| Variable block-size: || Each write made to the device results in a single logical record written to the tape. One can never read or write part of a record from tape (though you may request a larger block and read a smaller record); nor can one read multiple blocks. Data from a single write is therefore read by a single read. The block size used may be any value supported by the device, the SCSI adapter and the system (usually between 1 byte and 64 Kbytes, sometimes more). |
When reading a variable record/block from the tape, the head is logically considered to be immediately after the last item read, and before the next item after that. If the next item is a file mark, but it was never read, then the next process to read will immediately hit the file mark and receive an end-of-file notification.
| Fixed block-size: || Data written by the user is passed to the tape as a succession of fixed size blocks. It may be contiguous in memory, but it is considered to be a series of independent blocks. One may never write an amount of data that is not an exact multiple of the blocksize. One may read and write the same data as a different set of records. In other words, blocks that were written together may be read separately, and vice-versa. |
If one requests more blocks than remain in the file, the drive will encounter the file mark. As there is some data to return (unless there were no records before the file mark), the read will succeed, returning that data. The next read will return immediately with a value of 0. (As above, if the file mark is never read, it remains for the next process to read if in no-rewind mode.)