECC errors. I

          • Ext4 doesn't have user data checksums, only metadata: https://ext4.wiki.kernel.org/i... [kernel.org]

            I think it is an option. Journaled metadata is the default, but you can choose journaled data too. It is just not very well performing. The B-tree structure of writing new entries and switching atomically works much better that way.

        • In other words, it functions the same way as copy-on-write filesystems such as Btrfs and ZFS, or log-structured filesystems such a various flash-oriented systems (F2FS and the likes) or as the venerable UDF.

          Or thank you apple for finally having a filesystem that is not decades out-dated, but finally joining the club of other modern Unices.

          I am just wondering why they needed to re-invent their own wheel, instead of opting for re-using ZFS.

        • It took them this long to adopt "safe saving?"
        • by Agripa ( 139780 )

          Apple File System is designed to avoid metadata corruption caused by system crashes. Instead of overwriting existing metadata records in place, it writes entirely new records, points to the new ones and then releases the old ones. This avoids a crash during an update resulting in a corrupted record containing partial old and partial new data. It also avoids having to write the change twice as happens with an existing HFS+ Journaled file system where changes are written first to the journal and then to the Catalog file.[3]

          Still no checksum for user data like ext4. But it might help iPhones will sudden battery failure.

          This by itself is not sufficient for NAND Flash storage as a lot of SSD manufacturers have discovered and then ignored. An interrupted write to NAND Flash do to power loss can result in corrupted data in *other* blocks. So battery failure leading to power loss can still result in NAND Flash corruption.

          Has this even been a problem on Apple devices? I assumed they shutdown before actual power loss.

      • I've been running iOS 10.3 beta for the whole run on an iPhone 6 with 16GB of storage. There haven't been any problems, despite the limited space that it has to work with and how much it has to go and flush cache files and whatnot. I'd be surprised if there are more than a handful of problems related to the upgrade.

        • I've been running iOS 10.3 beta for the whole run on an iPhone 6 with 16GB of storage. There haven't been any problems, despite the limited space that it has to work with and how much it has to go and flush cache files and whatnot. I'd be surprised if there are more than a handful of problems related to the upgrade.

          Thanks for the info. I'd still back my iphone up TWICE before installing iOS 10.3, though...

    • Not readable on anything other than Apple products, at least initially. Then again, the Linux HFS+ driver still can't write to volumes that have journalling enabled...
      • Not readable on anything other than Apple products, at least initially. Then again, the Linux HFS+ driver still can't write to volumes that have journalling enabled...

        And NTFS is STILL not documented; so...

        • Microsoft still hasn't released a full NTFS document, and their source code isn't available except to limited numbers of people under an NDA. But there is a full read-write implementation of it in Linux, so that source code should reveal a lot about how NTFS works.
    • There must be something in this update that screws over the customer somewhere.

      It could just be the latest Apple copying Samsung. Specifically the original Galaxy S. The catch there was that the replacement filesystem for mobile phones (Samsung RFS) was so slow during R/W operations that the OS actually would think programs locked up while performing I/O operations and force close them. "Lagfix" patches to fix this problem actually simply reformatted the system and data partitions with JFFS or ext2.

    • Hmmm...this actually sounds like a useful upgrade. Given Apple's recent "innovations," I'm left wondering what the catch is. There must be something in this update that screws over the customer somewhere.

      Nope, sorry.

      This is their response to other COW Filesystems, such as ZFS. Another thing that could have been wonderful, if Oracle hadn't locked it away for themselves.

  • by Proudrooster ( 580120 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @02:47PM (#54120545) Homepage

    In an interview at Melbourne's linux.conf.au conference, Linus Torvalds called the standard file system of Mac OS X "complete and utter crap." Mac fans are only slightly outraged, pointing out that HFS+ isn't really "complete and utter crap," rather, it's just slightly crap-ish. [zdnet.com]

    On a personal level, I have had multiple corrupt HFS+ filesystems, one of which was unrecoverable. I tried switching to exFAT which also proved to be corruptible but repairable. Now I just store any data I care about on a NAS running a linux ext4 filesystem.

    Hopefully, AFS will fix these corruption problems. I have been sending Apple upgrade suggestions for years. Looks like they finally got around to it. One filesystem to rule them all, but will it support upper/lower case?

    • > upper/lower case Are you talking about HFS+ Case Sensitive? It's been there for years in Mac OS X, though it can cause issues with sloppy applications that rely on case insensitivity.
      • Actually both World if Warcraft and Eve Online can not perform an online upgrade on a case sensitive HFS+
        Well, don't know it is right now, but while I had them on a case sensitive external drive a few years ago, they both complained during updates.

        • by _merlin ( 160982 )

          Adobe Creative Suite was a major one a while back. Don't know if that's changed, I only run CC on Windows now.

    • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @03:03PM (#54120705)

      If you lose data due to a corrupt filesystem - it's not the filesystem's fault that you didn't backup your data.

      Even if you had the most reliable filesystem in the world - it would, most likely be running on spinning disks or flash media - both fail quite regularly.

      Backup your data frequently and test your backups regularly.

      • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @03:50PM (#54121069) Homepage

        Even if you don't lose data, you still lose uptime. Backups are only one layer.

      • If a filesystem is crap, I think I'll still blame the filesystem, thank you.
      • No matter how good your backups are, filesystem corruption still sucks. It's a failure mode that's basically impossible to detect and recover from automatically. I've never seen a filesystem corruption that wasted less than an hour of sysadmin time.
    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      On a personal level, I have had multiple corrupt HFS+ filesystems, one of which was unrecoverable.

      The problem with HFS+ isn't so much HFS+ as it is the ancient code that is still used to fsck it. Back in the day, Norton Utilities for Mac had a good disk repair, and the current good repair utility is DiskWarrior, but fsck_hfs apparently still uses the same basic code that dates back to the '90s.

      but will it support upper/lower case?

      HFS+ has supported case-sensitive mode for years, but you do have to make the choice when the partition is first formatted, and it's not recommended for the boot partition, just in case some random program fails

      • HFS+ has supported case-sensitive mode for years, but you do have to make the choice when the partition is first formatted, and it's not recommended for the boot partition, just in case some random program fails with it.

        Problem is that very few people use it, including very few developers. Let's say a game installer creates a "World Of Warcraft" folder, then copies files into the "World of Warcraft" folder, that would work on most machines, including mine, including most likely that developer's machine, but not on a case sensitive file system.

        On the other hand, iPhone file system has always been case sensitive.

    • by dhaen ( 892570 )
      I've never had a corrupt HFS+ filesystem. Can't elaborate 'cause I need to investigate why I've got this spinning beachball when I select Finder...

      Sent from my iMac

      • Yes, I had a hardware problem on my Mac and it was hanging on boot, so I would occasionally have to power it off/on. Rarely, the system would spontaneously reboot. This was more than HFS+ could deal with and it started corrupting the filesystems. I don't think it was able to do a good job of fsck-ing on boot which led to the corruption. In any case the hardware problem has been fixed (it was slot-creep) due to heat but I still on occasion lose the exFat partition even though there are no more hardware p

  • Backup Your Device (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @02:51PM (#54120579) Homepage Journal

    In the spirit of "what could possibly go wrong" this may actually be one of those times you want to back up your device before upgrading.

    • In the spirit of "what could possibly go wrong" this may actually be one of those times you want to back up your device before upgrading.

      Samsung's original Galaxy S ran on a special purpose filesystem called RFS. What did go wrong there is that it was so slow that the OS often force closed running apps while they were performing I/O operations as it thought that the apps had crashed. The fix was to convert the filesystem to something else.

  • I kinda would like my iPod Touch to be upgraded past 9.3. It's not really that old.

  • Access? (Score:2, Insightful)

    And we'll all have access to the file system from the native iOS UI right? Riiiiiiight?
  • Security (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xushi ( 740195 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @03:11PM (#54120761)

    Will this add any security against NSA / Immigration trying to steal your data?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No but it will probably help apple steal it.

  • by Glarimore ( 1795666 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @03:13PM (#54120785)
    I'm wondering if this will affect known methods used by law enforcement to break into iPhones in high-profile cases (such as the San Bernardino shooting). Anyone have any insight as to whether the underlying encryption has an affect on those attack vectors?

    Trying to avoid talking about whether it is a good or bad thing that police can break into iPhones when necessary -- just curious if anyone has any technical insight.
    • by Anonymous Coward
    • I'm wondering if this will affect known methods used by law enforcement to break into iPhones in high-profile cases (such as the San Bernardino shooting). Anyone have any insight as to whether the underlying encryption has an affect on those attack vectors?

      For many years, the file system has been encrypted with 256 bit keys, and different keys per file. (I know this is supposedly an advantage of the new filesystem, but that's been there for years). And 256 bit means: Forget it.

      The only way to read the files on an iPhone is to enter the right passcode. There's just no way around that. Now the problem was people using 4 digit passcodes (10,000 possible codes). Apple adds some security by adding delays when you enter the wrong passcode more than 6 times, whic

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... let the bricking begin.

  • I will never forgive you apple

  • Maybe one of these years they will finally move to F2FS as the default for mobile devices. Apple finally added a new feature before Android had it.
  • Finder app comeing?

  • I believe we have had those devices for some time now.

  • A major problem with copy on write is that users can not scrub their data and that has to be done by a root user.

    The Posix committee needs to get its act together and provide a F_OVERWRITE fcntl system call that says "when I write a block back to the disk for this file, put it in the same place".

    As an example of why this is needed:
    echo "123SomeMagic" >file
    echo "XYZZY123" >file
    grep "123SomeMagic" /dev/sda
    You get the same results if you do a open, write, sync, seek 0, write.

    dd if=/dev/zero of=file&r

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Since the filesystem is designed for SSDs, it will presumably TRIM the freed blocks, and automatically wipe the data.

      If not, I believe it's encrypted by default anyway, so finding old encrypted blocks won't do you much good.

      • by thogard ( 43403 )

        The raw block device will give you decrypted blocks on all 3 of the file systems mentioned. Doesn't anyone test this stuff anymore?

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