back to article Linux patch sidesteps Microsoft's TomTom patent

A Linux patch has been released to circumvent a Microsoft patent that landed Linux user TomTom in hot water. The patch avoids the need to create both short - 8.3 - and long filenames, the crux of Microsoft's patent dispute with TomTom. Instead, you create one or the other. Microsoft holds the patent on the Virtual File …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Mono's next in the line...

    How some people can believe the recent MS lie that they are now open-source-freindly is beyond my imagination. Are people really *that* stupid?

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    That Stupid - In a word


  3. Chris C

    Damn short filenames

    Let me preface this by saying I like backward compatibility, and I still need to use a number of DOS programs on my WinXP system (which includes maintaining a 14-year-old DOS app for a client who steadfastly refuses to have it rewritten as a Windows or browser-based app).

    That said, I hate Microsoft's implementation of the short (8.3) filenames because it breaks in unexpected ways. As an example, I wrote a CMD script to process some files. Part of the script copies files ending in .zip to .ziptemp in case the processing fails. If processing fails, the .zip files are deleted and the .ziptemp files are renamed back to .zip. Unfortunately, that's one of those ways in which Windows' handling of short/long filenames breaks. If you copy to foo.zipdel, and you then delete *.zip, foo.zipdel is also deleted. Why? Because the long name is "foo.zipdel", but the short name is "", and because the short name matches the "*.zip" mask, it's deleted along with the actual .zip files.

    I realize that long filenames can be troublesome for non-VFAT-aware apps (DOS and 16-bit Windows apps), but there has got to be a better way to handle them than Microsoft's chosen implementation. Then again, that's not exactly surprising, now, is it?

  4. GreyCells

    Re: Mono's next in the line...

    @ElReg!comments!Pierre: Yes. Greed (usually for money, but often for 'power') even corrupts the reasoning of the smartest people.

    Remind me again - how do software patents *promote* innovation?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Just because they want to protect their existing patents, which they never said everyone could just use, doesn't mean to say that they will behave in the same way with all the patents that they told everyone they could use for free. Just like IBM, just like Sun.

    What I do find interesting is how reproducing a FAT based long filename system that is compatible with MS' VFAT avoids their patent on it. I know it only does either long or 8.3 filenames, but this seems open to some serious questions about infringement of VFAT patents.

  6. Lozzyho


    Because VFAT was designed my Microsoft and was never released as Open Source. Like it or not, they have a right to protect their patent.

    Apple, on the other hand, take an open-source OS, tack on a UI, sell it, and try to put out of business anyone who tries to sell it with their own hardware.


  7. serviceWithASmile
    Gates Horns

    re: ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Yes, people are stupid.

    A person is quite smart.

    But people are stupid.

    This is really awesome, someone needed to tell Microsoft that they don't have a patent for everything, and just because "M$ says " doesn't mean we have to bend over, be shafted and pay them for the pleasure.

    Hopefully others under the thumb of MSPatent 2009 TM will take note and follow suit.

    One thing I suggest that the linux community does now, however, is to patent their workaround. Then when M$ need to make something that utilises this workaround, for whatever reason, guess whos going to take THEM to court

    ooooooooo yeeeeeeeeeeee

  8. James Hughes 1

    There are always* ways around patents

    So mono just have to get in their workaround in before MS get aggressive.

    * almost always.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    bloody M$

    making peoples lives worse since whenever - guess who has to pay for all the crap M$ causes - thats right its us, you wouldnt mind, but steve and bill more money than they can spend in a life time. Asshats the pair of them

  10. Big-nosed Pengie
    Gates Horns


    Yes. Yes, they are.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    And yet ...

    ... in almost the same breath there are Linux developers/project leaders who say that MS can be trusted on C#/Mono. MS can never be trusted. The software industry battlefield is strewn with the corpses of companies and projects that thought MS *might* be trustworthy.


  12. Charles Manning

    The patch


    bool "Do you want to violate Microsoft FAT patent?"

    depends FS_FAT

    default n


    Enable to annoy Ballmer

  13. Anonymous Coward

    OSS/MS supporters gonna shut up now?

    OK fence sitters, are you going to stop believing MS FUD about patents, FATs and C#, .Net, etc and the free-source love-in BS? They have proved time and again they cannot be trusted, granted the OSS community has dug this hole by themsleves and had to find a way out themselves, proves MS care no more for OSS then Mr Jobs. If MS gave a monkey's about the OSS world and given the fact that FAT is already so prevelent, they would have proposed a workaround to the patent claim. No they didn't, they simply left OSS to stew in it's own juices and find it's own way out.

    MS are a big corp, same as Apple, same as Google. They are not your fluffy mates, always ready to help you out and make you life so much more enriched. None of them can be trusted and you need to keep your guard up at all times and watch those sneeky sods!

  14. Iggle Piggle


    To be honest I cannot quite see how you can relate persuing someone for breaching your patent to being anti sharing some code you have written. If you are saying that anyone who has an idea should be compelled to share it with everyone else then I would disagree. There are some projects where we can all benefit by collaborating together, that does not mean that we cannot have day jobs that we want to keep to ourselves.

    However your point about mono should indeed be a concern. Unless Microsoft come out and openly declare that they will not chase after the authors of Mono or Moonlight then I think people would be best to avoid those products. In the case of Moonlight this also means that authors should effectively avoid Silverlight too because, unless you are targetting a corporate Intranet, you are effectively excluding an increasingly important portion of your audience. That said Silverlight really is quite good.

  15. Scott 1
    Big Brother

    Software patents

    Yet another reason that software patents should go away. You can hardly do anything useful as a programmer without violating some yahoo's patent (or patent issued by yahoos).

  16. Jay Jaffa

    The end of an era

    This particular TomTom case has generated so much more bad feeling toward Microsoft that it's got to be considered another rusty nail in their coffin. The world is moving on, technology is moving on, platforms are evolving but now in the patent trolling business.

    It's no wonder Gates the Visionary has left the sinking ship - his vison just about stretched to seeing the inevitable train crash his company is careering toward ...

  17. drag

    Your thinking to hard.

    Microsoft is a gigantic company. What one group in Microsoft does really should not reflect on other parts of the company.

    It sounds a bit insane, but the reality is that Microsoft is BOTH friendly and unfriendly.

    It's really quite simple when you look at it from a distance. Microsoft is friendly towards software that runs on top of Windows. Microsoft's Windows is their cash cow and if people would run Apache and PHP on Windows rather then Linux then Microsoft will do everything in their power to make it a reality.

    It is when people try to move away from Windows is when Microsoft will start getting mean. It's very simple.

  18. Ralphe Neill
    Gates Horns

    This is patent-worthy?

    Run that past me again ... Microsoft has a patent for code needed to get around the limitations of its own ridiculous 8.3 filenames???

  19. James Gibbons

    It may not be Mono that causes the patent issue

    but suppose someone extends Mono into another area, such as an interface to some media product that MS has a patent on. One must be very careful how applications with Mono are used and interfaced too. It isn't so much the use of Mono or Linux themselves that causes patent problems, it's how you put things together to make a product (with things like VFAT) that causes the problem.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Naturally, this would have severely damaged TomTom's business.

    TomTom are more than capable of doing that themselves.

    Ditching PDA users for a start......

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    MS likes divide & Rule as much as Enfold, extend, extinguish

    Developers used FAT for 2 reasons. No thinking required and compatibility.

    Having seen what MS like to do with anyone they think is weak enough to hit (yes that does make them sound like a playground bully does it not) hopefully anyone running a development effort will avoid the straight FAT.

    Now the real question is how much of this is the ease of use that just plugging your gizmo straight into a PC and getting a directory listing up really gives people. And does the patch cause any probs in this regard.

    If not then its OSC 1 MS 0.

    Mono developers. You have been warned. This is how MS do business.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Here we see the future...

    Now M$ have realised they no longer have a worthwhile product to sell - and realise that their customers are beginning to realise that too - they're turning into just another patent-troll... but this time with a twist, they've got the financial muscle to bully people into settling even where no violation exists because their victims can't afford to take them on.

    This growing aspect of their operations could eventualy turn out to be even more pernicious than their piss-poor security model, because everybody who turns up with a better idea will be forced to join their network of franchisees.

    Grenade - because we'd all be better off if somebody got one into their boardroom.

  23. mfraz

    Why vfat?

    Why not just use ext2 or 3 on TomToms then there'll be no chances of patent infringement.

  24. Brian Witham

    Oh the joys

    What makes me laugh is how Microsoft's Modus Operandi of getting behind someone to stab them in the back has always remained constant - and yet we still fall for it. One day government will force this company to commit to open standards so we don't have to play their games..

    Sorry, just woke up

  25. Wokstation

    Given that MS did/does that whole patent-grabbing thing...

    ...such as trying to patent smilies through Abstract Patents, it's interesting that they're now getting their patent lawyers out.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Fixed that for you:

    @ Fraser

    "What I find interesting is how reproducing a FAT based on work done by Xerox entitles Microsoft to sue the backside off all and sundry"

    Really Fraser, why are you making excuses for this? If you invented a new kind of ice cream, and MicroCream came along, put a flake in it and then sued you until you didn't have a pot to mix your ingredients in, would you make excuses for them?

    Microsoft have taken credit for an existing technology, not only that but because of their monopolistic policy on data storage, they're using their dominance to stifle interoperability and therefore competition. It doesn't strike you as odd that there's a grand total of one modern file system for use on windows?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Program ideas should not fall under copyright

    In literature, you can not copyright ideas, only the text itself. Likewise, you should not be able to copyright the "idea" of virtual filenames and how to do it, only Microsoft's actual implication.

  28. Grease Monkey Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    TomTom is rubbish anyway, I've no idea why their products are so popular. I had itr on my PDA for a while and ditched it because it's route planning was so apalling. It continually wanted to punt me down restricted byways and public footpaths and the like. Or on one occasion trying to get me to carry on at a dead end where there was no road or path of any kind. TomTom fans told me it was the way I was using it, but I fail to see how I could configure it in such a way that it would take me through a farm yard and down a sixty foot bank where no road or path existed.

    TomTom's excuse was that it wasn't their product that was at fault, but the mapping and if I told them where the problems were they would get the mapping updated. Since they'd sold me the map then it was surely their responsibility to make sure it was accurate. If it was a free beta then I could sympathise with this point of view, but it's simply not acceptable in a commercial product.

    Every time I see one of those stories where somebody has driven into a field or river or up a public footpath and blamed their satnav I think "TomTom". To be entirely fair to TomTom it does take a special kind of idiot to drive into a field or up a public footpath just because their satnav tells them to. Surely when your satnav tells you to go where there clearly isn't a road you ignore it?

  29. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Rabid anti-MS fanboy flash crowd arrives - more later

    Microsoft found a way to handle long filenames, aquired a patent upon that, and you are bitchin' about Microsoft enforcing that patent. It's not like they didn't patent it, put it in the public domain, offered it as Open Source, invited everyone to use it as they wish and reneged on that is it?

    Sure, Microsoft are evil; they could have chosen not to patent nor sue for infringement, just as one can let GPL infringements go by. Funny how rules are rules and must be abided by except when Microsoft tries to enforce the rights they have.

    Attempting to have the patent invalidated is one thing, as is doing it another way which the patent doesn't cover, but simply ignoring it and hoping Microsoft won't enforce their patent is ludicrous. Fix the broken patent system, don't blame Microsoft for protecting the rights they have been granted.

    No icon of Linux fanbois wanking themselves to a fury, so it'll have to be a 'piracy' icon, because that's what they were hoping to get away with.

  30. Smarty Pants

    gotta love it

    St Steve of the Jobs does this and he's protecting his investment

    MS do same thing - the bastards


  31. Ed Blackshaw

    If you're going to be a patent troll, always remember...'s best to make sure you actually own the IP, eh Darl McBride?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Killing three birds with one stone

    So Tom Tom has upgraded to a better filesystem implementation, dodged the bullet on a dubious claim by MS over what basically is a kludge for obsolete VFAT, and made MS look like assholes in the process. Nice.

  33. Rob

    Tricky one, no underdog to root for

    MS are obviously a pain for not being more open and TomTom are a bunch of high-priced-fleecing gits, which to root for?

    In an ideal world MS would screw TomTom out of businesses and because MS screwed TT they'd get a lot of bad press and would readjust their market attitude to be more open and co-operative which would then make Apple a bad comparison, so Apple would then readjust their attitude to customers and the market would be better off all round.

    Right, I've finished day dreaming, someone hand me my jacket....

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    @Jason Bloomberg

    "Funny how rules are rules and must be abided by except when Microsoft tries to enforce the rights they have."

    Funny how rules are rules and must be abided by except when Microsoft breaks out its lawyers and just plain refuses to.

    Perhaps that's why some of us get a bit rabid sometimes. Do you really not understand that? Are you really happy to fund unrepentant criminals? No? Then why do you make an exception for Microsoft?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 09:31

    Nice use of quotation marks to make it look like I said something I didn't. You do know that they're called quotation marks for a reason?

    Your argument is bogus anyway there may be question as to whether or not MS, Xerox or IBM have the primary art on FAT, but there is no reasonable question about VFAT (AFAIK), which is what the patent is being claimed upon.

  36. The BigYin

    Why use FAT at all?

    OK, so natively Windows can only read FAT and NTFS. Big deal. Use ext3 (or something*) on your device and when you install the client app for the satnav/whatever, include drivers that will allow Windows to read/write to the file system.

    Job done.

    Not patent, no trouble.

    I do not get why people insist on using FAT when there is just no need. Ot6her file systems are leagues better.

    *Make it an industry-wide decision and stick to the same driver set.

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Why use FAT? SD cards maybe?

    Possibly something to do with having to support SD cards in some devices. TomTom used ( dunno about now ) used have it's primary map base files on a plugin SD card, most carsd will have to travel between PC's and the device, so the cards have to be in a format that can simply whipped in and out of almost any PC type machine, ( for that read 95% Windows desktops ), hence why I believe FAT was chosen by TomTom for their devices.

  39. /dev/null
    Gates Horns

    @The BigYin

    Good luck with your mission to get the entire personal computing and consumer electronics industries to agree on a new filesystem for removable devices - not too mention persuading the users to install a new filesystem driver on their PCs in order to be able to plug in their toys!

    On the other hand, there *is* another filesystem that is widely supported "out of the box": UDF. No it isn't just for DVDs. Bit more complicated to implement than VFAT though, I'm sure....

  40. Tom Chiverton 1

    @Ralphe Neill

    No, the patent is on a filesystem that supports proper filenames and 8.3 *at the same time*. So the (2nd) Kernel patch doesn't bother about 8.3 (use msdos, not vfat if you want [just] 8.3).

  41. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    @ John Dee

    In *this case* what rules have Microsoft broken ?

    I defend Microsoft not on the grounds they can do no wrong, or that their model for doing business is the best, but they are legally right in seeking to protect their patents.

    Yes, Microsoft - and many others - show us what a horrible, nasty world we live in, driven by profit motives and trampling on the competition and underdogs, and there are, IMO too, better ways things could be done but that does not affect the fact that this is what we have.

    I do think Microsoft should be punished when it does wrong, but that doesn't mean Microsoft are wrong when they are within their rights. If Microsoft isn't being punished when it should be one can hardly blame Microsoft for that.

    If 'the world' needs changing, change it, or suck it up. Fanatical railing against Microsoft no matter what they do will not achieve that. If Microsoft were handing out $100 bills, a Linux PC, with sworn promises of no strings attached, some people would still not be happy. Damned if they make C# and CLI proprietary, damned if they make it an ECMA standard. Damned when they seek to protect what they have every right to protect ( according the current system ), damned even when they don't.

    Linux wins when Linux is best, and that is aptly demonstrated in the server and embedded market. If Linux cannot compete without having to rely upon what Microsoft has as protected IP then that's Linux's - or society's - problem not Microsoft's.

  42. William Towle
    Thumb Up

    @Fraser @ElReg!comment!Pierre

    Fraser> What I do find interesting is how reproducing a FAT based long filename system that is compatible with MS' VFAT avoids their patent on it. I know it only does either long or 8.3 filenames, but this seems open to some serious questions about infringement of VFAT patents.

    The key point would seem to be that the patents specified in the TomTom case relate to data which enables directory entries (a conventional one which "holds a short filename for the file", the other[s] holding a "long filename for the file") to be equated. Having read the patch, it would seem that if some of that data is either not present or corrupt in some consistent way, then you retain some level of compatibility with your original 8+3-only or LFN-aware system* while avoiding having implemented what the patent describes.

    * and possibly only that system of the two (I've not tried it). But it's still cunning.

  43. Stephen Bungay
    Jobs Horns

    Simple rules...

    #1: Don't deal with Microsoft

    #2: See Rule #1.

    IMHO Mono is a (BIG) chink in the armor. If M$ does NOT exploit the use of Mono to gain leverage over Linux then they are bigger fools than those who currently think that Mono is safe from attack.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    @Program ideas should not fall under copyright

    Everything you wrote is right but irrelevant. This is _patents_, not _copyrights_. They are completely different things. You can't copyright an idea, but you can patent it.

  45. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Change from FAT to UDF

    UDF 1.02 plain is supported by Linux 2.4+, MacOS 9+, and Windows 98+. There should be no real reason not to use it if Microsoft is going round suing people.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Jason Bloomberg

    "In *this case* what rules have Microsoft broken?"

    That is of no matter. You made a very general remark about hypocrisy which was itself, when taken in its proper context, hypocritical.

    "but that doesn't mean Microsoft are wrong when they are within their rights."

    Until such time as they have paid various court-mandated reparations they have a very limited set of rights, in this monkey's opinion, like any convicted criminal who has yet to pay their debt to society.

    "but they are legally right in seeking to protect their patents."

    Legally right, perhaps. Many of us don't believe in software patents or live in areas that enforce software patents. So although it may be legally right, that doesn't make it ethical and I reserve the right to remark as such. I suppose you never rail against the very legal behaviour of some countries towards their citizens?

    "If Microsoft isn't being punished when it should be one can hardly blame Microsoft for that."

    Sorry, Old Boy, but one can. After all it _is_ Microsoft who breaks out the army of lawyers every five minutes and grinds others in the dust with litigious bullshit. It _is_ Microsoft that is wasting my tax pound in Europe by not fucking well doing as it's told.

    "Fanatical railing against Microsoft no matter what they do will not achieve that."

    Neither will the endless "linux fanboi" twattery. Some of us are disposed against MS on ethical grounds. It's a reasonable and non-fanatical position. Can you get your mind round that?

    "If Microsoft were handing out $100 bills, a Linux PC, with sworn promises of no strings attached, some people would still not be happy. Damned if they make C# and CLI proprietary, damned if they make it an ECMA standard. Damned when they seek to protect what they have every right to protect ( according the current system ), damned even when they don't."

    And back on planet Earth we have a corporation with a long, long history of all sorts of corrupt and illegal business practices and various other shenanigans. And until such time as they pay their fucking fines and stop being such fucking toddlers, I reserve the right to damn them. Okay?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like