Formalizing a Hierarchical File System

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In this note, we define an abstract file system as a partial function from (absolute) paths to data. Such a file system determines the set of valid paths. It allows the file system to be read and written at a valid path, and it allows the system to be modified by the Unix operations for removal (rm), making of directories (mkdir), and moving (mv). We present abstract definitions (axioms) for these operations. This specification is refined towards a pointer implementation. To mitigate the problems attached to partial functions, we do this in two steps. First a refinement towards a pointer implementation with total functions, followed by one that allows partial functions. These two refinements are proved correct by means of a number of invariants. Indeed, the insight gained mainly consists of the invariants of the pointer implementation that are needed for the refinement functions. Finally, each of the three specification levels is enriched with a permission system for reading, writing, or executing, and the refinement relations between these permission systems are explored. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.




Hesselink, W. H., & Lali, M. I. (2009). Formalizing a Hierarchical File System. Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science, 259(C), 67–85.

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