And the move for open source goes on


The largest foe for exFAT is the Mac & Linux/Unix community. This has nothing to do with whether exFAT is a good file system, but the controversy is that exFAT is a Microsoft piece of software, and if they the community doesn’t have it, then it is unfair. Hoever, there has been many initatives to provide open source drivers so that these people are not left in the cold. Although I have located some beta code, here is a recent link I came across: http://code.google.com/p/exfat/

Also, in an article (http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/linux-legal/69720.html) about the recent SCO developments, there was an interesting section of that webpage that I will include here:

Specifically, “I’m talking about the hidden ‘gotcha’ that is about to sneak up and bite Linux right in the tushy: exFAT.”

‘FAT32 Is No Longer Suitable’

exFAT has begun to appear even “in the flash sticks at my local Big Lots,” hairyfeet noted, and Windows 7 also has native exFAT support.

“As everyone knows, FAT32 has already gotten TomTom in trouble because of patents, and exFAT has even more patents behind it and is pretty locked up tight,” he explained. “What are Linux users gonna do when NO cell phones, PMPs, flash drives, pretty much all mobile devices, will hook up to their OS?

“As far as I’ve seen there has been NO initiative on the part of Linux developers or the FSF to come up with a new patent-free file system suitable for large SS storage devices, and FAT32 is simply no longer suitable for the task,” he added. “Not to mention there has been no test of whether the published ‘workaround’ for Microsoft’s (Nasdaq: MSFT) patents on FAT32 will actually stand up in court or not.”

The latter sentence refers to the TOM TOM patent lawsuit where TOM TOM lost on the use of FAT32. The patent infringement was on Microsoft’s LFN (Long File Name) feature. This has caused a scramble in the Linux community to see what can be done to make FAT32 implementations non-infringing. But maybe this got pulled out of proportion, because even though FAT32 was part of the TOM TOM infringement suit, it was a PART of it. I saw online the suit and it was NOT just FAT32. Apparently Microsoft had many patents on GPS and MAPS and things of that sort. It looks like even if FAT32 was not used, TOM TOM was still in trouble with all the other patents that Microsoft claimed to have.

So how does this affect exFAT? With TOM TOM in Microsoft’s pocket, Microsoft now has an edge and the “big stick”. Microsoft has several patents right here, one being the “extensible file system”, which is exFAT itself, the Hash Lookup algorithm, and for later releases of exFAT the Transactional Safe exFAT. That is 3 patents right there. Each memory card and camera manufactuer is paying $300K a pop to license the technology from Microsoft, which lately has only been a few million dollars for a multi-billion dollar company, maybe chump change, but a stratregic foothold.

Time will tell whether these workaround drivers will make it or fall fould of the Microsoft lawyers.

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