A classical Unix tape gotcha
Here's a classical Unix tape gotcha:
mt -f /dev/st0 fsf 5
If you're lucky when you make this mistake, you were
tape to read from it, and it is merely embarrassing and time-wasting.
The difference between normal and no-rewind tape devices is that one
rewinds the tape when you use it and the other doesn't. More precisely,
the tape is rewound when the tape device is closed for the last time
(usually as the device is closed; the
close() system call won't
return until the tape has completed rewinding, which can lead to
surprising lurching pauses in programs).
The gotcha is that many people expect the tape device only to be opened
when you're reading or writing actual data to the tape. But on Unix,
just getting the tape's status or sending it commands like
means opening and closing the tape device, and thus having the rewind go
Life would be a lot simpler if the auto-rewind tape devices just didn't
exist, or failing that at least were not the default devices and took an
extra letter to use ('
/dev/rst0' or something). But by now we are stuck
with the situation in the name of tradition.
(So the safe thing to do is never actually use the auto-rewind names,
even if you want to rewind the tape and they're a letter shorter. Suck
it up, use the
nst0 versions, and rewind the tape with an explicit