Greg Helledy on 17 May 2017 12:29:22 -0700

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[PLUG] What's the best way to share a partition between windows and linux in 2017?

I got one question. Since when does exfat work well in linux? It was my understanding that exfat was never going to happen due to ultra secret specifications and patents and various legal issues limiting reverse engineering. Has any of that changed? How is the linux exfat driver implemented?

Keep in mind that technical performance and legality can be two very different things. I did a small bit of reading on your question last weekend. The answer is something like this:

exFAT (or at least some part of it) IS covered by a patent under US law. MS will happily license you to produce and sell devices using exFAT for a certain amount of money per unit. Samsung, as the world's largest manufacturer of linux (Android) devices, licensed exFAT from MS and had its engineers produce a driver. An unknown person published this driver (as source) on a github account. They edited the license and comments to make it appear that Samsung had released it under GPL, when in fact they hadn't released it at all. When the poster was called on their deception, their response was basically "So what--I want linux to work better and don't care about licensing". With the cat out of the bag, Samsung later decided to actually release the code under GPL v2.

The result being that there is a good working implementation of exFAT under linux with FUSE--apparently it's (nearly) the same software used on Samsung's phones. The difference is that when you buy a Samsung phone, its ability to use exFAT has been properly licensed from MS. When you install exFAT on your linux PC, you're violating MS' patent if you do it in a country that has software patents.

TL;DR--exFAT works well under linux because the software was developed legally by Samsung, and can be maintained legally by people who live in countries without software patents.

Greg Helledy
GRA, Incorporated
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