A look at go-ipfs on Windows

A look at go-ipfs on Windows

go-ipfs is built on top of Golang (opens new window), which allows for some cross-platform compatibility. However, it doesn't cover everything. Over the past few weeks, we've fine-tuned several aspects of the Windows experience to fix errors and remove inconsistencies.
In this post, we'll be taking a closer look at these issues and what we've done to resolve them before the next release of go-ipfs (v0.4.15). (CORRECTION: "Log output" and "File output names" have been pushed back to v0.4.16, everything else will be included in v0.4.15)

If you're not a Windows or go-ipfs user, you may still be interested in seeing where we encountered problem points, and our resolution plans for them. Issue #4808 (Windows initiative 2018) (opens new window) in particular may give you a head start if you plan on porting go-ipfs to a new platform, or are encountering inconsistent behavior in one of your own projects. It offers a more in-depth look at how we discovered, discussed, and dealt with platform problems.

# Log output

The output on Windows was filled with non-native control characters (opens new window). This made our output hard to read, both for users and developers (when malformed logs were shared with us).

We've added a method of translating these characters into native equivalents. There should be no more oddities related to character color or cursor placement, text should be clear and lines shouldn't overlap anymore. This should make everyone a little bit happier.

# Building

Building the Windows binary, on Windows itself, had multiple problems: silent failures, lack of respect for user supplied arguments, inconsistent handling of dependencies, and more.

Multiple fixes had to be applied to go-ipfs, gx, some of our first and third party dependencies, and even Golang itself. The building experience should now be consistent with other platforms. In addition, the documentation has been rewritten (opens new window) to clarify the process and add a section that covers Windows specific concerns and how to deal with them.

# Temporary file access errors

When trying to move data-blocks from a temporary location, the destination address was getting corrupted. This led to "Access Denied" errors and the unexpected creation of garbage files in the working directory.

An audit is in progress (opens new window), directed at finding areas where memory corruption is possible. We've detected and resolved the Windows specific issue above. Operations should now succeed as expected.

# File output names

No filters were being applied to file paths during extraction (IPFS -> other file systems). This caused multiple issues when using ipfs get.

  1. # Extracting content from IPFS could fail due to native file system restrictions

    File names
    FAT32, NTFS, ReFS, and Windows itself, all impose their own path limitations. If a hash contained a non-legal path, operations like ipfs get would fail. In the image above, the XKCD archive (opens new window) could not be downloaded on Windows because the directory "1031 - s keyboard leopard " ends in a space.

  2. # Hashes that contained malicious file paths would be extracted

    overwrite 1
    overwrite 2
    It was possible for users to craft specific hashes that could escape the extraction root and overwrite files (if the target file's location was known in advance and users had write permissions for the files).

We now account for these limitations and translate path-names into platform legal paths, which are restricted to their hash-root.

# stdio

stdin support was explicitly disabled in go-ipfs, preventing basic IPC (opens new window) with other applications.
stdin support has been added to the Windows version of go-ipfs which allows you to place ipfs anywhere in a pipeline (opens new window).

# And more...

There’s still more to be done to enhance the experience of go-ipfs on Windows. As well as address portability concerns in general. We plan to keep making progress in these areas going forward.
If you’re interested in contributing (or just keeping an eye on progress), feel free to check out issue #4808 (Windows initiative 2018) (opens new window).

# Want to contribute?

Would you like to contribute to the IPFS project and don't know how? Well, there are a few places you can get started:

# Do you have questions?

The best place to ask your questions about IPFS, how it works, and what you can do with it is at discuss.ipfs.tech (opens new window). We are also available at the #ipfs channel on Freenode.