OS X file names normalization

By: Linus Torvalds (torvalds.delete@this.linux-foundation.org), July 15, 2020 1:21 pm
Room: Moderated Discussions
Linus Torvalds (torvalds.delete@this.linux-foundation.org) on July 15, 2020 12:58 pm wrote:
>
> Now, there are multiple reasons not to normalize, but the fundamental
> one is that you're losing information that can be relevant.

Side note: there's a strong historical one too, which is happily going away: not everybody uses UTF-8 in the first place. So then the filename is some locale- and encoding-dependent byte stream, and the OS really doesn't know how to interpret it.

Even if you then convert to Unicode at some point, doing any normalization on that Unicode can then make it nigh impossible to convert back depending on what the original model was. So don't do it.

But that situation is now almost purely historical (and if you still have to deal with it as a tech person, you have my condolences).

I mention it, because it so happens that the technically best model is for your filesystem to simply not ever care. The UNIX designers got it right: "everything is a stream of bytes". Don't try to structure the data your users work with, because you don't know your users' needs and processes, and you should try to avoid standing in their way.

Yes, in any Unix filesystem environment, the bytes (and I repeat: bytes) '.' '/' and NUL are invariably special and very meaningful. You can't avoid that. But if your locale makes that possible (and most try very hard indeed), then you can use any encoding you want that is compatible with those bytes being special.

But that very much requires that you do no UTF-8 normalization at all, not even on the encoding level (ie all the forms of "invalid UTF8", including over-long sequences and simply incorrect UTF8 sequences entirely is still valid data).

Talking about UTF-8 encoding issues in general: the absolute worst thing you can do is to normalize the UTF-8 byte stream encoding at the wrong point.

For example, it's possible to express regular US-ASCII Unicode characters (aka codepoints) with invalid overlong UTF-8 sequences, and if you do it wrong (and people have done it wrong, although I think this was the one mistake Apple avoided), you can get into situations where you've checked for a NUL end-of-filename byte character (or a '/' directory marker), but then did the UTF-8 "cleanup" afterwards, and turned an overlong sequence into the "canonical" UTF-8 representation that is just regular ASCII.

Again, that's a completely different kind of normalization (it's now a UTF-8 byte sequence normalization, not a Unicode codepoint sequence normalization), and that's also very dangerous. Don't do it, unless you really really know what you're doing. You'll introduce nasty security issues.

If you absolutely know that you're dealing with UTF-8, and it's the only format you support, then you generally have two choices:

(a) you can either just always treat it as a sequence of bytes (ie you can still do things like compare those strings, but the overlong representations should be done without any kind of normalization what-so-ever and compare as bytes)

or

(b) refuse to touch it at all, and error out as quickly as possible

Again, this isn't filesystem-specific per se. But a filesystem should generally follow one of those two rules. The first one allows people to use non-UTF-8 encodings. The second one allows valid well-formed UTF-8, and doesn't have subtle security issues.

If you do it wrong, people can have issues where (for example) one part validates the string as not containing some special character (like that '/' character - but again, this can be about a lot of other things than filesystems: web URL checks, various quoting schemes, things like that), but then another part "fixes" the encoding problems with UTF-8 and introduces the special quoting character after-the-fact.

Generally "treat utf-8 as purely a byte stream" is always pretty safe. At least you won't mess things up too badly if you do that consistently. You might get "garbage in, garbage out", but you generally won't hit the "garbage in, black hat in" case, and you won't hit the "user had legacy issues, you screwed up" case.

And if you do decode invalid UTF-8 (either overlong or just plain misformed), make sure to always convert such bytes to a Unicode code point that is not in the US ASCII space. Because that's how you create security issues.

Use either U+FFFD, or maybe convert it using a legacy locale (eg Latin-1 happens to be particularly simple to convert to UTF-8 and tends to be nicely malformed so you don't get confused about whether it's just odd UTF-8 contents).

Linus
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                        Alder Lake and AVX-512Linus Torvalds2020/07/14 08:02 AM
                          Alder Lake and AVX-512Maynard Handley2020/07/14 11:40 AM
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                                    OS X file names normalizationSimon Farnsworth2020/07/15 11:27 AM
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                                                      OS X file names normalizationLinus Torvalds2020/07/17 09:16 AM
                                                      OS X file names normalizationSimon Farnsworth2020/07/18 05:12 AM
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                Alder Lake and AVX-512Linus Torvalds2020/07/12 01:08 PM
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                    Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/13 11:10 AM
                      Alder Lake and AVX-512Jörn Engel2020/07/13 03:03 PM
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          Alder Lake and AVX-512Linus Torvalds2020/07/12 10:35 AM
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              Alder Lake and AVX-512Linus Torvalds2020/07/12 11:37 AM
                Alder Lake and AVX-512nobody in particular2020/07/12 11:43 AM
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                    Configurable cache line size?dmcq2020/07/15 02:43 PM
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                      Configurable cache line size?Etienne2020/07/17 12:03 AM
                        Configurable cache line size?Hugo Décharnes2020/07/18 01:11 AM
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                      AVX-512/SVE & HPC (was: Alder Lake and AVX-512)zArchJon2020/07/17 12:16 PM
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                Some fundamentals haven't changed2020/07/24 03:24 PM
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                                          If they release the compiler, how they will blame the still-in-development compiler for the lacklustAnon2020/07/28 04:20 PM
                                        Apparently they're busy writing a kernel...Anon2020/07/29 02:03 AM
                                          Apparently they're busy writing a kernel...dmcq2020/07/29 02:39 AM
                        What belt is.2020/07/26 10:44 AM
                          What belt is.anonymous22020/07/26 11:02 AM
                            What belt is.Doug S2020/07/26 02:26 PM
                              What belt is.2020/07/26 03:02 PM
        gooduseruser2020/07/12 09:06 AM
      Alder Lake and AVX-512-.-2020/07/11 08:03 PM
        Alder Lake and AVX-512-.-2020/07/11 08:07 PM
      Alder Lake and AVX-512j2020/07/12 11:29 PM
        Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/13 12:12 AM
          Alder Lake and AVX-512j2020/07/13 01:58 AM
            Alder Lake and AVX-512dmcq2020/07/13 03:53 PM
              Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/13 11:57 PM
                Alder Lake and AVX-512Maynard Handley2020/07/14 09:26 AM
                Alder Lake and AVX-512dmcq2020/07/14 11:33 AM
                  Alder Lake and AVX-512dmcq2020/07/14 02:43 PM
                    Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/14 11:55 PM
                      Alder Lake and AVX-512dmcq2020/07/15 01:19 AM
                        Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/15 01:34 AM
                          Alder Lake and AVX-512dmcq2020/07/15 02:03 AM
                            Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/15 08:43 AM
                              Alder Lake and AVX-512dmcq2020/07/15 08:54 AM
                                Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/15 10:35 AM
                                  Alder Lake and AVX-512dmcq2020/07/15 02:18 PM
                                    GV100 + POWER9Michael S2020/07/16 12:17 AM
                                      GV100 + POWER9dmcq2020/07/16 07:58 AM
                                        GV100 + POWER9dmcq2020/07/16 08:10 AM
                        Alder Lake and AVX-512dmcq2020/07/15 01:48 AM
    Alder Lake and AVX-512o2020/07/12 02:08 AM
    Alder Lake and AVX-5122020/07/12 10:07 AM
      Alder Lake and AVX-5122020/07/12 10:32 AM
      Alder Lake and AVX-512Linus Torvalds2020/07/12 10:39 AM
        Alder Lake and AVX-5122020/07/12 11:47 AM
        Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/12 12:18 PM
          x87 crapHeikki Kultala2020/07/12 12:30 PM
            x87 crapMichael S2020/07/12 12:37 PM
              x87 crapHeikki kultala2020/07/12 01:11 PM
                x87 crapMichael S2020/07/12 01:50 PM
                  Sparc and PA-RISC vs pentium FP performanceHeikki Kultala2020/07/13 12:14 AM
                    Sparc and PA-RISC vs pentium FP performanceanonymous22020/07/13 09:48 AM
          Alder Lake and AVX-512Doug S2020/07/12 02:33 PM
            Alder Lake and AVX-512Michael S2020/07/12 03:10 PM
    Alder Lake and AVX-512David Kanter2020/07/12 04:01 PM
      Alder Lake and AVX-512anon2020/07/12 04:40 PM
      ~0% of users do much FP outside of GPUs for games (NT)anonymous22020/07/12 04:47 PM
        ~0% of users do much FP outside of GPUs for gamesMaynard Handley2020/07/12 11:26 PM
        not trueChester2020/07/12 11:37 PM
          not trueMichael S2020/07/13 12:29 AM
            not trueChester2020/07/13 12:59 AM
              not trueanonymous22020/07/13 09:32 AM
                not trueMaynard Handley2020/07/13 01:30 PM
                  not trueChester2020/07/14 04:47 AM
            not trueDoug S2020/07/13 11:30 AM
              not trueAnon2020/07/13 12:16 PM
                not trueMaynard Handley2020/07/13 01:39 PM
              not trueMaynard Handley2020/07/13 01:38 PM
          not trueLinus Torvalds2020/07/13 10:27 AM
            not trueDummond D. Slow2020/07/13 01:10 PM
              not trueMaynard Handley2020/07/13 01:49 PM
                not trueDummond D. Slow2020/07/13 02:38 PM
            not true (about FP, not avx-512)Chester2020/07/17 09:37 AM
  Alder Lake and AVX-512Travis Downs2020/07/11 05:45 PM
    Alder Lake and AVX-512-.-2020/07/11 05:57 PM
      Alder Lake and AVX-512-.-2020/07/12 03:26 PM
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