Extended Attributes in Action

By: slacker (s.delete@this.lack.er), January 29, 2009 3:05 pm
Room: Moderated Discussions
Linus Torvalds (torvalds@linux-foundation.org) on 1/29/09 wrote:
---------------------------
>slacker (s@lack.er) on 1/29/09 wrote:
>>
>>I explain how this is a problem with virtually any sort of
>>metadata, whether it's stuck in file headers, wrapped
>>in to folders, inserted in to a xattrs, or shoved in to a
>>database.
>
>I ignore your argument, because your argument boils down to
>
>
> "some data formats are already insecure, so we might
>as well make all data formats be so, and I'm not
>even listening to your 'external database' suggestion".
>


Poor summary. I submit two things:

1. Metadata fundamentally undermines privacy and security. When data is "associated" with a file (metadata), rather than being the file itself (data stream), users either forget to examine it, ignore it, or be completely unaware that it exists. Thus, diligence on the part of the user is necessary whenever metadata is used.

2. The existence of metadata should never be hidden from the user. As a corollary, it should be easy for a user to update/modify/erase metadata. In this fashion, Extended Attributes are "safer" than any other implementations of metadata (or, at least, as safe), because they can be wiped easily, and by using a single tool.

I applaud your efforts to ignore poor arguments. Unfortunately, you were ignoring a strawman instead of honestly evaluating my arguments.

>So let me repeat: using an external database has absolutely
>zero downsides compared to EAs:
>
> ....
>
>- Yes, it requires you to use a special DB interface, but
>hey, how much less convenient is that than using special
>EA interfaces, really?

It's MUCH LESS CONVENIENT. I recognize the advantages of using a database, including the two points that you mentioned, but you just handwave away any utility that xattrs offer by saying, "oh, this other way isn't so bad."

>- And if you really want to make sure that the
>extended attributes really always follows the data (which
>is a big "if" to begin with), embedding them in the data
>stream is still preferable to EA's, because of the
>portability issues.

This was the very problem that I wanted to avoid, and you've gone right back to it. If I embed the metadata inside the data stream, modifying the metadata modifies the file itself, and the checksum will change.

-----------------------------------------------------------

I think we are finished with our arguing. Instead, I will offer to the readers of this sub-thread an example of where I would use Extended Attributes:

Let's say that I have ripped all of my CDs to MP3 format, and I want to "tag" each song with metadata. The MP3 file format supports "ID3 tags" for this purpose. However, when you modify ID3 tags, you are modifying the MP3 itself, and the checksum will change. Instead, you can use Extended Attributes for this purpose


$# Let's get the checksum for the file:
$ md5 "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
MD5 (Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3) = a5eb19fd03dd47dee4537e7e4d58313f

$# Now let's add metadata to the song using Extended Attributes:
$ ./xattr --set Artist "Frank Sinatra" "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
$ ./xattr --set Year "1957" "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
$ ./xattr --set Composer "Cy Coleman" "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
$ ./xattr --set Album "The Complete Capitol Singles Collection" "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
$ ./xattr --set Genre "Debonair" "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"

$# Let's look at what was added::
$ ./xattr --list "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3
Album The Complete Capitol Singles Collection
Artist Frank Sinatra
Composer Cy Coleman
Genre Debonair
Year 1957

$# Calculate the checksum again:
$ md5 "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
MD5 (Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3) = a5eb19fd03dd47dee4537e7e4d58313f

$# The checksum is the same! What if we update the xattrs?:
$ ./xattr --set Genre "Male Vocal" "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
$ ./xattr --list "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"

Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3
Album The Complete Capitol Singles Collection
Artist Frank Sinatra
Composer Cy Coleman
Genre Male Vocal
Year 1957

$ md5 "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3"
MD5 (Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3) = a5eb19fd03dd47dee4537e7e4d58313f

$# The checksum hasn't changed. We've associated metadata with a
file without changing the file itself. What if we copy the file?:


$ cp "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3" Send_to_Friend.mp3
$ ./xattr --list Send_to_Friend.mp3

Send_to_Friend.mp3
Album The Complete Capitol Singles Collection
Artist Frank Sinatra
Composer Cy Coleman
Genre Male Vocal
Year 1957

$# The extended attributes were copied over to the new file. What if
we want to wipe all the metadata before sending the file to someone?:


$ cp "Sinatra - Witchcraft.mp3" Send_to_Linus.mp3
$ ./xattrwipe.py Send_to_Linus.mp3
wiping xattrs.... COMPLETE

$ ./xattr --list Send_to_Linus.mp3
Send_to_Linus.mp3

$ md5 Send_to_Linus.mp3
MD5 (Send_to_Linus.mp3) = a5eb19fd03dd47dee4537e7e4d58313f

$# The metadata has been wiped clean, without any knowledge of the
file's internal structure, and without using any proprietary tools.
The file's data stream has not been modified even once during this
whole process, as verified by the unchanging MD5sums.

< Previous Post in ThreadNext Post in Thread >
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                                                  The File AbstractionTruePath2009/01/25 06:45 AM
                                                    The File AbstractionHoward Chu2009/01/25 01:49 PM
                                                      The File AbstractionLinus Torvalds2009/01/26 09:23 AM
                                                        The File AbstractionMichael S2009/01/26 01:39 PM
                                                          The File AbstractionLinus Torvalds2009/01/26 02:31 PM
                                                            The File AbstractionDean Kent2009/01/26 03:06 PM
                                                              The File AbstractionLinus Torvalds2009/01/26 04:29 PM
                                                                The File AbstractionMark Christiansen2009/01/27 09:24 AM
                                                                  The File AbstractionMark Christiansen2009/01/27 10:14 AM
                                                                  The File AbstractionLinus Torvalds2009/01/27 10:15 AM
                                                                    The File Abstractionslacker2009/01/27 11:20 AM
                                                                      The File AbstractionLinus Torvalds2009/01/27 01:16 PM
                                                                        Attributes All The Way DownMark Christiansen2009/01/27 02:17 PM
                                                                        The File Abstractionslacker2009/01/27 05:25 PM
                                                                          The File AbstractionLinus Torvalds2009/01/28 08:17 AM
                                                                            The File Abstraction: API thoughtsCarlie Coats2009/01/28 09:35 AM
                                                                            The File Abstractionslacker2009/01/28 10:09 AM
                                                                              The File AbstractionLinus Torvalds2009/01/28 01:44 PM
                                                                                Programs already 'hide' their metadata in the bytestream, unbeknownst to usersanon2009/01/28 09:28 PM
                                                                                The File Abstractionslacker2009/01/29 10:39 AM
                                                                                  The File AbstractionLinus Torvalds2009/01/29 11:08 AM
                                                                                    The File AbstractionDean Kent2009/01/29 11:49 AM
                                                                                      The File AbstractionHoward Chu2009/01/29 02:58 PM
                                                                                        The File Abstractionrwessel2009/01/29 04:23 PM
                                                                                    Extended Attributes in Actionslacker2009/01/29 03:05 PM
                                                                                      Extended Attributes in Actionstubar2009/01/29 04:49 PM
                                                                                      Extended Attributes in ActionLinus Torvalds2009/01/29 05:15 PM
                                                                                        Like Duhanon2009/01/29 07:42 PM
                                                                                          Like Duhanon2009/01/29 09:15 PM
                                                                                            Like Duhanon2009/02/01 07:18 PM
                                                                                              Double Duh.Anonymous2009/02/01 10:58 PM
                                                                                                Double Duh.anon2009/02/02 02:08 AM
                                                                                                  Double Duh.Anonymous2009/02/02 05:11 PM
                                                                                                    Double Duh.anon2009/02/02 07:33 PM
                                                                                              Like DuhDavid Kanter2009/02/01 11:05 PM
                                                                                                Like Duhpeter2009/02/01 11:55 PM
                                                                                                Like Duhanon2009/02/02 01:55 AM
                                                                                                Xattrs, Solar power, regulation and politicsRob Thorpe2009/02/02 04:36 AM
                                                                                                  Terminology seems too fuzzy to mehobold2009/02/02 06:14 AM
                                                                                                    Terminology seems too fuzzy to merwessel2009/02/02 12:33 PM
                                                                                                      good summaryMichael S2009/02/03 02:41 AM
                                                                                                        good summaryMark Christiansen2009/02/03 09:57 AM
                                                                                                          good summaryHoward Chu2009/02/03 10:21 AM
                                                                                                            good summaryMark Christiansen2009/02/03 11:18 AM
                                                                                                              good summaryHoward Chu2009/02/03 12:00 PM
                                                                                                                good summaryMark Christiansen2009/02/03 12:36 PM
                                                                                                          good summaryRagingDragon2009/02/03 10:39 PM
                                                                                                            good summaryrwessel2009/02/03 11:03 PM
                                                                                                              good summaryRagingDragon2009/02/03 11:46 PM
                                                                                                      Terminology seems too fuzzy to meslacker2009/02/04 05:06 PM
                                                                                                        Terminology seems too fuzzy to meMichael S2009/02/05 01:05 AM
                                                                                                          Terminology seems too fuzzy to meUngo2009/02/05 01:15 PM
                                                                                                          Terminology seems too fuzzy to meslacker2009/02/05 02:19 PM
                                                                                                            Terminology seems too fuzzy to meHoward Chu2009/02/05 04:44 PM
                                                                                          Like Duhiz2009/01/30 02:03 AM
                                                                                          EAs (security labels) hosed me badlyanon2009/01/30 09:48 PM
                                                                                        Extended Attributes in ActionRagingDragon2009/01/29 09:31 PM
                                                                                      Extended Attributes in Actionanonymous2009/01/29 08:13 PM
                                                                                      Extended Attributes in ActionHoward Chu2009/01/29 09:38 PM
                                                                                        Extended Attributes in Actionslacker2009/01/30 11:24 AM
                                                                                          Extended Attributes in Actionanon2009/01/30 05:50 PM
                                                                                      Extended Attributes in ActionEtienne Lehnart2009/01/30 12:22 AM
                                                                                      Extended Attributes in ActionRob Thorpe2009/01/30 12:39 PM
                                                                                        Extended Attributes in Actionslacker2009/01/30 01:16 PM
                                                                                          Extended Attributes in Actionanon2009/01/30 06:03 PM
                                                                                          Extended Attributes in ActionHoward Chu2009/01/30 11:22 PM
                                                                                            Extended Attributes in Actionrwessel2009/01/31 12:08 AM
                                                                                              Extended Attributes in Actionanonymous2009/01/31 12:22 AM
                                                                                                Extended Attributes in Actionrwessel2009/01/31 12:56 AM
                                                                                                  ScalingDean Kent2009/01/31 09:04 AM
                                                                                                    ScalingRob Thorpe2009/02/02 02:39 AM
                                                                                                      Scalingrwessel2009/02/02 11:41 AM
                                                                                                        ScalingHoward Chu2009/02/02 12:30 PM
                                                                                                          ScalingDean Kent2009/02/02 02:27 PM
                                                                                                            ScalingRob Thorpe2009/02/03 05:08 AM
                                                                                                              ScalingDean Kent2009/02/03 07:38 AM
                                                                                                              Scalingrwessel2009/02/03 02:34 PM
                                                                                                                ScalingRagingDragon2009/02/03 10:46 PM
                                                                                                    in defense of software that does not scaleMatt Sayler2009/02/03 11:27 AM
                                                                                                      in defense of software that does not scaleHoward Chu2009/02/03 12:03 PM
                                                                                                        in defense of software that does not scaleMatt Sayler2009/02/03 12:17 PM
                                                                                                        in defense of software that does not scaleRagingDragon2009/02/03 11:00 PM
                                                                                                          in defense of software that does not scaleMichael S2009/02/04 06:46 AM
                                                                                                            in defense of software that does not scaleRagingDragon2009/02/04 09:33 PM
                                                                                                      in defense of software that does not scaleDean Kent2009/02/03 12:17 PM
                                                                                                        in defense of software that does not scaleMatt Sayler2009/02/03 12:24 PM
                                                                                                        in defense of software that does not scaleVincent Diepeveen2009/02/04 10:43 AM
                                                                                                      in defense of software that does not scalerwessel2009/02/03 02:44 PM
                                                                                                        in defense of software that does not scaleanon2009/02/04 02:35 AM
                                                                                                          in defense of software that does not scaleCarlie Coats2009/02/04 05:24 AM
                                                                                                      Scaling with time vs. scaling from the beginning.mpx2009/02/05 01:57 AM
                                                                                                  Extended Attributes in ActionMichael S2009/01/31 10:33 AM
                                                                                                  Extended Attributes in Actionanon2009/01/31 10:37 PM
                                                                                          Extended Attributes in ActionJasonB2009/01/31 08:11 AM
                                                                                            Extended Attributes in ActionHoward Chu2009/01/31 11:43 AM
                                                                                              Extended Attributes in ActionJasonB2009/01/31 04:37 PM
                                                                                                Extended Attributes in ActionHoward Chu2009/02/02 02:42 PM
                                                                                                  Extended Attributes in ActionHoward Chu2009/02/02 02:44 PM
                                                                    The File AbstractionRob Thorpe2009/01/27 11:20 AM
                                                              The File AbstractionHoward Chu2009/01/27 12:28 AM
                                                                The File AbstractionMichael S2009/01/27 03:00 AM
                                                                The File AbstractionDean Kent2009/01/27 08:30 AM
                                                        The File AbstractionAndi Kleen2009/01/27 02:05 AM
                                  SLC vs. MLCMichel2009/01/12 06:54 PM
                                    SLC vs. MLCLinus Torvalds2009/01/12 07:38 PM
                                      SLC vs. MLCrwessel2009/01/13 12:52 AM
                                      SLC vs. MLCUngo2009/01/13 03:04 PM
                                        SLC vs. MLCWes Felter2009/01/13 05:42 PM
                                      SLC vs. MLCTruePath2009/01/25 05:05 AM
                    SLC vs. MLCUngo2008/08/21 12:54 PM
                    SLC vs. MLCAaron Spink2008/08/21 01:20 PM
                  MLC vs. SLCMichael S2008/08/21 08:57 AM
                First Dunnington benchmark resultsrwessel2008/08/21 10:40 AM
              First Dunnington benchmark resultsAaron Spink2008/08/21 03:18 AM
      First Dunnington benchmark resultsEtienne Lehnart2008/08/20 04:38 AM
  Will x86 dominate big iron?Tom W2008/08/19 10:10 PM
    Will x86 dominate big iron?Jesper Frimann2008/08/20 12:28 AM
      Will x86 dominate big iron?Tom W2008/08/20 03:42 PM
        Will x86 dominate big iron?David Kanter2008/08/21 01:13 AM
          Will x86 dominate big iron?Joe Chang2008/08/21 06:54 AM
            Will x86 dominate big iron?asdf2008/08/22 01:18 PM
              Will x86 dominate big iron?Dean Kent2008/08/22 07:54 PM
        Will x86 dominate big iron?Jesper Frimann2008/08/22 09:48 AM
          Will x86 dominate big iron?Tom W2008/08/24 01:06 AM
            Will x86 dominate big iron?Michael S2008/08/24 04:19 AM
              Will x86 dominate big iron?Dean Kent2008/08/24 09:30 AM
                Will x86 dominate big iron?Paul2008/08/24 11:16 AM
                  Will x86 dominate big iron?Dean Kent2008/08/24 12:37 PM
                Will x86 dominate big iron?Michael S2008/08/25 12:53 AM
        Will x86 dominate big iron?someone2008/08/22 10:19 AM
          Will x86 dominate big iron?aaron spink2008/08/23 02:56 AM
            Will x86 dominate big iron?Michael S2008/08/23 09:58 AM
              Will x86 dominate big iron?someone2008/08/23 01:51 PM
            Will x86 dominate big iron?someone2008/08/23 01:55 PM
              Will x86 dominate big iron?Aaron Spink2008/08/23 04:52 PM
                Will x86 dominate big iron?anonymous2008/08/23 05:28 PM
                  Will x86 dominate big iron?Dean Kent2008/08/23 06:12 PM
                    Off road and topicEduardoS2008/08/23 06:28 PM
                  Will x86 dominate big iron?someone2008/08/23 06:26 PM
                    Will x86 dominate big iron?Dean Kent2008/08/23 09:40 PM
                    Will x86 dominate big iron?anonymous2008/08/24 01:46 AM
                  Off road and topicDavid W. Hess2008/08/24 03:24 AM
                    Off road and topicAaron Spink2008/08/24 04:14 AM
  Beckton vs. DunningtonMr. Camel2008/08/22 06:30 AM
    Beckton vs. Dunningtonjokerman2008/08/22 12:12 PM
    Beckton vs. DunningtonMr. Camel2009/05/29 10:16 AM
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How do you spell green?