Data Access Control


Since rdbtables are regular UNIX files, we have so far found no need to implement, and have the associated overhead of, general data access controls in RDB. Setting the UNIX permissions on files or directory has proven very useful and effective. This is another example of how the RDB system works "with" UNIX, not in addition to it, e.g. not duplicating UNIX functions.

The Revision Control System (RCS) is one of the best configuration management tools available and is in use here at RAND for version control of many types of files, including rdbtables. The operator 'etbl' will automatically check out an rdbtable for editing, and then check the new version back into RCS. Other operators can utilize rdbtables that are under RCS control by using commands like:

        co  -p  table  |  row  ...  |  column  ...  |  ptbl

Note that this checks out an rdbtable, sends it to 'row', then to 'column', and finally prints the data with 'ptbl'. In general, any series of commands necessary can be constructed to do a given task even if the rdbtables are checked into RCS.


When either of the two utility operators 'etbl' or 'dataent' is used (which modify an rdbtable in place) there could be a possibility of silmultaneous wrting of an rdbtable by multiple users. That is, if two or more users, on the same computer or perhaps on different computers on a network, attempted to modify a given rdbtable with either 'etbl' or 'dataent' at the same time the rdbtable could become corrupted. To prevent this, write concurrency control is provided by the use of a lockfile, and is in effect when either of the two utility operators is used.

The name of the lockfile is the name of the rdbtable being modified with a suffix of ".LCK". For example an rdbtable named "main.rdb" would have a lockfile named "main.rdb.LCK". The lockfile is placed in the same directory as the rdbtable and is normally removed after the modification process is complete, even if the operation is aborted with an INTERRUPT signal (CONTROL-C or <DEL>). However in the event of an emergency such as a computer system crash the lockfile could be left in place, preventing the use of 'etbl' or 'dataent' when the computer system is again operable. When an attempt to use either utility operator is made an there is and existing lockfile associated with the referenced rdbtable an online message is produced and the operator dies. In this case simply remove the lockfile with the UNIX command 'rm' and proceed. If an emergency has not occurred appropriate caution should be exercised before removing a lockfile, due to the possibility of data corruption.