A.3. Fsync

Fsync is known as an I/O expensive operation, but this is is not completely true.
Firefox used to call the sqlite library each time the user clicked on a link to go to a new page. Sqlite called fsync and because of the file system settings (mainly ext3 with data-ordered mode), there was a long latency when nothing happened. This could take a long time (up to 30 seconds) if another process was copying a large file at the same time.
However, in other cases, where fsync was not used at all, problems emerged with the switch to the ext4 file system. Ext3 was set to data-ordered mode, which flushed memory every few seconds and saved it to a disk. But with ext4 and laptop_mode, the interval between saves was longer and data might get lost when the system was unexpectedly switched off. Now ext4 is patched, but we must still consider the design of our applications carefully, and use fsync as appropriate.
The following simple example of reading and writing into a configuration file shows how a backup of a file can be made or how data can be lost:
/* open and read configuration file e.g. ./myconfig */
fd = open("./myconfig", O_RDONLY);
read(fd, myconfig_buf, sizeof(myconfig_buf));
close(fd);
...
fd = open("./myconfig", O_WRONLY | O_TRUNC | O_CREAT, S_IRUSR | S_IWUSR);
write(fd, myconfig_buf, sizeof(myconfig_buf));
close(fd);
A better approach would be:
/* open and read configuration file e.g. ./myconfig */
fd = open("./myconfig", O_RDONLY);
read(fd, myconfig_buf, sizeof(myconfig_buf));
close(fd);
...
fd = open("./myconfig.suffix", O_WRONLY | O_TRUNC | O_CREAT, S_IRUSR | S_IWUSR
write(fd, myconfig_buf, sizeof(myconfig_buf));
fsync(fd); /* paranoia - optional */
...
close(fd);
rename("./myconfig", "./myconfig~"); /* paranoia - optional */
rename("./myconfig.suffix", "./myconfig");