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Case sensitivity in filesystems

© May 2019 Anthony Lawrence
February 2006

When I first used my iBook I was very annoyed by its case preserving, case insensitive HFS+ filesystem. Traditional Unix says "abc" and "ABC" are not the same file, but HFS+ says they are. I didn't like that very much, but I'm changing my mind. Unfortunately, Apple has changed their mind too.

With Tiger, the HFSX file system is case preserving. I didn't notice, and neither would anyone else who upgraded to Tiger because your old file system doesn't change with an upgrade. But people who installed new did get that, and that can cause problems if they have to move files to an older file system

Apple probably changed their minds because of existing Unix and Linux software that breaks when installed on case insensitive, case preserving systems because of two files with similar names (foo and Foo) that need to be different. I changed my mind simply because of support issues: it's highly annoying to tell someone they need to run "xf86config" when even I can't remember how the stupid thing is capitalized. I now agree that traditional Unix was dead wrong in this regard, but now we have a damn mess: Apple probably should have just said the heck with it, or (hard as it may be) should have designed a filesystem where case sensitivity can be set on a per directory basis - that would let us bring down conflicting file names when we needed to without confusing things as they are now. It would also let people choose their own poison: make the setting recursive, so if you really want this, set it at your root, and vice versa.

Given the other amazing things in these filesystems (like arstechnica.com/reviews/os/macosx-10.4.ars/7 (link dead, sorry) extended attributes, I can't imagine why this would have been all that difficult. Oh, well, maybe next time.

See also Detective: Renaming Files

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-> Case sensitivity in filesystems

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of High Sierra

Take Control of Numbers

Take Control of IOS 11

iOS 10: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of OS X Server

More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Tue Nov 21 18:31:39 2006: 2635   TonyLawrence

Apparently they moved the default back.. my 10.4.8 new install used HFS+


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