Sunday, July 1, 2012

Didget Attributes

In most file systems each file or directory can be assigned a few attributes by applications either during file creation or at a later time. Directories are given the "Directory" attribute. Hidden files are given the "Hidden" attribute and static files are given the "Read-Only" attribute.

It is important to note that each of these attributes are just a mechanism to hint to any application how the file should be treated. Applications can ignore these attributes or change them at any time so they may not accurately reflect the user's wishes for the file or provide any meaningful security for the file stream data or file metadata.

In the Didget world, Didgets may also be assigned a number of special attributes that can be used to identify, search, or perform operations against any Didget. Some of them are like file attributes in that they are merely hints to applications and can be changed at will. Others provide meaningful protection and additional capabilities since an operating system or application cannot change them directly.

Didgets have 32 separate attributes. Some of them provide features that I have not seen anywhere else before. I will enumerate and explain each of them.

1) Prepended. Didgets have the unique ability to add additional data to the byte stream before the first data byte. Data must be prepended in 4096 byte chunks (the block size). Bytes in these prepended blocks can only be accessed using negative offsets. Byte 0 remains the traditional start of the file so that prepending data will not effect legacy applications. This allows extra metadata to be added to any given byte stream without worrying about breaking compatibility with an application that is not addressed to handle it.

2) Versioned. The Didget Manager has been designed to handle versioning of individual data streams. Unlike traditional Copy On Write (COW) file systems that are designed to version everything, the versioning capability in our system can be restricted to a small subset of Didgets. Didgets can have this attribute added or deleted at any time (with proper access rights) so you can turn versioning on or off for a single Didget or a whole group of Didgets. Snapshots can be taken any time the versioning is enabled.

3) Metered. This attribute is a critical piece of our "Digital Rights Management" capabilities. As a side note: I think DRM is generally a dirty word since it has been implemented so poorly (technically and administratively) in so many cases. Any Didget can be classified as "Metered" when it is published by the content owner to become a Public Didget. The terms for activation are clearly spelled out in the activation contract that is prepended to the data stream. Anyone who agrees to the terms can activate any Didget using the exact same set of activation procedures. This means that the process to activate music, movies, software, and books is exactly the same. I will address our whole new activation system in a later post.

4) Point Generator. Metered Didgets are activated using "Media Points". These points can be either bought or earned. Users are able to earn points by accessing Didgets with this attribute. Advertisers can produce digital content (i.e. advertisements) that a user can view or interact with to earn points that can in turn be spend towards any kind of other media.

5) Deleted. When a Didget is deleted, it is assigned this attribute (similar to moving a file to the trash bin). Deleted Didgets can be recovered until they are purged from the system. Purging requires special user rights so an application can delete Didgets but not destroy them.

6) Encrypted. This is just a hint to any application accessing the data that it has been encrypted. The application must be able to decrypt the data in order to use it.

7) Compressed. Just like the Encrypted attribute only for compression.

8) Sparse. Data streams can contain holes. Any Didget with a sparse data stream will have this attribute set.

9) Immutable. Data streams can be set with this "Read-Only" attribute to protect them from alteration. Public Didgets have this attribute set by default. Once this attribute is set, it cannot be cleared. Once immutable, always immutable. If you need a copy that is alterable, you can clone it into another Private Didget and change the copy all you want, but the original remains intact. Since Digits are accessed through their Didget IDs, you can't fool an application into reading your altered copy like you can with files by simply replacing a read-only file with an altered file with the same name.

10) Appendable. Immutable Didgets cannot have their existing data streams altered. However, with this attribute, additional data can be appended to the end of the data stream. Used in combination, it will be popular for logs that want new data added without the ability to change data previously written.

11) Self-Destruct. Any Didget with this attribute will be automatically deleted and purged from the system by the Didget Manager when the conditions for destruction have been met. This can be a specified period of time or a number of accesses. This will allow users to activate (e.g. rent) content for a specified period of time. When the period for activation is passed, the Activation Didget will be automatically be destroyed and the permission to access its Metered Didget with it.

12) Multiple Tags. This is a system attribute maintained by the Didget Manager. It is set when a Didget has two or more tags with the same key attached. For example, a photograph of three people may have three ".person.First Name" tags attached, each with a value corresponding to the first names of each person in the photograph.

13) Single Copy. Didgets with this tag are deleted and purged from the system when they are copied. This creates a software "Dongle" mechanism that enforces a single copy of any given Didget within the system.

14) Disposable. This attribute is somewhat similar to temporary files. Didgets with this attribute can have the space occupied by their data stream confiscated by the system when disk space runs out. An application does not need to come clean them up when disk space is low. This allows the user to fill up their disk with lots of HD video that they may never view without worrying that it will result in a "Out of Disk Space" error. As long as the space is not needed, the video is accessible. Backup policies can completely ignore disposable data.

15) Activated. Metered Didgets that have been activated by the user will have this attribute set. It is not a security mechanism since other measures are checked to insure that the activation is valid, but it is a quick way to see what has been activated and what has not.

16) Quarantined. Didgets that have yet to be scanned for viruses or other malware can have this attribute set. It may result in a warning to the user when it is accessed. (This can also be controlled through policies.)

No comments:

Post a Comment