The Future of the NTFS Driver in the Linux Kernel Is in Question

The Future of the NTFS Linux Driver as Part of the Kernel Is in Question

After Paragon’s NTFS3 driver was accepted to become part of the Linux kernel last year, it has not received a single line of code maintenance.

Let’s start with a brief background of events. The NTFS support in the Linux kernel has always been an important part. After all, a vast number of Linux users rely on it to be able to use the Windows file systems fully under Linux.

Unfortunately, the existing Linux NTFS driver, which implementation dated back to 2001, was unmaintained in the kernel and lacked proper write support and other features.

Of course, there is an NTFS-3G driver, which is another open-source implementation of Microsoft NTFS that includes read and write support, but it’s a filesystem in userspace (FUSE). So, the main drawback of this implementation is speed.

So when last August, the German software company Paragon Software offered to open source its in-house developed NTFS3 driver to become part of the Linux kernel, the news was welcomed among the Linux community. However, the driver was a proprietary software sold commercially before that.

Paragon’s NTFS3 driver fully supports reads and writes and many other features not found with the existing Linux driver. In addition, it fully supports NTFS v3.1 specifications, including support for journal replaying and normal/compressed/sparse files.

In short, it’s much better off for those needing to deal with Microsoft NTFS file systems from Linux.

However, the first steps of adopting the driver as part of the Linux kernel were accompanied by many strange events and misunderstandings.

The point is that a straightforward procedure like creating a pull request (PR) proved to be a difficult task for the driver developers at Paragon Software. After several failed attempts, the driver was still submitted as a single dump of 27,000 lines of code!

The reaction of one of the current Linux kernel developers, Nikolay Borisov, was lightning fast:

So, how exactly do you expect someone to review this monstrosity?

Nikolay Borisov, Linux kernel developer

It got to the point that Linus Torvalds himself had to step in with guidance on exactly what the Paragon developers were expected to do to make their driver part of the Linux kernel.

Despite all the glitches, the driver was eventually implemented, and on October 31, 2021, Linux kernel 5.15 was officially announced with the Paragon NTFS3 driver integrated into it.

However, yesterday, a message from Kernel developer Kari Argillander to Linus Torvalds caused concern among the Linux community.

Concerns over the NTFS Linux driver

So, since the Paragon NTFS3 driver has been accepted as part of the Linux kernel, it hasn’t received a single line of code support, and any attempts to contact its developer have failed.

After ntfs3 got merged and 5.15 got released ntfs3 maintainer has kept total radio silence. I have tried to contact him with personal mails with no luck. I have chosen bunch of people to discuss what we should do this driver as this is already orphan.

Kari Argillander, Linux kernel developer

Things aren’t looking good for this once-promising NTFS driver for Linux right now, but we’ll see if anything changes or if any immediate action is taken.

On the other hand, what happens to everyone who already uses its functionality when it comes to removing the driver from the Linux kernel, especially when we are talking about business use?

So, it’s currently unclear what the future of the Paragon NTFS3 driver will be as part of the Linux kernel. But, of course, we look forward to Linus Torvalds’ opinion on the situation, given that he is the person who makes the final decisions on the Linux kernel.

2 Comments

  1. To be fair, the one time I tried to introduce a kernel patch, I found the rigidity of the process – especially some aspects which seemed absolutely idiotic such as “signing off” my own patch – what does that mean ? – to be surprisingly large hurdles to overcome.

    I don’t expect anything to be trivial, but, I equally don’t expect to have to devote so much time to a process which in theory should be as simple as supplying a diff file with a description of the purpose.

  2. Frankly the driver is ridden with bugs. I enjoyed the speed at first but soon came to loose data left and right. Even had to reboot on windows to repare as there’s limited program to help in those cases. Thanks for the article.

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