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bug#6138: mv while maintaining relative symbolic links

From: Peng Yu
Subject: bug#6138: mv while maintaining relative symbolic links
Date: Sat, 8 May 2010 08:59:31 -0500

On Fri, May 7, 2010 at 5:03 PM, Bob Proulx <address@hidden> wrote:
> severity 6138 wishlist
> thanks
> Peng Yu wrote:
>> I'm wondering if there is any tool that can do almost exact the same
>> thing as mv, but it can maintain symbolic links.
>> mv doens't maintain relative symbolic links. For example, I have file
>> /tmp/A/file1.txt and a symbolic link /tmp/file1.txt that point to
>> A/file.txt (by the relative path). If I mv /tmp/A to /tmp/B, the link
>> /tmp/file1.txt will be broken.
> For clarification you said:
>  file     /tmp/A/file1.txt
>  symlink  /tmp/file1.txt -> A/file.txt
> But I think you meant to say:

You are right. It is a typo.

>  file     /tmp/A/file1.txt
>  symlink  /tmp/file1.txt -> A/file1.txt
>  After moving /tmp/A to /tmp/B
>  file     /tmp/B/file1.txt
>  symlink  /tmp/file1.txt -> B/file1.txt (proposed)
> This is not possible.  Symbolic links are simply files in the
> filesystem.  Special files, of course, but otherwise just files.
> The two files /tmp/file1.txt and /tmp/A/file1.txt are unrelated to
> each other in any way other than by content of /tmp/file1.txt.
> To do what you are asking would require that every move operation
> consult the contents of every symlink on the filesystem and adjust
> those other symlinks.  Worse this is not only on the current
> filesystem but also on other filesystems.  Because symlinks are not
> real file links but simply a run time name conversion a symlink may
> exist on other filesystems.  Those other filesystems may be over NFS
> or other network filesystem.  Other filesystems may not even be
> powered up and online at the time!  Also other symlinks may point to
> this file but only incidentally, in which case they would get changed
> even though they are unrelated.

I agree with you that this is may not be possible for whole file
system. But under the assumptions that symbolic links and their
targets are always in a number of directories (user configurable) on
the same file system, then it is doable. This is practically what I

>> Another example: I have file /tmp/file1.txt and symbolic link
>> /tmp/A/file1.txt that points to ../file1.txt (by relative path). If I
>> move /tmp/A to /tmp/B/A, the symbolic /tmp/A/file1.txt will be broken.
>  file     /tmp/file1.txt
>  symlink  /tmp/A/file1.txt -> ../file1.txt
>  After moving to a different level of hiearchy:
>  file     /tmp/file1.txt
>  symlink  /tmp/A/B/file1.txt -> ../file1.txt
> A tool is possible that reads the value of the link (readlink) and
> then removes the old symlink and creates a new (unrelated) symlink in
> the target location but with a new path calculated to the old
> location.  That would not be a move operation.  That would be
> something different that removed the old and created a new.
> But if that is what you wanted then you probably wanted to convert the
> symlink to an absolute path first and then you could move it.  Off the
> top of my head here is a simple script that I haven't tested and may
> or may not behave reasonably.  In particular error handling is poor.

Error handling is important as, otherwise, it might mess up with the
files and could be a disaster.

>  #!/bin/sh -e
>  src=$1
>  dst=$2
>  path=$(readlink -f "$src")
>  rm -f "$src"
>  ln -s "$path" "$src"
>  mv "$src" "$dst"
> I am sure that there are related tools here but nothing immediately
> comes to my mind.  I have always simply scripted the operation that I
> required at the moment.

If anybody else knows some related tools for refined requirement (see
above clarification), please let me know.


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