Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Mysterious Missing Attribute

Copyright © 2009, Steven E. Houchin

Something about my XP system has been driving me crazy for a long time. I use Visual Source Safe for source control of my development projects on. VSS makes use of Windows’ Read Only file attribute to prevent modification of source-controlled files in a project’s working directory. When a file is checked out of VSS, that attribute is cleared, and the user can then change the file. When checked back in, Read Only is set again.

So, what was my problem? It’s this: the Read Only attribute on those source-controlled files (and others) would simply disappear periodically. I’d have to go through all my files and reassert Read Only by hand. I looked into a number of causes: that VSS was doing it, or Visual Studio; maybe it was compiling the files over a network share; maybe it was my anti-virus software.

Then I stumbled across the cause: backing up the files to a CD via Windows Explorer. It seems that somebody in Redmond Land decided it would be a clever idea to clear the Read Only attribute for all files burned to a CD. When I searched the web for others with this problem, I actually saw the opposite complaint: that files retained their R/O attributes on a CD. Okay, so what? The CD is … wait for it … wait for it … READ ONLY!

Maybe there is some obscure Windows setting that will stop this behavior on my system. Let me know if you find one. In the meantime, I now have to first copy my files into a zip file, then back up the zip – a real pain.

So, call me crazy. This problem has certainly driven me mad.