'Lance Armstrong' bug hunt continues in stable Linux kernel

The discovery of a somewhat alarming bug in the Linux ext4 filesystem provoked a minor wave of panic this week, but project maintainer Theodore Ts'o says it has since become clear that the problem can likely only affect a small number of users.

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At the outset, it appeared that the bug - which creates the potential for serious data corruption and loss within the affected filesystem - could threaten both the 3.6.2 and 3.6.3 versions of the stable Linux kernel.

Developer Ts'o initially described the problem as a "Lance Armstrong" bug - one that doesn't trip any particular warning systems but nonetheless results in abnormal behavior - in a Google Plus post.

However, he added in a follow-up that the conditions that could trigger the problem now appear to be far more limited than it was initially thought. Specifically, the issue may to be related to users shutting their systems down in particularly unusual ways.

"It now looks like the reproduction [of the problem] involved something very esoteric indeed, involving using umount -l and shutdowns while the file system was still being unmounted," he wrote.

Nevertheless, Ts'o stressed that the problem is not a trivial one.

"That's not to say that we're not treating this seriously; I was up until late last night trying to get a handle on it. But folks shouldn't be running around with their heads cut off," he wrote.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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