Windows uses "Drive Letters", (C:, D:, etc.), to distinguish between mounted drives. Because of this, it's relatively easy to know where one drive or partition ends and another begins as they are shown as separate, distinct entities.
On the other hand, 'Nix uses "Mount Points", ("/mnt/foo", "/mnt/bar", etc.), to distinguish between mounted devices. Because of this, devices, data-sources, or whatevers, appear as if they are a part of the local, physical hard drive - yet can be located on a different partition, different hard-drive, a different computer, or it could even be located in an entirely different part of the world.
The way this works is like this:
- You create a physical directory where you want your data-source, (hard drive, partition, etc.), to appear; such as "mkdir /mnt/foo" where "foo" is now an empty directory located within "/mnt" (or wherever you want to put it).
- You then actually put the physical device on top of the mount point by "mounting" it:
Viz.: "mount [something on] /mnt/foo"
Are warning bells ringing yet? They should be. . . . .
What this means is that - if you change directories to "/mnt/foo" - you have no way of knowing if your [something] is, or is not, mounted there by simply looking at the directory. That is, unless you just happen to know what's supposed to be there. . . . An assumption I'd really hesitate to make if I were you. Especially if you are starting out with an empty "something". Or if the errant user thinks he is starting out with an empty "something". . . . .
What this also means is that shell-scripts, (batch files for all you Windows aficionados), have no way of knowing what's there, or what's supposed to be there, without you telling them somehow.
(OK, OK! There are special commands that you can run to find out what's there, or what's not there - but they are not always easy or intuitive, and it's really easy for an unknowing user to dump stuff into a mount-point that's not mounted yet. Go ahead. I dare you. Ask me how I know. . . . .)
What Unix should do is make un-mounted mount-points un-writable in the same way that Windows/DOS doesn't allow you to use a drive letter that is not yet mounted. But it doesn't. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can blithely write into an un-mounted mount-point, causing no end of confusion.
Solving the Problem:
Obviously what is needed is some way to show when the directory you are using as a mount-point - isn't mounted. And the hint on exactly how to solve this problem is given by the problem itself.
If you remember, when you mount something on top of a directory, (which, by the way, is the way it works), whatever was in the directory prior to being mounted disappears, replaced by whatever you mounted there.
The fix is to deliberately put something in the mount-point directory - prior to something being mounted there - warning everybody that whatever is supposed to be there, isn't there yet.
So. . . . this is my fix:
From a root terminal - or sudo root. . . .
- I create the directory where I want to mount something.
- I deliberately "touch" (create, with nothing in them) two bogus files with warning file names:
touch 'Do Not Use!'
touch 'Not Mounted Yet!'
- I then "chmod" these two "files" to 644 - making them read only to everyone but root.
With this, there is no possibility for mistake. Anyone who goes to that directory, expecting something to be there, instantly knows that - whatever it's supposed to be - it isn't there yet. And depending on the system - and their relationship with it - they can either go "Oops! Forgot to mount my. . . .", or put the Sysadmin wise that something isn't exactly kosher in Denmark.
What say ye?